Judith Edna Peters, better known as Miss Mercy from the GTOs, has died of undisclosed causes. She was 71.
Her former bandmate Pamela Des Barres (Miss Pamela) broke the news on Instagram, posting a picture of the two of them. “My beloved sister for most of my life, Miss Mercy, has just passed,” Des Barres wrote. “Words don’t work for me at this moment. I can’t imagine my world without her in it.”
Rolling Stone notes that Peters, born Feb. 16, 1949, moved to the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco when she was 16, but returned to her native Los Angeles in 1967 after serving six months in juvenile hall. “All the things my parents thought I would avoid by being in jail, I learned in jail,” she said. “My parents didn’t care; they thought jail’d be good for me. So I was in with dykes and junkies and the rest. I finally left the Haight when it lost its magic. Besides, I couldn’t see being a hippie the rest of my life.”
Peters then made friends with a bunch of other Sunset Strip scenesters, including Des Barres, Cynthia Sue Wells (Miss Cynderella), Christine Ann Frka (Miss Christine), Sandra Lynn Rowe (Miss Sandra) and Linda Sue Parker (Miss Sparky). Their connection to Frank Zappa – Frka was the live-in nanny for the family – led to them forming a band at his suggestion.
After calling themselves the Cherry Sisters and then the Laurel Canyon Ballet Company, he dubbed them the GTOs, which stood for “Girls Together Outrageously,” though other words beginning with “o” were often substituted.
The group attracted the attention of Rolling Stone, which published a cover story called “The Groupies and Other Girls” in its Feb. 15, 1969, issue about women who hung around rock musicians. The article helped popularize the term “groupie.”
Mercy was described as “a heavy girl, with a predilection for loose-fitting clothing made from antique (sometimes rotting) cloth, boots and black eye makeup looking as if it were applied with a canoe paddle.” She defined herself as the “Mae West of 1968.”
Zappa co-produced the GTOs only album, 1969’s Permanent Damage, and released it on his Straight Records label. They then added another member, Luz Selenia Offerrall (Miss Lucy), but broke up in 1970.
Shortly after that, she married singer and guitarist Shuggie Otis. They had one child together, Lucky Otis, who is also a musician.