Email of the day: in re groupies

From a singer’s wife:

This is both a humorous and not-so-humorous subject, especially if you happen to be the wife of a singer. I can’t tell you how many times my husband has been given the old “butt swipe” by women old enough to be his grandmother. Perhaps I should explain this term that we coined to describe the act. Old lady comes up and wants a photo with singer. Singer cheerfully obliges, and allows old lady to put her arm around his waist. After photo is taken, she slides her hand down to his rear and either rubs it or gives it a few pats. Intentional? You bet. But it seems rather comical that she would get her little jollies this way - perhaps that’s the only place she’s getting them at her age.

Now the really humorless stuff is when your husband is approached at the convention by a groupie (translated desparate-for-attention middle-aged woman) who pretends she has some great need to bend his ear off about her private life and during the conversation lets him know that she is available for anything. This type of behavior burns me up. Perhaps the best thing to do would be to whip out the old wallet and show her the cute smiling faces of those adorable children back home and tell her she should see a counselor, as gospel singers are NOT qualified to counsel people about anything regarding their personal lives. That’s what pastors and their wives and psychologists are for.

This opens up a whole debate on what the singers actually owe their fans. I once had a wise pastor of our church tell me that pretty much after my husband sings he has fulfilled his obligation, and owes no one anything (read no extra listening to personal problems or folks monopolizing his time.) Although some people would like to think that because they attended the concert and paid for a ticket or gave in the offering and bought a cd that now he’s obligated for life. It has to be thought of this way: a person attends a concert and pays something to do so. They get to hear the singer sing. Have they received what they paid for? Absolutely. A person buys a cd. Did they receive a product for what they paid? of course. The problem comes in when people think that singers are responsible to do what the Church should do. Gospel groups are parachurch organizations. They have a place in making people feel closer to God through music, but they can never take the place of the church in meeting needy people’s needs. And I have to tell you from years of experience that sometimes, no, make that a lot of times, the fans have so emotionally drained him that he has nothing left for our family when he gets home. This is when I start thinking he’s way too nice.

Now, just so no one thinks I’m way too mean, that same pastor recommended that my husband pray and ask the Lord to reveal which of those people at a concert God actually wants him to take more time with. These aren’t always the people who think that they are the ones who need to have the poor guy’s time!

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  1. one guy's wife wrote:

    I’m so glad somebody wrote you about this. As the wife of a person formerly in SGM, I’ve also seen the things she has mentioned and it’s very disconcerting. Most of these guys are on the road more than 200 days a year and can end up feeling very lonely sometimes. That doesn’t mean they WILL stray, it just means when some diesel sniffer lends a sympathetic ear, brings food and presents, and makes it generally known that she is available for whatever, it can make for uncomfortable situations.

    People will probably crucify me for this, but I think with all male groups, NO FEMALES SHOULD BE ALLOWED ON THE BUS EVER, with the exception of wives, children, and girlfriends (and this means one steady girlfriend, not the girlfriends some have in every region). This even means no pastor’s wives, no promotors, nothing but family.

    There needs to be some line drawn in the sand that separates professional from private in SGM. Granted, it’s a fine line, but that line needs to be met a lot more often. For example, the bus is most group’s home away from home. In general, we don’t have the folks who come to the concert to our homes, nor do we expect them to show up uninvited. Why should they be invited or invite themselves to sit on our “home away from home”. I believe this leads many to believe that they are “closer” to the members of the group than the members of the group consider them. Quite frankly, they are mostly just being tolerated with everybody wishing they’d just get off their bus.

    Like I said, it’s a fine line. My husband and I have a few, and I mean very few, friends that we have met at his concerts who have become our close friends. But you know what? These are COUPLES, not females who run around chasing the buses and men on the weekends while their husband and children stay at home.

    I’m sure there are lots of other wives who feel the same as me. There needs to be a support group for all of us. Oh wait, I don’t have to worry about it any more, he’s home now! Yippee!!!!

  2. Chuck Sims wrote:

    Well, at least one person “gets it” that singers are NOT professional ministers or counselors. I like to think that we are “encouragers.” I hope that when people leave our concert they are a little bit more encouraged on the journey.

  3. Trent wrote:

    I think the pastor’s opinion that a singer’s obligation is done once he quits singing is disturbing, actually. As a singer, I can tell you that people want to hang around after the service and talk to you. They’ve enjoyed the singing, now they want to share some stories or just to get to know you a little bit. It’s part of the territory, it comes with the whole package of being a gospel singer. You don’t have to hang around 3 hours and talk, but since they booked you into the venue, paid you to come, sat and listened to you sing for quite a while, the least the singer can do is to hang around for 30 or 45 minutes and shoot the breeze with folks who want to visit.

    Regarding over-zealous female fans, I’m sorry, but this idea that the vultures are tearing into our victim singers is rubbish. Consentual intimacy is a 2-way street. If more singers would be tactful in dealing with aggressive fans, the problem would be alleviated.

  4. jb wrote:

    There’s so many things that can be said here. I agree, to a certain point, that a woman should not be on the bus unless a good friend by all concerned. I also agree that it “takes two to tango”, but, if a marriage is strong and grounded in the Lord, it will stand whatever or whomever comes along. We have followed, supported, and promoted southern gospel music for many yrs. and it breaks my heart when I hear about singers who are having affairs and getting divorced because of finding someone else while singing for the Lord. All I can say is that we can’t put our eyes on people, we have to remain focused on God. I am not nieve (probably misspelled) to think that just because you sing every weekend for God that you can’t have marital problems. I just think that you should take your problems to the one you sing about, and not the ones that come to your product table or bus.

  5. dkd wrote:

    Some very good comments and points have been brought up here. As the wife of an SG artist (deceased) and mother of another SG artist I can truthfully say that I have seen most everything and there is very little that can shock me in this industry. I may be a bit cynical but everything spoken about in the above comments is true. People need to realize that SG artist’s are people just like everyone else, they come they sing and entertain, sometimes they get paid sometimes they don’t. Speaking with fans at the product table is not an invitation to follow the artist or group to the bus! Amazing how many think that it is!

  6. CVH wrote:

    Interesting topic and comments. On the one hand I agree with and understand the position that a singer or group is in a position to offer empathy and sincerity to its fans, but only to a point. It’s nothing new but especially in today’s celebrity-obsessed culture, the status afforded most performers makes them attractive targets for fans’ affection, adulation and more. It’s the performer’s job to emote and present the music (most of which is emotionally-laden) in the most dramatic style possible. Most fans get it; it’s a minority who don’t.

    In my experience, the responsibility is on the group/performer to draw the line. I’ve been blessed to know some wonderful people who followed the groups I worked with around parts of the country…blessing us with good will, prayer, food, friendship…one time even helping with an electrical problem on the bus…but 90% of them also knew where to draw the line. The 10% who didn’t were more or less shut out because we all looked out for one another.

    The occasional indiscretion? Sure. But it goes both ways. It isn’t always the Wal-Mart crowd or the sexually obsessed chick who’s the problem. I’ve known and worked with groups who played it perfectly on-stage and at the record table who then indulged in whatever was available afterwards. We’ve all got stories.

    It comes down to personal integrity. Common sense. And a pure heart. What a concept.

  7. Regina wrote:

    I used to play for a gospel group. We were not full time, but we did sing every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. We were glad to see fans come back to our concerts more than once. We had some very good friends who would always come and see us when we were within driving distance and sometimes even further. We met these friends because they kept coming to see us. I can not imagine any group not wanting people to come and see them as much as they can. If it were not for the fans, then they would not be performing very long. If you do not have a repeat fan base, then you might as well hang it up. If you are only wanting to come and perform and then run and get in the bus like Elvis did, then in my opinion you need to move to a different venue out of southern gospel, maybe to country or CCM. If I thought a group was not appreciative that I was willing to spend my time, money and effort to get to a singing, then I would not go. I don’t think I am alone in how I feel.

  8. Lacey wrote:

    I have been reading all the posts about “groupies” with interest. Having been around SG for a long time, I’ve seen it all. I was the 18 year old, excited and in awe of the singers, going to her first major concert that got stuck in a doorway jammed with people and was told by a singer in a group that if I held his hand I could stand at the very edge of the table so I would be out of the crowd. I didn’t think anything of holding his hand until sometime later when I had learned more about SG music and the industry and figured out that he was married at the time. I was the foolish girl that developed a crush on a single singer because he seemed so good and there weren’t any young men at my church, more than once I might add until I got a little wiser. Amazingly, even though nothing romantic developed and they eventually married someone else, I’m still friends with some of those men years later. And I was also the DJ that got discouraged by what I was seeing happening between fans and singers and in the business in general. I am not now or ever was a “diesel sniffer” or “gospel groupie” in the category that is so bashed, I was told by a singer one time that the reason I didn’t get “propositioned” by any of the singers was because they knew that I wasn’t that type of girl. Would have hurt my feelings, except it was true! I was nicknamed a “diesel chaser”, like a storm chaser, because I am where the action is but just to observe. I would like everyone to please remember that when this subject comes up. Yes, there are those females out there that will do ANYTHING to get SOMETHING from their favorite singer. I have seen them and they irritate me to no end. But then so do the men who welcome their advances. But we aren’t all like that. And just because a female brings food or presents to a singer or group isn’t necessarily because she wants to do anything more than encourage them because she realizes that it’s difficult out there on the road all the time. But while we are on this subject, what about the female artists that are just as bad as the diesel sniffers?
    I don’t know if there is any solution to this problem besides putting everyone on notice to be on his or her best behavior. But I would hate for it to come down to this… From now on the people sitting at concerts will be “listeners”, not fans. And the ones up on stage will be “singers”, not artist or performers. It will not matter what time the listeners get to the concert because it won’t be necessary to get a good seat, because they are just there to listen, not see. So it won’t matter what the singers on stage look like or do, because it will be just about the singing anyway. (Think of all the grooming time this will cut out on everyone’s part!) Time at the table will be go much faster because all that will need to be said is, “How much is this?” and “Here’s your change.” There will be no pictures taken, or autographs asked for, or encouraging words of any kind from anyone. But wait, I can make it even simpler. The singers don’t need to show up at all. We can have concerts by just setting up a good sound system and playing CD’s! And tada, I’ve eliminated the singer’s worst enemy, the bus!

  9. Redeemed wrote:

    I totally agree that there should be a private, anonymous, online site where the wives of full time gospel singers can support each other. I have been thinking about this for months. My biggest complaint for the first two years was that the kids and I got all his leftovers. Physically, emotionally, spiritually. He had nothing left. But now he is much better and we have worked it out, but sadly too many couples haven’t been truly called and they end up in divorce. Thus far, my all time top stalker story is about how a woman called my husband to chat while she was on her honeymoon! How she got his number is another story.

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