Why everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Led Zeppelin to The Rolling Stones sang the Butter Queen's praises, sometimes literally.
In the song “Rip This Joint,” The Rolling Stones include the lines, “Down to New Orleans with the Dixie Dean / ‘Cross to Dallas, Texas with the Butter Queen.”
The queen in question was Barbara Cope. Part of the legendary groupie scene of the late 1960s and early ’70s, Cope was reportedly intimate with scores of rock stars, including The Rolling Stones’ own Mick Jagger as well as men like Joe Cocker, David Cassidy, and Jimi Hendrix.
As David Cassidy wrote about the effect that even the very mention of her name had on people in the know, “The guys in my band and crew just gasped when they heard that Barbara the Butter Queen was actually coming to do them all. They were actually shaking with anticipation.”
So who was Barbara Cope the Butter Queen?
Barbara Cope’s Early Life
As befits such a mythic figure of the rock scene, relatively few details are known for sure about the life of Barbara Cope. We do know that she was born in the early 1950s and spent most of her life in Dallas, Texas. By all accounts, she had a fairly normal youth. Then one day in 1965, she attended a concert in Dallas and was instantly hooked on rock and the musicians who made it.
“I didn’t care about average boys,” she later said. “I just wanted to meet musicians.”
She followed that passion to the West Coast where she was able to join the band Traffic on tour and then do the same with Jimi Hendrix and Joe Cocker. Soon, she was a mainstay on the groupie scene.
The Groupie Scene
Like so many other groupies, Cope was drawn to the scene because she liked the music and she wanted to be close to the famous people who made it — and experience the excitement that goes along with sneaking backstage to meet stars.
“We used to have to sneak up fire escapes and get by the fuzz,” she remembered later.
Cope was clearly good at what she did, both in terms of sneaking her way backstage and charming the stars once she got there. She reportedly had a natural rapport with rock stars that transcended sex. Elton John once remarked that the two “got on famously.”
But of course, sex was always a part of it.
“The reason I’m at the top — and man this is a very competitive field — is that I treat them as a friend. And I always have a lot of young girls and drinks around for them,” Cope said.
The Butter Queen
And, more than anything, what made Cope so famous among rock stars were the sex acts that she herself performed, the ones that gave rise to her still-somewhat-mysterious nickname. But musician and The Partridge Family star David Cassidy gave a sense of where the title “The Butter Queen” came from in his memoir.
“She looked us all over, the whole band and crew, and announced, ‘I’ll take the star, the dark hairy one, and the guitar player. My girls will divvy up the rest,'” Cassidy wrote.
Then, “Barbara picked up the phone and called room service. ‘Can we have a pound of butter, please?… She brought out the butter and put it all over Sam. You know what butter smells like when it’s hot? Sam and I said to Steve, ‘Pass the popcorn.’ He fell over… It was all over for us.”
Now, what precisely she did with the butter remains a bit of a mystery. Some have suggested it was meant to act as a lubricant while others said that she filled her mouth with it before performing oral sex. And perhaps she varied her methods from time to time.
And Cope herself always remained coy, explaining, “Those who know, know. And those who don’t, wish they did.”
Those who knew certainly seemed to appreciate it. Cope was not only honored in song by The Rolling Stones, but was also once mentioned onstage by Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin.
With so many rock stars singing her praises, the Butter Queen was one of the leading groupies on the scene when she was only in her early twenties. But she was already getting tired of the lifestyle. The thrill of sneaking backstage wasn’t there anymore. And as she frequently told the people she met, the best days of rock were already in the past.
So, in the early 1970s, the Butter Queen decided to give it all up.
Life After Rock
Cope continued to meet rock stars and attend concerts casually, but she never rejoined the groupie scene. Instead, she sort of just hung around the periphery for a while. From there, she faded into a private life about which relatively little is known.
But in 1987, she resurfaced and appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, where she gave a short interview about what it was like being a groupie.
Winfrey showed Cope a video of Cassidy in which he reminisces about his experiences with her. Then, Winfrey mentioned that Cassidy claimed to have been with 2,000 women and asked Cope, “What about you?”
“Oh, we’re probably neck-and-neck,” Cope grinned.
And in that moment, we get a sense of who the Butter Queen was. It’s clear from the audible gasps that Winfrey’s audience thought that number was shocking, but Cope isn’t at all ashamed. She was clearly comfortable with the life she’d led.
It’s the same attitude that other famous groupies like Lori Maddox have embraced.
“I feel like I was very present,” Maddox once said. “I saw the greatest music ever. I got to hang out with some of the most amazing, most beautiful, most charismatic men in the world. I went to concerts in limos with police escorts. Am I going to regret this? No.”
And like other former groupies, Cope lived a quiet life after leaving the scene.
Eventually, in Jan. 2018, firefighters found Cope collapsed on her porch in Dallas. She and her mother had been pulled from a house fire by their neighbor. And while her mother lived, 67-year-old Barbara Cope didn’t survive the blaze.
The news coverage of the fire focused on the fact that a legendary groupie had been living in the area for years and no one knew. The former Butter Queen had been modest about her particular kind of fame until the end.
After this look at the Butter Queen, read the stories of other infamous groupies like Connie Hamzy and Cathy Smith. Then, learn all about Cynthia Plaster Caster, the woman who made molds of the penises of rock’s most famous men.