Miss Mercy, an original member of 60s rock legends the GTOs, died Monday, July 27, at the age of 71. SuperGroupie, bestselling author, and BFF Pamela Des Barres made the announcement last night via social media.
Originally from Los Angeles, Judith Edra Peters emancipated herself when she was 15, named herself after a song (Don Covay’s 1964 “Mercy, Mercy”), joined one of the first all-girl groups, Girls Together Outrageously (produced by Frank Zappa), and never ever looked like anyone else. She wore several belts, like a gun-slinging badass, adorning herself with thrift store couture. Mercy worked at the Goodwill in Hollywood for the last thirty years, and was clean and sober for almost twenty-two years.
Mercy told you what she thought, even if you didn’t like it. Mercy was authentic. I never ever saw her conform! She was a pioneer.
And she made Rolling Stone again! She’s appeared three times in the magazine. In fact, Baron Wolman took portraits of GTOs, and his photo of Mercy made the centerfold of the Rolling Stone “Groupie” issue. Which really says something about her, because it’s not like she made chart-topping albums. Mercy is featured in the magazine because she was unlike anyone else, a true original, a rock star so sparkling she didn’t even need to sell a lot of records. She just had to be herself. “I be all the people I want to be/and find all the treasures I want to find,” she sang in “The Ghost Chained to the Past, Present, and Future (Shock Treatment),” the song she co-wrote for the GTO’s one and only album from 1969, “Permanent Damage,” an album she also named.
Mercy sent songs she loved to me regularly, and never once did she send music by white people. Around the time she’d completed recording the GTO’s album, she wrote a love note to Al Green (who certainly responded). She hooked up with Chuck Berry. And she had a dream about Shuggie Otis (son of R&B pioneer, Johnny Otis), and then married him! They have a son, Lucky Otis, also a musician.
One of the last times I saw Mercy, it was at an event in 2018 that I organized, Writers Together Outrageously, at Book Show in Highland Park. Other writers sharing the stage were Pamela Des Barres and Moon Unit Zappa (Frank and Gail Zappa’s daughter). Wearing a platinum afro wig, Mercy read from her upcoming book that she wrote with Lyndsey Parker, later joining Pamela Des Barres for the panel afterwards. I’m so glad I have that event on tape! I’m so glad she and Lyndsey Parker completed the book! I’m so glad I knew Mercy.
R.I.P. Mercy Fontenot, February 15, 1949 – July 27, 2020.