NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — It's a national rock 'n' roll anthem that launched a band to stardom.
Grand Funk Railroad released the somewhat autobiographical song "We're an American Band" in 1973. But it was one lyric that turned an Arkansas teen into a household name.
Out on the road for forty days
Last night in Little Rock put me in a haze
Sweet, sweet Connie, doin’ her act
She had the whole show and that’s a natural fact
Connie Hamzy was 17 when the band's manager first told her about the line.
“He called me and said you're never going to believe this,” Hamzy recounted, “But Grand Funk's written a song called We're an American Band and your name is in the first lyrics.”
The North Little Rock native was finishing her senior year of high school and didn't take the call too seriously. “I said yeah I'll have to see it to believe it.” But a few months later, a day on the lake turned into a life-changing moment for Hamzy.
“Right after I graduated high school, me and some gals were laying out by lake number one in North Little Rock in Lakewood,” Hamzy said. “I was on the beach tanning and they were on floats swimming and I had my transistor radio on.”
And that's when it happened. “Folks you're not going to believe what we just got into the studio. It's the new release from Grand Funk Railroad. And you know that dark headed girl we see backstage a lot? Listen to the first few lyrics,” Hamzy remembered.
It was the moment that solidified her place in rock 'n' roll history, but it wasn't the beginning of her journey. Hamzy was fifteen when her mother dropped her off to see Steppenwolf at Barton Coliseum.
“She didn't like to deal with parking. She didn't like to deal with traffic. So, she'd take me out to the fairground early in the afternoon before the traffic got bad,” Hamzy explained. “We'd go out there and then we'd wander around the backstage area, and one thing would lead to another.”
It was the first time she found herself backstage and it wasn't the last.
Over the years, she's hung out with groups like Queen, the Eagles, and Kiss. But Van Halen was Hamzy's rock 'n' roll group of choice, and she eventually found herself on the road with the band during their Monsters of Rock Tour 1988.
“That was the most fun I've ever had in my life,” Hamzy laughed. It wasn't all Runnin' With the Devil for Hamzy. She spent twelve years as a substitute teacher for Little Rock School District.
“I can show you papers from the principals who asked for me,” Hamzy said. “But I think after a while the heat was just too much for them.”
She's never been married, but she has been engaged twice and kept the ring both times. And when asked if she ever thought about settling down with one of her rock 'n' roll counterparts, Hamzy confessed it crossed her mind. But she had other plans.
“I was determined to become a famous groupie,” Hamzy admitted, “I really was.” And when asked about what she loved most, the music or the glamour, she couldn't decide.
“I loved all of it to tell you the truth,” Hamzy said, “I’ve had a great life. I really have.” As for her regrets, she only said one thing, “Me and Eddie Van Halen have a few… but that's a whole different story.”