First sucessful rock band with a non-vocalist female?

I recently saw the movie, Pop Gear, which featured up and coming British bands of 1964. One of the bands was the Honeycombs. They had a hit with “Have I the Right?” in September 1964 (went to #5). What was unusual about the group (for its time) was the fact that the drummer was a woman. It got me to wondering if this group was the first sucessful (that is, had a chart hit) to feature a woman playing an instrument as opposed to just being a vocalist.

Sly and the Family Stone was a pretty early one, though it’s 1968 when they had their first hit. Cynthia Robinson was their trumpet player, and may have sing from time to time, but she wasn’t the primary vocalist. The Encyopedia of Rock doesn’t list her as doing vocals.

Does the Velvet Underground count as a “successful rock band” ? They had a chick drummer too, Maureen Tucker.

I was trying to go back further than The Honeycombs. While over at the About.com boards, I posted a similar message and someone suggested The Applejacks. A British band featuring a woman bassist. There was an American band with the same name. The British band charted in England, but not in the US, in early 1962.
The search continues…

Paul McCartney an Wings had Linda on keyboard. They were certainly successful.

Well, if we’re talking American pop music and not just rock and roll, I do remember hearing about a big band (as in jazzy big band music) from I think the late 20’s that was made up of all women. I saw a documentary about this band where they were interviewing some of the surviving members - fascinating stuff. I can’t remember their name right off the bat. I think it had something southern in the title like “Dixie” or “Texas.” Anybody know of the group I’m talking about?

I know Heart was a lot later, but not only was Nancy Wilson an instrumentalist, but played the lead guitar slot, one of the bastions of maleness.

There were quite a few “all-girl” bands in the big band era. I don’t know if any of them had a hit.

Actually, the list of successful rock groups with a female non-vocalist isn’t that long even today. I can add the Talking Heads, but not much more without research.

Well, regarding todays music. I think that it is more of a problem of us not seeing who is making the music. When was the last time that we saw ANYBODY playing an instrument in a Britney/ NSync/MaryCary/Backdoor Boys video? Then there are all girl bands like Hole (well used to be), Nitocris, Drain and Sahara Hotnights. Then there are things like Smashing Pumpkins, (female bassist) and Lennie Kravatz (sp?)(female drummer). If one looks around there are plenty of women out there (like Spiderbait, now there is a good band).

There are also female DJ’s (damn, what’s her name - mama bass? she was good though) who don’t sing. Not that they have huge chart successes though.

AS for in the past, I think of the movie Some like it hot, but that was a big band. And do gospel bands count?

Well, regarding todays music. I think that it is more of a problem of us not seeing who is making the music. When was the last time that we saw ANYBODY playing an instrument in a Britney/ NSync/MaryCary/Backdoor Boys video? Then there are all girl bands like Hole (well used to be), Nitocris, Drain and Sahara Hotnights. Then there are things like Smashing Pumpkins, (female bassist) and Lennie Kravatz (sp?)(female drummer). If one looks around there are plenty of women out there (like Spiderbait, now there is a good band).

There are also female DJ’s (damn, what’s her name - mama bass? she was good though) who don’t sing. Not that they have huge chart successes though.

AS for in the past, I think of the movie Some like it hot, but that was a big band. And do gospel bands count?

I’m sorry, can someone remove that double post? My computer times out when sending the things, so I press refresh and it sends it again.
Thank you

Damn, what do you call it when it’s on the tip of your toungue?

In the early 60s there was a woman drummer – her first name was Sandy, but I can’t remember her last name. I think she backed up some rock groups as well as having a solo career. Don’t know if you’d call her a hit, but she made a couple of albums.

Also, there were a few women studio musicians who undoubtedly played on hits without billing, but I guess that isn’t what you mean.

Kunilou, my guess is that you’re thinking of Sandy Nelson, who happened to be a guy. Here’s what All Music Guide has to say about him:

Sandy Nelson was the biggest and one of the few star drummers in the late 1950s and early 1960s era in which instrumental rock was at its peak. He landed two Top Ten hits, “Teen Beat” (1959) and “Let There Be Drums” (1961), which surrounded his Gene Krupa-inspired solos with cool, mean guitar licks that were forerunners of the surf sound. Nelson had only one other Top Forty hit, “Drums Are My Beat” (1962). He ground out a quick series of instrumental albums in the early 1960s — eight within 18 months, as a matter of fact — with several other top Hollywood rock and pop session musicians. Nelson was not that great a drummer, although he was good. His principal importance is that he found a place for drum rock solos in hit instrumental singles, and the more reckless elements of his style no doubt influenced other musicians, such as surf drummers and, later, Keith Moon.

One moderately early band that did chart into the top 40 was Fanny, a California all-women band whose “Charity Ball” made it to #40 in October 1971 and who made it to #29 with “Butter Boy” in 1975.

Also have to mention Quarterflash from the early 90s. Rindy Ross not only sang, but played kick-butt sax on their top 10 hit “Harden My Heart.”

Then, of course, there’s Bonnie Raitt, whose first album came out in 1971.

BTW, one of the web’s better resources is the All Music Guide at http://www.allmusic.com/

Best of luck in the hunt

There is also Peggy Jones aka Lady Bo, who started playing the guitar with Bo Diddley in 1957 and played with him on and off until 1993.

(She also played percussion on “San Franciscan Nights” by Eric Burdon & the Animals in 1967.)

This information shamelessly stolen from http://members.tripod.com/~Originator_2/ladybo.html

Actually, Lenny’s drummer on his albums is an old white male studio musician. The girl you see in videos is not his regular drummer; he just uses her on tours and MTV.

Anyone remember the group Fanny, from the mid 60’s? They were an all-female band and they played their own instruments. Granted they weren’t hugely successful, but
at least they made a good go of being professional musicians. Their sound was hard rock and as far as I can recall they were competent musicians.

I’ve only seen them twice in my life, on TV. Once was sometime back in the 60’s, the other time was more recent.
All I remember is that they were doing some song that seemed to be about how the singer was going to treat somebody to her “Special Care”. I remember also that I didn’t like them
very much when I saw them at about the age of 9, but thought they sounded a lot better the second time, when I was about forty.

Well, yes and no. Now that you give me a name, I do recall who you’re talking about, but I’m quite sure there was a woman drummer at about the same time. I f I have a chance tonight, I will go through some of my very old albums to see if I can find the name (You see children, back in the days of vinyl, record companies would use something called a “sleeve” to protect the “record” in the “jacket”. And on the sleeve they would often print ads for other artists on that label.)

Stumbled across this (by now I’m sure long-forgotten) thread on the way to something else.

The way you worded your question is tricky. On the one hand, you speak of a “group” with a female member who was an instrumentalist rather than a vocalist. So this would tend to elminate solo artists or anyone else whose record featured music made by session musicians. (Had this been included, then you might well have gone with guitarist-turned-bassist Carole Kaye. I’m not sure when she began her career, but it was probably in the early 60s at least.)

If you’re speaking of real (as opposed to studio-created) groups who played on their own recordings, then The Applejacks, whom you referenced in a subsequent post, is also the best answer I’ve come up with so far.

They had a female bassist, Megan Davies, and had their first and most successful hit, “Tell Me When,” in February 1964 – several months before The Honeycombs’ “Have I the Right.” For the record, that band’s female drummer, Honey Lantree – while not the principal vocalist – did sing on their records (notably on “That’s the Way”).

Davies had been a member of The Applejacks since 1961, though they weren’t called that at the time.

Only possible hangup here is that an awful lot of those early British bands had session people playing some or all of the parts on their records. That’s something that would be hard to divine, I would think, in the case of The Applejacks. But again, if we assume they actually played on their hit, then that’s the best answer I’ve found to fit your question the way you posed it.

Sheesh! Rock music took 40 years longer to do what country music did in the 20’s The Carters, then Kitty Wells, and the list goes on. How ironic that a culture which was so conservative would have equality in allowing female musicians.

from Ravens

They were a successful band. Actually, not bad, according to Rolling Stone Album Guide .