Who was the first sucessful female to play the electric guitar (either solo, or in a group)?
Joan Armatrading. But that depends upon what your definition of rock guitarist is.
Lady Bo was the first female lead guitarist to be hired by a major act (Bo Diddly).
Other pioneers would include Joni Mitchell (who played accoustic but was still an accomplished folk-rock guitarist) and the Runaways who featured both Joan Jett and Lita Ford.
I’d put Heart’s Nancy Wilson ahead of Joan and Lita, myself.
The first celebrated guitar heroine that I recall personally was Jennifer Batten, but she certainly came after most if not all of the aforementioned guitaristas.
Rock guitarist = a person who plays rock music on a guitar
Rock music = music described as “rock & roll”, “rock”, and even “pop music”. Usually, but not always, enjoyed by the younger crowd.
I dunno if you want to count music that is, or has deep roots in, the Blues , but if you ask me, Memphis Minnie is the Godmother of all female Rhythm &
Blues guitarists. A lot of what she sang and played is definitive ur-R&B if you ask me, and it’s too bad she doesn’t get more credit for her contributions to the genre.
“He got all the stinger I need”!
Oh yes, Bonnie Raitt been tearing it up for quite a few years as well.
Going on the theory that an all-female rock band has to have a female guitarist, the first all-female group that appears to have hit the American Top 40 was Fanny, whose “Charity Ball” barely scraped in back in November of 1971. June Millington was the guitarist.
Fanny is sometimes incorrectly said to have been the first all-female rock band signed by a major label, with Birtha being the second, in 1972. They aren’t - they’re the first two to have recorded albums. Birtha put out their first album in 1972 but had been a fixture of the L.A. live scene since 1967. Shele Pinizzotto was their guitarist.
Even earlier were Goldie and the Gingerbreads, who were together from 1963-1967, with Carol MacDonald on guitar. Ahmet Ertegun, the Chairman of Atlantic Records, signed them to a contract in 1964, making them a better candidate for first. They never made an album, though, and their U.S. singles went nowhere. But they reached #25 on the British charts with “Can’t You Hear my Heart Beat” in February 1965.* The band broke up as expected, but Carol went on in 1973 to form the all-female Isis while lead singer Goldie amounted a fair amount of success under the name of Genya Ravan, fronting Ten Wheel Drive.
Nice find on Lady Bo, Dio.
- That’s the same time that Herman’s Hermits hit #2 with the song in the U.S., but the song was the b-side of “Silhouettes” in the UK. Alan Price of the Animals produced it for Goldie.
Females who are known by there strumming?
IMHO…there have been none.
their of course/
Bonnie Raitt began playing guitar in the 60’s, and had her first major label album in 1971.
Heart didn’t form until 1974.
Suzie Quatro’s first album was in 1973.
Joni Mitchell predates them all, with her first album being in 1968. She’s considered a fine guitarist, but I don’t know if she played electric.
Here’s an interesting article I found while researching this: No Girls allowed? In the World of Guitar Boasts, Few Women Let Their Fingers Do the Talking
The one time I saw Joni live–in the late '90s–her guitar was not just electric, it was a guitar synthesizer.
Sister Rosetta Tharp was a gospel singer/guitarist in the 40s and 50s. She borrowed heavily from the blues and played an electric hollow body guitar with a gritty amplified tone. If you watched Scorcese’s PBS series about the blues you may remember the clip of her. Definitely rockin’ IMHO!
Check out her entry here:
I think Joni Mitchell could qualify as something of a rocker, though a very folksy one. Songs like “Big Yellow Taxi” and “Free Man In Paris” show up on softer-edged classic rock stations regularly enough.
What’s sets Joni apart, IMO, is the whacked-out tunings. I remember in college a woman approached me to accompany her vocals for a coffee house session, and she whipped out all these completely unhelpful piano transcriptions of “Case of You”, “You Turn Me On I’m A Radio”, and “Trouble Child”. The second I could just strum along, but the others, especially “Case of You” were a complete, total bear for me. I’d fooled around with simple drop-D, open-E maj. tunings, stuff like that, but Joni had me stumped. And it’s like every frickin’ song has a different whacked-out tuning, so it’s not like you can master one and plow through the Joni Mitchell oeuvre unhindered. I pretty much gave up trying to approximate dulcimers and dobros and just made up my own emulations using the stupid chord boxes as I guide. Needless to say, it didn’t sound nearly as good as what Joni does. Too bad the internet wasn’t well-developed then, or maybe I could have combed places like this for help!
Yeah, I’ve got a lot of respect for Joni Mitchell as both a stylist and a technician. It’s not rawk god chops she’s got, but it’s mad skills all the same.
Joni Mitchell the first female rock guitarist? No.
Cordell Jackson recorded at Memphis Recording Services and formed her own record company to release her songs in 1956.
April Lawton of Ramatam. She predates Heart by a few years, and is undeniably hard rock.
Not bad stuff, either.
You know, I’ve actually heard of her, and, damn me, I figured Cordell was a man’s name.
Bad Loopy! BAD!
Good call. That clip in the Scorsese series blew me away. A female gospel singer in about 1958, making her guitar sound like Jimi Hendrix would almost a decade later!