Move Over Hendrix, These Female Guitarists Have Insane Skills

The electric guitar was made for rock ‘n’ roll but largely kept from reach by women. Since the inception of rock music, male guitarists have far outnumbered female counterparts. Despite steady improvement since the 60s, these days, female musicians face discrimination by unspoken industry quotas and are expected to fill limiting molds like a pop diva.
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With that said, the ones who’ve made it certainly know how to shred up an ax.  And for that, we’re going to take a moment to recognize these awesome women guitarists who rule the biz. Ranked from amazing to unbelievable, these women shred, and you should know who they are.

Courtney Cox

Do not confuse this rocker with Monica Geller. Musician Courtney Cox is no socialite; she is a heavy metal guitarist who jams with an all-female metal tribute band called the Iron Maidens. She dreamed of being a rock star from an early age attending high school at the Paul Green School of Rock Music.

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She moved to LA, took every gig she could get, and finally landed the female rock tribute role representing the real Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith.

Jennifer Batten

Jennifer Batten graduated from the Los Angeles Guitar Institute and then managed to get picked up by the biggest pop star ever.

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Landing lead guitarist for Michael Jackson, yes, that Michael Jackson of mega-hits “Beat It” and “Thriller” for three world tours was an amazing start to her career. She also performed with English rocker Jeff Beck.

Orianthi

Orianthi was a child prodigy who played piano at age 3. Today she is one of the best female electric guitarists in the world. Orianthi Penny Panagaris is from South Australia and debuted at the 2009 Grammy Awards show playing guitar for Carrie Underwood.

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She played live shows for Michael Jackson and was a guitarist for Alice Cooper. Orianthi also appeared as a guitarist for Michael Bolton, James Durbin, Dave Stewart, Kid Rock, John Mayer. Her work is also featured on Fefe Dobson’s album.

Sarah Longfield

Sarah Longfield is a heavy metal guitarist from Wisconsin. She plays an eight-string guitar and is known for her two-hand tapping style. She found a niche for herself as a YouTuber which developed into signing with the Season of Mist label and producing three solo albums.

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She also formed the band The Fine Constant. “Guitar World” named her one of the world’s greatest eight-string guitarists in 2018.

Debbie Davies

Long-time blues guitarist Debbie Davies has played with bands and done solo work since 1980. She has played guitar for Jimmy Buffet, Albert Collins, J. Geils, and in the band Double Trouble. She’s also known for her work in female bands Maggie Mayall and the Cadillacs.

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In blues circles, her work is highly respected. She won 1997 the W.C. Handy Award for Best Contemporary Female Artist.

Sue Foley

Canadian blues guitarist and singer-songwriter Sue Foley has been making music and winning acclaim since she was 16. Her first album, called “Young Girl Blues,” got her recognized, and she went on to win a record number of Maple Blues Awards (17).

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The famous Canadian musician’s signature pink paisley Fender Telecaster sets her apart. She won the Juno Award for her album “Love Coming Down.” Foley has played for BB King, Tom Petty, Lucinda Williams, and Buddy Guy.

Muriel Anderson

Growing up in a family of musicians, Muriel Anderson learned piano and guitar as a young child. For her eighth birthday, a family friend gave her a guitar; it was her calling. She took classical guitar at DePaul University in Chicago.

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She plays a 21-string harp guitar and has released several albums featuring her unique fingerstyle. Anderson has also composed for the Nashville Chamber Orchestra. She is the first woman to with the National Fingerpicking Guitar Championship.

Nili Brosh

Nili Brosh also plays with the Iron Maidens. The hard rock guitarist, who is originally from Israel, learned the electric guitar when she was 12 growing up in Boston. At seven, she was already playing acoustic guitar.

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Brosh played with The Aristocrats, Guthrie Govan, and Cirque du Soleil. She’s also accompanied Paul Gilber, Andy Timmons, and Stu Hamm.

Badi Assad

Talented musician Badi Assad was born in Brazil to Lebanese parents. Her music is known all around the world. In the year 1987, she was dubbed Best Brazilian Guitarist of the International Villa Lobos Festival.

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She is a singer-songwriter who has recorded four albums with Chesky Records. She has toured the entire world, from Europe, all over the United States, South America, and more.

Nori Bucci

Nori Bucci is best known for playing lead guitar for jazz-rock fusion band Gamalon. The Buffalo, New York band dates back to the mid-1980s and played until 2012.

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She also composes, performs, and records her own music. She plays folk, fusion, classical, jazz, and rock genres.

Charo

Spanish actress and guitarist Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza is best known as the Queen of Flamenco. In 1994, Charo won Female Pop Album of the Year at the Billboard International Latin Music Conference.

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She started out with disco in the 70s while starring in movies. The Spanish-born guitarist won Best Flamenco Guitarist two years in a row by a “Guitar Player” magazine reader’s poll.

Laura Chavez

Laura Chavez also goes by Triviana. Inspired by Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin, she plays with passion and intensity. She says her style is most closely compared to Jimi Hendrix. She plays in two bands and has collaborated with many others.

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The Bay Area native now lives in San Diego. She was nominated for the 42nd Blues Music Awards in 2021. Her favorite guitar is her red-orange Stratocaster.

Felicia Collins

Felicia Collins played guitar as part of the CBS Orchestra every single night on network television. As part of the Late Show with David Letterman, the Jackson, Tennessee-born singer-guitarist who grew up in The Bronx, performed on the show for 21 years.

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Letterman is not the only big name she worked with. She also played and toured with Madonna, George Clinton, the Thompson Twins, and Vonda Shepard. She names Stevie Wonder and James Brown as influences.

Deborah Coleman

Blues guitarist Deborah Coleman grew up in a talented musical family with her father on piano and two brothers and a sister on guitar. After her 1997 album, she won the Orville Gibson Award for Best Female Blues Guitarist.

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She released nine albums before passing away in 2018.

Ani DiFranco

Ani DiFranco has been writing her own songs since age 14. The award-winning folk music and alternative rock musician launched her label, Righteous Babe, in 1990 and has recorded 20 studio albums and as many live albums.

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She’s been nominated twice for a Best Female Rock Vocal Performance Grammy Award. She cites influences from jazz, punk, funk, and hip hop.

Malina Moye

American blues singer-songwriter Malina Moye is a lefty guitarist and an actress and model, to boot. Her third studio album, “Bad as I Wanna Be” (2018), hit number one on the Billboard Blues chart and stayed there for two weeks. “Rolling Stone” gave the album four stars.

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She plays rock festivals and tours worldwide. Moye has her own record label called WCE Records. Top Asian magazine “Gitar Plus” named her “Queen of funk-rock.”

Marnie Stern

Solo artist and member of the Late Night with Seth Meyers band Marnie Stern is a singer-songwriter of experimental, indie, math, and noise rock. She calls King Crimson, Hella, The Who, Talking Heads, Yoko Ono, and Deerhoof influences.

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Stern is known for her tapping-style guitar play. Her accolades include playing with the Flaming Lips and making “Spin Magazine’s” list of 100 all-time greatest guitarists.

Ruyter Suys

Ruyter Suys was raised in a Vancouver musical family and started on piano at age 3. She picked up a guitar at eight and went on to emulate Metallica, Aerosmith, KISS, and other heavy metal artists.

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She has played in several bands and is married to singer Blaine Cartwright, with whom she is in a band. Suys now lives in the US with her husband.

Joanna Connor

This Chicago blues queen recorded her first album in 1989 on Blind Pig Records. She’s played with big names like Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, James Cotton, and AC Reed. The blues singer-songwriter and guitarist was born in New York and raised in Massachusetts.

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Her latest album, 4801 South Indiana Avenue, made it to number one on the Billboard Blues Chart and is now out.

Arianna Powell

Jazz guitarist Arianna Powell has entertained the stages of bands such as the Black Eyed Peas, Chris Brown, and Will.I.Am. She has toured with Drake Bell and competed on American Idol. Powell’s first tour was with Nick Jonas, and from there, she began making connections.

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She’s from a blue-collar Pennsylvania town. She learned to play guitar from her father, who was a folk fingerpicking, and then her preferences grew toward jazz, ska, and metal.

Yvette Young

Yvette Young is a creative artist and musician who leads the band Covet on guitar and vocals. The math-rock band has a sound compared with King Crimson, which is comprised of complex rhythmic structures.

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The No-Cal-native graduated from UCLA with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts and then dove into a music career with Covet. The band has two studio albums.

Joanne Shaw Taylor

Discovered by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics at 16, Joanne Shaw Taylor is a blues rocker who has been playing the blues for half her life. From West Midlands, England, she was inspired by Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix, and Albert Collins.

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In 2002 Stewart brought her on board to tour with his band DUP. She’s released six solo albums and has toured the US and the UK.

Desireé Bassett

Desireé Bassett was a child musical prodigy who began playing guitar as soon as she was big enough to hold a half-size Lotus as a toddler. By age 8, she played competitively. She’s rocked out with Sammy Hagar, Ted Nugent, Living Colour, Barry Goudreau, the Marshall Tucker Band, and the Allman Brothers.

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Desireé also got to play with her personal idol, Joe Satriani. She boasts two studio albums.

Joyce Cooling

Joyce Cooling taught herself to play guitar by ear. In 1988, she joined a San Francisco Brazilian jazz band called Viva Brazil. Cooling and band member Jay Wagner collaborated and then formed a band in 1990.

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Besides her work in jazz bands, she has also performed with Joe Henderson, Stan Getz, Mark Murphy, and Charlie Byrd.

The Great Kat

This classically trained violinist from the Julliard School of music became one of the most radical shredders out there, or at least the fastest. “Guitar One” magazine named her one of the “Fastest Shredders of All Time.”

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She is best known for thrash metal but also rips out speed metal, heavy metal, neoclassical metal, and death metal, to list a few. She sings and shreds guitar playing a dominatrix persona.

Susan Tedeschi

Grammy-nominated singer and guitarist Susan Tedeschi played local Boston venues until her blues music became a pillar of the Boston music scene. She is in the Tedeschi Trucks Band with her husband and other musicians.

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She has opened for major labels like Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp, BB King, and The Allman Brothers. Her style has been described as a mix of Janis Joplin and Bonnie Raitt.

Xuefei Chang

Chinese classical guitarist Xuefei Yang performed as early as 10 years old to such acclaim that the Spanish ambassador in China gifted her a concert guitar. She became the first guitarist in China to go to music school.

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She has gained international success and released many albums, most recently Sketches of China (2018).

Carmen Vandenberg

London guitarist Carmen Vandenberg plays lead guitar for rock band Bones UK. She met lead singer Rosie Bones at a blues kitchen in their hometown. Bones UK was nominated for a Grammy and caught the eye of Jeff Beck, who invited the two to write and perform his 2016 album.

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She likes it loud. “I like having two amps,” she shared with “Guitar World,” adding, “I do get in trouble sometimes for having the volume too loud on stage.”

Nita Strauss

Nita Strauss tours with Alice Cooper and is ranked number one by “Guitar World” as one of “ten female guitar players you should know.” She’s been featured on the covers of “Guitar Player” and “Guitar World.” Strauss played in a band as a teenager.

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The rocker joined the Iron Maidens tribute band and has played with Femme Fatale and Consume the Fire.

Peggy Jones

Known as Lady Bo from playing in the Bo Diddley band in the 60s, Peggy Jones was a pioneer of rock ‘n roll and one of the first female guitarists. She was also called the Queen Mother of Guitar.

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Jones led her own group, The Jewels, which became a top R&B band. Sadly, she died in 2015; she was 75.

Kat Dyson

Kat Dyson’s breakout gig came about through a collaboration with singer Geraldine Hunt on what became the number one hit, “Can’t Fake the Feeling.” From there, she performed on Donny and Marie’s television show and into the 90s with none other than Prince.

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She’s also played jazz guitar and toured with Cyndi Lauper as well as with Paul Shaffer and Jeff Healey, BB King, and Mavis Staples.

Lita Ford

In the late-70s, Lita Ford played lead guitar for the Runaways, an all-female glam band. She launched a solo career in the 80s and boasted a career-high with a 1989 Ozzy Osbourne duet, “Close My Eyes Forever.” Ford has been rocking into the 00s and 10s with former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron Thal.

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Her rock and roll lifestyle included a short engagement with a guitarist from Black Sabbath and a collaborative effort called “The Bride Wore Black.” Unfortunately, the album was never released.

Vicki Genfan

Vicki Genfan grew up with a love for music. She plays a range of instruments. Besides guitar, she also plays banjo, piano, trombone, and hand percussion. In 1994 she released her first album, Native, and found herself dubbed the Queen of Open Tunings in music magazines.

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Genfan describes her music style as “folk meets funk.” She is celebrated at folk music festivals all over the US.

Sharon Isbin

After graduating cum laude from Yale School of Music and completing her master’s in music, Sharon Isbin heads the Julliard School guitar department and has played professionally in over 200 orchestras. She comes from a family with smarts; both parents are nuclear scientists who wrote a book about nuclear reactors.

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“BBC Music Magazine” said, “Sharon Isbin is one of the music world’s great collaborators.” She won the coveted Instrumentalist of the Year Award in 2020 in 2020 plus four career Grammys.

Bibi McGill

Bibi McGill is a musical director for Beyoncé. She heads the Suga Mamas, Beyoncé’s backup band. McGill got her to start with Pink. She performed on Pink’s 2001 tour, which included “SNL” and the “Tonight Show.” She’s a DJ, yogi, and producer.

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Her guitar style is funky, soulful, and aggressive, similar to Jimi Hendrix. With Beyoncé, she’s played at the White House for the Obamas and a highly praised pyrotechnic guitar solo at Super Bowl 2013.

Gretchen Menn

Master of both the electric and acoustic guitar, Gretchen Menn is an industry darling. Guitar Player magazine ranked her one of 50 Sensational Female Guitarists. Menn is featured on “She Rocks, Vol 1.,” a compilation album by Steve Vai’s label, and is the lead guitarist and founding member of Zepparella.

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Zepparella is a femme-Zeppelin tribute band. “Vintage Guitar Magazine” readers voted Menn Artist of the Year in 2017.

June Millington

Recognized as a “godmother of women’s music,” June Millington’s roots in rock music go back to the 60s and 70s. in 1970, she co-founded and played lead guitar for the all-female band, Fanny.

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She is a Filipino-American songwriter, producer, educator, and actress. She started out with The Svelts, playing acoustic guitar, and switched to electric guitar in 1964.

Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell was honored with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement award at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards in 2002. This Canadian-born folk legend deserves your attention. She won her first Grammy in 1970 for best folk performance from her second studio album, “Clouds.” By 1975, she toured with the Rolling Thunder Revue concert series headlining Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.

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In the 80s, David Geffen launched Geffen Records and signed his friend Mitchell onto his new label. Her most renowned folk album is Blue. It is ranked 30th best album ever by “Rolling Stone’s” 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Sarah Lipstate

Sarah Lipstate’s experimental guitar sounds created on her six-string electric guitar were so unique the sound attracted the ear of Iggy Pop, who asked Lipstate’s band Noveller to open during his 2016 Post Pop Depression tour. Lipstate started Noveller in 2009 as an electric guitar project.

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She’s also a filmmaker and got into playing electric guitar inspired by bands like Sonic Youth. She worked a summer job to buy the cheapest guitar in the store, a Danelectro in periwinkle.

Ava Popovic

Serbian blues guitarist Ava Popovic hails from Belgrade but embraced American blues music. She started a band named Hush and played concerts all around Europe, across Serbia, Greece, and Hungary. By 2000, Hush hit American shores.

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Popovic also started a solo act in 1999. She performed with Eric Burdon, Taj Mahal, Buddy Miles, and Eric Gales. She was also invited to play on the Jimi Hendrix tribute album, Blue Haze.

Gabriela Quintero

Gabriela Quintero met Rodrigo Sanchez and formed acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela. Their music is styled on flamenco guitar, rock, and heavy metal; many of their recordings are instrumental duets.

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In 2020 the two won Best Contemporary Instrumental Album at the 62 Annual Grammys. In 2010 they performed at the White House for President Obama.

Bonnie Raitt

Folk-rock and country musician Bonnie Raitt hardly needs an introduction, but country music star Graeme Conners puts her lyrical talent so prettily when he wrote, ”Bonnie Raitt does something with a lyric no one. Else can do; she bends it and twists it right into your heart.”

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Her 10 Grammy Awards speak for themselves. The American folk and blues singer is also politically active and supports issues such as the environment, giving free instruments to children, and supporting the anti-nuclear movement.

Allison Robertson

Allison Robertson has played guitar in rock bands Chelsea Girls and The Donnas. Her first band was Ellen and Rae, formed with her sister in 2006. The sisters came from a musical family in the LA-area.

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Their mother worked for publishing companies like A&M Records, and their father worked as a Hollywood songwriter.

Leni Stern

Born in West Germany before the wall went down, Leni Stern studied piano at an early age. She was six when she started piano and took up guitar a few years later. She performs vocals and plays jazz, fusion, and rock.

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As a fusion guitarist, Stern has developed a unique musical sound. She also plays a string instrument from Mali called a ngoni. She released her fourth solo album in 2020.

Mimi Fox

Influenced by her mother, who sang jazz, Mimi Fox took up the guitar at 10 and never looked back. She is a professor of music at Yale and New York University. She has collaborated with many musicians, including Stevie Wonder and Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary.

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Guitar Player wrote that Fox “plays with a profundity that only results from a lifetime of commitment and total immersion in one’s art.”

Mary Osborne

Jazz guitarist Mary Osborne grew up in the 20s playing the piano, ukulele, violin, banjo, and guitar. She was in a country music band and was performing in a trio of three girls by age 12. She played professionally from the 40s to the 60s.

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She played such jazz festivals as the Newport and Concord festival, the Los Angeles Classic Jazz Festival, and the Kool Jazz Festival. In the 40s, she came to prominence amongst jazz musicians like Thelonious Monk and Dizzy Gillespie.

Donna Grantis

Canadian-born Donna Grantis honed her skills while working as a bartender. She formed a fusion trio called the Donna Grantis Electric Band. Prince noticed her work and invited her to record together.

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At his Minnesota recording complex, Prince arranged a song she wrote called “Plectrumelectrum” as a title track to his album. It became a number one hit on the Billboard Rock chart. She was part of Prince’s funk supergroup ever since.

Anne Clark

Anne Clark is St Vincent. In 2014 she released an album of the same name, and it gained international attention. Clark got her to start as a member of the Polyphonic Spree and on the Dallas choir.

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The singer, songwriter, and producer is a Grammy-winning artist. Her album St Vincent was named album of the year by several publications, including The Guardian and Entertainment Weekly.

Kristy Wallace

Kristy Wallace co-founded the punk band The Cramps in NYC. Her styles range from blues to rockabilly, and it was the unique rockabilly sound of The Cramps that got the band the much-needed attention. Wallace went by stage name Poison Ivy.

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She met Cramps lead singer Lux Interior at Sacramento State College, and they co-wrote all of the band’s songs. The two were married for 37 years until he died in 2009.

Katherine King

AKA Kaki King, Katherine King made Rolling Stone’s 2006 list of “New Guitar Gods.” Kaki is known for her percussive, jazzy style and for using multiple tunings on acoustic and lap steel guitar. She has six studio albums and records scores for film and TV.

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Together with Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and industry-favorite Michael Brook, King recorded the Grammy-nominated soundtrack for Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild.”

Liona Boyd

Nicknamed the “first lady of guitar,” Liona Boyd was actually born in London but grew up in Toronto. She’s played everywhere, including Carnegie Hall in NYC. Boyd’s influence comes from the 60s when she performed at underground clubs in the UK, Paris, and British Columbia.

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By 2018, she had recorded 26 albums and has recorded with such names as Eric Clapton, Yo-Yo Ma, David Gilmour, and Olivia Newton-John. In 2019 she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Guitar Museum.

Emily Remler

Emily Remler was a 60s jazz guitarist from New Jersey. Influenced by Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Winter, she attended Berklee College of Music. Then the young musician found a home in New Orleans playing in blues and jazz clubs. Her first album was Firefly.

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Notable jazz guitarist Herb Ellis named Remler the “new superstar of guitar” at the 1978 Concord Jazz Festival. She died before her time at 32 in 1990.

Memphis Minnie

Memphis Minnie is responsible for popular tunes “Nothing in Rambling,” Me and My Chauffeur Blues,” and “Bumble Bee.” She first picked up a guitar at 13 and ran away from home with it to play in Memphis on Beale Street. From there, the blues guitarist and vocalist went on to record over 200 songs.

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Her 1929 song “When The Levee Breaks” was recorded by Led Zeppelin, and “Me and My Chauffeur Blues” was recorded on Jefferson Airplane’s debut album.

Elizabeth Cotton

Left-handed guitarist Elizabeth Cotton grew up in a family of musicians in Chapel Hill. When she got a hold of her brother’s guitar, she said, “From that day on, nobody had no peace in that house.”  Elizabeth was forced to drop out of school in order to work and support her family.

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Since her brother’s guitar was for right-handers, Elizabeth’s playing style was unique as she played the instrument upside down. She is best known for her song “Freight Train.” Mike Seeger popularized her songs in his recordings.

Maybelle Carter

Maybelle Carter is the founding member of the Carter Family act began in the late 20s. The band was one of the most popular country music groups and one of the first rural country music commercial bands.

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Maybelle developed a technique known as the Carter Scratch, playing melody lines on the bass strings with her thumb. “Mother Maybelle” toured from the 40s to the 60s, frequently with her son-in-law Johnny Cash. She died in 1978.