TOP 100 Favorite Famous Guitarists (50% Female)!
Happy New Year!
Tough! I learned tons, including that 50% of my Top 100 Favorite “Famous” Guitarists are Female, that ranking blurs and morphs daily after #3, and that there are way more “Famous” players and styles I love than I know of or can fit. For each “Famous” player there are hundreds of not “Famous” players too! Many defied odds. “Famous” = they had top 100 Billboard hits with guitar (or a live, legacy, or YouTube equivalent).
*Note: I separate the art from the artist. Not all are kind folks. While I like their music, I do not endorse all of their behavior. I also combine entries to include more folks. I focus on 3ish subjective criteria:
2. Emotion/Expression (+ How Much I listen)
3. Technical Skills
Listen to the Top 100 Favorite Guitarists YouTube Playlist here:
(I stop embedding videos mid-list to save load time)
Thanks and Enjoy!
Wishing you Love, Peace and Great Music in 2023! <3
Cover sketches by Megan Johns
Graphite on Paper
1. SISTER ROSETTA THARPE (1919-60s Rock)(“The Godmother of Rock and Roll” and key reason why the western world plays Rock - the genre she innovated - with electric guitars. She was a child guitar prodigy and innovator in New Orleans and Chicago Gospel churches, and later in clubs, and you can hear her style in just about everything after her. She predates Chuck Berry and millions later. She played the segregated south as a Queer Black Woman 100 years ago and then internationally in the 1950's-60's, heavily influencing British Rock and Blues (at least half a century before Madonna, as ‘She Bop’ author Lucy O’Brien notes). Can you imagine selling out a venue where you cannot legally use the restroom because of your skin color? It would be difficult to get more badass and Rock and Roll “Famous”-guitarist-wise than Sister Rosetta Tharpe.
Favorites: live YouTube videos of “Up Above My Head,” “This Train,” “Didn’t It Rain,” “Down By The Riverside,” “Rock Me,” and compilation videos. I first learned of Tharpe as a child from my Rock History teacher Uncle Nate, and again later from the book, ‘She Bop: The Definitive History of Women in Rock, Pop, and Soul’ by Lucy O’Brien, which I found in a free box on the street instead of in school where we all should have. I was privileged to hear her music. I did not see a picture or a video of her until years later though -or even know that those existed. There is a great documentary, “Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock and Roll” by Mick Csaky on YouTube.)(Les Paul)
Full Documentary, “Sister Rosetta Tharpe: The Godmother of Rock and Roll” by Mick Csaky:
'She Bop: The Definitive History of Women in Rock, Pop & Soul' book by Lucy O'Brien:
2. JIMI HENDRIX (Jimi Hendrix Experience)(1960’s-70’s Psychedelic Rock, Blues)(Strat)(This guy lived 27 years and gave much music to the world. I was lucky to grow up with Jimi’s heavy, Psychedelic Blues Rock magic. He uniquely played his guitar left handed/upside down, and was ambidextrous. If I had to pick just one player on this list to listen to always, it would be Jimi. I am in agreement with many across the world that Jimi deserves the musical recognition he still receives. Favorites: “Crosstown Traffic,” “Hey, Joe,” “Voodoo Child,””Come On,””Foxy Lady,””Fire,””Red House,” “Purple Haze,” and many more!)
("Crosstown Traffic": my favorite!)
("Voodoo Child": Live in Maui 1970)
3. BRIAN MAY (Queen)(1970’s-80’s Rock)(He built his own guitar, The Red Special, with his dad when he was 14 in the ‘60s. He played it on iconic solos all his life; he really crafted an emotive sound. I gratefully grew up with it, and was 5 when I first saw the famous ‘Wayne’s World’ movie scene. That Bohemian Rhapsody solo is unparalleled. I loved that movie too. Favorites: Again, that “Bohemian Rhapsody” solo! “We Are The Champions,” “We Will Rock You,” “Killer Queen,” “Another One Bites The Dust,” and “Don’t Stop Me Now” are also favorites.)
(Brian May playing the "Bohemian Rhapsody" solo live)
("Bohemian Rhapsody" Full song: That solo at 2:37! One of the best pieces of music ever. Also the leads at 5:00.)
4. BILLY CORGAN (Smashing Pumpkins)(1980’s-Present Alternative Rock)(Strats, SG)(Corgan is underrated as a guitarist, soloist, and composer. Beautiful music. Creative, emotive, psychedelic, heavy, dynamic, influential, and skilled. SP has been my favorite band since I was 7.
A peak experience was seeing them live at 19, and also by random fortune, getting called from the back row of the Mezzanine to the front row by Billy Corgan. When he stopped the show saying, “YOU,” in my general direction, I first figured the head of my favorite band was about to publicly blast me for taking video clips with a camera (flip phone days). Instead, five of us migrated to the front row. Thank you, and please keep calling folks forward! There, Corgan’s creativity and skill were further apparent.
Once, I masqueraded as SP with my band, MoonWish, at hometown benefit, The Great Cover Up. I learned new things about both SP songs and gender roles there. Recommended endeavor! I still love every song on the “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness”double disc, and other albums, 28 years later. Favorites: “Zero,” “Thru The Eyes of Ruby,” “Where Boys Fear To Tread,” “Cupid De Locke,” “Bodies,” “By Starlight,” “Porcelina,” “Love,” “Bullet With Butterfly Wings” “Here Is No Why,” “Siva,” many more. If you are seeking virtuosity, watch Corgan’s “Starla” solo.)
("Zero": Loved the heaviness and the guitar solo at 1:57 as a kid. Still love it nearly 30 years later.)
("Thru The Eyes Of Ruby": Another of many guitar heavy SP favs. Love it. Although, I feel the entirety of the “Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness” double disc should be listened to together!)
("Starla": Virtuosic soloing)
5. JUNE MILLINGTON (Fanny)(1969-70s Rock/Glam/Psychedelic)(’56 Gibson Les Paul, Les Paul Junior TV Special, J-50 acoustic)(According to her social media and Wikipedia, she formed bands in high school just after moving to the U.S. from the Philippines. Fanny had Top 100 Billboard hits in the 60’s. Bowie was among many famous fans. I prefer June’s groovy slide riffs, concise solos, and pedal choices to many of her contemporaries, and, in the social climate, she and her all-female band mates overcame many obstacles to be on stage. She was playing guitar at a time where unwed women could not obtain credit cards. Jim Crow laws had stopped being enforced only 4 years before. Millington reportedly talks about these challenges in her autobiography, Land of a Thousand Bridges: Island Girl in a Rock & Roll World (Vintage Guitar Magazine. Johnson).
Her playing melts into Fanny’s songs in a strong yet humble team player fashion. She also co-founded the Institute for the Musical Arts to help others. I found Fanny by accident as an adult on YouTube, but recognized the hits. I even accidentally walked into a rad guitar store named after this band before linking their music to them. I hear there is a Fanny documentary coming! Favorites: “Ain’t That Peculiar,” “Place in the Country (Second Version),” “First Time,” “What Kind of Lover,” “Young and Dumb,” “Blind Alley,” “Borrowed Time,””Rock Bottom Blues,” “Cat Fever,” and “Bull Dog (Beatles Cover).”)
("Place In The Country": Fantastic live performance in 1971!)
("For The First Time": Awesome lead guitar lines 3:50 til the end.)
("Ain't That Peculiar" live song starts at 1:40. Great heavy riffs and a simple and delightful slide solo at 3:40.)
6. JOHNNY MARR (The Smiths, The The, The Healers)(1980’s Rock, Post Punk)(I was in middle school aged about 12-13 the first time I recall hearing Marr’s playing; my Uncle Nate threw on “This Charming Man” on vinyl. My hair rose and I instantly thought it was jump-out-of-your-seat-beautiful. I have synesthesia, and Marr’s unique playing makes me see, smell and feel vibrant colors of fall leaves twirling on a brisk day. I immediately asked what it was. Favorites: “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others,” “This Charming Man,” “How Soon Is Now,” “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out,” and many more.)
("This Charming Man": Life altering guitar playing.)
("Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others": My favorite Smiths song.)
7. ROBERT SMITH (+ PEARL THOMPSON)(The Cure, The Glove)(1978-Present Goth Rock, Post-Punk, Alt Rock, New Wave)(Yes, combined! Robert is best known as a bassist, but he is also an awesome, underrated guitarist and writer of unique, jangly, atmospheric guitar parts, playing a Fender Jazzmaster, a Rickenbacker, Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentleman, National Newport Val-Pro 88, a Japanese Epiphone, a 12 string guitar, his signature Schecter Ultra, and others in The Cure too (Mix Down Magazine and his music videos). I love his songs and guitar parts!
The Cure is one of my lifelong favorite bands. Pearl’s spooky styling on various Fenders, Hopf and Schecter guitars is a favorite too. Even though he is a virtuosic player when turned loose, Pearl pairs down his leads and riffs for the good of a Cure song (and maybe at Robert’s behest) with magical results. These two make rad sounds together. Love them. In high school, I had a Boys Don’t Cry poster found in my friend/early drummer Garrick Nelson’s basement at a band rehearsal, and I still have it. I have been Robert Smith playing a guitar for Halloween.
Favorites: dreamy, atmospheric, jangly, scrumptious riffs, leads and open rhythm on “Love Song,” “A Night Like This,” “Friday I’m in Love,” “A Forest,” “Just Like Heaven,” “One Hundred Years,” “Pictures of You,” “Lullaby,” “The Figurehead,” “Last Dance,” “A Short Term Effect,” “10.15 on a Saturday Night,” “Hot! Hot! Hot!,” and many more. I love the albums: “Faith,” “Pornography,” “Disintegration,” “The Head on the Door,” and tbh, all of them.)
("Friday I'm In Love")
("A Night Like This": maybe my favorite Cure song, but I have many. Love the guitar on this - and the sax)
("A Forest": watch Robert play guitar. There are quite a few good live 80's videos of him playing on YouTube.)
8. LITA FORD (Lita, Runaways)(70’s-90’s Glam Metal, Hard Rock, Metal)(B.C. Rich Warlock)(I love Lita Ford! Epic, heavy compositions and solos. She is iconic. Favorites: “The Ripper” (love the song, especially the epic solo at the end. One of my favorite solos ever.), ”Out For Blood,””Close My Eyes Forever”(Duet with Ozzy. Love the song and simple guitar lead at 2:45 that gets stuck in my head.) and “Falling In And Out Of Love.” I heard The Runaways and Lita’s music as a kid, and was actually unaware that Joan Jett’s lead guitarist (and entire band) was female until later in my teens. YouTube was not around until later, and images of young girls rocking electric guitars - like Joan Jett and Lita - were incredibly scarce, going against what I was culturally and explicitly told. Even searching for an image felt conceptually taboo - a proverbial ‘no no.’ So, I saw no pictures of Lita as a kid and did not know that she was playing the guitar parts when I heard her songs. I get the impression that Lita may have been the sole female electric guitarist she was aware of as a kid herself. And she killed it. I listen to Lita a lot!)
("Out For Blood" Music Video 1983. Great parts and soloing! Fun to get to see footage of her playing now.)
("Ripper": The solo starting around 3:30 is one of my favorite solos of all time! The whole song is great; the solo is brilliant.)
("Close My Eyes Forever": Duet with Ozzy. Love the lead line at 2:45! Could listen on repeat.)
9. NILI BROSH (Solo work, Danny Elfman, Cirque du Soleil, The Iron Maidens)(Contemporary Progressive Virtuosic Instrumental)(According to her Wikipedia and website, she is an Israeli-American player who has recorded with Danny Elfman, Cirque du Soleil, Jennifer Batton, and The Iron Maidens, to name a few, and she plays an Ibanez RG Prestige 7-stringer, with EMG pickups and a Peavy JSX amp (as evidenced in videos and recordings!). Love her music and listen to it all the time now. She delightfully melts dynamic, creative, multi-genre styles and sounds. So smooth. Found her as an adult online. Virtuosic fun! I love an Ibanez too. Favorites: the entire album, “Spectrum,” with Romani stylings, especially “Cartagena,” and “Andalusian Fantasy,” and electric songs,“The Spring Tune,” “Primal Feels,” “Silence of Saturday,” “Solace,” “Exit Strategy,” “Through The Looking Glass,” and “Adaptable Creatures.”)
("Primal Feels" Music Video: Love the hilarious video and Nili’s guitar parts. Her playing is virtuosic, multi-genre, and moving!)
("Andalusian Fantasy": Rad nylon string acoustic Romani stuff! There is an album where this came from!)
("The Spring Tune": My favorite song of hers live. Love how she transitions genres, gets metal, and the virtuosic solo and lead lines.)
10. PRINCE (70’s-2010’s Funk, Rock, R&B, Synth Pop, Soul)(Lovely blending of genres. Excellent player and very influential. Obvious choice to be high on any list. Favorite solos on: “When Doves Cry,” “Something In The Water,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” First remember recognizing Prince’s music at around 8 or 9.)
(Fun compilation of beautiful Prince solos)
JACKIE VENSON (Contemporary Blues, Psychedelic, Rock, Soul, Pop)(Strat)(Her albums “Joy” and “Love Transcends” are listed as best albums of 2019 and 2021 by Pop Magazine. I love her leads and solos for “Don’t Lie To Me,” “Love Transcends,” “I Will Find A Way,” and many more SO MUCH! Favorite songs: “Only Have You,” “Make Me Feel,” and “Surrender.” She also does production and beats as Jackie The Robot. In addition to her rad genre bending, I love her messaging too. Her music is joy!)
("Only Have You": My favorite song of her’s. Beautiful song, guitar parts and production!)
("Surrender": Another favorite. Awesome guitar leads.)
("Make Me Feel": Song starts at 0:47. Excellent songwriting and guitar playing. So good!)
JAN KUEHNEMUND (Vixen, Genis, Lemon Pepper)(1971-90’s Hard Rock/Metal)(LOVE her! Love her iconic, innovative 70’s-80’s riffs and over the top yet emotive metal solos on 1988’s “Cruisin,” “How Much Love,” and so many more!
Kuehnnemund was a prolific, virtuosic, badass metal player who did not get the recognition she should have relative to her contemporaries. I heard Vixen songs on the radio since childhood, and it did not register that these were all women playing until adulthood. Again, except for Joan Jett, there weren't images of women playing electric guitars growing up. Kuehnemund was a brilliant, creative, skilled player and she and Vixen made great music in the 80’s.)
DONITA SPARKS (L7 - an all female band Sparks co-founded)(1980’s-Present Punk, Grunge, Alt Metal)(Underrated, sludgy fun! “Bad Things” and “Pretend We’re Dead” were huge 90’s hits among many others. Sparks reportedly didn’t take shit from anyone onstage (there are some wild stories), and gives attitude and sass with her heavy, grungy, distorted, fuzzy, wah-y, genre bending, which makes her fun to watch in live videos. Amazing playing, creativity and energy. I enjoyed these heavy, grungy songs in passing as a teen but actually had no clue that women were behind them. My husband, Shannon, exposed me again as an adult. So good!)(Tele)
MARK MORTON + WILLIE ADLER (Lamb of God)(90’s-Present Thrash Metal)(I love Lamb of God. One of my all time favorite bands again. Love the combination of genres and styles in Metal. I started listening to them sometime around 2004, likely influenced by my childhood friend/band mate, Mike Arnold. Catchy riffs! Loved them right away and dig their accessible, multi-genre-influenced Metal. “Walk With Me In Hell” and "As the Palaces Burn" are favorites I view as pop songs via their accessibility.)(Jackson Dominion)
("Walk With Me In Hell": Fun song!)
DJANGO REINHART (1920’s-50’s Jazz, Romani)(He was missing 2 fingers on his left hand and wrote and performed some of the loveliest and most innovative guitar music I knew growing up - very fast. Who doesn’t love “Minor Swing”?)
TONINO BALIARDO + ALL GIPSY KINGS (Gipsy Kings)(70’s-Present Flemenco)(Love these layered guitar compositions so much! Also grew up with them. Love “Djobi Djoba,” “Bomboleo,” and everything they do. I used to rent library CDs of Gipsy Kings as a kid. Love them and listen to them regularly.)
("Bomboleo": My favorite Gipsy Kings song!)
JONNY GREENWOOD with THOM YORKE (Radiohead)(90’s-Present Alt Rock, Electronic)(Surprised Greenwood got this far down, because I love his emotive, experimental playing so much. I had a poster of him on my wall in the 90s, and if you asked me then, he was in my top 5 players. Favorite Greenwood: his work on the song, “Just,” especially the last 20 seconds of that song! I love all of his stuff with Radiohead. He is brilliant at unique yet glove-like-fit surprises. Thom Yorke must be included here too for his Radiohead guitar writing and unique tricksy experimental guitar elements. Greenwood and Yorke are lovely together.)(Teles, Fenders)
("Just": The last 20 seconds is one of my favorite solos / pieces of music EVER. Brilliant.)
STEVE VAI (Rock)(Ibanez guy! That “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” (my favorite movie since I was a toddler!) solo and leads on Kiss’s “God Gave Rock and Roll To You” rules! That opening is just gorgeous and one of the first things that made me want to play guitar. It is one of my favorite things. I love Ibanez too. Smooth virtuosic player. Credit has to go to Ace Frehley and Kiss for this too, though I also decided to include them separately below!)
("God Gave Rock & Roll To You" by Kiss: Gotta be one of the radest guitar based songs ever. Sheesh!)
DAVID GILMORE (Pink Floyd)(70’s Rock)(Especially LOVE his iconic Solo on “Comfortably Numb”! I listened to this song and Pink Floyd albums over and over in middle school.)
("Comfortably Numb": If this guitar solo doesn't melt you, I can't imagine what can.)
3 members of THE BEATLES (1950s-Present Rock)(Yes, combining THE BEATLES!)
(PAUL MCCARTNEY for his amazing left-handed riffs, writing and solos on: “Let Me Roll It,” (Paul McCartney + Wings 1973), “Taxman,” “Ticket to Ride,” and “PaperBack Writer,” and "Helter Skelter" a 1968 metal song, among others!
GEORGE HARRISON especially for “And I Love Her” and his parts on “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”.
JOHN LENNON wrote and played solos on many beautiful guitar-based songs (“Come Together,” “Across The Universe,” “Here Comes The Sun,” “Don’t Let Me Down,” etc.). Lennon also wrote some very sexist and violent songs. Like many, I appreciate that Lennon sings about working to be better and striving for a kinder world though. The Beatles are universal favorites! I grew up *immersed* in this music 24/7 from birth like many do.
I love RINGO too, but he is the drum focused and this is a guitar list. Though he did write "Octopus's Garden."
I LOVE The Beatles' music. Together and solo! LOVE THEM. I know it is egregious for them to be this far down, but remember, the order of my favorites changes daily and is irrelevant. Most people on earth know and love The Beatles. We could be here all day just talking about their music. <3
("Let Me Roll It": One of my favorite guitar riffs comes from Paul solo here! Lol, he goes into a little bit of Hendrix's "Foxy" at the end of this one.)
("And I Love Her": Harrison does some ridiculously amazing guitar work on this song. When I was 13, my friend Mike Arnold and I learned it. The arpeggiating lead, details and key changes blew my mind.)
("Helter Skelter": Definite Metal song from 1968! That's Paul playing lead and rhythm again.)
MEMPHIS MINNIE (1908-50’s Blues, Singer-Songwriter)(Influential guitarist and writer who wrote Led Zeppelin’s covered song “When the Levee Breaks”, and “Me and My Chauffuer Blues” covered by Jefferson Airplane. Memphis Minnie started performing at 13. Her playing is heavy. Metal precursor? Her electric and acoustic leads are great and she is said to have outplayed contemporaries onstage. “If You See My Rooster,” and “World of Trouble are favorite songs of many. I was exposed to Memphis Minnie among more early Rockers by my Rock History teaching Uncle Nathan as a kid. I definitely did not see any images of her. I learned more about Memphis Minnie later from Lucy O’Brien’s book, ‘She Bop,’ which I found as an adult in a free curb box, instead of in school where we all should have.)
CHUCK BERRY (1953-2017 Rock)(Trigger Warning: He did some terrible things in life. Besides statutory rape, he put a camera in the ladies bathroom at his restaurant. However, “Johnny B Goode” and “Maybellene” are iconic Rock songs difficult to leave off such a list. This is a separation of art and artist. I listened to Chuck Berry’s influential guitar playing in childhood, with good memories of driving to the coast listening with my Uncle Nathan driving. Of course, some of his style is also attributable to Sister Rosetta Tharpe and others before him.)
TOM MORELLO (90’s Rock, Punk, Metal, Alternative)(Rage Against The Machine, Audio Slave)(Unique and passionate playing style! Very influential guitar playing to me and others, especially as a teen. Morello has also spoken about his experience as a lone Black man in Punk, Metal, and his class at Harvard.
Those sliding, thrashing, heavy, experimental leads! Rage reminds me of being a teen riding in friends' cars in miles of endless, oceanic, remote cornfields of muggy Midwestern summer with all the windows down, blasting and head banging to Rage for the chorus of cicadas whizzing by. Audio Slave rules too.)
("Bulls on Parade": one of my favorite pieces of music ever. Such creative, heavy guitar parts!)
JENNIFER BATTEN (Michael Jackson, Jeff Beck, Solo)(1970s-90s Rock, Instrumental Rock, Worldbeat)(Another Ibanez fan! Fun session and virtuosic player. Check out her YouTube channel. She has 3 solo guitar albums. I like her expressive uses of 80s style whammy bar, tapping (yes, she was tapping before Van Halen and many others before them too), bending, pinch harmonics, quirky runs, etc., much like 80’s-90’s videogame music. I didn’t hear of her until adulthood, but she played lead and rhythm on Michael Jackson's Bad (1987–1989), Dangerous (1992) and History (1996–1997) world tours, and on his 1993 Super Bowl halftime performance for 1.3 billion people – the largest live music TV audience in history (Wikipedia). She also guested on Michael Jackson and Jeff Beck tunes (Wikipedia).)
WENDY MELVOIN (80’s-Present Ambient, Rock, Funk, Soul) (Prince’s Guitarist who co-wrote “Purple Rain” with Prince’s keyboardist. I like her writing, and, wow, it seems like it has taken a long time for her to be widely acknowledged for initiating “Purple Rain.” Also, check out her simple solo on her and Lisa’s (Prince’s keyboardist) song, “Waterfall.” Melvoin has composed and performed on recognizable themes and scores to TV shows like “Carnivale,” “Something New,” and “Nurse Jackie” too (Wikipedia). This is some excellent music!)(Tele)
https://youtu.be/mdfAhCG3oDo ("Waterfall": Love this song and her guitar parts in it!)
BRENDON SMALL (Metalocalypse, Galaktikon)(Contemporary Metal)(Excellent compositions. Excellent guitar parts. Very fun!)
BIBI MCGILL (Beyoncé, Pink, La Ley, Paulina Rubio)(Contemporary Rock, Pop, Metal)(Badass, emotive live tour solos on Beyoncé’s “Freakum Dress,” “If I were a Boy,” “I Care,” and “Crazy In Love.” According to her Wikipedia, in addition to playing in and writing solos for Beyoncés internationally touring, all female live backing band, The Sugar Mamas, McGill was also Beyoncé’s live music director from 2006-2014. Also, one of her guitars shoots fire while she plays Randy Rhoads-like stuff in a back bend. What do you want?) (Gibson Les Pauls, Various D’Angelico guitars)
NITA STRAUSS (aka Poison)(Alice Cooper, Demi Lovato, solo)(Contemporary Metal, Rock)(Ibanez)(Strauss is a theatrical, technical, and creative guitarist. Her album, “Controlled Chaos” is full of delightfully over-the-top Metal solos. Her top charting hit duet with Disturbed, “Dead Inside,” is fun and great. She also does her own production and engineering, which is something that several players on this list do not do. It is satisfying to hear a female player my age shamelessly and creatively kill it on Metal originals in the mainstream considering all the cultural barriers. Again, I love Ibanez guitars too.)
ACE FREHLY (Kiss)(70’s-Present Rock, Hard Rock, Glam Rock)(Les Pauls)(“Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey” was my favorite movie growing up from about 5 years old… still is! That was my intro to Kiss. Even though Steve Vai played the solo on that song (listed above), Ace Frehly’s playing and solos are still awesome for countless reasons.)
TONI IOMMI + RANDY RHOADS (Black Sabbath, Ozzy)(70’s Metal)(OK, this is a very loose association with Ozzy, because these guys did not play together and are very different! Both Iommi and Rhoads are innovative in genre and style. Iommi was missing the tips of two fingers on his left hand, and was inspired by Django Reinhardt to play and co-found Black Sabbath despite being told he would not be able to. Rhoads comes in with the wild, incredible, face-melting virtuoso solos for Ozzy’s solo albums, before passing away tragically at 25. Ozzy and Black Sabbath songs were some of the first I learned on guitar at around 12. Favorites: “Sweet Leaf,””Crazy Train,””Mr. Crowley” - that solo sheesh, and “Black Sabbath.”)(Wikipedia)
BARBARA LYNN (Bobbie Lynn and Her Idols - an all female band)(60s-70s R&B, Electric Blues)(Barbara Lynn wrote “You’ll Lose A Good Thing.” Unique player and writer of her time. Left Handed! She mentions some of her challenges while being a Black Woman in the music industry in her song, “Give Me A Break.” Her cover of “What I’d Say,” on The Beat by Ray Charles is super fun. Of course, I heard her music growing up, yet I didn’t know that she was the one playing guitar and writing these songs until adulthood on YouTube.)(Tele, Strat)
MARY OSBORNE (1930’s-60s Jazz, Country)(Billie Holiday, Dizzie Gillespie, Thelonius Monk)(According to her Wikipedia page, she was “shredding” it up on an electric guitar in the 1930’s-50’s with all of the most famous Jazz musicians of the era. She started at 9 and founded a touring trio by 15. Luckily, there are surviving videos on YouTube where I found her.)(Gibson ES-150, 1952 Gibson L-5, 1962 W.G. Barker, Stromberg cutaway)(Wikipedia)
CAROL KAYE (1949-Present Rock, Doo Wop, Pop, TV)(Better known as a session bassist on The Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” album, Sonny and Cher’s “The Beat Goes On,” Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walking,” The original Batman theme, Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and pop TV show scores and countless more, Kaye actually began her career as a guitarist!
She played guitar on countless hits too, writing nearly all of her parts for The Ronettes, Ritchie Valens’ 1958 hits “La Bamba” and “Come On, Let’s Go” (yes, leads and guitar solos too), The Mothers of Invention’s, “Freak Out,” Sonny and Cher’s “I got you, Babe,” Cher’s 1966 self-titled album and many more.
I did not know that Kaye played guitar on hits and popular TV scores too until adulthood. I was living in Nashville. I walked into one of many guitar boutiques, looked around, and realized first that all of the beautiful guitars were my size, that no one was harassing me (“shopping for your boyfriend today?”, etc.), and that all of the posters on the wall were of female guitarists, including one of Carol Kaye. I was 27 and had never seen guitars made for average female bodies nor had I seen that many images of female guitarists. It may have been the first time I even saw an image of Kaye herself, and I was like, “Isn’t she a bassist?” Best and rarest guitar shop experience I ever had! The guitar shop was Fanny’s in East Nashville. I did not even know the shop was named after the band Fanny, who I still did not even realize was behind the Fanny songs I heard on the radio until years later. I wanted to just stay in that shop forever and learn who all the players were, but I didn’t have time. Anyhow. Kaye is an undeniably good and prolific mainstream guitarist (and bassist and banjo player).)
("La Bamba": This is actually CAROL KAYE playing guitar (and bass), *not Ritchie Valens!*)
BRIAN ENO + ROBERT FRIPP (70’s Glam, Rock, Expiremental)(Love the iconic distorted, glam-y sounds this pair dreamed up together! I grew up with these sounds, especially when visiting my Uncle Nate’s.)
RUYTA SUYS (Nashville Pussy)(Contemporary Rock, Hair Metal)(SG)(Wild, entertaining solos and fun stage performance. Highly recommended! This lady is awesome. “Struttin’ Cock / Piece of Ass.”)
GABRIELA QUINTERO (Contemporary Flemenco) (Gabriela does wild percussive stuff on her guitar when she is solo. I like her with Rodrigo too. Found them on YouTube as an adult.)
KAKI KING (Contemporary Acoustic, Folk, Classical)(Ovation guitars)(Got to meet and see her live sometime around high school. I believe I was introduced by high school classmate, Nick Donaldson, who said she was his favorite player, and my childhood friend and bassist at the time, Dave Cohen. Cool percussive style. Excellent!)
NANCY WILSON + ROGER FISHER (Heart)(70’s Rock)(Favorites: “Silver Wheels,” “Barracuda,” “Crazy On You,” etc.)
STEVE MARKER, DUKE ERICKSON, + SHIRLEY MANSON (who, yes, did play and write on guitar too)(Garbage)(90s Alternative Rock)(Producer/Engineer BUTCH VIG also deserves credit for these sounds. Some of my most favorite guitar parts and tones! Walls of fantastic, layered, heavy distortion, string bends, and beautiful, emotive songs. I grew up with this. These guys are great players and writers. I first was struck by and sang along with Shirley Manson’s vocals at 8. My heart jumped as a late teen when I heard that she also co-wrote the songs on guitar, but was seemingly discouraged from playing guitar onstage. She is a powerful writer too, and you can find rare videos of her strumming distorted electric rhythm guitar parts live. Favorites: “Stupid Girl,” “Supervixen,””Cherry Lips,” “Only Happy When It Rains,” “I Think I’m Paranoid.”)(Guild, Henman, Tele, SG)
TOM DUMONT (No Doubt)(80’s-Present Punk, Rock, Pop)(Colorful and memorable performances on every song. His acoustic solo on “Don’t Speak” is iconic. I had all the No Doubt records growing up and, though the main draw was Gwen, all the guitar parts are stellar, genre-bending and super influential to me too! The whole “Tragic Kingdom” album is *amazing* start to finish. Their earlier Punk originals including on, “The Beacon Street Collection,” are rad too. I love “Spiderwebs,“ Happy Now,” “Ex Girlfriend,” “Just A Girl,” “Squeal,” “Hella Good,” “Hey, Baby,” “Open The Gate,” “By the Way,” “Move On,” and “Climb,” among many others!)
RIVERS CUOMO (Weezer)(90’s Rock)(Amazing and iconic riffs, compositions, and solos I grew up with and listened to on repeat! He says he is heavily metal influenced and that checks out. Gosh, too many favs to name: “Buddy Holly,” “In The Garage,” “Say It Ain’t So,” “The Good Life,” “No Other One,” and so many others.)(Les Paul, Fender Jaguar, SG)
HAZEL PAYNE + CARLITA DORHAN, and, honorary mention, Bassist/Writer Janice-Marie Johnson (A Taste of Honey)(70’s-80’s Disco, Funk)(For iconic song, “Oogie Boogie.” I listened to this classic song a million times growing up, always loving the catchy guitar riffs and leads. I had no clue that the guitarists and bassist are female, of African-American and Indigenous heritage, and also writers, until 2016 when Pauline Hauder, an artist I was working for as an adult, told me about seeing them live. I was blown away.)
MIKAEL AKERFELDT (Opeth)(Contemporary Metal)(Lead guitarist on favorite album, “Blackwater Park.” I LOVE that WHOLE album. My childhood friend Mike Arnold introduced me in middle or high school to this. Gorgeous!)
DAVE DAVIES (The Kinks)(An originator of the Fuzz effect! Amazing, simple, catchy riffs. I covered “All Day and All of the Night” for years. Still one of my favorite songs among albums of favorites. I heard these all my life, especially at my Uncle Nathan’s house, but my childhood friend, Mike A, influenced me to pay extra attention in 7th-8th grade.)
("All Day and All of the Night": Awesome song)
KANAMI TONO (Band-Maid)(Contemporary Japanese Pop Punk/Rock/Metal)(They are famous in Japan, but not quite as famous in the U.S. Found on YouTube as an adult. Outrageous and creative Metal.)(PRS Custom 24)
JORMA KAUKONAN (Jefferson Airplane)(70’s Psychedelic Rock)(I was raised by hippy musicians. Jefferson Airplane was on a lot growing up. Of course, “White Rabbit” and “Somebody To Love” are classic!)
DON FELDER + JOE WALSH (Eagles)(70’s-Present Rock)(Their version of “Hotel California” is pretty iconic. I also like, “Life In The Fastlane.”)(Les Paul Standard, Takamine 12-String)
CHARO (60’s-Present Flemenco, Disco)(Repeatedly named “Best Classical/Flemenco Guitarist on the Planet” by Guitar Player. One of the most technically talented known acoustic guitarists alive, and a quirky, creative writer. My first memory of Charo was her appearance on P-Wee’s Playhouse when I was about 4, and that image of a quirky woman playing an acoustic guitar was important and memorable to me.)
LEMMY + EDDIE CLARKE (Motörhead)(1975-2015 Rock, Hard Rock, Metal)(Iconic! Though he is known for bass, Lemmy started as a 6 string guitarist and wrote nearly everything in Mortorhead. He also played chords on the bass like a guitar. I love the guitar by Eddie Clarke too on, “Ace of Spades.” Come on. Fun characters and players. I think my friend, Phil, put me onto Motorhead. Don’t know how they got so far down, but here we are.)
NORI BUCCI (Contemporary Blues, Jazz)(Impressive, rapid, creative, emotive soloist. “Recurring Nightmare.”)(Strat, Jazzmaster)
JUN SENOUE (Sonic The Hedgehog, Sega, Crush 40)(80s-90s Video Game Music, Hard Rock, Metal, Electronic)(Wrote iconic music for 1991 videogame, “Sonic the Hedgehog.” I grew up loving that music from very early childhood - 4 or 5! Also the lead guitarist of his band, Crush 40. His compositions and playing are fun!)
CHARLEY PATTON (1916-30’s Delta Blues, Singer-Songwriter)(Seen as the “Father of Delta Blues,” Charley is thought to have blended Indigenous American and African American music stylings with guitar in beautiful, influential songs. I love his percussive playing on, “Down The Dirt Road Blues,” “Pony Blues,” and “Spoonful Blues.” Heard him around Uncle Nate’s as a kid. Also there is an interesting new documentary