It’s a subject that’s always fun to read up on, and usually, it’s highly contested. Let’s take a quick look at the Top 10 American Guitar Goddesses of All Time. Here’s the twist: Instead of looking at just one genre, this will be a look across all different styles. From country cuties to larger-than-life rock stars to soulful r&b sounds, I’m counting them.

These American guitar goddesses have blazed a trail for women in music and their legacies will remain long after they are gone.

10-JOAN BAEZ (1941-present)

Great Performances - Joan Baez 75th Birthday Celebration
Great Performances – Joan Baez 75th Birthday Celebration
The Beacon Theater, 2124 Broadway, New York, NY
January 27, 2016
Photo by Joseph Sinnott

Joni Mitchell dominated the folk music scene in the 1960s. With her anti-establishment messages against the government, the Vietnam conflict and big industry, Baez quickly rose to fame. Her accomplished, smooth style and soulful lyrics inspired an entire generation.

Baez has been performing for over 50 years. She continues to use her music to spread her message of social justice and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 7th, 2017.

Baez doesn’t make every list of “best guitarists,” but for her social influences in the time before social media, she used her status to influence and shape society. Therefore, Joan Baez makes this list as a Guitar Goddess.

9-ST. VINCENT (1982-present)

Annie Clark
Photo credit: Concretefields at English Wikipedia [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), via Wikimedia Commons

Born Annie Clark, St. Vincent is a multi-talented indie artist. She composes, sings, and undoubtedly is a skilled guitarist. As a performing artist, St. Vincent is a gifted storyteller. She takes inspiration from soft rock, jazz, and melds it into her own unique and skillful brand. Her guitar style is organic yet expert at the same time.

St . Vincent is an innovative artist. She still has a lot of stories left to tell, and her fans are waiting to hear them. This places her on the list of American Guitar Goddesses.

8-JOAN JETT (1958-present)

Embed from Getty Images

Next up is Joan Jett, the frontwoman of Joan Jett and The Blackhearts fame. Jett is the ultimate rocker chick. We can all picture strutting her stuff in her glamorous black leather pants, belting out her anthem “I Love Rock and Roll,” and playing packed amphitheaters in the day.

In the 1970s, with the Runaways, Jett joined with her all-female bandmates and created a new image for women in rock and roll. She set the tone for a new, glam, chic style with a bad-ass attitude. Jett’s iconic made it okay to play hard with the boys, and win every time!

For her ongoing career, her large volume of work, and her ability to shred, Joan Jett makes my list as a Guitar Goddess.

7-MIRANDA LAMBERT (1983-present)

Miranda Lambert
Photo Credit: By Lukelambert – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2827939

Miranda Lambert is the guitar playing, country crooner best known for her marriage and divorce from Blake Shelton. However, fans know about Miranda’s breaking into the country music scene at age 16 and working her way up the honky-tonk circuit in her native Texas.

This plucky woman used her solid guitar-playing skills to break into mainstream country music in 2003 during a time when country music was dominated by men like Brooks & Dunn, Keith Urban, and Toby Keith.

She has remained a country favorite for almost 15 years. Fans love her fun, in-your-face guitar anthems like “Kerosene” and “Not Your Mama’s Broken Heart.”

The persistent climb to success and staying on top of her guitar game land Miranda Lambert on the list of American Guitar Goddesses. 

6-BONNIE RAITT (1949-present)

Bonnie_Raitt_at_John_Edwards_presidential_campaign
Bonnie Raitt at John Edwards Presidential Campaign – Photo credit: By John Edwards – Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3136162

Bonnie Raitt has a smooth guitar style that transcends genre. With influences of blues, rock, and country under her belt, Raitt is loved by all. Combined with a distinct vocal style, Raitt has a sound that is uniquely her own.

Undoubtedly, Raitt is best known for her 1992 hit “Something To Talk About.” What fans don’t know is that Raitt purchased her main touring guitar, a Fender Stratocaster for $120 in 1969. She has played that same guitar for almost every performance since. In fact, her hybrid Fender is so iconic that she became the first woman guitarist to have a signature Fender line.

This makes Bonnie Raitt an American Guitar Goddess.

5-MARY FORD (1924-1977)

Les-Paul-Mary-Ford-1951
Montage of photographs of Les Paul and Mary Ford in the August 1951 issue of The American Magazine. The photomontage illustrates the department “America’s Interesting People”, in a section headed “Orchestra and Chorus” – Photo credit: Crowell-Collier Publishing Company, photographs by Joe Pazen

Guitarist and singer Mary Ford rose to fame in the early 1950s in her act with her husband, Les Paul. The duo had 16 hits in the 1950s which are now jazz standards. Her jazz guitar and smooth vocal stylings

Ford began performing early in her family gospel band, touring the country and perfecting her craft. Her love affair with then-married Les Paul (whom she later married) was cause of gossip during the conservative 1950’s but did nothing to diminish her fame.

Mary Ford was able to achieve success despite the limitations placed on women in music in the 1950s, earning her a nomination for a Guitar Goddess. 

4-JAN KUEHNEMUND (1953-2013)

Embed from Getty ImagesJan Kuehnemund was the lead guitarist for the 1970s all-girl band “Vixen.”  Vixen had a cult following and was one of the early all-girl rock bands. They were known for their larger than life, glam styling.

While Vixen toured in the 1970s and early 1980s as an opening act for bands like Scorpion, the band achieved their primary success in the early 1990s in the “glam-rock” genre.

Throughout the early years, one thing was indisputable. Band founder and lead guitarist Jan Kuehnemund was the talent that brought this concept to life. She played with an authentic, artistic sensibility that’s hard to duplicate. This earns Jan Kuehnemund her place on the list of American Guitar Goddesses. 

3-SISTER ROSETTA THARPE  (1915-1973)

Embed from Getty ImagesSister Rosetta Tharpe makes this list because she was an innovator of the electric guitar. In a time and place before rock and roll even existed, Sister Rosetta Tharpe worked electric guitar into traditional gospel music, inventing a category all her own.

In fact, early rock stars Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Little Richard all credit Sister Rosetta as the source of their inspiration.

Sister Rosetta mastered an acoustic guitar and started touring with a gospel group in the still-then-segregated South by the age of six. For her innovative gospel music mixed with bluesy early rock sounds, Sister Rosetta pioneered the way for rock and roll music.

Indeed, this makes Sister Rosetta Tharpe a top Guitar Goddess.

2-NANCY WILSON (1954-present)

Nancy WilsonNancy Wilson was the dominant female guitarist of the 1970s and 80s. With her sister, Ann Wilson, Heart was the original girl rock band.

Nancy co-wrote rock anthems and ballads that catapulted them to fame. These include “Crazy On You,” “Magic Man.” However, she has the versatility to also knock ballads such as “Dog & Butterfly” out of the park!

Her organic, versatile style lands Nancy Wilson towards the top of the list of American Guitar Goddesses.

1-JENNIFER BATTEN (1957-present)

Jennifer Batten2Jennifer Batten is a shredder in her own category. She received a guitar as a gift from her father at the age of 8 and has been playing ever since. Batten is inspired by the late B.B. King, and you can hear his soulful strains in her playing style.

Batten is most famous for having accompanied Michael Jackson on all his world tours from 1987 through 1997. Her mastery of the guitar is evident on Jackson’s songs like “Bad.” Also while working with Michael Jackson, Batten appeared in the Super Bowl’s most famous…ever…halftime show in 1993. Featuring the King of Pop, the show was viewed by 1.3 billion viewers.  For the classy and cool Batten, that was just another day at the office.

Batten has collaborated with and played in some of the most iconic rock and pop songs in history.

This lady is my #1 American Guitar Goddess of All-Time.

Honestly, there are so many talented American girl guitar players out there. Undoubtedly, everyone will have an opinion. And that’s the great thing about opinions. We are all entitled to them. If you have any guitarist you want to give a shout out to, please do so in the comments!

I’d love to hear your input!

About the author: Deborah Tayloe is a professional writer and music blogger with Musical Instruments Expert. When she’s not writing, you will find her listening to a diverse and eclectic playlist on her iPod.

 

 

 

 

3 COMMENTS

  1. I will add Nita Strauss to this list.
    Not only is she a phenomenal guitarist, she has also been able to bring together and promote other great female musicians. Whether it’s with Alice Cooper, The Starbreakers, or We Start Wars, Nita’s playing is always the star. She’s also a class act and a tremendous human being.

    Great list!

  2. No jazz here? I would mention Emily Remler who leaved a track, even with her short life, or Mary Halvorson, a niche guitarist active today.

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