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Women of the Guitar, 10 of the Best Female Guitarists in History

Updated on May 2, 2020
Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw started playing the guitar when he was 12 years old. He loves nothing more than to pick one up and pluck some strings.

Female Guitarists

There's no way around it, playing the guitar has always been an overly male dominated field. There is absolutely no reason this must always be so, as the women listed here and countless others prove women can play the guitar quite well. I don't know why it is guitar playing has always highlighted and glamorized testosterone, but I think we can all agree here this is the case. Women are either overlooked in favour of male guitarists, or it could be females less often seek to play the six strings.

What I hope to provide here for my reader is a cross-section of female guitarists. This isn't any sort of ranking from best to worst. There's also no way a list of ten female guitarists could be done without leaving out some absolutely fantastic female players. I'm certainly not interested in slighting anyone who I didn't put on the page.

Women playing guitar within many genres of music will be shown. It's not like there's a style of music where women gravitate to over others. Wherever there is music, and the music involves a guitar, there are also going to be female players.

What I'm hoping for here is the reader who lands on this page learns about a female guitarist they previously hadn't known of, and just maybe, they'll give her a listen, and discover something they find wonderful.

Memphis Minnie - The Queen Of The Delta Blues

Source

1. Memphis Minnie

Born Lizzie Douglas in june of 1897, Memphis Minnie was the only female to ever be considered the equal of the male bluesmen that were her contemporaries. Not only were her vocals considered the equal of the greats, but her guitar playing and song writing too.

Kid Lizzie, as she was also sometimes known, learned to play guitar and banjo at home as a child, and then she ran away from home as an early teenage girl, made her way to Memphis, Tennessee, and started performing in nightclubs. She spent forty years as a recording artist, and created her own damned style of the blues by fusing her Louisiana home's country blues to Memphis blues. Supposedly Minnie was married three times, and each time to another bluesman guitarist, but this isn't verifiable, what is-is she was one of the first to embrace the electric guitar, and during her lifetime, one of her songs was made famous the world over by Led Zeppelin.

Memphis Minnie died of a stroke in a nursing home in 1973. Bonnie Raitt paid for her headstone, and it's inscribed as follows:

"The hundreds of sides Minnie recorded are the perfect material to teach us about the blues. For the blues are at once general, and particular, speaking for millions, but in a highly singular, individual voice. Listening to Minnie's songs we hear her fantasies, her dreams, her desires, but we will hear them as if they were our own."

Bonnie Lynn Raitt

Bonnie Raitt and a Fender Stratocaster
Bonnie Raitt and a Fender Stratocaster | Source

2. Bonnie Raitt

Nine times so far Bonnie Raitt has won Grammy Awards for her country, folk, and blues infused music, and there's going to be more awards for this female guitarist whether she records again, or not. Bonnie comes from a very musical family, and began performing for her family at a young age. In 1967 she enrolled in Harvard's Radcliffe College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and at a radio interview with blues promoter Dick Waterman, her life changed forever, and she became the first successful Anglo woman of the blues.

By the time the decade of the 1970s rolled around, Bonnie Raitt was performing in clubs around New York, and she was being stalked by scouts from record companies that wanted to sign her to their record label. She signed with Warner Bros, and in 1971 released her first record titled Bonnie Raitt. Bonnie's interpretation of traditional blues and skill with playing bottleneck slide guitar received loads of critical acclaim and admiration, as there were precious few women at the time who were known for their guitar playing.

Throughout the decade Bonnie Raitt would record highly acclaimed music which never much made her money, America wasn't into it so much, and she eventually dipped into a drug and alcohol problem.

Bonnie Raitt credits the late Stevie Ray Vaughan with helping her to bust free of addiction, and twenty years after she started recording professionally, she was finally a hit with audiences everywhere, and we're all still forever waiting on her next album now. Myself, I could literally explode from joy whenever the great Bonnie Raitt songs from the soundtrack to The Urban Cowboy comes on either the radio, or my massive digital music collection when set to random.

Emily Remler

3. Emily Remler

"I may look like a nice Jewish girl from New Jersey, but inside I’m a 50-year-old, heavyset black man with a big thumb, like Wes Montgomery." Emily Remler, in her own words.

The life of Emily Remler, who was probably the single greatest female jazz guitarist to ever live, ended far too soon due to her heroin addiction. While every artist must have a muse, there's been quite the lot of gifts and loses that have come and gone from the world of art via drugs, and especially opiate drugs. Born in New York City in 1957, Emily started playing the guitar just ten years later, and played constantly until she died. Extremely educated in the forms and styles of complex jazz, she gained the admiration of virtually everyone within the genre,

"When the rhythm section is floating, I'll float too, and I'll get a wonderful feeling in my stomach. If the rhythm section is really swinging, it's such a great feeling, you just want to laugh "—Emily Remler

Once when asked how she'd liked to be remembered, Emily had the following to say:

"Good compositions, memorable guitar playing and my contributions as a woman in music…. but the music is everything, and it has nothing to do with politics or the women’s liberation movement."

Jennifer Batten

Jennifer Batten and a Fender Stratocaster
Jennifer Batten and a Fender Stratocaster | Source

4. Jennifer Batten

Jennifer Batten has been around a while, and though you've maybe not seen her so much, you've probably heard her work as a sessions guitarist. If you don't know, a sessions guitarist is the person that gets hired to do some work in a recording studio, and typically because whoever the band's guitarist is, isn't up to snuff, and so they call in Jennifer to make the "song perfect."

Jennifer Batten also has three solo records, and has recorded with jazz and rock fusion luminaries such as Jeff Beck, and Carmine Appice. You might have seen Jennifer and not known it whist she'd performed with the late Michael Jackson, who clearly had the money to afford the best available guitarist for his shows!

Charo, One Of The World's Most Skilled Flamenco Guitarist

5. Charo

I've personally seen many discussions about female guitarists where the name of Charo is brought up, and people simply had no idea she even played guitar. I'm talking about people who knew already exactly who Charo was, as she's been a rather flamboyant television personality for decades.

Charo's date of birth is somewhat a controversy. Her birth records in Spain list her as ten years older than she says she is. Regardless of any of that, she's been a comedian, actress, and yes, a fantastic guitarist for a long long time.

Charo studied both classical and flamenco guitar in a school in Madrid. This school was founded by none other than the great Andres Segovia. At one time Charo was considered among the greatest flamenco players in the world.

Rory Block

Source

6. Aurora "Rory" Block

Rory Block is a country blues guitarist and vocalist who started her career very young, retired to raise a family, and then restarted her career, and even tours with her son on drums. Rory Block has studied with the blues giants who were still living when she was younger and recorded songs written by many of them on albums mixed with her own compositions, she's won numerous awards, and still occasionally tours and records.

Her autobiography is available on Amazon.com in pdf format. And there are enough Youtube videos available to keep you in the blues zone for months. She's got her cult following, but should have been given a lot more exposure by mainstream radio and mass media. Her rendition of Robert Johnson's Crossroads Blues is very intense, and is only but a sample of her mastery of guitar.

Orianthi Panagaris

With Alice Cooper.
With Alice Cooper. | Source

7. Orianthi Panagaris

Most often known as just Orianthi, Miss O. Panagaris is a guitarist of Greek and Australian decent that is likely to be seen and heard more and more as the years go by, but make no mistake, she's already made her name well known both far and wide. She's played with people like Carlos Santana, Prince, Michael Jackson,Eric Clapton, Steve Vai, and recorded her own solo albums in which she does all the vocals, guitar, and most of the drums too.

The rather attractive Orianthi started her professional career at the very young age of fourteen years opening for electric guitar wizard Steve Vai, and since then, she's recorded and performed with acts as diverse as Carrie Underwood to Alice Cooper.

Liona Boyd

Source

8. Liona Boyd

Having taken guitar lessons at a young age from none other than the great classical guitar master Andrés Segovia, Liona Boyd is a female classical guitar master, but being a consummate musician, she never stopped, and went on to study with the French classical guitar master Alexandre Lagoya too. Known as "The First Lady Of The Guitar," Liona Boyd has lived up to that name.

"Through your beauty and talent you will conquer the public, philharmonic or not." - Andres Segovia.

Despite Liona's classical training and style, she's toured the entire globe opening for fellow Canadian Country Folk guitarist and singer/songwriter, Gordon Lightfoot, and recorded with persons like blues rockers Eric Clapton and David Gilmore. According to Wikipedia, Liona Boyd is in the studio now working on vocals for a new album.

Molly Tuttle

9. Molly Tuttle

Molly Tuttle is the absolute Queen of Bluegrass guitar. She's more than just that, but flatpicking is an extremely difficult form of guitar playing, and there's never been a better female flatpicker than Molly Tuttle. She's far and away the superior of countless men who've tried their hand at it. I'm saying I'm one of those men.

I've probably more respect for Molly Tuttle than any other female guitarist in the history of guitar, but I freely admit this has a lot to do with the type of music I've personally pursued, and even played on stage, in an amateur fashion. Molly is also a fantastic singer, songwriter, and banjoist.

Molly is the only woman to have ever won the International Bluegrass Association's Guitar Player of the Year Award. She began playing guitar at eight years of age, and by the age of eleven, had become good enough to play on stage with her father. She's less than thirty years old at present, and there's nothing but a brilliant future ahead for her.

Susan Tedeschi

10. Susan Tedeschi

Susan Tedeschi was already a very big deal before she married Derek Trucks, but now we have the Tedeschi Trucks Band, and this is a led by the husband and wife, two of the most awesome contemporary blues rock guitarists in the world. I could never complain about that.

Susan is of Italian ancestry, and I've lost count of just how many of the great American guitarists are from Italian blood. It's an example of European diversity in America making me, and countless others very proud. Susan was always, from a very young age, more attracted to African American music than any other sort, and yet again, isn't the United States the most wonderful garden for musical flowers in this world?

Susan started off her professional career opening up for legends. She only got to do this because she was good enough for it. What sorts are we talking about here? Oh just Bob Dylan, The Allman Brothers, Buddy Guy, John Mellencamp, B.B. King, and anyone else on those high levels, she even recorded with Double Trouble, Stevie Ray Vaughan's band.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Wesman Todd Shaw

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    • profile image

      Yllod 

      17 months ago

      There is one extremely important female guitarist missing from this list. She mastered the guitar, autoharp, and banjo before she was in her teens invented her own picking style, and is known as the Mother of country music....Maybelle Carter! It was a cool article, and I don't disagree with any of the guitarists on the list, but Maybelle should have been on the list.

    • profile image

      wagh 

      2 years ago

      nice to hear the guittarist

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      4 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      I've discovered several newer women who are guitar playing phenoms recently, cmoneyspinner, but I don't think I'll add them to this page, maybe think of another similar title to document them on.

    • cmoneyspinner1tf profile image

      Treathyl FOX 

      5 years ago from Austin, Texas

      If I didn't see Charro and Bonnie Raitt on the list on your list, I would have been so disappointed. Gonna share this collection of leading ladies on Pinterest. Major players!! Yeah!!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Thank You! Charro is amazing! I wish more women would pick up guitars ALWAYS!

    • profile image

      blake4d 

      6 years ago

      I have got to reopen this hub to the eyes of many who haven't seen it. And to say once again Charro rocks and was the original Shakira. Latin music would never have broken doors throughout the world without her influence. Great musicians never grow old...they just become stars that forever shine in the cosmos. Women of the world grab your guitars and keep on hubbing. Blake4d

    • Kathryn L Hill profile image

      Kathryn L Hill 

      8 years ago from LA

      Hi again. Thanks for THIS great hub!!!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Kitty I think Orianthi and and Charro are both the super hotness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The only thing is ....age, but women as beautiful as yourself are always beautiful - but a man's eyes might not have the total perspective if they are too young. :-/

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Kitty Fields 

      8 years ago from Summerland

      Orianthi is amazing. I literally thought that she wasn't real when I first saw her play the guitar. Absolutely talented. Also, don't tell anyone but I have a secret crush on...Charro! LOL. Another great hub.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Vinaya Ghimire - Thank you very much, Sir!

      Of course there are many many more - but I try to not exceed a certain text limit on hubs any more...as the really big hubs I've made don't do so well.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      8 years ago from Nepal

      Thanks for enlightening us. I did not know about some of these guitarists.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Hi Flora!!!!!!!!

      Yeah, Bonnie is who I'm most familiar with out of the bunch too!

      I knew her parents were pros in performing arts...and successful too. Bonnie wasn't going to no cheap college, you know!

      My favourite song of hers is "Don't It Make You Wanna Dance?" which is on the classic soundtrack from the film "Urban Cowboy."

    • FloraBreenRobison profile image

      FloraBreenRobison 

      8 years ago

      Mom was one of the first female bass guitarists to play in a mixed band. Of the women you discuss here, I am most familiar with Bonnie Raitt. Although her father never played guitar, she does get her singing and love of performing from her father. John Raitt was a Broadway star who occasionally appeared in movies. Anyone who wants to check him out can see him opposite Doris Day in The Pajama Game singing the classic song "Hey There."

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Hey Sir!!! I'll have to look into Carolyn, and I don't know about the other at all.

      I don't know what is wrong with me...but I don't seem to be getting into new music so much any more. I must be getting old.

      Charro...she's gotta be old now! I'll bet that she can still play well though, I think the really good musicians can compensate for their slower fingers as they age with maybe more taste.

      Someone like Doc Watson...he is in his 90's. He can still play some, but he was still playing very well around 2003. He just used more economy and ..."blue notes" etc.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Charro ha ha, bit of a Dino these days but she sure was cute back in the day. Man, the You Tube is gonna be heatin' up from here. Any thoughts on your Carolyn Wonderland? How 'bout that teenager that plays like Stevie Ray.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      winbo - Thanks Very Much!!! I enjoyed creating this one quite a lot too! :-D

    • winbo profile image

      winbo 

      8 years ago

      AWEsome hub!!!!! I enjoyed it...

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Denise Handlon -ABSOLUTELY!

      Performing in public with a difficult musical instrument like the guitar, and doing it well - is a huge rush!!! Just think of having thousands of persons watching your every move, and enjoying it, and it being something that you created that they all enjoy!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      Hey Wes, just reviewing this hub one more time (bookmarked it) and looking at the photos of these beautiful women I was wondering what it was that was so similar in all of them. Then, it hit me: the pure joy that radiates from their smiles and their whole being. Passion! What bliss...

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      dmop - Thanks Very Much!!!!!!! Very Glad To Have You!!!!!!

    • dmop profile image

      dmop 

      8 years ago from Cambridge City, IN

      This is an impressive Hub, I am proud to be a follower. Voted up and awesome.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Denise Handlon - GO GET YER GUITAR RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      That's a Major win if you've messed with it since seeing this - that's a total score!

      Thank You!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      blake4d - it was a pretty serious oversight on my part.

      I'd have probably had Charro with a short bio, video, and the whole nine yards had I thought of her on my own. I just haven't seen or thought of her in a couple years.

      I knew she was a great Flamenco guitarist - I'd just forgot!!!

      I remember years ago that I didn't know that she had that skill, but I knew who she was, and then when I first saw her playing, I was amazed!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      A M Werner - THANKS!!!!

      I'm "cursed" in that I can play well enough for it to be maddening that I never seemed able to get to the next level!!!!!!!!

      LOL! One has to find a way to be comfortable with what they've got...and I need to play more, and try to be as good as possible - but at the same time accept that I shouldn't think of myself as likely to become professional!

      Tough Gig!

      Orianthi sure got it right, she obviously dedicated herself totally at a young age!

      That's not necessary, really, as Doc Watson wasn't a professional musician until he was 40 years old...but it sure helps to know what you can do early on in life.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Heck Yeah, Sunshine - she's cute enough to be my first ex wife too! LOL!

      CMerritt - THANKS VERY MUCH!!!!!!!!! I'd like to add another video or two for the people already listed, but people sometimes tell me "I tried to look at your hub, but the page would never load," and that only happens on music hubs where I have several videos...so that bothers me.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      8 years ago from North Carolina

      What a fabulous hub! I've followed Bonnie R for years and have seen her numerous times in concert. I'm not familiar with the other guitarists but loved the video material. I'm looking forward to checking them out further.

      I played guitar in the past and haven't picked it up for years but as of late the urge has returned. I think this hub pushed me over the edge, LOL

      Voted up and interesting; shared it.

    • profile image

      blake4d 

      8 years ago

      Hooray WTS, that is so good of you to have added Charro at the last minute, and because of my little olde comment to boot. I had the privilage of seeing her live about fifteen years ago, and she is everything big an boisterous but also the most incredible Flamenco player I have ever had the chance to see. Good work and thanx for taking my suggestion seriously. Keep on Hubbing. Blake4d

    • A M Werner profile image

      Allen Werner 

      8 years ago from West Allis

      Awesome. I tried to learn guitar when I was in my teens and just didn't have a talent for it. These women surely do. I didn't know about that Zeppelin connection with Memphis Minnie. I'll have to go put on the headphones and blast some Orianthi tonight. Peace

    • CMerritt profile image

      Chris Merritt 

      8 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

      Wesman, this was a very fun and interesting hub....I never heard of some of these gals...but after doing some youtubing on some of them...WOW!

      Very cool....one girl I would mention is Alanis Morrisette who is very good and can flat oout sing.

      Up and awesome...

      Chris

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      8 years ago from Orlando, FL

      YAY for Sheryl ... she kicks ass on guitar and singing and just about everything else!!!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      blake4d - THanks!!! The glaring Charro omission has been rectified!!!!!!!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Michael J Rapp THANKS! That's an awfully cute one, ain't it!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Thanks Tex Shelters! Is Lita really your favourite from that list, or doya have a thang for blondes!?

    • profile image

      blake4d 

      8 years ago

      I was glad to see that you included Liona Boyd, kudos. But don't you think that you really should have included Dolly Parton and Charro? They certainly deserve it if Lita Ford does, no offense to the runaway herself. Keep on Hubbing. Blake4d

    • Michael J Rapp profile image

      Michael J Rapp 

      8 years ago from United States

      Very interesting Hub. I have to admit I don't know a lot about most of them. Love the pic of Lita with the old Carvin!

    • profile image

      Tex Shelters 

      8 years ago

      Great list!

      Lita Ford!

      PTxS

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Sunshine625 - Thank You!!!!!!!

      How stupid was it to have left off Sheryl? IT'S BEEN TAKEN CARE OF!!!!

      Dang she's a hottie!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Theeyeballkid - Thank You! Yeah that SRV clip is pretty kick ass!!!!

      Sadly, I didn't even know about Memphis Minnie until asking the question that you saw in the HP Q & A!!! I got educated!

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile imageAUTHOR

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      8 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Daisy Mariposa - no, THANK YOU!!!!

      I did some data mining from the Q & A to come up with all the names, as I'd have missed several without asking the question, and some of the omissions would have been glaring!

    • Sunshine625 profile image

      Linda Bilyeu 

      8 years ago from Orlando, FL

      Wesman! Rockin' choices! I was hoping to see Bonnie Raitt on the list, yeah!!

      I'm just going to give a shout-out to Sheryl Crow, she can rock it also.

      Smokin' hub tribute!

    • Theeyeballkid profile image

      Theeyeballkid 

      8 years ago

      Great hub Wes, I enjoyed that Memphis Minnie clip, I hadn't heard of her before. Bonnie Raitt is great, she rocked the house in that SRV tribute concert, I remember watching it back in the day and was floored by that performance of "Pride and Joy". That is a great story about paying for Memphis Minnie's Headstone.

    • Daisy Mariposa profile image

      Daisy Mariposa 

      8 years ago from Orange County (Southern California)

      Wesman,

      Thanks for publishing this article. This Hub has it all...great research, writing, formatting, photographs, music, women.

    working

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