Celebrating Women Who Rock

April is International Guitar Month, so I thought I’d celebrate some female rockers by providing a curated list of established and upcoming female guitarists across all manner of style who can shred, Carter scratch, slide, mute and more. The only thing they have in common is the respect of the industry and the ability to rock.

This is by no means a complete list. If you’ve got a fave I haven’t mentioned here, help a girl out and list ’em in the comments, K? We could all use some mutual support and admiration.

The Legends

Nancy Wilson

Nancy’s memorable hooks that Heart is known for have stayed with me for decades. And I love the way she combines flamenco and classical to create a rock sound that resonates.

Watch her simply shred while her sister belts out one of the best female hits rock has to offer.

Joan Jett

One of the things I love about Joan is that she’s dedicated to helping up and coming female musicians get through industry doors. And we all know she rules with hits like I Love Rock and Roll and Bad Reputation with her band the Blackhearts, which gave girls everywhere (including me) permission to get off the sidelines and rock. She’s opened for everyone, which is probably why she’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Class of 2020.

Let’s get nostalgic, shall we?

Maybelle Carter

I love this lady. I watched an interview with her and that is what came across–a Southern, soft spoken lady without an ounce of anything other than plain old humility. And she has a lot to brag about. She is responsible for a style that many musicians use to this day–the thumb-lead technique (aka the Carter scratch). Also, you may not know that she is June Carter Cash’s mother, which makes her Johnny Cash’s MIL. (Oh, to be a fly on the wall for those Carter Family Thanksgivings!)

Let’s take a look at Mother Maybelle.

Bonnie Raitt

Who hasn’t heard I Can’t Make You Love Me? This understated artist has seen me through some very dark days and I will always be grateful for the wisdom she brings through her songwriting and the superb style with which she shares them. Thank you, Bonnie.

Relax and enjoy here.

Joni Mitchell

Joni made Laurel Canyon cool and held her own among in her very, very fine house with the likes of David Crosby, Stephen Stills and Graham Nash (her “Willy”). She is one of my inspirations as I write my novel.

Let’s listen.

I really could go on and on, mentioning Melissa Etheridge, The Great Kat, Sheryl Crow, Annie Clark and Jennifer Batten, among scads of others, but there simply isn’t time for me to write about them all or for you to read about them here. Again, if you have someone to add to the list, please submit a comment below!

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

This godmother of rock and roll even made gospel cool. Although she left us long ago, she was a trailblazer for which all girls–musicians or not–should be grateful. Perhaps that’s why she is a 2015 inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Check out some masterful art in motion.

Established Women Rockers

Nita Strauss

This legendary musician was chosen by Ibanez, a globally recognized guitar company, as its first female signature artist, creating the JIVA10 in her honor. She’s currently touring with Alice Cooper (inasmuch as anyone is touring right now). She also crushes it as a solo artist.

Watch her in action!


This lady has had some serious industry names clamoring for collaboration. Orianthi has toured with Michael Jackson, Richie Sambora and Alice Cooper. (It seems the Shock Rocker is smart enough to hire women to get the job done.)

Check her out.

Ana Popović

This Serbian-born solo musician combines soul, funk and blues with 11 studio albums under her belt. She started out playing in her garage in Belgrade 20 years ago and has since toured the world with more than 2,500 shows.

Here she is onstage.

Lzzy Hale

Guitarist for Halestorm, Lzzy is hailed as one of the hottest musicians around. Not only can she play, she can sing, too. She also has a signature guitar, the Epiphone Signature Explorer.

Here she is in action.

Kaki King

This woman inspires me! Kaki plays like no other artist I’ve seen. Not has she developed her own percussive style, she’s also created imaginative live experiences that just may change the performance landscape.

Check out this true original.

Up & Coming Girl Guitarists

  • Melanie Faye
  • Jackie Venson
  • HER
  • Lexie Rose
  • Lindsay Ell
  • Lydia Night
  • Molly Tuttle
  • Yvette Young
  • Adrianne Lenker

Again, ladies, if you have a fellow sister you love to listen to, please add her name to the comments below so we can all check her out.

Follow Missy.

And, as I mentioned above, I’m writing a novel. Here’s the gist of it:

Published by Missy Kavanaugh-Carryer

Missy Kavanaugh-Carryer is a content writer and author of two children's books and a board book series for young children. She's currently working on her first novel.

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