The Usual Suspects.

Women guitarists are too often overshadowed by their male counterparts. This is a fact that we all know and why we love books like She’s a Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll and lists like Venus Zine’s Best Female Guitarists of All Time.

But could these books and lists be leaving out some formidable musicians who could, very likely, kick Joan Jett’s rock-tastic abilities out of the water? Could writers/journalists interested in giving women musicians exposure that they haven’t had in the male dominated world of rock-and-roll be ignoring some musicians?

The answer: Hell Yes.

The names on Venus Zine are not unfamiliar. The musicians listed span from electric gospel (Sister Rosetta Tharpe), to country (Rosie Flores), to alternative rock (PJ Harvey) and finally to rock (Joan Jett).

If we were to take this short list seriously, we’d be thinking women musicians don’t go beyond mainstream rock. How Lita Ford didn’t make this list is beyond me.

But this post is about women who aren’t the usual suspects.

And these unusual suspects do turn up in the genres so buried in male domination that many writers forget women exist.


Though the Great Kat has been around for quite a while–her album Beethoven on Speed came out in 1990–you won’t find her in She’s a Rebel or The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock: Trouble Girls. And you sure won’t find her on a Venus Zine best of female guitarists, despite her long musical background. When it comes right down to it, she can shred like the best of ’em. One need only listen to “Flight of the Bumblebees” to understand just what she can do technically.

And by the way, people give Trans-Siberian a lot of credit for the heavy metal renditions of classical tunes.

Well, The Great Kat had several years on them. Before they were even a group, she was comWagner\'s Warposing metal versions of classical tunes from artists like Beethoven, Back, Pagannini, and others. Where TSO enjoys the complicated orchestral sound, The Great Kat kept it simple: electric guitar & violin.

The Great Kat, born Katherine Thomas, earned a scholarship at Juilliard as a violin student at the age of 15. From there she began to perform as a classical violinist until the realization hit her that classical music was dead.

So began the career of The Great Kat. She’s been named one of the “Top 10 Fastest Shredders of All Time” by Guitar One magazine.

And yet, though she is, as she herself claims, “fast, furious, and virtuosic” (think six-note-per-second metal), you won’t see her on any lists compiled by Venus Zine or in the index of any of the more popular woman musician friendly books.

But by her very existence she proves that women can make a name for themselves in metal. So if you have a top ten list of favorite guitarists or want to make one, add her to yours and pass the word on.

Metal isn’t just for boys anymore.


5 thoughts on “The Usual Suspects.

  1. Paula April 9, 2008 / 6:44 am

    This is Venus Zine’s entire list:

    Jennifer Batten
    Christina Billotte
    Kat Bjelland
    Rory Block
    Carrie Brownstein
    Elizabeth Cotten
    Brody Dalle
    Kim Deal
    Ani DiFranco
    Tanya Donelly
    Rosie Flores
    Lita Ford
    Suzi Gardner

    Sue Ann Harkey
    Polly Jean Harvey
    Jessie Mae Hemphill
    Kristin Hersh
    Chrissie Hynde
    Sharon Isbin
    Cordell Jackson
    Joan Jett
    Peggy “Lady Bo” Jones
    Carol Kaye
    Tara Key
    Kaki King
    Courtney Love
    Lydia Lunch
    Barbara Lynn
    Christina Marrs
    Satomi Matsumoto
    Memphis Minnie
    Joni Mitchell

    Pat Place
    Liz Phair
    Bonnie Raitt
    Toshi Reagon
    Michelle Shocked
    Donita Sparks
    Marnie Stern
    Ruyter Suys
    Sister Rosetta Tharpe
    Mary Timony
    Sarah Utter
    Tal Wilkenfeld
    Nancy Wilson

    They must have not had room in the print magazine and put the rest on the website.

  2. riotgrrrlrevolution April 9, 2008 / 8:44 am

    That is a good sized list…which leads me to one of my complaints about Venus Zine…not enough music in that magazine. If you look through their greatest guitarist issue, most of it is fashion (ok, yes the fashion has musicians) and other stuff…but I think that complaint is probably just a me thing…grr.

  3. Jonathan July 23, 2008 / 7:20 am

    Lori Linstruth is the best.

    And, BTW, no one gives her exposure because she’s a woman; they give her exposure because she can play. The European scene is very different.

    In general, metal today is a very welcome scene for women. As a life-long metal fan, I wish more women would ditch the Sarah Mclaughlin and throw up the horns.

    There are a lot of women in the symphonic/gothic/epic metal scene in Europe. In fact, it’s almost de riguer to have a female singer if you’re one of these bands. Trouble is, the movement hasn’t really caught on in America. I give it another two to three years.

    As far as other females in heavy music that are not on this list:

    Sharon Den Adel: Within Temptation
    Cristina Scabbia: Lacuna Coil
    Angela Gossow: Arch Enemy (One of the biggest death metal bands in the world.)
    Candace Kucsulain: Walls of Jericho
    Doris Yeh: Chthonic

    Etc, etc . . .

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