The Rise of Women Electric Guitarists in Country Music

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As the popularity of country music continues to rise, more women are taking center stage and grabbing their guitars to create their unique sound. The role of women in country music has evolved throughout the years, particularly when it comes to playing the electric guitar. From the pioneering efforts of Maybelle Carter to contemporary guitar heroes like Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood, women have been making strides and breaking boundaries in a male-dominated industry. However, with challenges like sexism and misconceptions, there is still much work to be done. In this article, we will explore the evolution of female electric guitarists in country music, highlighting their contributions and addressing the challenges they face.

Maybelle Carter

Maybelle Carter
When we think of female electric guitarists in country music, there is one name that immediately comes to mind. A trailblazer ahead of her time, she shattered stereotypes and brought a unique sound to the genre. Her innovative style and mastery of the instrument earned her a place in history, inspiring countless musicians to follow in her footsteps. But who exactly was this groundbreaking musician? Let’s explore the legacy of Maybelle Carter and her impact on country music. To discover more about the top 10 female electric guitarists in country music history, check out our article.

Early Years and Breakthrough

Maybelle Carter was a trailblazer in the world of country music, not only for women but for all guitarists. She and her family band, The Carter Family, played a significant role in shaping the genre and popularizing it nationwide.

Carter’s early years were spent in rural Virginia, where her family played traditional folk music at local gatherings. In the 1920s, they were discovered by a record company and began recording their music. Maybelle played acoustic guitar in the early years, but her sound changed dramatically with the introduction of electric guitar in the 1940s.

Carter’s breakthrough came with the introduction of her signature style of playing: the “Carter scratch”. This technique involved playing the melody with her thumb while the other fingers played an accompaniment, creating a unique and complex sound. Her use of this style on electric guitar helped define the sound of country music in the 1950s and beyond.

Carter also had a successful solo career apart from The Carter Family, recording several albums and even branching out into acting. Her influence on other female guitarists is immeasurable, with many citing her as a major inspiration.

Maybelle Carter
Early Years Maybelle and her family played traditional folk music in rural Virginia
Breakthrough Introduced signature “Carter scratch” style of playing on electric guitar that helped define the sound of country music
Influence Mentored and inspired many other female guitarists to follow in her footsteps

Maybelle Carter’s legacy lives on to this day as a pioneer and innovator in the world of country music. Her contributions were crucial in breaking down barriers for female guitarists, paving the way for future generations to follow. To learn more about other notable female guitarists in country music history, check out our article on the top 10 female electric guitarists in country music history.

Legacy and Influence

Maybelle Carter’s legacy and influence on country music scene are immeasurable. As a pioneer of guitar playing, she inspired generations of female guitarists to pick up the instrument and make a name for themselves in a male-dominated industry.

Her fingerpicking technique became the go-to style for country guitarists, influencing iconic players like Chet Atkins and Merle Travis. According to Rolling Stone, her influence reaches even further, stating that “her style of playing would help shape the sound of American popular music for decades to come.”

As a member of the Carter Family, Maybelle played a vital role in creating the sound of country music for nearly half a century. She also paved the way for other women to enter the industry at a time when sexism and stereotypes were rampant.

Her influence on female electric guitarists is clear. According to [internal link to /female-guitarists-country-music/], many female country guitarists cite Maybelle as a major influence in their playing style. Her fingerpicking was also incorporated by other female guitarists like Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt.

Maybelle’s influence on the industry is still felt today. In a genre where women can still face barriers, her legacy is a reminder that women have always played an important role in shaping the sound of country music. As [internal link to /10-female-country-guitarists/], one of today’s leading female country guitarists, puts it, “Maybelle Carter paved the way for all of us. We wouldn’t be here without her.”

Maybelle’s contributions to country music will continue to inspire generations of female guitarists to come. As [internal link to /women-electric-guitar-barriers-country/], a female electric guitarist and singer-songwriter, so aptly stated, “Maybelle Carter showed us that women can play guitar too, and that we can do it just as well as anyone else.”

Beyond Maybelle Carter

Beyond Maybelle Carter
As the country music industry grew and evolved, so did the role of female electric guitarists. While Maybelle Carter paved the way for women in this field, many talented guitarists emerged in the following decades, each bringing their own unique sound and style to the genre. From the bold and daring rock-inspired guitarists of the 60s and 70s to the more introspective and emotive players of the 90s and 2000s, the women of country music continue to break barriers and challenge expectations. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most influential and groundbreaking players who carried on Maybelle’s legacy.

Famous Female Electric Guitarists of 60s and 70s

During the 1960s and 1970s, female electric guitarists started to break into the country music scene, asserting their presence in a historically male-dominated field. Here are just a few of the influential women who pioneered this movement:

  • Norma Jean Wofford, better known as “The Duchess,” was a session guitarist known for her work with Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and Loretta Lynn. She was the first woman to play an electric guitar on the Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville.
  • Carolyn Wonderland was a blues-rock electric guitarist and singer whose music blended Texas country influences with blues and soul. She was voted “Best Female Vocalist” at the Austin Music Awards in 2011 and was inducted into the Texas Music Hall of Fame in 2018.
  • June Millington was a Filipino-American guitarist and songwriter who co-founded the all-female rock band Fanny, which recorded several albums in the 1970s. Millington was known for her innovative guitar solos and intricate rhythms.
  • Bobbie Cryner was a singer-songwriter and electric guitarist who wrote hits for artists like Tanya Tucker and Jerry Lee Lewis. Cryner’s music was known for its emotional depth and honesty.
  • Odetta, while not strictly a country artist or known for playing the electric guitar, was a hugely influential blues, gospel and folk singer, guitarist, and civil rights activist. She played the six-string guitar and the 12-string guitar, and her powerful voice and socially conscious lyrics inspired generations of musicians.

These women carved a path for future generations of female guitarists to follow, proving that women could not only play the electric guitar but excel at it. Their contributions to the industry broke through long-standing gender barriers and established a new standard for what was possible for female musicians in country music.

90s and 2000s: New Wave of Women Guitarists

In the 90s and 2000s, we saw a new wave of women guitarists emerge in country music. These musicians brought a fresh perspective to the genre, and their unique styles and sounds helped to redefine what it meant to be a female electric guitarist in country music.

One of these guitarists was Mary Chapin Carpenter, who gained fame with hits like “Passionate Kisses” and “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her”. Carpenter’s use of acoustic and electric guitars, combined with her songwriting prowess, helped to establish her as a major force in country music.

Another standout from this era was Sara Evans, who blended traditional country sounds with a more rock-oriented style. Evans’ hits like “Born to Fly” and “Suds in the Bucket” showcased her impressive guitar skills and her ability to blend genres seamlessly.

Additional notable female electric guitarists from the 90s and 2000s include Gretchen Wilson, known for her hit “Redneck Woman” and her signature use of the Fender Telecaster, and The Chicks (formerly known as The Dixie Chicks), who used guitars throughout their catalog, including their political anthem “Not Ready to Make Nice”.

Guitarist Famous Songs Signature Style
Mary Chapin Carpenter “Passionate Kisses”, “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her” Acoustic and electric guitar blend, strong songwriting
Sara Evans “Born to Fly”, “Suds in the Bucket” Blend of rock and traditional country, impressive guitar skills
Gretchen Wilson “Redneck Woman” Signature use of Fender Telecaster
The Chicks (formerly known as The Dixie Chicks) “Not Ready to Make Nice” Various guitars used throughout their catalog

These female guitarists of the 90s and 2000s helped to pave the way for the next generation of women guitarists, who continue to make an impact in country music today.

Contemporary Guitar Heroes

Contemporary Guitar Heroes
Electric guitar in country music has come a long way since its inception. With its rich history and influential players, the genre has produced some of the most talented and innovative musicians of our time. In this section, we delve into some of the most influential and groundbreaking female electric guitarists of contemporary country music. These women have not only redefined the sound of the genre, but have also paved the way for a new era of female empowerment and representation in country music. Let’s take a closer look at these trailblazing artists and the impact they have made on the industry.

Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood

When it comes to female electric guitarists in country music today, two names immediately come to mind: Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood. Both women have gained widespread acclaim for their talents as musicians and songwriters, as well as their powerful vocals.

Miranda Lambert first burst onto the country music scene in 2005 with her debut album, “Kerosene.” Since then, she has become known for her fiery personality and take-no-prisoners attitude, both on and off stage. In addition to her hit songs like “Gunpowder & Lead” and “Mama’s Broken Heart,” Lambert is also an accomplished guitarist, often incorporating her instrument into her live performances. She has been nominated for numerous awards in both the country music and guitar playing categories, and has won several, including the Guitar Player of the Year award at the Academy of Country Music Awards in 2016.

Carrie Underwood, on the other hand, rose to fame as the winner of the fourth season of American Idol in 2005. Since then, she has become one of the most successful female artists in country music history, with hits like “Before He Cheats” and “Blown Away.” Although her focus has largely been on her vocal abilities, Underwood is also an accomplished guitarist, often incorporating her instrument into her live shows. She has cited country music legends like Maybelle Carter and Keith Urban as major influences on her playing style.

Name Debut Album Hits Guitar Playing Recognitions Influences
Miranda Lambert Kerosene (2005) “Gunpowder & Lead”, “Mama’s Broken Heart” Winner of Guitar Player of the Year at 2016 ACM Awards Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings
Carrie Underwood Some Hearts (2005) “Before He Cheats”, “Blown Away” Nominated for Best Country Solo Performance at 2020 Grammys Maybelle Carter, Keith Urban

Both Lambert and Underwood are highly regarded not only for their talents as musicians, but also for their commitment to empowering women in country music. They have both spoken out against sexism and inequality in the industry, and have used their platforms to promote female voices and perspectives. As female electric guitarists, they continue to break barriers and inspire future generations of women to pick up the instrument and make their mark in country music.

Other Women Making Impact Today

The impact of female electric guitarists on country music continues to flourish with a new generation of talented women picking up the guitar and making their mark. Here are some of the most notable female electric guitarists making an impact today.

  • Lindsay Ell: This Canadian-born singer and guitarist has been praised for her impressive chops and versatility. Her 2017 album, “The Project,” not only showcased her guitar skills but also earned her a spot on the country music charts.
  • Maren Morris: While Morris may not be known solely for her guitar-playing abilities, she has been known to showcase her skills on stage. In addition to earning a Grammy nomination for her songwriting, she has also been praised for her guitar skills and has played alongside some of the biggest names in country music.
  • Jana Kramer: With her unique voice and impressive guitar skills, Kramer has become a force to be reckoned with in country music. She has released multiple albums and has earned several awards for her talent, including the Academy of Country Music’s 2013 Top New Female Artist award.
  • Kacey Musgraves: This singer-songwriter may be known for her clever lyrics and unique style, but she is also an accomplished guitarist. Whether performing with her band or simply strumming solo, Musgraves has proven that she can hold her own with the best of them.
  • Kalie Shorr: As a rising star in the country music scene, Shorr has already made a name for herself as a talented singer and guitarist. In 2019, she released an album titled “Open Book,” which showcased her impressive guitar playing and earned critical acclaim.

These women, along with many others, continue to push the boundaries and show that electric guitar isn’t just for men. With their talent, passion, and dedication to their craft, they are inspiring a new generation of female electric guitarists and proving that there are no limits to what women can achieve in country music.

Challenges and Opportunities

As much as female electric guitarists have made great strides in country music, they still face challenges that can hinder their progress. These challenges highlight the opportunities for improvement and change within the industry. It is crucial to address these issues and work towards creating a more inclusive and empowering environment for women in country music. Let’s take a closer look at some of the significant obstacles and potential solutions that female guitarists encounter today.

Sexism and Misconceptions

The world of country music has traditionally been male-dominated, and this has unfortunately led to instances of sexism and misconceptions being directed towards female guitarists. Some of the common stereotypes include the belief that women cannot handle the technical skills required to play the guitar or that they are merely decoration on stage.

To combat these misconceptions and biases, female guitarists have had to work extra hard to prove themselves in the industry. They have had to deal with being underestimated and undervalued, both by audiences and their peers. It’s frustrating to think that, in the 21st century, women are still being judged based on their gender, and not their musical abilities.

The music industry has been criticized for prioritizing the looks of female artists over their talent, which has resulted in a lack of visibility for talented female guitarists who do not fit the conventional beauty standards. This reinforces harmful notions of what it means to be a successful female artist and downplays their musical accomplishments.

It’s also important to note that gender disparity extends beyond the music industry to other areas of life, and many women face similar challenges in their professional lives. However, the music industry tends to receive more attention due to the public nature of the performances and the impact that music has on culture.

While sexism and misconceptions still persist, there has been progress towards gender equality and breaking down these harmful stereotypes. More and more female guitarists are gaining recognition for their technical skills and musical abilities, and it’s through their success that we can challenge these biases and ultimately create a more inclusive and diverse music industry.

Feminism and Empowerment

The evolution of female electric guitarists in country music is a testament to the power of perseverance and passion. While women may have initially faced challenges in gaining recognition and acceptance as guitarists, feminism and empowerment have played a crucial role in paving the way for their success.

Feminism has played a significant role in the music industry, particularly in country music. Women in the genre have been fighting for equal rights and opportunities for decades. The rise of feminism in the 1960s and 70s played a critical role in the visibility of women in country music. It allowed for greater expression of female issues and challenges, such as love and heartbreak, motherhood, and overcoming societal barriers.

Similarly, empowerment has played a crucial role in the success of female guitarists. By empowering women to express themselves freely, whether through lyrics or instrumentation, they have been able to carve out a space for themselves in a male-dominated industry. Empowering messages of self-love, independence, and inner strength have been prevalent themes in country music.

Feminism Empowerment
Pushed for equal rights and opportunities for women in the music industry. Allowed women to express themselves and their experiences freely.
Highlight societal barriers and personal challenges faced by women. Empowering messages of self-love, independence, and inner strength.
Campaign for the liberation of women, challenging traditional gender roles. Encourages women to pursue their dreams and aspirations.

By embracing feminism and empowerment, female electric guitarists have been able to break down barriers and gain acceptance in country music. Today, there are more women guitarists than ever before, and their contributions to the genre cannot be ignored. It’s an exciting time for female guitarists, where they can use their platform to break the mold, challenge traditional gender roles, and inspire future generations of young musicians.


After exploring the evolution of female electric guitarists in country music, it’s clear that women have made significant contributions to this genre, breaking down barriers and pushing boundaries. From Maybelle Carter, who pioneered the use of the electric guitar in country music, to contemporary guitar heroes like Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood, women have proven that they have the skill, talent, and creativity to thrive in this male-dominated field.

Despite facing challenges such as sexism and misconceptions about their abilities, women have persevered and continue to make their mark on the country music industry. The new wave of women guitarists in the 90s and 2000s brought fresh perspectives and energy to the genre, while contemporary artists like Maren Morris and Kacey Musgraves are blazing new trails and challenging traditional notions of what country music should sound like.

One thing that is clear is that country music needs more female representation and support. By promoting talented female guitarists, celebrating their achievements, and providing opportunities for them to showcase their skills, we can ensure that the genre continues to evolve and grow.

The evolution of female electric guitarists in country music is a story of perseverance, creativity, and empowering women to break through barriers and achieve their dreams. As we celebrate the incredible women who have made their mark on this genre, let us also look forward to the next generation of female guitar heroes, who will undoubtedly make their own unique contributions to country music.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who was the first female electric guitarist in country music?

Maybelle Carter is considered the first female electric guitarist in country music.

What was Maybelle Carter’s breakthrough moment in her career?

Maybelle Carter’s breakthrough moment in her career was when she played the lead guitar on the song “Wildwood Flower”.

Who influenced Maybelle Carter’s guitar playing style?

Maybelle Carter’s guitar playing style was influenced by her cousin, the legendary guitarist and songwriter, Mother Maybelle.

Who were some famous female electric guitarists in the 60s and 70s?

Some famous female electric guitarists in the 60s and 70s include Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, and Emmylou Harris.

Who are some new female electric guitarists in the 90s and 2000s?

Some new female electric guitarists in the 90s and 2000s include Sheryl Crow, Martina McBride, and Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland.

Who are some contemporary female guitar heroes in country music?

Some contemporary female guitar heroes in country music include Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, and Kacey Musgraves.

What are some common misconceptions about female electric guitarists in country music?

Some common misconceptions about female electric guitarists in country music include the belief that women can’t play guitar as well as men or that it’s not feminine for a woman to play guitar.

What challenges have female electric guitarists faced in country music?

Female electric guitarists in country music have faced challenges such as sexism, lack of representation, and limited opportunities.

How has feminism impacted female electric guitarists in country music?

Feminism has empowered female electric guitarists in country music to assert themselves as talented musicians and demand equal representation and opportunities in the industry.

What is the future of female electric guitarists in country music?

The future of female electric guitarists in country music looks bright as more and more talented women are breaking through and making their mark in the industry.


About the author

Hi there! I’m Jack Little – an avid country music fan with tons of live country performances in the past. I used to play banjo in a country band with my best friend John Peters, who’s a true country harmonica master. Those were great years and I’m still mastering new banjo playing techniques, writing my own country songs and lyrics, and collecting banjos!

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