100 Historic Black Women Guitarists and Bassists You Need To Know
Last February, She Shreds Magazine published “50 Historic Black Women Guitarists and Bassists You Needs to Know” to showcase the influences that black women musicians have had on music history. For 2020, they updated the list to 100 black women guitarists, because we should constantly be celebrating the innovation, resilience, and talent of black music communities. For this particular list, we choose to focus on black women guitarists and bassists from prior to 1999. We did this specifically to showcase the legends—many of whom unfortunately have been overlooked, dismissed, or forgotten—that should be recognized as pillars of music history.
"This year we furthered our research to name 100 black women guitarists because we believe in constantly celebrating Black and Afro-identifying communities around the world—a statement meant to prove the disparity between the history we’re told and the history that exists." - SheShreds
Visit [this post] for the full list of 100 women, some of which you’ve heard about countless times, such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Elizabeth Cotten, and Barbara Lynn. Others were found in liner notes, vintage photos without names, and obscure websites deep within the world wide web. With your help, we hope that this list can continue to grow.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe (1915 – 1973) is often referred to as the “original soul sister” and “the mother of rock and roll” for too many good reasons to display at once. Among others, Tharpe was among the very first recording guitarists to incorporate heavy distortion on her tracks. Not only did Tharpe influence many more recognizable names such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan and Eric Clapton, but her unique style and ability to merge genres gave her an instrumental role in pushing music forward. In 1945, Tharpe’s single, “Strange Things Happening Every Day,” was the first gospel song to cross into popular music, reaching #2 on the Billboard charts.
Born Etta Lucille Reid, (1913 – 2016), Etta Baker was a playing legend of the Piedmont blues for 90 years. Picking up her first guitar at the age of three, Baker’s father Boone Reid taught her how to play a six-string guitar, 12-string guitar, and five-string banjo. Her discography spans from 1956 – 2015, and even while birthing and raising nine kids, Baker was known to never once give up playing the Piedmont Blues.
Norma Jean Wofford. Photographer unknown.
Norma Jean Wofford aka The Duchess (1938 – 2005) was the second guitarist in Bo Diddley’s band between 1962 and 1966. With her Gretsch Jupiter Thunderbird, she performed back up vocals, danced, and played rhythm guitar alongside Bo Diddley until calling it quits in 1966 to pursue raising a family.