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Today's top female guitarists take their cues and their Gibsons from rock's first ladies

Joan Jett will be 49 this year, but her sinewy arms still light into her beat-up Gibson Melody Maker as if it were 1982, when she first broke onto the scene with her braying hit “I Love Rock N’ Roll.” Even then Jett had more than just smash records on her mind. “I really wanted to make it OK for girls to play,” she says.

Fellow ’80s hitmakers Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s and Nancy Wilson of Heart fought for the same leg room for their all-female bands. Of her early gigs with the Go-Go’s, Wiedlin says, “It was horrible. Everyone hated us because we were chicks, and so we would just get spit at and bottles thrown at us every night.”

Though sisters Nancy and Ann Wilson would go on to become pop culture icons, audiences didn't immediately warm to them either. Nancy, who formed Heart in late-'70s Seattle in a riot of spandex pants and thrashing feathered hair, has said, “We were Beatles fans who wanted to be the Beatles, not be their girlfriends.”

Today, the music of Jett, Wiedlin, and Wilson, all of whom honed their rock riffs on separate Gibson models, continues to empower some of today’s most brilliant female guitarists to pick up a Gibson electric.

Nina Diaz
Nina Diaz is far more expressive than her band’s name would imply. As guitarist, songwriter, and lead singer of Austin, Texas’ Girl in a Coma, Diaz seems scarcely able to restrain her divine voice and high-speed guitarwork on a Valley Arts Brent Mason Signature. In 2006, Nina, older sister Phanie Diaz, and friend Jenn Alva signed with Joan Jett’s Blackheart Records label to record their excellent debut Both Before I’m Gone. Of her pet project, Jett has said, “Their music is really interesting, intense, catchy rock and roll. They were different, melodic. I’m a melody freak. I like guitar hooks and vocal hooks. I like to champion girls when I can.”