For a while, there was this joke that every hip indie rock group had to have a female bassist, a la Tina Weymouth in Talking Heads. But recently I saw some old British Invasion band playing a song from the era, and I was intrigued by seeing a girl behind the drums. I wanted to know more, and this list is the result. More or less in chronological order:
- Ann "Honey" Lantree. The aforementioned '60s band was called The Honeycombs. They had a minor hit in 1964 with the catchy tune "Have I the Right?", which you can easily find on YouTube. Lantree was, as far as I know, the first "star" female drummer in rock and roll history.
- Maureen "Mo" Tucker. Lantree may be mostly forgotten, but anybody with a beginner's knowledge of rock history has heard of the legendary Velvet Underground drummer.
- Karen Carpenter. You know all about the cheesy '70s brother-sister soft rock duo The Carpenters, and how singer Karen tragically succumbed to an eating disorder-related illness. What you may not recall is that she also played drums.
- Sandy West. The Runaways were the first all-girl rock band to gain international fame. Members Joan Jett and Lita Ford went on to solo stardom; singer Cherie Currie went on to infamy. But it was drummer Sandy West who founded the group and was arguably its heart and soul. Sadly, she died in 2006 before her dreams of reuniting The Runaways could be realized.
- Gina Schock. The Runaways fizzled in 1979, but quickly picking up the torch was the next big Los Angeles all-female band, The Go-Gos, with the talented Schock providing the beat for over thirty years. She's also written songs for Disney stars Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez(!).
- Debbi Peterson. The Bangles were the Yin to The Go-Gos' Yang. Or something like that. Along with her sister Vicki and lead singer Susanna Hoffs, Peterson formed the core of The Bangles, and the three still play together.
- Sheila E. The most successful solo female singer/drummer of the 1980s, Sheila E., daughter of Santana percussionist Pete Escovedo, had several hits, including "Glamorous Life" and "A Love Bizarre". Frequently playing with her friend Prince, Sheila E. is as busy today as she's always been.
- Janet Weiss. The indie rock explosion of the early '90s gave us countless female-dominated bands, including many distaff percussionists. But whereas Kate Schellenbach of Luscious Jackson, Patty Schemel of Hole, and many others saw their fortunes rise and fall with their bands, Sleater-Kinney's Weiss, the grand dame of riot grrrl drummers, has gone the distance, even after the recent S-K split.
- Meg White. This list would be incomplete without the polarizing White Stripes drummer, easily the best-known female skins player since Sheila E. Is she talented? Clueless? A mere puppet of her bandmate/ex-husband Jack? Is her heavy style revolutionary or amateurish? Music fans may never stop debating this. But no one can deny her place in the 21st century's first decade of rock and roll.