Joan Jett, groundbreaking punk rocker, set a new standard for women who want to play the guitar. As a member of the all-girl group The Runaways in the 70s she wrote and co-wrote many of the band’s biggest hits including “Cherry Bomb” and “Take It or Leave It.” She also found success as a solo artist and as the leader of the Blackhearts. Guitar was her favorite instrument from the time she was very young, and in time, she became one of only two female guitarists to be listed among Rolling Stones’ “Top 100 Guitarists of All Time.”
When Joan was just 13, she asked her parents for a guitar as a Christmas gift. They obliged her by giving her a Silvertone made by Sears. She was a fan of artists like T-Rex and Free and wanted to recreate the sounds she heard from them.
She says that her first “real” guitar was a Gibson Les Paul. As the Runaways began to experience success, Joan had enough money to buy her dream guitar: a blonde Les Paul with its pickups reversed. She liked this setup because the toggle switch was easy for her to reach with her pinky finger.
She used the Les Paul for quite a while but began looking for something lighter to use as her number two guitar for road trips. A member of her crew had previously worked with Eric Carmen of the Raspberries and knew that Carmen had a guitar for sale. It was a Gibson Melody Maker, California style with a double cutaway, and was the axe used on the Raspberries’ hit “Go All the Way.”
Jett became fond of the white Melody Maker right away. It had many layers of white paint that would crack with the wear and tear of life on the road. As Jett performed in smoky clubs and bars, the paint began to yellow. She used it to record all her biggest hits like “I Love Rock N’ Roll” and “Bad Reputation” and “Do You Wanna Touch Me. ” Now, Jett says the guitar “is like a yellowed white and it’s got cracks in the shellac…and it’s just beautiful. It’s my baby.” Jett currently has the guitar safely stored in a cedar closet to protect it.
When Gibson entered into talks with Jett about producing a Joan Jett Blackheart Signature Model, Joan wanted to be involved in its design. Her first concern was to duplicate the pickups from her Melody Maker as closely as possible. The originals were hand-wound coils, and she is pleased with the results of the replication on her signature model. She also made sure the toggle switch is easy to use with just one finger. The Blackheart guitar has an ebony finish, and Jett’s idea of using red fret dots was incorporated. The twelfth fret is marked with two hearts, situated point to point and Jett’s signature is at the top.
Joan Jett’s unique style has influenced many guitar players of her generation and those that followed. If you want to sound like Joan, you might consider using some highly rated guitar lessons that can help you increase your skills. Metal Method is the top-ranked course for those who aspire to be a lead guitarist, and the Learn and Master Guitar DVD set will help build overall skills for every style of play. If you prefer online lessons, we recommend Guitar Tricks. No matter which system you choose, you can be assured that you will improve your technique with study, determination and practice.