Barbara Lynn, who topped rhythm and blues charts in 1962 with “You’ll Lose a Good Thing,” which also crossed over to the pop Top 10, doesn’t like to think of herself as a pioneer; it makes her feel like she’s boasting gratuitously. But every female who ever picked up an electric guitar — or any other instrument, for that matter — and joined a rock band owes her a tremendous debt, because Lynn broke a gender barrier: She was arguably the first woman to play lead guitar in front of rock and R&B audiences. This was at a time when most women playing guitar favored folk music. Memphis Minnie had previously succeeded among bluesmen, but she was playing to segregated audiences; Lady Bo was second guitarist to her boss Bo Diddley. But Lynn fronted bands, and turned heads doing so — while also writing much of her own material, equally unheard-of at the time for female stars.
But even before she had hit records, Lynn knew she was different. Recalling an early gig in Hot Springs, Arkansas, that paid her $100 per week, she chuckles and exclaims, “They knew Barbara Lynn was coming. People were throwing money at me onstage, and guys were trying to grab my leg. I’m not trying to brag, but I really was the talk of that town.”