A Girl, a Guitar, and a Dream. It’s a fitting epitaph to Jan Kuehnemund’s remarkable life, which was tragically cut short by cancer in 2013. The 59-year-old St. Paul native was the founder and lead guitarist for Vixen, the first all-female rock band from the Twin Cities, which rose to international stardom during the glam metal heyday of the 1980’s. Jan began playing guitar as a teenager and formed her first band, Lemon Pepper, while still in high school. With her dad Carl serving as roadie, Jan and her band mates Laurie Hedlund (drums), Cindy Boettcher (keyboards) and Gayle (Erickson) DeMatoff (bass) played throughout the Twin Cities, including gigs at the Cabooze, Duffy’s and the Union. As the band honed their chops, they secured a manager and began performing around the country under their new moniker, Vixen. During the 1970’s Vixen opened for acts such as Styx, Ted Nugent, REO Speedwagon, and Bob Seeger, and in 1979 the girls moved to Los Angeles to strike it big.
By the mid-1980’s Cindy, Laurie, and Gayle had left the band, but Jan continued to pursue her dream with new members Janet Gardner (vocals), Roxy Petrucci (drums) and Glencoe, MN native Share Pedersen (bass). Their 1988 self-titled debut album, Vixen, went gold and was followed in 1990 by the release of Rev it Up and tours with Deep Purple and Kiss. Vixen disbanded in 1991, but re-formed in 1997 without Kuehnemund. Jan won a legal battle for the band’s name and revived Vixen in 2001 with new members. With more than 1 million records sold, four songs in Billboard’s Top 100, and six top-ranked videos on MTV during the 1980’s, Vixen established its legacy as a groundbreaking success in the male-dominated world of heavy metal rock, a feat accomplished in large part due to the vision, talent and perseverance of its guiding spirit, Jan Kuehnemund.
Jan Kuehnemund (left) with Janet Gardner and Share Pedersen at The Town and Country Club in London, 1990. Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns, gettyimages.
Stop by the History Center this week only (through November 23) to see this rock star’s guitars, stage costume, and more. Enjoy!