Kathy Valentine Talks Reconnecting with the Guitar After the Go-Go’s

Kathy Valentine, 2013
(Image credit: Mark Sullivan/WireImage)

Kathy Valentine is well known for her years as bass player for the Go-Go’s, but in 1992 she stepped up to play lead guitar for the BlueBonnets, which eventually became the Delphines. And though the Go-Go’s have a fascinating history, this dancing bass player is a cool guitarist with a vision all her own.

Were you a guitar player before the Go-Go’s?

I was. At the time, I had just moved to L.A. and was trying to make it. The Go-Go’s had gotten popular, and when they asked me to play with them, I said, “Sure, I’ll play bass.” So I learned all the songs, and my first show with them was at the Whisky A Go Go – three shows, sold out. I thought, Okay, this is what I came here for.

At that point I didn’t care if I played guitar, bass, tambourine… I just wanted to be in a fun band. And I would play guitar on our records here and there because, even back then, I had some abilities that were different. But I was pretty much the bassist.

After we broke up in 1985, I didn’t know what I was for a couple of years. I tried to put together a succession of bands. Sometimes I would play bass, sometimes rhythm guitar. It wasn’t until 1992, seven years after the Go-Go’s broke up, that I just got sick of being lost. I wanted to play lead. I wanted to be good.

The first thing I decided to do was start a blues band, because I just knew that, wherever I went, blues had to be the foundation. I found a couple of other girls – a bass player who was pretty new at it, a backup singer who’d always wanted to be a lead singer, and a pretty good drummer from Kentucky who could play shuffles. That’s how we started the BlueBonnets. Later on, that morphed into the Delphines.

Kathy Valentine, 1982

Kathy Valentine, 1982 (Image credit: Jorgen Angel/Redferns)

Who are your favorite players?

In the blues guitar world, Hendrix, Stevie Ray and Jimmie Vaughan, B.B. and Freddie King, and in rock, Steve Cropper, Mike Campbell and James Honeyman-Scott from the Pretenders. When I hear some of James’ stuff, I think he was coming from a place similar to me.

Were there any female players who influenced you?

When I started playing guitar, I thought there were no women rock stars, and I said, “I’m gonna be the first one.” What changed it for me was when I was in England in 1975 and saw Suzi Quatro on TV. I saw her on Top of the Pops, dressed head to toe in black leather, and it blew me away.

I knew that women sang, and I knew they’d strummed guitars, but I never saw any woman out front like that. So I went from wanting to play acoustic guitar to wanting to be a rock star. And it was all because of her.

What’s your setup?

I pretty much always go back to my Strat and a tweed ’59 Bassman. For pedals, I just use an old Tube Screamer and a wah-wah. At one point I went through this pretty intensive search for tone. I figured if you had style, good taste and a good sound, that’s a good place to start. I got very into tone, and to this day it can dictate whether or not I’m enjoying my playing experience.

Kathy Valentine's 'All I Ever Wanted: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Memoir'

(Image credit: University of Texas Press)

Check out Kathy Valentine’s All I Ever Wanted: A Rock ‘n’ Roll Memoir (University of Texas Press, 2020) here.