Rosie Flores Explains Why Giving Up Just Isn’t an Option

Rosie Flores, 2014
Rosie Flores, 2014 (Image credit: Andy Pareti/Getty Images for SXSW)

Rosie Flores exudes mastery, passion, and fun when she plays electric guitar. During her decades-long career as a rockabilly artist she has achieved every kind of success, including major-label deals, awards, late-night-show appearances and movie cameos (her credits include a role in director Peter Bogdanovich’s 1993 film, The Thing Called Love).

The San Antonio native, who makes her home in Austin, is recognized worldwide as a rockabilly legend.

You’ve consistently played with lots of different women.

Oh, yeah. At 16, I started an all-girl group, Penelope’s Children. I thought, How cool would it be if we could play really well! Wouldn’t the guys like it? We had a van with our name painted on the side, and we toured Texas. There were no other guitar players in the band, and I’ve heard other women say that they were intimidated to play in front of men who were really good. I didn’t have that. I just had that free abandon. I could do what I wanted to, without thinking somebody was looking over my shoulder or judging me.

Rosie Flores, 1992

Rosie Flores, 1992 (Image credit: Catherine McGann/Getty Images)

How old were you when you first picked up a guitar?

I was 15. I wanted to be a singer when I was 14, and by the time I was 15, I thought, Gee if I played the guitar, I could accompany myself. At first it was like, “I’m gonna learn this guitar so I can strum these changes.” And when I got into the electric it was like, “Okay, now I’m gonna play some leads and rock out and get some tone here.” That’s when the fun started.

I really owe a lot to my brother for showing me how to do all that. He was so generous with his time, and very encouraging. One of my very favorite players was bluegrass guitarist Clarence White. Then I jumped into Jeff Beck. He’s so fluid and melodic, and his phrasing is like he’s talking. I also loved his tone and sustain. I started out playing leads by trying to write my own solos, because I needed hooks when I was writing songs.

What’s your touring rig?

I play a James Trussart Custom Steelcaster though a Quilter MicroPro Mach 2 amp.

Rosie Flores, 2014

Rosie Flores, 2014 (Image credit: Andy Pareti/Getty Images for SXSW)

Do you use picks?

I use a medium pick, and also my index finger, my ring finger and my middle finger. I have acrylic nails. I get them done professionally. That is such a part of my style. I just have to have the nails on.

You seem to have such an upbeat attitude. How do you sustain that after so long in the business?

 You just gotta be true to who you are. I always find it funny when people come up to me and say, “Rosie, you’re my idol, ’cause you never give up.” Give up! How could I stop doing this? You don’t just go, Okay, if I haven’t sold a minimum of 200,000 records by this time, then I guess I didn’t make it, so I’ll have to go find something else to do.

We gotta just hang in there and try to keep being a good influence for the other women and men out there who might pick up a guitar because they saw us play.