2014 - Women Who Rock
Janice “Jan” Kuehnemund was born in St. Paul, Minnesota. She learned to play guitar when very young, after her father Carl bought a guitar for himself. Kuehnemund picked it up, taught herself to play, and never stopped.
In 1973, while still in high school she formed on the first all-girl rocks bands called “Vixen.” With Gayle Erickson on bass, Laurie Hedlun on drums, Cindy Boettcher and, at other times, Nancy Kraft on keyboards, the group rehearsed constantly and soon found itself in high demand. Vixen toured all over the Midwest, often in the role of opening acts for larger names in the rock ‘n roll world such as Styx, Ted Neugent and REO Speedwagon.
In the mid to late 1970s, Vixen was a popular act in Iowa. The group played many of the most popular ballrooms and clubs in every part of the state. They had a large catalogue of original music and was well known for their tight, hard-driving sound reminiscent of other hard rock groups of the 70s era.
When the original group parted company in 1979, Kuehnemund moved to Los Angeles where she formed a new group, also called “Vixen.” That group rose to national prominence, recording four albums for EMI, between 1988 and 2006, including one that achieved gold status-”Vixen.” Two singles made it into the Billboard Top 40: “Edge of a Broken Heart” and “Cryin’.”
The group was featured on VH1s recent documentary about 1980s glam music and contributed to the soundtracks of two popular movies “About Last Night” and “The Secret to My Success.”
The keyboard player for that band was Share Ross, who now lives in Florida. She said recently that Jan was an extraordinary talent and one of the best-liked people in the LA music scene. “She was just a lovely person. You couldn’t ask for a better friend.”
Original bassist Gayle Erickson agreed. “She was the founder and the glue that held us together. She was so beautiful she turned heads in every room she entered, but she never acted like she knew it. I have lost my best friend.”
Kuehnemund died on October 10, 2013, of cancer.
Her mother Betty, who still lives in rural Minnesota, said of her daughter: “I am so proud of her. Everything she accomplished in music she did all by herself.”