Gardner was born in Juneau Alaska and lists her birthday as March 17, 1962. Her father, Rulon B. Gardner was a civil engineer who worked for the United States Forest Service in Utah, Alaska and Michigan before taking a job in Bozeman, Montana at the Forestry Sciences Laboratory at Montana State University in 1964, where Gardner grew up. Her mother Margaret was a piano player and church organist. Her parents were of the Mormon faith. Janet was the only girl in a family with four brothers. She sang in school choirs and learned to play piano and guitar.
In the mid-2000s, when the band Vixen was disbanded, Gardner attended college at the University of Bridgeport and became a dental hygienist in 2005. As of 2015 she maintains an active license, and works as a hygienist when not working on musical projects with Vixen.
Gardner is married to guitarist Justin James since 2016.
Gardner became the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of the all-woman hard rock band Vixen. Janet joined the band’s early lineup in 1982. In 1984, the band appeared in the movie Hardbodies before moving to Los Angeles to further their career.
After some initial changes, the primary lineup of Vixen consisted of Janet, Jan Kuehnemund, Roxy Petrucci, and Share Pedersen. Vixen signed with EMI and recorded their self-titled debut album which was released in September 1988. Gardner described the pressure of recording as, “We were just girls from Minnesota and Montana who loved playing live, so it was a bit of a rude awakening.”
Their lead single “Edge of a Broken Heart” became their signature hit song. It was co-written, arranged, and produced by Richard Marx. Vixen would go on worldwide tours in support of Ozzy Osbourne, Scorpions, and Bon Jovi along with their own headline shows. Vixen recorded and released their second album “Rev It Up” in July 1990. They toured for another year alongside KISS and Deep Purple before the band split up in the middle of 1991 citing musical differences.
In 1997, Janet and Roxy reformed Vixen with Rana Ross and Gina Stile for a US tour. In 1998, Janet, Roxy, and Gina recorded a third Vixen album titled “Tangerine”. Tangerine would be a shift in styles going to a more late 90s grunge sound rather than the 80s hair metal sound of the previous two albums. Roxy Petrucci’s sister Maxine joined the group for a tour until they were sued by original member Jan Kuehnemund over copyright infringement involving the use of the Vixen name.
In 2001, Kuehnemund decided to reform the band this time with Janet and Roxy, adding Pat Holloway on bass. The newly reformed Vixen toured the United States as part of the Voices of Metal tour until disagreements once again caused the band to split in the middle of the tour. Kuehnemund quickly replaced the band with three new members to finish the tour and they continued on under the Vixen name.
VH1 reached out to the original Vixen lineup in 2004 and got them to appear on the show Bands Reunited. The show featured a one-time reunion of the original group that aired in November 2004 coinciding with the re-release of the first two Vixen albums.
Janet mostly stayed out of the spotlight until making a few special appearances singing with the band Scrap Metal in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, Share Pedersen and Roxy Petrucci along with Janet reached out to Jan Kuehnemund about reuniting the original Vixen, however Kuehnemund declined stating that she was happy with her new band. Soon after, it was announced that Janet, Share, and Roxy would form their own band along with Gina Stile. They originally named the band “VXN” but decided to change it to avoid any possible lawsuits, thus they became known as simply JanetShareRoxyGina (or JSRG for short).
JSRG began playing shows at the end of 2012, followed by touring on the Monsters of Rock cruise in March 2013. After a long battle with cancer Jan Kuehnemund died October 10, 2013.
Gardner will release her first solo album, produced by her husband, on Pavement Entertainment in August 2017, Janet Married Justin James, a musician who most recently played bass for TYKETTO on the Monsters Of Rock cruise
Vixen was founded in St Paul, MN by guitarist Jan Kuehnemund. Driven by rock star dreams, like so many before her, Kuehnemund packed up her group and headed for Hollywood. Kuehnemund soon re-tooled the lineup to include vocalist Janet Gardner, drummer, Roxy Petrucci, and bassist Share Pedersen (Ross).
Vixen quickly built their reputation playing the infamous Sunset Strip and signed a major label deal with EMI. Vixen’sfirst hit single, “Edge of a Broken Heart” penned by Richard Marx and Fee Waybill (The Tubes) blasted onto the Billboard charts fueled by heavy video rotation on MTV. Their self-titled freshmen LP garnered two more knee droppers with “Cryin’” and “Love made Me” both charting on the Billboard hot 100 top 40. It was the group’s live performances opening for the Scorpions, Ozzy and Bon Jovi that established Vixen as a premiere rock act to be taken seriously.
In 1990, “Rev it Up”, Vixen’s second LP produced the monster rocker “How Much Love”, scorching ballad, “Love is a Killer”‘ and the upbeat “Not a Minute Too Soon” cementing their reputation not only as formidable performers, but as hit songwriters. The group Vixen-ized their fans on worldwide tours with heavyweights Deep Purple and KISS, which fueled the international frenzy.
The undercurrents coming from the Seattle grunge scene helped strengthen the winds of change and underscored the decision to disband Vixen in late 1991. Each band member independently dabbled in various projects until 1997 Gardner and Petrucci releasing “Tangerine” under the Vixen moniker. In 2002 Kuehnemund once again regrouped Vixen with Jenna Sanz-Agero (vocals), Lynn Louise Lowrey (bass) and Kat Kraft (drums). This line-up then went on to tour and release “Live and Learn” and “Extended Versions” from a live performance in Sweden.
It was 2012 when Kuehnemund reached out to Gardner, Petrucci & Ross for their long awaited reunion. Sadly, only days before officially announcing the news, Kuehnemund was diagnosed with cancer and the reunion was put on hold. Jan Kuehnemund, the founding member and lead guitar player for Vixen tragically lost her battle with cancer and passed away October 10th of 2013. Jan touched many souls and will live on through her music.
Realizing that a band belongs to its fans, Gardner, Petrucci and Ross have reunited in continuing the Vixen tradition and honoring the fans.
The Legacy lives on…