- Dec 5, 2010
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The United States of Pop: How Each State Contributed to Popular Music
We’ve all seen the lists of music – the best-selling artists, the most popular bands, and the best/worst of all time – and how music is ranked in the United States. But this one’s a little different. This is a (debatable) list that ties together music, location, and impact on the world of popular music. Each state has contributed to the industry in its own way, but not all states were created equal.
You’ll see which states have contributed more and which ones less. Wyoming, for one, is nowhere near as influential in the musical history books as Louisiana. Interested to see where your state lies on the list? Well, you’ll just have to scroll through and check it out. And you can learn a little bit about the other states along the way.
(And just remember, folks: this isn’t a comprehensive list. There will, of course, be some bands left out.)
Artists Born/Lived There : Scott Avett, John Perry Barlow, Ronnie Bedford, Loren Driscoll, Cary Judd, Chancey Williams
Bands Formed There : The Lillingtons
John Perry Barlow, a guy who wrote several Grateful Dead lyrics (from 1971 to 1995 with songs like Cassidy and Hell in a Bucket), was born in Sublette County. Then, there’s Scott Avett of the Avett Brothers, who was born in Cheyenne.
Jackson Pollock, the painter, was born in Cody, and his painting titled White Light was used on the cover of Ornette Coleman’s 1960 album Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation. The Lillingtons, a Ramones-Esque pop-punk band, was formed in Wyoming in the mid – ‘90s in Newcastle. Wyoming sits at the top (which is really at the bottom) because, in terms of musical significance, not much else has ever come from this state. Sorry, Wyomingites.
Artists Born/Lived There : Jimmy Cox, Lenny Breau, Juliana Hatfield, Clarence White
Bands Formed There : The Stains, The Technicians
When it comes to musicians and groups from Maine, none have become widely known. Clarence White played among the country rockers in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, and Juliana Hatfield came to be a key player in the Boston indie rock scene during the early ‘90s.
For the most part, Maine has created more minor, humble folk and jazz with a dash of local artists, but that’s about it. The state did, however, provide the early punk scene with bands like The Stains and The Technicians. The Stains put out a posthumous album in the late ‘80s, and The Technicians can be heard on YouTube doing a nice cover of Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers’ Born to Lose.
Artists Born/Lived There : Bix Beiderbecke, Tommy Bolin, Greg Brown, Glenn Miller
Bands Formed There : Head East, Slipknot, The Escorts
The state’s biggest claim to musical fame is, sadly, the fact that it’s where “The Day the Music Died” occurred. As you (probably) know, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper died on February 3, 1959, in a plane crash right next to Mason City, Iowa.
For non-heavy metal fans, the fact that the group Slipknot is from Iowa might also be a tragedy. But fans of the group and of heavy metal, in general, will say that Des Moines, Iowa contributed a lot to the metal world. The group has long been a staple within the genre, dating back to the mid – ‘90s. They’re known for their crazy performances on stage and questionable attire (masks and makeup). The group won a Grammy Award in 2006 for Best Metal Performance.
47. North Dakota
Artists Born/Lived There : Jonny Lang, Lawrence Welk, Peggy Lee, Wiz Khalifa, Bobby Vee
Bands Formed There : The Unbelievable Uglies
The music scene in North Dakota is so meager that you can’t really say that there is even a music scene there. Some showbiz relics include Lawrence Welk and Peggy Lee, who were from North Dakota. Bobby Vee, from Fargo, was a music artist/teen idol in the early ‘60s.
The rapper Wiz Khalifa (whose real name is Cameron Thomaz) represents Pittsburgh pretty hard, but he was actually born in the city of Minot. Khalifa’s family was in the military at the time of his birth, and they were based in North Dakota. He’s earned an impressive nine Grammy nominations and won three Billboard Music Awards.
46. South Dakota
Artists Born/Lived There : DeeCort Hammitt, Shawn Colvin
Bands Formed There : Indigenous
It kind of says a lot that one of South Dakota’s biggest contributions to music is the composer of the state song, Hail, South Dakota! DeeCort Hammitt is from Spencer, South Dakota. There’s also the Grammy-winning singer Shawn Colvin who was born in Vermillion, South Dakota, and the blues band Indigenous, which has been on the music scene since the ‘90s.
Solo artist Shawn Colvin made a name for herself in the early ‘90s. In 1991, her album Steady On earned a Grammy for the Best Contemporary Folk Album. In 1998, she won another two Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Colvin, for those who don’t know her music, taps into the nostalgic folksy vibes that we all love from prior decades.
Artists Born/Lived There : Clifford Brown, George Thorogood, Tom Verlaine
Bands Formed There : Boysetsfire, George Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers, Zen Guerilla
There’s not a lot to say about Delaware’s musical legacy, but it has been the site of some interesting goings-on over the years. For some reason, Bob Marley lived there for a while in the ‘60s. Artists Tom Verlaine and Richard Hell met in school before forming the early punk outfit Television in New York City. Jazz musician Cab Calloway died in Delaware in 1994.
George Thorogood recorded some pretty memorable drinking songs, like One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, and I Drink Alone, not to mention his biggest hit, Bad to the Bone. Thorogood was a wizard on vocals and guitar, and he takes the cake when it comes to the most influential musician from Delaware. The 70-year-old comes from the town of Wilmington.
Artists Born/Lived There : Artis the Spoonman, Hobo Jim, Kate Earl
Bands Formed There : Portugal, The Man
Despite its remote location, Alaska has managed to provide the music industry with a number of artists. Hobo Jim, a folk musician who began recording in the ‘80s, is recognized as Alaska’s official balladeer. And the group Portugal. The Man has made a name for themselves.
But I think we can all agree that a certain ‘90s folk crooner is the state’s most recognizable musician. Jewel grew up in the isolated town of Homer, Alaska, and went on to sell 15 million copies of her debut album, Pieces of You. To date, she’s sold more than 30 million albums around the world.
Artists Born/Lived There : Bruce Fairweather, Doug Adkins, Jeff Ament, Reggie Watts, Nicolette Larson, Wylie Gustafson
Bands Formed There : The Skoidats, Tarkio
Montana can boast a few people in the biz, like the credible grunge musicians Bruce Fairweather and Jeff Ament from Green River, Montana. The state also has its own ska band, called The Skoidats.
But in terms of more recognizable faces, at least for those who are fans of The Late Late Show with James Corden, Reggie Watts can claim Montana as a place that helped shape him. He was actually born in Germany but grew up in Great Falls, Montana. The 48-year-old can play multiple instruments, and he raps as well as sings.
Artists Born/Lived There : India.Arie, Jello Biafra, Jill Sobule, Kip Winger
Bands Formed There : The Apples in Stereo, The Astronauts, Big Head Todd and the Monsters, The Fray, The String Cheese Incident, Zephyr
Kip Winger is from Denver, and The Fray rose to fame in the post-Coldplay mid – ‘00s era with their hit single How to Save a Life. But Colorado’s biggest claim to music industry fame is probably the fact that it was the setting for Tommy Bolin’s formative years.
Bolin, a native Iowan, moved to Boulder, Colorado, in his teens and turned into one of the more notable jazz-rock fusion guitarists. Although John Denver wasn’t from Colorado, it would be silly not to mention him here. Despite growing up all over the country, Denver loved the city of Denver — so much so that he changed his last name to fit it.
Artists Born/Lived There : Melissa Etheridge, Martina McBride, Joe Walsh, Martina McBride
Bands Formed There : Kansas, The Blue Things, The Embarrassment
Kansas has created some notable country and bluegrass talent over the years. Melissa Etheridge is from Leavenworth, and Joe Walsh (from the James Gang and the Eagles) is from Wichita. But, of course, the biggest band out of the state of Kansas is the progressive rock band Kansas.
Janelle Monáe is another honorable mention from the state; however, Martina McBride, born and raised in Sharon, Kansas, stands out for her contribution to music. At the height of her popularity, McBride was a major player in the country-pop genre. Throughout her career, McBride was nominated for 14 Grammy Awards.
Artists Born/Lived There : Michael Bolton, Cassie, John Mayer, Liz Phair, The Carpenters
Bands Formed There : MGMT
Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth), Moby, and Rivers Cuomo (of Weezer) grew up in Connecticut, while Paul Simon and Keith Richards chose to settle down there in their golden years. Connecticut native John Mayer has delighted the ladies for years now with his dreamy songs. He was born in the town of Bridgeport and grew up in Fairfield.
MGMT was formed in the state and helped usher in a new era of modern pop-rock in the late ‘00s. Then, there were Karen and Richard Carpenter, better known as The Carpenters, who were born in New Haven, Connecticut. And we can’t deny the fame that ballad-singing, long hair-in-the-wind artist Michael Bolton earned himself in the ‘90s.
Artists Born/Lived There : Donny Osmond, Marie Osmond, Art Lund
Bands Formed There : Katagory V, the Osmonds, the Used
There may not be a ton of known bands from Utah, but those that do come from the Beehive State are diverse enough to sit in multiple genres. The Used, a post-hardcore band, is from Orem, and the new wave-alternative group Neon Trees is from Provo. There’s also Katagory V, a metal band that gained some fame in the ‘00s.
As for Utah’s biggest contribution to pop music, the crown goes to teen idols turned showbiz mainstays The Osmonds, who were from Ogden, Utah. The Osmonds burst into the limelight during the ‘60s and ‘70s, providing parallel entertainment to the Jackson Five. Once Donny and Marie became big-time stars, the group split apart.
38. New Hampshire
Artists Born/Lived There : GG Allin, Ronnie James Dio, Ray LaMontagne, Jon Spencer, Charlie Clouser
Bands Formed There : The Shaggs
The biggest band that hails from New Hampshire is one that is known to be pretty bad. The Shaggs, consisting of four talentless sisters, made one unknown album in 1969 that was later acclaimed for its accidental brilliance.
The state is also the home of four different frontmen: punk rocker GG Allin (from Lancaster), singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne (from Nashua), metalhead Ronnie James Dio (from Portsmouth), and rock blues singer Jon Spencer (from Hanover). Then there’s Charlie Clouser (from Hanover), who performed with Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie, and Nine Inch Nails before transitioning to producing/composing.
37. New Mexico
Artists Born/Lived There : John Denver, Ottmar Liebert, Demi Lovato
Bands Formed There : The Drags, The Fireballs, Scared of Chaka, The Shins
Albuquerque was the setting of a thriving indie rock scene in the mid – ‘90s, with bands like the Drags and Scared of Chaka. The Shins also emerged from that scene and recorded their breakthrough album Oh, Inverted World when they lived in Albuquerque before moving to Portland, Oregon. (For those who saw Garden State, they made the soundtrack that much better).
John Denver was born in Roswell before making Colorado his home. For the younger readers, we have to mention global pop star Demi Lovato, who was born and raised in Albuquerque before making the move to Texas (and, of course, later to Los Angeles).
Artists Born/Lived There : Brandon Flowers, Ne-Yo, Vernon Alley, Jenny Lewis
Bands Formed There : The Killers, Panic! At the Disco, 7 Seconds from Reno
Las Vegas has long been the location where both large numbers of contemporary and has-been artists go to perform. But very few artists are actually from there. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., and Wayne Newton weren’t from the state. For many, including Elvis Presley, a Vegas residency tended to announce the end of a career.
Still, Sin City has produced two huge rock bands: the Killers and Panic! At the Disco. The band members of The Killers, especially lead singer Brandon Flowers, are very proud of their home state. Their hit single, Mr. Brightside, is actually the longest-featured track in the history of the UK Singles Chart (202 weeks).
Artists Born/Lived There : David Gunn, Rudy Vallée
Bands Formed There : Burnham, King Tuff, Phish, Lambsbread
Vermont’s musical legacy is all about Phish, the famed jam band. Despite none of the band’s members coming from the state, Phish formed at the University of Vermont. They even had an ice cream flavor named after them by Vermont locals Ben and Jerry.
Phish fans might not like to hear about Lambsbread, another reggae-pop jam band from Vermont, formed by two members of the Detroit garage band Death, who moved to Vermont. At the other end of the musical spectrum is the Green Mountain State’s Burnham, who started out opening for Justin Bieber on the teen idol’s My World Tour back in 2010.
34. West Virginia
Artists Born/Lived There : Hasil Adkins, Garnet Mimms, Fred “Sonic” Smith, Bill Withers, Brad Paisley
Bands Formed There : Bobaflex, Asleep at the Wheel
West Virginia has long had a strong tradition of Appalachian folk music but still birthed rockabilly artist Hasil Adkins. It’s also the home of two great soul singers: Garnet Mimms (born in Ashland) and Bill Withers (from Slab Fork). There’s also the metal band Bobaflex who call West Virginia their home.
However, Brad Paisley might be the one who takes the cake. This giant within the country music world has a caseload of trophies, including three Grammy Awards and multiple Country Music Awards. 19 of his singles have reached No. 1 on the charts. Born and raised in Glen Dale, West Virginia, Paisley was mainly influenced by his grandfather.
Artists Born/Lived There : Conor Oberst, Matthew Sweet, Fred Astaire, Wynonie Harris
Bands Formed There : Bright Eyes, The Chevrons, Icky Blossoms, 311, Tilly and the Wall, The Faint
Two bands rose out of Nebraska in the ‘90s: 311 with lead singer Nick Hexum and Bright Eyes with singer Conor Oberst. Both are alternative rock bands that have released around 10 albums.
Oberst, from Omaha, Nebraska, has garnered a cult following with his work in Bright Eyes, but he’s also worked with The Faint and Desaparecidos. Another band from Omaha is Icky Blossoms, whose songs combine a chill wave feel and a rhythmic, Crystal Castles-ish dance quality.
Artists Born/Lived There : Doug Martsch, Josh Ritter
Bands Formed There : Built to Spill, Paul Revere and the Raiders
The legacy of Idaho pop music is mainly about two bands, both from Boise. Paul Revere and the Raiders was a garage band of the ‘60s and early ‘70s who, despite their Revolutionary War costumes, were one of the biggest rock groups of the late ‘60s.
Then, there’s Built to Spill, who have been recording and touring consistently since the early ‘90s. We should also mention that Nikki Sixx (whose real name is Frank Feranna), the co-founder of Mötley Crüe, grew up in the tiny town of Jerome, Idaho. He wrote songs, played bass, and provided ample amounts of mayhem.
Artists Born/Lived There : Dave Hlubek, Don Ho, James Mercer, Nicole Scherzinger, Bruno Mars, Jack Johnson
Bands Formed There : Seawind, Sons of Hawaii
Hawaii gave country music the pedal steel guitar, which proved a breeding ground for slack-key guitar. The alternate guitar-influenced the music of Ry Cooder and Keith Richards. You can also give credit to (or blame) it for popularizing the ukulele.
Hawaii is home to some impressive musicians. For instance, Jack Johnson and the late Israel Kamakawiwo’ole are both from the islands. But, the state’s most recognizable musician is Don Ho. His song Tiny Bubbles became something of a one-hit-wonder. There’s also Sons of Hawaii, who in their heyday of the ‘60s and ‘70s, brought us folk songs and ballads.
Artists Born/Lived There : Coo Coo Cal, Woody Herman, Steve Miller, Les Paul, Justin Vernon, Butch Vig
Bands Formed There : Bon Iver, Die Kreuzen, Garbage, Killdozer, Violent Femmes
Woody Herman (from Milwaukee) played some funky jazz clarinet, and Steve Miller (also from Milwaukee) played funky and poppy ‘70s guitar. Then there’s Les Paul (from Waukesha), who invented revolutionary techniques in rock and roll. Justin Vernon (from Eau Claire) is a frequent guest on Kanye West albums.
Bands out of Wisconsin in the ‘80s were Die Kreuzen and Violent Femmes. The ‘90s was mainly about the group Garbage. In the hip-hop world, the state has Coo Coo Cal. The late Al Jarreau was born and raised in Milwaukee, who transitioned from church concerts to jazz and R&B.
29. Rhode Island
Artists Born/Lived There : Blu Cantrell, Dicky Barrett, Jon B., Tanya Donelly
Bands Formed There : Lightning Bolt, Throwing Muses, Talking Heads
The state may be small, but Rhode Island has some talent. Dicky Barrett, the ska band singer, turned talk show announcer, was born there. Throwing Muses, containing Kristin Hersh and Tanya Donelly, was formed in Newport. Speaking of Newport, it’s home to the Newport Jazz and Folk Festivals, which showcased artists like Bob Dylan.
The Mighty Mighty Bosstones – Dicky Barrett. Photo By Greg Chow/Shutterstock
The band Lightning Bolt formed in Providence and might be one of the most innovative duos in America today. It might be cheating to list Talking Heads as a “Rhode Island band,” but their sound was picked up at the Rhode Island School of Design, where frontman David Byrne met fellow students, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth.
Artists Born/Lived There : Bill Spooner, Charles Mingus, Chester Bennington, Stevie Nicks, Linda Ronstadt
Bands Formed There : Flotsam and Jetsam, Giant Sand, Gin Blossoms, Jimmy Eat World, Jodie Foster’s Army, Meat Puppets
Arizona has birthed some impressive musical talent, the only problem is that its artists tend to get big and move away (other than New York rapper DMX who relocated to Phoenix). Charles Mingus, arguably the greatest jazz bassist of all time, was born in Nogales but got big elsewhere. One band that did stick around is Meat Puppets, a hardcore punk band that started in the early ‘80s.
Linda Ronstadt, from Tucson, might as well be the flag bearer for the state. The pop singer has earned 11 Grammy Awards over the course of her career. And pop is not her only genre; she’s successfully added other genres to her repertoire (rock, folk, country, and Latin music).
Artists Born/Lived There : Kat Bjelland, Esperanza Spalding
Bands Formed There : The Dandy Warhols, the Decemberists, Floater, the Kingsmen, the Wipers
Portland’s The Kingsmen (with their hit Louie Louie) was an Oregon band with a lasting legacy. There’s the Wipers, an early punk band whose name must be mentioned since Nirvana covered two songs from their debut album. Speaking of Nirvana, Courtney Love wasn’t born in Oregon but was raised in Portland.
Another group associated with the state is Modest Mouse. They’re originally from Washington, but the band has been based in Portland for quite a while. Lead singer Isaac Brock grew up in some hippie communities throughout the state. They still perform today, but they were more popular back in the early ‘00s.
Artists Born/Lived There : Frank Zappa, Gary Bartz, Mya, Rye Rye, Toni Braxton, Beach House, Sisqo, Spank Rock
Bands Formed There : Animal Collective, Good Charlotte
Maryland has generated some truly gifted artists such as The Mama’s and the Papa’s Cass Elliot, Toni Braxton, and Joan Jett, to name a few. But if anyone should be noted for their noteworthy career, it is the hippie-hating artist Frank Zappa.
Zappa, an experimental musician, has over 60 albums with his name in the credits. That he was able to incorporate past influences into his own personal style proves his talent. Zappa was born and raised in Baltimore before he relocated to San Diego as a teenager. During his years in Laurel Canyon, his neighbor was Baltimore native Mama Cass who hosted pool parties pretty much every day.
25. South Carolina
Artists Born/Lived There : Chubby Checker, Alphonse Mouzon, Darius Rucker, Dizzy Gillespie, James Brown, Peabo Bryson, Toro Y Moi
Bands Formed There : Hootie and the Blowfish, Iron & Wine
South Carolina’s musical reputation isn’t too shabby, considering James Brown was born in Barnwell in 1933. The R&B singer’s influence in the biz can’t be overstated. He conquered the Apollo Theater and recorded civil rights anthems like Say It Loud, I’m Black, and I’m Proud. He also invented the genre of funk.
The state also produced jazz-rock fusion drummer Alphonse Mouzon and trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie. South Carolina’s most famous musical act is Hootie & the Blowfish, led by Darius Rucker, from Charleston. All four band members met at the University of South Carolina.
Artists Born/Lived There : Billy Ray Cyrus, Crystal Gayle, Don Everly, Lionel Hampton, Jim James, Loretta Lynn, Bill Monroe, Will Oldham, Dwight Yoakam
Bands Formed There : Cage the Elephant, The Judds, My Morning Jacket, The Palace Bros., Slint
Kentucky has a number of influences, one being that the state is the home of bluegrass. In terms of country integrity, homegrown Kentucky boy Billy Ray Cyrus was once massive but went downhill from there.
There’s also Dwight Yoakam, the “first lady” of country music Loretta Lynn, her sister Crystal Gayle, and the country divas The Judds. The Judd family, from Ashland, are basically identical. Mama bear Naomi Judd teamed up with daughter Wynonna to form the group. 15 of their singles became No. 1 hits, and they have earned five Grammy Awards.
23. OklahomaArtists Born/Lived There : Gene Autry, Carl Radle, Carrie Underwood, Chet Baker, Don Cherry, J.J. Cale, Jesse Ed Davis, Leon Russell, Vince Gill, Woody Guthrie, Wanda Jackson
Bands Formed There : The Flaming Lips, The Gap Band
Two hugely influential acts emerged from Oklahoma: Woody Guthrie and the Flaming Lips. Folk artist Guthrie was born in Okemah in 1912, and Bob Dylan originally styled himself after him. The Flaming Lips spent three decades moving from making druggy punk music to their 2002 hit Do You Realize??, which was designated as the official state song of Oklahoma from 2009 to 2011.
The state also boasts country and jazz musicians, like trumpeters Chet Baker and Don Cherry, and classic rockers Carl Radle, Elvin Bishop, J.J. Cale, Jesse Ed Davis, and Leon Russell. We must mention that Blake Shelton, Charlie Christian, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, Toby Keith, and Norma Jean all have serious ties to the state.
22. North CarolinaArtists Born/Lived There : Blind Boy Fuller, Doc Watson, George Clinton, John Coltrane, Ski, Thelonious Monk
Bands Formed There : Archers of Loaf, Corrosion of Conformity, Double Negative, Flat Duo Jets
North Carolina is very much a musical state. In the early 1900s, the state was where country music, bluegrass, and blues were established. In the late ‘60s and ‘70s, soul, funk, and R&B groups popped up from Murphy to Manteo.
North Carolina also boasts the likes of John Coltrane and James Taylor, but Thelonious Monk deserves a spotlight. Next to Duke Ellington, he is arguably the greatest jazz composer ever. Monk was born in Rocky Mount, moving to New York when he was still a child. Mac McCaughan and Laura Ballance started an independent record label in North Carolina, called Merge Records, which is home to Arcade Fire.
21. AlabamaArtists Born/Lived There : Emmylou Harris, Hank Williams, Lionel Richie, Nat King Cole, Rich Boy, Sun Ra, Tommy Shaw, W.C. Handy
Bands Formed There : Alabama, The Commodores, The Louvin Brothers
W.C. Handy, one of the blues’ founders, and Hank Williams, the godfather of country music, were both born in Alabama, although their biggest successes happened across the state line in Tennessee. Alabama holds a mixture of jazz, blues, gospel, and country music, but country music has made the biggest impact.
Alabama is also home to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio, where the Rolling Stones recorded their songs Brown Sugar and Wild Horses. Neil Young recorded Alabama and Southern Man, two songs that were critical of the south’s racism and slavery. We can’t forget about Florida’s Lynyrd Skynyrd, who “answered” Young with Sweet Home Alabama: “I hope Neil Young will remember, a southern man don’t need him around anyhow.”
20. ArkansasArtists Born/Lived There : Al Green, Johnny Cash, Levon Helm, Pharoah Sanders, Johnnie Taylor, Junior Walker
Bands Formed There : Evanescence, Pallbearer
A state is definitely a musical one when it has four official state songs. Even some of Arkansas’ politicians dabbled in music, like Bill Clinton with his saxophone skills. Like the other southern states, Arkansas has a deep history of country, bluegrass, folk, R&B, and gospel.
Johnny Cash On Stage 1979. Photo By Globe Photos/Mediapunch/Shutterstock
There’s Al Green, one of the finest soul singers ever, and remember Evanescence? They were from this state, too. However, the throne has to be given to Johnny Cash, the most important country artist of the 20th century. Cash, who contributed to not just country music but to the industry as a whole, was born in Kingsland but grew up in Dyess.
19. MissouriArtists Born/Lived There : Chuck Berry, Chingy, Eminem, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker, Nelly, Porter Wagoner, Lester Young
Bands Formed There : Heater, Jerusalem, and the Starbaskets, St. Lunatics, The Pows, Warhammer 48k
Kansas City alone has a musical legacy in jazz that any state would be proud of. The city that brought us Charlie Parker and bebop is as famous for its jazz music as it is for its barbecue.
Eminem Performing in Amsterdam, Holland – Jun 2003. Photo By Giovanni Canitano/Shutterstock
But Missouri gets even more bragging rights. Rock ‘n’ Roll legend Chuck Berry came from this state, and created songs like Maybellene, Roll Over Beethoven, and Johnny B. Goode. The state also has Branson, a hub for country acts and can call rap superstar Nelly its very own.
18. IndianaArtists Born/Lived There : Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, John Cougar Mellencamp, Axl Rose, Babyface
Bands Formed There : Jackson Five, Hoosier Hot Shots, Pride of Indiana, Brazil, The Hoosiers
Guns N’ Roses’ very own bad boy Axl Rose came from Lafayette, Indiana, and took hold of the hard rock scene in the ‘80s and ‘90s. But if there’s a musical group that dominated the music industry in general and basically changed music forever, it’s the Jackson Five.
Jackson Five 1973. Photo By Globe Photos/Shutterstock
The group as a whole was massive in its heyday, but the greatest thing to come out of it was The King of Pop himself. Michael Jackson is hands down one of the most gifted performers in the history of music. Has anyone else been able to combine vocal range, charisma, and dancing ability as he did? MJ was born and raised in Gary, Indiana.
17. VirginiaArtists Born/Lived There : Aimee Mann, Bruce Hornsby, Chris Brown, Clarence Clemons, D’Angelo, Danja, Ella Fitzgerald, Grandmaster Jay, Missy Elliott, Patsy Cline, Pharrell Williams, Roy Clark, Steve Earle, Stewart Copeland, The Lady of Rage, Timbaland
Bands Formed There : Clipse, Dave Matthews Band, Gwar, the Carter Family, the Neptunes, the Stanley Brothers, the Statler Brothers
Missy Elliott in Concert, Carling Apollo Hammersmith, London, Britain – 28 Nov 2005. Photo By James Mccauley/Shutterstock
It turns out Virginia can claim multiple talented artists as homegrown, but the thing is, the state has largely produced artists who shot to national success only to leave their roots behind. Some of the biggest names in country music are from Virginia, like the legendary Carter Family.
Another major player from the state is the band played in almost every fraternity in the nation: the Dave Matthews Band. Hip hop artists like Missy Elliott, Timbaland, The Neptunes, and Clipse are all from here, too. There’s R&B’s D’Angelo and Chris Brown.
16. FloridaArtists Born/Lived There : Luther Campell, Pee Wee Ellis, Faith Evans, Gunplay, Flo Rida, Thurston Moore, Gram Parsons, Tom Petty, Pitbull, Plies, T-Pain, Trick Daddy, Trina, Betty Wright
Bands Formed There : 2 Live Crew, the Backstreet Boys, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Miami Sound Machine, Morbid Angel, ‘N Sync, The Montgomery Express, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Florida runs the gamut when it comes to music, with genres from rock to punk, metal, and rap. In the early ‘70s, the kings of southern rock, Lynyrd Skynyrd, emerged fully-formed with one of the most powerful debut albums in history. Then Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers came along and took over the radio, college parties, and state fairs.
Tom Petty of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers performs at The Coral Sky Amphitheatre. Photo By Larry Marano/Shutterstock
Miami’s Criteria Studios served as a popular destination for Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles during the winters in the ‘70s. The Cuban population nurtured a strong music scene, with artists like Gloria Estefan in the ‘80s. In the late ‘90s, gangsta rap came along with Trick Daddy and Trina, Rick Ross, T-Pain, Flo Rida, and DJ Khaled.
15. MassachusettsArtists Born/Lived There : Akrobatik, Big Shug, Bobby Brown, Ed O.G., Guru, Mr. Lif, Jonathan Richman, Donna Summer, James Taylor
Bands Formed There : Aerosmith, Boston, Come, Dinosaur Jr., Galaxie 500, The J. Geils Band, Mission of Burma, New Edition, Pixies, Sebadoh, The Cars, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, The Modern Lovers, Til Tuesday
Boston boys Aerosmith, who formed in 1970, and the Pixies alone are enough to make Massachusetts proud. Aerosmith was essentially an American institution in an era that was dominated by British groups. Their countless hits include Dream On, Walk This Way, and Sweet Emotion.
Donna Summer Performs with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra – Atlanta – July 27, 2005 – 27 Jul 2005. Photo By Chris McKay/Shutterstock
The Pixies came together at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and, between 1988 and 1991, made four albums that basically created indie rock. Massachusetts has also has great hip-hop talent, like Guru of Gang Starr, who is from Boston. Boston MC Scientifik released Criminal before being shot in 1996. His murder remains unsolved, by the way.
14. PennsylvaniaArtists Born/Lived There : Frankie Avalon, Beanie Sigel, Cassidy, Stanley Clarke, Eve, Freeway, Stan Getz, Philly Joe Jones, Patti LaBelle, Left Eye, Mac Miller, Teddy Pendergrass, Todd Rundgren, Schoolly D, Jimmy Smith, McCoy Tyner
Bands Formed There : Boyz II Men, Cash Money and Marvelous, The Dead Milkmen, The Delfonics, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and the Fresh Prince, Hall and Oates, The Hooters, Jedi Mind Tricks, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, MFSB, The Roots
If Pennsylvania can brag about something, it’s Philadelphia Soul. Philadelphia International Records, Gamble and Huff, MFSB, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, and Patti LaBelle are all names from the state.
Patti LaBelle and The Bluebelles. Photo By Fremantle Media/Shutterstock
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince is from West Philadelphia. Before them, though, Philly rap was tough. In the mid – ‘80s, Schoolly D and the arrival of P.S.K. (Park Side Killers) made a dent in the scene. It’s widely considered the first gangsta rap song. Then there’s the Roots, the “Illadelphian” hip-hop group that today’s generation knows from Jimmy Fallon’s late-night show.
13. OhioArtists Born/Lived There : Blueprint, Bootsy Collins, Catfish Collins, DJ Hi Tek, Kid Cudi, Chrissie Hynde, Dave Grohl, Gilby Clarke, Robert Quine, Steven Adler, Marilyn Manson, Macy Gray, RJD2
Bands Formed There : Black Keys, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Devo, Guided by Voices, James Gang, Nine Inch Nails, Ohio Players, Pere Ubu, Slave, the Breeders, the Dead Boys, the Isley Brothers, Times New Viking, Zapp
There’s a reason why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is in Cleveland. The state of Ohio has contributed to almost every genre of modern music. In the ‘70s, funk, soul, and R&B groups like the Isley Brothers, Ohio Players, Slave, and Zapp made a name for themselves. The small label Capsoul Records recorded some great local talent.
Macy Gray, v2000 Festival, Chelmsford, Britain – 2000. Photo By Stephen Meddle/Shutterstock
Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler and guitarist Gilby Clarke came from Ohio. There’s also Ohio native Dave Grohl. As for hip hop, Ohio hasn’t been much of a breeding ground. But Bone Thugs-n-Harmony did happen to put Cleveland back on the rap map in the ‘90s.
12. WashingtonArtists Born/Lived There : Kurt Cobain, Bing Crosby, Jake One, Jimi Hendrix, Macklemore, Sir Mix-a-Lot
Bands Formed There : Alice in Chains, Bikini Kill, Fleet Foxes, Foo Fighters, Green River, Heart, Mad Season, Melvins, Modest Mouse, Mother Love Bone, Mudhoney, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Queensryche, Screaming Trees, Shabbaz Palaces, Sleater-Kinney, The Sonics, Soundgarden, Swollen Members, Tad, Temple of the Dog
Two left-handed guitarists, Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain are really all you need to throw down the mic and walk off the stage. But these superstars who died too young are just the tip of the iceberg. Seattle created an active soul and funk scene before grunge took over.
Kurt Cobain of Nirvana Performing at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City November 15, 1993. Photo By Malluk/Mediapunch/Shutterstock
Led by Cobain’s Nirvana, grunge rock then swept the nation in the early ‘90s, with other Washington-based bands like Alice in Chains, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden.
Washington hip-hop has been making waves as of late, with local talents such as Jake One and Shabbaz Palaces. Seattle’s Macklemore became Washington’s first true rap star since the early ‘90s.
11. New JerseyArtists Born/Lived There : Count Basie, Glenn Danzig, Donald Fagen, Whitney Houston, Ice-T, Queen Latifah, Redman, Wayne Shorter, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen
Bands Formed There : Bon Jovi, The Feelies, The Four Seasons, Fugees, Funkadelic, Kool & the Gang, The Misfits, Naughty By Nature, Parliament, Poor Righteous Teachers, The Rascals, The Smithereens, Titus Andronicus, The Wrens, Yo La Tengo
To talk about music in New Jersey without mentioning Bruce Springsteen would be a disgrace. The man, after all, has released 17 studio albums over the last four decades. But there are other artists who contributed to pop music from this state. The Rascals were from Jersey, and Funkadelic formed there.
Bruce Springsteen and Steven Van Zandt perform at the American Airlines Arena, Miami, Florida, USA – 13 Nov 2002. Photo By Larry Marano/Shutterstock
Donald Fagen of Steely Dan was born in Passaic. Two of the biggest ‘80s stars — Jon Bon Jovi and Whitney Houston — grew up in the Garden State. Hip-hop talent from Jersey includes Queen Latifah, Biz Markie, Redman, Fugees, Naughty by Nature, and Ice-T, who was born in Newark.
10. MinnesotaArtists Born/Lived There : Bob Dylan, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Paul Westerberg, Prince, Slug
Bands Formed There : Atmosphere, Eyedea & Abilities, Hüsker Dü, Low, Information Society, The Replacements, Soul Asylum, The Time, Vanity 6
A man from Hibbing by the name of Bob Dylan has been considered the greatest songwriter of the modern era. His legacy runs deep, which involves getting the Beatles stoned for the first time and teaching everyone that lyrics are important. Then there’s Minnesota’s other royal: Prince, who invented “the Minneapolis sound,” which is a blend of R&B, funk, pop, and new wave.
Bob Dylan in concert, Motorpoint Arena, Nottingham – 05 May 2017. Source: Shutterstock
Who knows, maybe there was something in the water in Minneapolis during the ‘80s because as Prince was setting new standards in funk-rock, other bands were raising the bar for punk rock. The Replacements and Hüsker Dü also formed in Minnesota. The state boasts a rap label, too, called Rhymesayers Entertainment.
9. IllinoisArtists Born/Lived There : Chance the Rapper, Common, Miles Davis, Lupe Fiasco, Quincy Jones, R. Kelly, Frankie Knuckles, Curtis Mayfield, Rhymefest, Jeff Tweedy, Twista
Bands Formed There : Big Black, Cheap Trick, Chicago, Ministry, Smashing Pumpkins, Tortoise, Urge Overkill, Wilco
The biggest thing about Chicago’s musical legacy is being the location where Delta blues went electric. Chuck Berry was able to essentially invent rock and roll in the ‘50s. As the decades went on, rock bands became more varied, like Cheap Trick, Urge Overkill, Smashing Pumpkins, Jesus Lizard, Big Black, and Shellac, CAVE, and Tortoise.
Miles Davis, 1989. Photo By David Levenson/Shutterstock
Chicago has soul music, too, with artists like Sam Cooke, who was born in Mississippi but spent his coming of age years in Chicago. There’s also Curtis Mayfield (from Cabrini-Green), Jerry Butler, and R. Kelly. Chicago has its very own hip hop scene, with rappers like Common, Twista, Do or Die, and we all know Kanye West (born in Georgia, but raised in Chicago).
8. TexasArtists Born/Lived There : Beyonce, Bun B, DJ Screw, Buddy Holly, Janis Joplin, Willie Nelson, Roy Orbison, Paul Wall, Pimp C, Scarface, Travis $cott Selena, Slim Thug, The DOC, Vanilla Ice, Townes Van Zandt, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Willie D., Edgar Winter, Johnny Winter
Bands Formed There : The Fabulous Thunderbirds, The Flatlanders, Geto Boys, Pantera, Scratch Acid, UGK, ZZ Top
Music in Texas is as big as the state. Every genre has at least a bunch of artists from the state. Some of the most bada$$ country artists come from Texas, like Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, George Jones, George Strait, Townes Van Zandt, and Kenny Rogers. Blues Texans include Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Freddie King, and Albert Collins.
Janis Joplin. Photo By Fotos International/Shutterstock
Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison were both from Texas, as well as Dusty Hill, Frank Beard, and ZZ Top. Lone Star rap goes just as deep, with Houston’s very own Geto Boys, the first nationally recognized Southern rappers.
7. MichiganArtists Born/Lived There : Juan Atkins, Danny Brown, J. Dilla, Bill Haley, Kid Rock, Derrick May, Ted Nugent, Iggy Pop, Smokey Robinson, Rodriguez, Diana Ross, Mitch Ryder, Kevin Saunderson, Bob Seger, Sufjan Stevens, Jack White, Stevie Wonder
Bands Formed There : Alice Cooper, Death, Destroy All Monsters, Grand Funk Railroad, Martha, and the Vandellas, Mark and the Mysterians, The Supremes, The Stooges, The Temptations, The White Stripes
Michigan has some heavy hitters, like Aretha Franklin, Madonna, Bob Seger, The Temptations, and The Supremes. Stevie Wonder was born in Saginaw and raised in Detroit. The 25 Grammy winner might be Michigan’s proudest child.
Stevie Wonder, 23 May 1995. Photo By Andrew Carruth/Shutterstock
In the late ‘60s, rock acts MC5 and the Stooges rose out of the suburbs surrounding Detroit, building the framework of future punk rock. More popular acts of the era were Grand Funk Railroad and Alice Cooper, from Flint and Detroit, respectively. Belleville became the birthplace of techno in the ‘80s, with Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, and Derrick May. All Michigan hip-hop stands in the shadow of Eminem (born in Missouri). A newer school of stars showed up, led by Big Sean and Danny Brown.
6. MississippiArtists Born/Lived There : Mose Allison, David Banner, Big KRIT, John Lee Hooker, Son House, Howlin’ Wolf, Elmore James, Robert Johnson, B.B. King, Charley Patoon, Elvis Presley, Rick Ross, Mississippi John Hurt, Muddy Waters
Bands Formed There : The Mississippi Sheiks, 3 Doors Down
Mississippi’s musical legacy dates far back to the birth of Delta blues legend Robert Johnson, who lived from 1911 to 1938 and left behind over 40 recordings and an impact that spread far and wide. B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, and Elvis are all from the state. Elvis was born and raised in Tupelo, Mississippi, and moved to Memphis as a teenager.
Elvis Presley – 1976. Photo By Fotos International/Shutterstock
The “Father of Delta Blues” is Charley Patton, a man whom Bob Dylan referred to in his quote, “If I made records for my own pleasure, I would only record Charley Patton songs.” It’s clear that this state contributed ample talent to the industry.
5. TennesseeArtists Born/Lived There : Alex Chilton, DJ Paul, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Aretha Franklin, Isaac Hayes, Juicy J, Al Jackson Jr., Dolly Parton, Carl Perkins, Project Pat, Justin Timberlake, Yo Gotti, Young Buck
Bands Formed There : The Bar-Kays, Big Star, Booker T., and the MGs, 8Ball & MJG, The Mar-Keys, Superdrag
Tennessee is sacred in four genres: country, blues, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll. Bristol is officially recognized by the U.S. Congress as the “Birthplace of Country Music.” The genre claimed Nashville as its capital. Memphis, on the other hand, is the birthplace of both blues and rock ‘n’ roll.
Dolly Parton in concert at Cardiff International Arena, Wales, Britain – 27 Mar 2007. Photo By Huw John/Shutterstock
Memphis-based Sun Records became the home of rock forerunners Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Johnny Cash. Memphis has an impressive rap history, too. Its own kind of southern bounce made stars out of 8Ball & MJG and Three 6 Mafia, who might just be the strangest yet coolest group to ever win an Academy Award.
4. GeorgiaArtists Born/Lived There : Andre 3000, Big Boi, Cee Lo Green, Ray Charles, Killer Mike, Lil Jon, Little Richard, Otis Redding, Sleepy Brown, T.I., Kanye Wes
Bands Formed There : Black Lips, Goodie Mob, OutKast, REM, the B-52s, the Black Crowes, TLC, Widespread Panic
Atlanta has become the capital of Southern hip-hop ever since OutKast popped out of East Point in 1994. After OutKast, Southern rap took over the country, so whether a Southern rapper is from Atlanta or not, they just end up there. Jermaine Dupri once said: “People don’t visit, they move out here.”
‘Engelbert Humperdinck Show’ TV – 1970 – Ray Charles. Photo By ITV/Shutterstock
The one and only Ray Charles was from Albany, as was Little Richard. Those two alone can make the state of Georgia beyond proud.
Otis Redding, another heavy hitter, was from Dawson. James Brown grew up in Augusta and sprang to fame out of Macon. Georgia represents country stars, too, such as Alan Jackson, Trisha Yearwood, and Travis Tritt. The college town Athens birthed ‘80s bands REM and the B-52s, and the Allman Brothers Band was originally based in Macon.
3. LouisianaArtists Born/Lived There : Louis Armstrong, Dave Bartholomew, Sidney Bechet, B.G., C-Murder, Dr. John, Fats Domino, Lee Dorsey, Lead Belly, Lil Boosie, Lil Wayne, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jeff Mangum, Mannie Fresh, Mia X, Mo B. Dick, Mystikal, Jelly Roll Morton, Aaron Neville, Lloyd Price, Professor Longhair, Silkk the Shocker, Soulja Slim, Huey “Piano” Smith, Irma Thomas, Webbie, Young Bleed
Bands Formed There : The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Big Tymers, Eyehategod, The Hot Boys, The Meters, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Neville Brothers, TRU, The Wild Magnolias
Louisiana is one huge pot of musical goodness. New Orleans, the birthplace of jazz, has a deep history of musically fertile ground. The Crescent City birthed jazz, blues, and gospel as well asthe genres of Cajun, Creole, and Zydeco music, which came from the state’s French and Spanish settlers.
Louis Armstrong – 1960s. Photo By Barry Peake/Shutterstock
Starting in the late ‘40s, New Orleans created its own R&B scene, with legends like Professor Longhair, Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Lee Dorsey, and Huey “Piano” Smith. In the late ‘90s, New Orleans surprisingly turned into a rap Mecca, first with Master P’s No Limit Records. A little-known gangsta rap song from 1986, Drag Rap (Triggerman), by Showboys, brought the distinctive New Orleans “bounce” sound, which morphed into a variety of subgenres.
Artists Born/Lived There : Roy Ayers, Captain Beefheart, Del the Funky Homosapien, DJ Qbert, DJ Quik, DJ Shadow, Dr. Dre, E-40, Eazy-E, Flying Lotus, Etta James, Frank Ocean, Ice Cube, Kendrick Lamar, Too $hort, Tyler the Creator
Bands Formed There : The Beach Boys, Black Flag, Buffalo Springfield, The Byrds, Country Joe, and the Fish, Digital Underground, The Doors, Fishbone, The Grateful Dead, Guns N’ Roses, Jane’s Addiction, Jefferson Airplane, Love, Minutemen, Moby Grape, The Mothers of Invention, NWA, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Runaways, Santana, Sly and the Family Stone, Souls of Mischief, Tower of Power, Van Halen, Tom Waits
Photo by Dezo Hoffman, Shutterstock / Alex Berliner, BEI, Shutterstock
California’s musical legacy is immense, and there’s only one page to sum it up. So here goes: In just the last six decades, wave after wave of musical movements have swept the rest of the country. Bakersfield developed “the Bakersfield sound” in the ‘50s, led by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard.
At the same time, folk music and surf rock were on the rise up in the urban areas. In the ‘60s, San Francisco became the center for psychedelic rock bands like the Grateful Dead and the Jefferson Airplane. The Bay Area was also home to Sly & the Family Stone. Throughout the ‘70s, California exploded with the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac. Then the ‘80s redefined California as the home of metal glam with bands like Motley Crue, Poison, and Guns N’ Roses. As the ‘90s came along, hip hop took over with Dr. Dre, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Ice Cube, and Tupac dominating the airwaves.
1. New York
Artists Born/Lived There : Afrika Bambaataa, Akinyele, A$AP Rocky, Big Daddy Kane, Big L, Cam’ron, Chubb Rock, Cyndi Lauper, Dion, Ace Frehley, Jay Z, Kool G Rap, Lou Reed, Marley Marl, Nas, Notorious B.I.G., Pete Rock, Prince Paul, Teddy Riley
Bands Formed There : Beastie Boys, Blondie, Blue Oyster Cult, Boogie Down Productions, Chic, Contortions, DNA, De La Soul, Dirty Projectors, EPMD, Gang Starr, Kiss, LCD Soundsystem, Mars, The New York Dolls, Public Enemy, The Ramones, Run D.M.C., Simon & Garfunkel, Sonic Youth, The Strokes, Suicide, Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, Television, A Tribe Called Quest, Ultramagnetic MCs, Wu-Tang Clan
Cyndi Lauper 1986. Photo By Gene Ambo/Shutterstock
The number one spot goes to New York, considering that punk rock and hip-hop were invented there. Without punk rock, rock ‘n’ roll would have been dead a while ago. Hip-hop, meanwhile, became the most influential and copied genre since rock itself.
The punk scene in New York started with the Velvet Underground, which came out of Andy Warhol’s Factory and started the first wave of bands that could be referred to as punk (which, at that time, was pretty vague). Then, of course, is the entire world of hip hop in New York City, which started with DJ Kool Herc, a Jamaican who moved to the Bronx in 1967. Over time, the focus shifted to the MC. The first rap song, Rapper’s Delight, was by the Sugarhill Gang, named after the neighborhood in Harlem.
We would like to thank Complex.com for this comprehensive list and the musical history lesson that came with it.