There are almost as many different genres of music as there are states in the USA. Some cities are famous for a particular type of music. Take Seattle in Washington, for example, which is forever associated with Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, and the invention of grunge music. Think Nashville, and you get country. Here's our guide to geography and music in America, state by state!
Often, a music 'scene' will spring up around one particular artist or group of artists, and then other musicians in the area will jump on the bandwagon and join in. That's what happened in Detroit, Michigan, which is strongly associated with rap. It existed before Eminem, but he contributed heavily.
It's not just about the cities, though. Entire states vary in musical tastes, with any one state listening to completely different genres to its neighbor. Often, the most famous musician from that state helps to set the tone.
There may never have been a musician as prolific as Prince. No sooner had he written an album then he was bored of it, and already working on his next one. He wrote even more songs for other people than he ever did for himself, and according to some people he wrote at least one a day for over ten years. 'Purple Rain,' '1999' and 'When Doves Cry' are probably his three biggest hits, but he turned Sinead O'Connor into a star when he wrote 'Nothing Compares 2 U' for her.
Despite having such a high-profile public persona, Prince was something of an enigma in person. He never left Minnesota, choosing to remain there for his whole life, and became as famous for his quirky behavior as he was for his music - especially when he changed his name to get out of his recording contract with Sony.
It was inevitable that a state like South Dakota was going to be represented here by a country or folk singer. Having assessed their list of musical talents, we can't think of anybody better suited to represent them than Shawn Colvin. She was a breakout star during the 1990s, and became the face of the 'new folk movement' after she won an Emmy for her 1997 single 'Sunny Came Home.'
Colvin was something of a latecomer to the music industry; she was well into her 30s by the time she released her first album, 'Steady On,' in 1989. Ever since then, she's been making up for lost time. Her most recent album 'The Starlighter' was released just last year. While she may no longer attract the press attention she once did, her talent and voice still shine as brightly as ever.
"Hello, I'm Johnny Cash" - arguably, Cash was the only person in the history of music who could make a catchphrase out of introducing himself. As 'the man in black,' Cash was the hard man of country music, living an uncompromising lifestyle and singing uncompromising songs. He developed a special affinity for prisoners, which led to his legendary performance at Folsom Prison in 1968, and his hit song 'Folsom Prison Blues.' It was all a far cry from his early days as a gospel singer.
When he was a boy, Cash picked cotton in the fields of his native Arkansas, and dreamed of a better life. Through his music and his marriage to June Carter, he found one. His final musical gift to the world - a truly heartbreaking performance and music video cover of the old Nine Inch Nails song 'Hurt' - reduced grown men to tears. Cash truly 'walked the line,' and carved his name into legend.
KISS guitarist Tommy Thayer was always likely to grow up to be a musician - it's just that the music he ended up making probably wasn't what his family had in mind! His mother was a musician, but her great love was classical music. She was a trained violinist, and an operatic singer. Thayer was only a child when he first picked up a guitar and learned to play it, and by 13 he was regularly playing with local bands in Oregon.
As he got to know the scene around him, traveling far and wide for gigs, he enjoyed some success with his own band Black 'n Blue. Around the same time, he befriended Gene Simmons. There was no room in KISS for him at the time, but Thayer stayed in contact, helping out with the band when he could. Eventually, after years of waiting, a space opened up. Thayer donned the makeup, and became part of the legend.
We realize that this is a highly subjective question, but can you think of a better 'song and dance' man since the peak of Michael Jackson's fame than Bruno Mars? Mars is a performer who can do it all; he has the look, he has the moves, and he has an ear for a catchy tune. The ubiquitous success of 'Uptown Funk' should work as evidence for that on its own, but 'Grenade,' and 'Just the Way You Are' have proven that he's anything but a one trick pony.
It makes sense that Mars reminds us so much of Jackson; he grew up in a family of performs, as Jackson did, and also impersonated Jackson regularly during family revue shows at Waikiki Beach in Hawaii. During 2019 he can be found performing a residency at Las Vegas, although he still finds time to collaborate on singles with other artists occasionally, most recently with Cardi B on 'Please Me.'
We're not big fans of the word 'legend' - it gets tossed around too easily. In some cases, though, it's deserved. We'll probably end up using it in a few places on this list, and the first of them is to describe Patty Griffin. How else would it be appropriate to describe her contribution to country music, other than 'legendary?'
Griffin is successful, but hasn't quite achieved the kind of sales figures the true standouts of the genre did. What she may have lacked in commercial success, she's made up for in influence. Many country artists who followed in her footsteps cite Griffin and her music as being among their biggest inspirations, including the Dixie Chicks, and Linda Ronstadt. She's believed to be one of the most 'covered' country musicians of all time. She's not done yet either - at the age of 55, she has plenty of years to go, and a new album coming out this year.
Connecticut is a state that's seen plenty of major musical names born within its borders, but we're giving Moby our vote for being the biggest of them purely because of his influence within his own genre. By the mid-1990s, techno was considered to be a dead genre which nobody had any interest in. Moby's iconic 1999 album 'Play' changed all of that, softening the sound and making it commercially viable once more. When he released it, Moby intended for it to be his last album. Instead, it was the launching pad to superstardom.
In the years that followed - partially thanks to a spat with Eminem - he became as famous for his interest in spirituality and transcendental meditation as he did for his music, as well as his commitment to animal rights causes and veganism. He's released eleven entire albums since his intended 1999 retirement, and may yet have more to show us.
If Michael Stipe was born within your state, then you're never going to have any realistic chance of being a bigger musical legend than he is. Stipe and his quirky band R.E.M. should, by rights, never have been a commercial success. Their subject matter was odd, their sound was unusual, and their image was unusual, to say the least. Stipe overcame all of that to connect with his audience on a deep emotional level. 'Everybody Hurts' and 'Losing My Religion' are songs that everyone can relate to, and very few dislike.
It wasn't just Stipe representing Georgia within the band; he met all three of his future bandmates when they were studying together at the University of Georgia. This is one college band that stayed together for the long term! Stipe - along with the rest of REM - retired from music in 2011. More recently though, he appears to have got the itch to make music back. He released his first-ever solo single in 2018, and hasn't ruled out making more.
If you don't instantly recognize Jeff Ament's name, you'll know his band. Ament is the bass player with Pearl Jam, who are second only to Nirvana in the list of the biggest grunge bands of all time. Ament had to move to Seattle to follow his musical dreams, but he was born into the smallest of small towns in Montana - a place by the name of Big Sandy. When he was born, the total population numbered less than 700, and his father was the major, school bus driver, and local barber all at the same time!
While Pearl Jam has been his main focus ever since the band was formed, Ament does take time away from them to follow other musical endeavors. He's also a member of Three Fish, and Temple of Dog, as well as occasionally recording and releasing music as a solo artist.
What more could you possibly want as a state than to have the original Godfather of Soul as one of your very own? Music starts simply didn't come any larger than life than James Brown. Brown loved nothing more than a huge stage show, complete with outlandish outfits. That may have been an understandable consequence of his youth - he grew up so poor that he was once thrown out of school because he didn't have enough clothes to wear.
Brown may not have invented the rock-funk sound that became popular throughout the 1960s and 1970s, but he did more than anyone to popularize it, with songs like 'I Feel Good,' and 'Get Up.' He was also unafraid to tackle the social issues of his era head on, as he did with 'Say It Out Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud.' According to Rolling Stone magazine, more of Brown's songs have been 'sampled' by other artists than any other musician. Brown passed away on Christmas Day 2006.
All of the success that Brandon Flowers has enjoyed in the world of music can be traced back to the day he answered an advert in a newspaper. Guitarist Dave Keuning was looking to start a band in Las Vegas, and needed a singer. Flowers just knew he was the man for the job, and they gelled straight away. The Killers were born, and 'Mr. Brightside' would shortly turn them into rock stars on a global level.
Unlike many musicians, who move away from home after they've found fame, Flowers has never left Nevada. He was heavily involved in charitable efforts within his home state after the Las Vegas mass shooting of 2017, organizing a concert at which the Killers played, and raising over $700,000 to support victims. He's recorded two solo albums away from his band, showing a softer, more pop-rock tone when working alone.
Many of the states we've looked at so far - and will look at later on - are represented by musicians who have come along recently, or are in the prime of their careers. Alabama is a little different. Wilson Pickett has always been 'the man' in Alabama, and there's never been any real sign of a threat to his throne. Our younger readers might not recognize him from either his name or his photo, but if we say, 'Mustang Sally,' then you'll suddenly realize that you're very familiar with his most famous song.
Pickett is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, but rock and roll was never really his genre. He's credited with being one of the leading lights of the American soul music movement during the 1950s and 1960s, being among the first soul stars to break out and start seeing significant success in the mainstream charts. He carried on touring almost all the way up to his death in 2006.
Some of you are reading the name 'Aaron Lewis' right now, shaking your heads and wondering who he is. Others of you are smiling and nodding, remembering a time during your late teens where you dressed in black, painted your nails black, wore thick black eyeliner and listened to Lewis's band Stain'd. Through hits like 'It's Been A While' and 'Outside,' Stain'd were the soundtrack to many an angsty teen's adolescence, with Lewis' frank and honest lyrics winning him many admirers.
Lewis' Vermont upbringing was an unorthodox one - his parents were new-age hippies, and he spent his youth living in a log cabin in the woods. They eventually separated, and Lewis stayed with his father, moving away to Massachusetts just in time to start high school. Fans who only know him for his heavy rock output might be surprised to hear that he also releases country music as a solo artist.
If you can see the name 'Tracy Chapman' without immediately humming the first few bars of 'Fast Car,' you're doing a lot better than us! Chapman was born in Ohio in 1964, into a low-income family. Her mother raised her alone, and bought her a ukulele for her third birthday. Chapman loved it, and was writing songs by the time she was eight years old.
When Chapman moved to Massachusetts to go to university through a scholarship program, she took to busking in the middle of Harvard Square, Cambridge, during her free time. From there, she found herself invited to play in the area's small venues and coffee houses, and her reputation slowly grew. In 1988, she released her self-titled debut album, which contained 'Fast Car,' and went multi-platinum. Rolling Stone Magazine has since ranked it as being among the 500 greatest songs of all time.
Making it in country music wasn't an easy route for Melissa Etheridge. Granted, she was born in Kansas - an area which I naturally sympathetic to that kind of sound - but she had to make her way up through the scene by playing in country clubs within the state. At the time, those country clubs were all-male, and weren't always the most welcoming environment for a young woman.
Etheridge was something of a pioneer for gay women in country music - she came out in 1993, during a time when society was less open to gay women as it is now. The public accepted her. Her next album, cheekily entitled 'Yes, I Am,' was a major breakthrough commercial success. Known for her distinctive smoky voice, she's gone on to win two Grammy Awards and an Oscar for her music, as well as her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
The obvious problem with looking at Utah is that all of the Osmonds come from there. We could have just listed the whole Osmond family as one entry on our list, but that felt like cheating. Instead, we've gone out on a limb and said that Donny is the most famous of the family. If you disagree, we can only apologize! It was difficult to choose between Donny and Marie - especially since so much of their success was intertwined - but we feel that Donny has had a bigger career overall.
Aside from being a musician, Osmond is often cited as being one of the nicest people in show business. He's had a squeaky-clean image for his whole life, and has never done a single thing to spoil that reputation. These days, he's back performing with his sister. They've had an award-winning show on the Vegas strip for over three years.
The greatest recording artist to come from Rhode Island is someone who's barely even thirty years old! We all got re-acquainted with Billy Gilman in 2016, when he finished as the runner up on the TV talent show 'The Voice,' but those of you who are a little older may remember him as a fresh-faced child, somewhere around the year 2000. That's when he had a surprise hit with the country-pop song 'One Voice,' aged only eleven.
Gilman had been marked out as a child prodigy from an early age. According to his family, he's been singing for almost as long as he's been able to talk. He moved to Nashville to hone his talent and break into the industry, but that doesn't change the fact that he's a proud Rhode Island native by birth. Having bravely come out in 2014, he's also an icon among LGBT country music fans.
In the 21st century, Billy Corgan is more closely associated with the carnival world of professional wrestling than he is with music. Preferring to go by his full first name of 'William,' he's been a minority owner of Impact Wrestling, and now owns the legendary National Wrestling Alliance brand, which was once home to Ric Flair and Dusty Rhodes during the golden wrestling era of the 1980s. Before any of that, though, Corgan was the frontman and focus of the Smashing Pumpkins.
The Pumpkins have somewhat soured their legacy in recent years by splitting up and reforming multiple times after assuring fans they were finished for good, but in their prime, nobody made more popular or relatable emotive rock music. From the fury and angst of 'Bullet with Butterfly Wings' so the wistful simplicity of 'Perfect,' they were another band that will have been the soundtrack to many of our readers' teenage years.
There isn't much scope for musicians to come from Alaska; it's an unforgiving and cold terrain for much of its expanse, and has a population of considerably below one million. Out of that number came the singer Jewel. She was actually born in Utah, but she moved to Homer, Alaska, with her father after her parents separated. Her father was also a musician, and the two would often play together in local bars and clubs.
Growing up wasn't easy for Jewel - life as a jobbing musician didn't pay the bills, and her family home was often without water, heating, or electricity. A scholarship to go to an art academy in Michigan changed her life, and allowed her to experiment with her musical style, while being taught new techniques. By the time she emerged as a finely-polished graduate, she was ready to begin a career which has seen her sell more than forty million records.
Still not yet quite 40 years old, Conor Oberst holds the distinction of being the most famous musical son of Nebraska. He's got there through sheer effort, commitment, and refusing to take no for an answer. Oberst is another performer who started young and put the hours in. By the time he was thirteen, he'd self-recorded and produced an album of original music, which he was hawking around record labels on a cassette tape.
Oberst never seems to settle on one project for long. He either gets bored easily, or he always wants to have multiple routes open for him to create music. He's listed as a founding member of no less than eight bands, although he'll probably never eclipse the success of his most famous project, Bright Eyes. You probably know him best for the song 'If Winter Ends.'
Joe Perry is another member of our list who's more famous because of the band he's in than he is under his own name, but in the case of Perry, it's one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Perry was born in Massachusetts in 1950, and started to play the guitar when he was only ten. He loved music more than he loved his studies at school, and dropped out during his senior year. It was a good move. He moved to Boston, met Steven Tyler, and formed Aerosmith.
Although he's been all over the world - and owns property everywhere - he still spends much of his time in the state he was born in. He needs all of that property to house his enormous guitar collection - at last count, he owned more than six hundred! He had to sell his favorite - a 1959 Gibson Les Paul - during a divorce in 1982. Years later, it was bought by fellow guitar legend Slash, who gifted it back to him for his 50th birthday.
We don't know whether this is just a case of New Hampshire being short of a few musical icons, or the simple fact that for a few years during the late 1990s and early 2000s, Mandy Moore was absolutely everywhere. She's probably better known as an actress than a musician these days, but don't underestimate how big Moore was at her singing peak. 'Candy' seemed to be on every radio station in the world constantly for six months after it was released.
The pop star was discovered in a way that could only happen in modern times - she was overheard singing by a Fed Ex delivery driver, who happened to know someone working at a record company. He sent along a demo tape for her, and she was signed immediately. She was only thirteen at the time, but would soon grow up to be a teen icon on a Britney Spears scale.
We've cheated a little with this entry, but we have a good reason for doing so. Chris LeDoux wasn't born in Wyoming; he was a native of Mississippi. He moved to Wyoming when he was in his teens, but he formed a deep bond with the state and its culture, remaining there for the rest of his life. The area around him served as the inspiration for many of his songs, of which there were hundreds. Over the course of his life and career, LeDoux released over thirty albums.
LeDoux didn't set out to be a musician. He was a rodeo cowboy by trade, and only started playing in bars so he could fund his competitions and travel. It took a long time for other people to convince him that he was blessed with true musical talent, but he eventually got the message. His father loaned him the money to self-release an album, and six million sales later the rest is history.
We know we made an exception for the Osmonds, but it's simply impossible to separate one of Iowa's Everly Brothers from the other one. They're going onto the list together! The brothers were actually born in different states - Kentucky for Don in 1937, and Illinois for Phil two years later, but after Phil's birth the family moved permanently to Iowa. You can't beat the sound of siblings singing in perfect harmony, and that was the main selling point for the duo.
The Everly Brothers hold the distinction of being in both the Rock and Roll and Country Music Halls of Fame in America, which is a testament to the crossover appeal of their music. They were a significant influence on the Beatles, who used to describe themselves as "The English Everly Brothers" in early interviews. Although both brothers went on to have solo careers apart from each other, they reformed in the 1980s, and played sporadically until Phil's health deteriorated in 2006.
Maryland should take great pride in its most famous musician - no other state can claim to have such an original, inventive, influential and downright weird performer as its musical talisman! There was simply nobody anything like Frank Zappa before he arrived on the scene, and there's been nobody like him since. He was sometimes outrageous, and often crude, but was unlike any performer the world had ever seen.
Zappa never had a single music lesson as long as he lived. He was completely self-taught, but managed to be accomplished in both contemporary rock and jazz. His experimental style meshed multiple genres together, and was light years ahead of its time. Zappa is sadly no longer with us, but is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was also presented with a prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at the Grammys in 1997.
The golden era of country music was already up and running when Randy Travis was born in 1959, and many thought it had already peaked. They reckoned without the success that Travis would have in the years to come. The North Carolina musician was raised on the sounds of Hank Williams, Gene Autry and others, and they inspired him to pick up the guitar and see what he was capable of himself. He'd mastered the instrument by the time he was ten years old.
Travis took the hard route to make it to the top, spending years performing in country bars within his home state before finally doing what all aspiring country singers do in the end - packing his bags, and heading off to Nashville! With hits like 'Promises,' he went on to become one of the very best ever to do it within the genre.
There's always been a place in the hearts of American music fans for tough guys who sing about drinking, women, and being down on their luck. George Thorogood ticks all of those boxes enthusiastically. He is, after, all, the man who gave us the smash worldwide hit 'Bad to the Bone' in 1982. Blending blues rhythms with distorted heavier guitar, Thorogood and his band the Delaware Destroyers carved out their own niche throughout much of the decade.
If there was ever a definitive song about drinking your sorrows away in a bar, it's probably 'House Rent Boogie,' which borrows heavily from the Rudy Toombs song 'One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,' recorded over thirty years earlier. So far, Thorogood and his hand have sold more than fifteen million records, and continue to tour and record music. He's also found the time to release one solo album.
Steve Miller is so heavily associated with his eponymous band that it's almost impossible not to say his name without turning it into 'The Steve Miller Band.' Miller was fortunate enough to have musicians for parents - and well-connected musicians at that. His father was friends with Les Paul - the guitar pioneer who has the range of Gibson instruments named after him - and it was Paul who was largely responsible for inspiring Miller to start playing.
Miller formed his band in 1966, while he was in his early 20s. 'Fly Like an Eagle,' and 'The Joker' are just two of the big hits which helped them cement their reputation, and set them on their way to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His sound has mellowed a little over the years, going from bluegrass to mainstream pop, but you can still see him performing today at the age of 75.
Millennial icon Taylor Swift is nothing short of a pop culture icon. She's attracted a little criticism for switching from her country roots to appeal to a more mainstream pop audience, but given her millions of record sales and phenomenal success, she has little reason to care about that. She's currently one of the biggest recording artists in the world, with songs like 'Shake It Off' and 'Look What You Made Me Do' taking on lives of their own.
Most musicians spend their entire careers dreaming of winning a Grammy Award. Swift already has ten of them, and is still in her twenties. Her first brush with fame came when she was selected to sing the National Anthem before a Philadelphia 76ers game when she was just eleven years old. Even a more recent high-profile spat with Kanye West and Kim Kardashian hasn't managed to slow her down.
There are many contemporary female musicians who'll tell you that they have a harder time than men in making it into the music industry. That might be true, but in Patsy Cline's day, it was even harder. In fact, without the efforts and successes of women like Cline, women may still be struggling to break through at all! Country music, in particular, is a notoriously conservative genre. Cline didn't just have to break down walls to excel at it; she had to steamroller them.
Cline's legendarily smooth voice is best heard on her iconic song 'Crazy,' although 'I Fall to Pieces' is another fine example. As with many of the big stars we've seen on this list, she taught herself how to play musical instruments. That includes the piano, which she'd become adept at by the time she was eight.
Does having an underground star make you cooler as a state when it comes to music? We'd have to ask that question to the people of Idaho, where Doug Martsch is probably the biggest name they've ever produced. Martsch isn't a musical megastar like many of the names you're going to see on this list, but there's no denying he's been a heavy influence on the cult indie scene.
Martsch is best known for being the lead vocalist and guitar player in the band Built to Spill, who was at the peak of their powers during the 1990s. They've lasted far beyond those years though, and they're still around making music to this day. Martsch was heavily influenced by British musicians of his era; he even contributed to a tribute album for Morrissey and the Smiths in 2011.
We'd all heard one of John Denver's best songs before we even knew his name. Denver was the author of 'Leaving on A Jet Plane,' which was recorded and released by folk trio Peter, Paul, and Mary to great commercial success. Denver got a little of that money, but none of the acclaim. Undeterred, he decided to stop selling his songs to other people and set out on his own. Fortunately for him, he had plenty more hits up his sleeve. 'Take Me Home, Country Roads' is as popular now as it's ever been, and has been passed down from generation to generation.
Denver's introduction to music was also passed down from one generation to another - it was his grandmother who bought him his first ever guitar, as a birthday gift. He may have had more to give us as well - his life was ended prematurely in his early 50s in a plane crash. A memorial stone to him in his hometown bears the lyrics of his hit 'Rocky Mountain High.'
In the current era, anybody who has more than three or four number one hit singles is considered to be a major star. The Elvis Presleys and Michael Jacksons of the industry have had more than ten, and are considered to be legends and icons. How, then, should we think of Colorado's Glenn Miller? Back when the idea of a music sales chart was a new idea, the band leader and composer had no less than twenty-three!
Miller was as popular in England as he was at home, and spent much of his time there playing concerts to boost morale during the Second World War. It was during the War that he disappeared - he was flying from England to Paris in 1944 when his plane vanished over the English Channel. No wreckage was ever found, leading to much speculation that it had accidentally been shot down by one side or the other during the conflict. In all likelihood, we'll probably never know what really happened, but we do know the world lost one of its musical greats far too soon.
When Loretta Lynn sang 'Coal Miner's Daughter,' she was living every word of the lyrics. Lynn, born in Kentucky's Butcher Hollow in 1932, grew up as the poorest of the poor. The community around her was completely dependent on the local coal mining industry, and her whole family lived in a tiny cabin. Singing and music became her route to escapism. It started with singing in front of the local congregation in her church. It ended with over 50 million records sold.
Such is the extent of Lynn's stardom that a biographical movie about her - also titled 'Coal Miner's Daughter' - was released in 1980. Among her other claims to fame are being the only country music artist to chart in six different decades, and receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013. Even now, in her late 80s, you can still sometimes find her performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.
Despite not yet being 40, Britney Spears has already been famous for more than half her life. She was one of the 'Disney kids' - a whole stable of young entertainers who got their big break as a 'Mouseketeer' with the company before being handpicked for fame. Spears was a natural choice - she was attractive, could dance, and had a distinctive voice. The fact that someone decided to dress her as a schoolgirl for her first video, 'Baby One More Time' may have been tasteless in hindsight, but the song made her an international star from day one.
Spears' time at the top hasn't been free of trouble - she's struggled with mental health issues, divorce, and messy headlines for much of the past decade - but she always seems to come out on top, with a loyal army of supportive fans. In terms of sales and success, she's one of the biggest female stars of all time - and the pride of Louisiana!
If the most famous musician to come out of West Virginia wasn't a country music star, you'd fear that something was seriously wrong with the world. Have no fear though - everything is fine, and the state's biggest recording star is Brad Paisley. Paisley is yet another star who got started early; he was playing guitar fluently by the time he was eight, and had formed his first band by the time he was twelve. His most common audiences were either church congregations or civic meetings, but he was destined for bigger things.
Fast forward to the here and now, and Paisley has over ten million record sales under his belt, along with three Grammy Awards. Along the way, he's been invited to play at the White House, and been formally declared a member of the Grand Ole Opry. For country music singers, that's the ultimate seal of approval!
It's very hard to say that any single person invented any form of music - coming up with a new genre is usually a collaborative effort, refined by many people over an extended period of time. In the case of rock and roll, though, it's doubtful it would have sounded the way it did without the influence of Chuck Berry. Berry's first audiences were his schoolmates, but it wouldn't be long before he was playing in front of much larger crowds.
Berry's iconic song 'Johnny B. Goode' was deemed as being so culturally important that it became the only rock song carried out into space on board the Voyager spacecraft. He loved to perform, and continued to do so well into his 80s, often traveling alone and inviting local bands to perform as his backing group wherever he ended up. He released his final album in 2017, at the age of 90, shortly before he died.
From one rock and roll legend to another! Chuck Berry may have popularized rock and roll, but Alice Cooper's influence on performance and stadium rock can't be overestimated. The genre he more-or-less invented went on to be called 'shock rock,' but when Cooper started doing it, it didn't even have a name. All his audiences knew was that they'd never seen anything like him before. Loud, outspoken and a little terrifying, Cooper has never been dull for a moment in his life.
Cooper and his band (who are confusingly also called 'Alice Cooper') have been recording and releasing music since the 1960s, and have now published 27 in total. He'll probably never top the success of 'School's Out,' or 'Poison,' but if he ever decided to give music up, he could probably take up professional golf. He hosts an annual tournament, and plays off no handicap.
We've looked at some truly legendary country music stars on this list so far, but Oklahoma's Garth Brooks might have them all beaten. A common mistake that country stars make when trying to break into the big time is to stray too far from their country roots in an attempt to reach the pop audience. Brooks hasn't done that. He's embraced a hint of pop, but stayed country enough to bring the two sounds together in harmony. That's why he's sold more than one hundred million records worldwide.
Brooks always knew what he wanted to be, but made sure he went to school just in case it didn't work out the way he planned it. He needn't have worried. It was while he was singing in local bars during his time at Oklahoma State University that he was first spotted. Thirty years later, he's still selling out entire stadiums.
You can't think of Motown without thinking of Stevie Wonder. Equally, Motown Records clearly couldn't imagine themselves without Wonder, either. They signed him after discovering him as a prodigy, at the age of only eleven. Wonder had as much to do with the distinctive 'Motown sound' as anybody over the course of the 1960s and 70s. He's had too many big hits to name, but we think we can all agree that the world would be musically poorer without 'I Just Called to Say I Love You,' and 'Superstition,' to name but two.
Wonder has been influential far beyond the field of music. In 1980, he was one of the most prominent campaigners to have Martin Luther King Jr's birthday recognized as a national holiday, backing the campaign with the song 'Happy Birthday.' The campaign ended in success. He seems to have retired from music now, although he did perform at the funeral of Aretha Franklin in 2018.
Bruce Springsteen may have sung that he was 'Born in the USA,' but how many of you knew that he was specifically born in New Jersey? We suppose that wouldn't have sounded so catchy as the title for a song, but it's a fact all the same. New Jersey is also where he put his famous 'E Street Band' together; he started out as a solo performer in the Asbury Park area, and gradually spotted other musicians he thought he could work with, recruiting them one at a time.
The singing and guitar playing legend, known to his fans simply as 'The Boss,' has often expressed frustration about the way in which people misinterpret his most famous song. 'Born in the USA' was supposed to be a lament about soldiers returning home from Vietnam and being treated poorly. Instead, Ronald Reagan thought it was a patriotic anthem, and used it in an election campaign. Springsteen politely asked him to stop.
You may have caught the occasional hint from Billy Joel that he comes from New York State. 'New York State of Mind' is a fairly big hint, as is the entire lyrical content of 'Miami 2017.' Joel is a proud New Yorker, and New York music fans have every reason to be just as proud of him. He's one of the most successful singer-songwriters in history. We have his pushy mother to thank for that - she pretty much forced him to take piano lessons as a child.
It's a small wonder that Joel didn't come to resent the instrument, but instead, he embraced it, even coming to recognize himself as the 'Piano Man,' although some believe that song is actually about his father, who was also a pianist and traveling musician. After releasing thirteen albums, Joel mostly retired from writing new music in 1993, although he still tours his old classics. He devotes much of his time to his other businesses, including his custom motorcycle shop in Long Island.
Whatever state Beyoncé Knowles came from, she was always bound to be the biggest music star in its history. She's transcended her original girl-band fame with Destiny's Child to become one of the biggest female solo singers who ever held a microphone. As part of a power couple with her husband Jay-Z, the two are a global brand worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Some people even believe they're secretly the head of the mysterious Illuminati!
We're not into conspiracy theories, so we don't believe that's true, but there's no denying Knowles is a very big deal. When she spontaneously released 'Lemonade' with no warning a couple of years ago, she almost brought the entire internet to a halt. Her first big achievement in music was winning a talent show in her native Texas at the age of seven. All of her rival competitors were aged between fifteen and sixteen!
Florida was another state that had plenty of options when it comes to great musicians, but we've decided to go with Tom Petty. A career in rock and roll music is all that Petty ever wanted, and through both his solo work and his recordings with his band 'The Heartbreakers,' he lived his dream. It was a risky gamble which paid off - Petty dropped out of school very early so he could focus on music instead.
In total, Petty sold more than eighty million albums over the course of a forty-year career; one which saw him inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. He cited an early meeting with Elvis Presley as his inspiration for pursuing a career in music, although British bands the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were also heavy influences. He passed away in 2017 after an accidental overdose on prescription medication, shortly after completing a 40th anniversary tour with the Heartbreakers.
We've seen many superstar names on this list - names who have sold tens of millions of records, been inducted into various Halls of Fame, and taken home awards and trophies by the handful. Only one of them has a whole theme park named in their honor, and that's Tennessee's Dolly Parton. Such is her fame and her influence on country music that she's the first name many people come up with when the genre is mentioned - especially in Europe, where country is far less popular than it is in the USA.
As with many of the stars of country music, Parton grew up poor, and started off her career singing in church. 'Jolene' will always be the song most closely associated with her, but her career got a second lease of life after Whitney Houston covered her song 'I Will Always Love You,' for the soundtrack of the 1990s movie 'The Bodyguard.' More recently, she starred in the coveted 'Legends Slot' at Glastonbury Festival in 2014.
Having mentioned him right at the start of our list, we were always going to end up coming back to Kurt Cobain at some point. There was no 'grunge scene' in Seattle before Cobain and Nirvana created it. The music was originally intended to be a more 'authentic' rock and roll sound, and an alternative to the over-produced and showy stadium rock which had become popular at the time. In many ways, Nirvana was the antithesis of KISS and Guns n' Roses.
With 'Smells Like Teen Spirit,' Cobain wrote an anthem for every angry and rebellious teenager in the world, which remains as suited for purpose today as it was when Nirvana released it in 1991. Eventually, the pressure of the band's success became too much for Cobain, contributing to his decision to take his own life at the age of only 27. In death, he only became a bigger legend, with his music destined to live on forever.
Considering the sheer number of stars who've come out of California, our selection of Jerry Garcia here might surprise you. Allow us the chance to explain our decision! Garcia's greatest contribution to the world of music was The Grateful Dead. They'd be considered a cult band by modern standards, but their influence within California was without parallel. The north of California was all about counter-culture during the 1960s, and the Grateful Dead were the soundtrack to that movement.
Garcia's was a star that burned brightly. For the whole of his musical career, he was a very heavy drinker, smoker, and user of psychoactive drugs. Although he attempted to clean up later in his life, the damage was already done, and he passed away from a heart attack in 1995 at the age of 53. His legacy and legend endure - especially in San Francisco, where you'll see plenty of wall-art and other tributes dedicated to his memory.
What can we say about Michael Jackson that hasn't already been said? The undisputed King of Pop, the man behind some of the very best songs the world has ever seen, and the performer who taught the world how to moonwalk. All of the musical Jackson family hail from Indiana, but there's no competition when it comes to which one of them deserves to receive star billing. Sorry, Janet. You're great, but you're not on your brother's level!
It's something of a shame that the controversies of Jackson's life have come to overshadow his musical achievements - it should be remembered that he was found not guilty of many of the accusations against him in a court of law - because without his music the 1980s and 1990s simply wouldn't have been the same. 'Bad,' 'Thriller,' 'Beat It,' Smooth Criminal' and all the rest - everybody has a favorite Jackson song.
If you were looking for evidence of the sharp contrast between North Dakota and South Dakota, you need only look at their most famous musicians! Shawn Colvin and Wiz Khalifa couldn't possibly be more different as artists, and yet here they are representing their neighboring states. As with many aspiring musicians who go on to become stars, Khalifa was making music from an early age. He was writing rap lyrics before he was even ten years old, and started recording his own tracks in his early teens.
'Black and Yellow,' which Khalifa wrote about the paintwork on his sports car, was his breakthrough hit when it was released in 2010. That minted Khalifa as a new star of rap at the age of only 23. Everything he's gone on to do since then seems to get bigger and better with every new release.
Well, where else did you imagine this list was going to end up? There's only one star who was fit to sit at the very top, and that's 'The King' himself. He could have been born in any of the fifty states, and there's still nobody else who could have held a candle to all he achieved. Elvis Presley popularized rock and roll, transcended music to become a film star, opened the door for the Beatles and generally became a legend within his own lifetime.
Such was the level of Presley's success that when he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Grammys in 1971, he was still only 36 years old. No solo performer in the history of music has ever sold more records, and it's likely nobody ever will. Ever since his untimely death in 1977, his hits have been performed by impersonators in almost every country in the world. More than forty years after he left us, Presley remains a one-man industry, generating over $30m a year.