50 Most Influential Artists by State
Ever wondered which artist came from your home state? Listed here are all 50 states of America and the biggest, most influential artists that were born in each. Larger states like Texas, Washington, and California were hotbeds of creativity so it was tough choosing just one artist to represent those states, while smaller states didn't see any iconic stars until much later in time. Don't get too upset if your favorite band isn't on this list! Write in the comments below and let us know which bands you would replace on this list.
Alabama - Alabama
They’re probably the biggest band to come out of the state, especially since they have sold over 75 million records according to Billboard. They specialize in southern and country rock with hits that have made it to the top of the country charts over 30 times!
Alaska - Portugal. The Man
Perhaps the biggest act out of northernmost state, Portugal. The Man came from the desolation of John Gourley’s original band, Anatomy of a Ghost. In 2005 they recorded demos before trying to kick off their careers in Portland. From 2006 to 2011, they released a full-length album each year. They released another album in 2013, Evil Friends, and it would be four years before they released another.
Arizona - Stevie Nicks
The “Queen of Rock and Roll” was born in Phoenix, Arizona and would go on to become listed as one of the 100 Greatest Singers of All Time by Rolling Stone. Most fans will know Nicks for her work in Fleetwood Mac, helping the band sell over 100 million records globally. She’s been nominated for eight Grammy Awards and has won two with Fleetwood Mac.
Arkansas - Johnny Cash
“The Man in Black” is responsible for influencing a number of artists including Bob Dylan, Norah Jones, Willie Nelson and more. The country singer received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. In 2005, the biographical film detailing Cash’ early life, Walk the Line, was nominated for several Academy Awards in which Joaquin Phoenix (Cash) and Reese Witherspoon (June Carter) starred. Fun fact, the country singer was on a stamp once!
California - The Beach Boys
The state is full of great acts, between Grateful Dead, Metallica and more but there can only be one! The Beach Boys! Ever since the group burst onto the scene in the early 60’s they haven’t quite stopped. They still tour! Their vocal harmonies and surf songs are still completely unique. The Brian Wilson-led band even earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as well as countless hits, Grammy Awards and a spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Colorado - The John Denver Band
The band was formed in Aspen, Colorado by John Denver and released a number of albums from 1969 up until the band leader’s death in 1997. The band was responsible for releasing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” which is one of the most covered songs in history and has even become West Virginia’s official anthem.
Connecticut - The Carpenters
Formed between brother and sister Richard and Karen Carpenter, their brand of pop in the 1970’s included hits like “Top of the World” and “Rainy Days and Mondays.” They even covered The Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman” and would go on to win a handful of Grammys and even an Academy Award for best original song on the film Lovers and Other Strangers.
Delaware - George Thorogood and the Destroyers
George Thorogood’s bluesy pop hits from the 80’s garnered them wide acclaim. They’re most notable for the hit “Bad to the Bone” and “Who Do You Love?” Two of the most popular songs of all time? Sounds like a pretty good legacy to me.
Florida - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
Formed in 1976, Tom Petty alongside Mike Campbell, Ron Blair, Stan Lynch and Benmont Tench came together to produce hits like “Free Fallin,” “American Girl,” “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” and more. Known for being outspoken against the music industry, the band fought with their record company through the years but despite this, they would go on to be one of the most recognizable bands from their generation.
Georgia - Otis Redding
Born in Dawson, Georgia, Otis Redding is one of the most influential artists in American pop music thanks to his monumental hit, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.” Often called the “King of Soul,” his style, most notably on tracks like “My Girl,” and “Stand By Me,” Redding influenced many artists from George Harrison, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead and more.
Hawaii - Israel Kamakawiwo’ole
Natives of the island state will know “Iz” as synonymous with Hawaiian music. His rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is most likely the version most people born after 1999 are familiar with. In 2010, NPR stated that Kamakawiwo’ole was “The Voice of Hawaii.”
Idaho - Paul Revere & the Raiders
Formed by Paul Revere Dick in Boise, Idaho, the constantly changing lineup is responsible for “Kicks,” one of Rolling Stone’s top 500 songs of all time. The Raiders borrowed was heavily influenced by The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and the Animals. They even appeared in an episode of Batman starring Adam West.
Illinois - Cheap Trick
With over 5,000 shows under their belts since their formation in 1973, Cheap Trick from Rockford, Illinois broke through with their 1979 album, Cheap Trick at Budokan. Notable hits include the power pop classic “Surrender,” and the more traditional rock ballad “I Want You to Want Me.”
Indiana - Michael Jackson (The Jackson 5)
Born in Gary, Indiana, the “King of Pop” started first with The Jackson 5 in 1964. The five brothers: Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon, and Michael would go on to produce some of the biggest rhythm and blues hits in history which included records like “ABC.” It wasn’t until 1972 that Jackson released his first solo album, Got to Be There. It wasn’t until 1979’s Off the Wall that the solo artist reached heightened commercial success. And then it was all history after 1982’s Thriller, which is the best-selling album in the United States.
Iowa - The Everly Brothers
The rock and roll duo of Isaac and Phillip Everly started making music in the early 50’s, and eventually, their records would reach the top spot on the country charts. Their largest hits were “All I Have to Do is Dream,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” and “Bird Dog.” Paul McCartney and John Lennon cited the Everly Brothers as big inspirations, while Paul Simon said the Rock and Roll Hall of Famers were “the most beautiful sounding duo” he had ever heard.
Kansas - Joe Walsh
Born in Wichita, Kansas, Joe Walsh is most known for his solo work, as well as his work with James Gang and the Eagles. Hits like “Life’s Been Good,” and “Rocky Mountain Way” show his songwriting chops and has earned him the 54th spot on Rolling Stone’s Greatest Guitarists of All Time list. His guitar solo on “Hotel California” is listed in the top 10 on Guitar World’s Top 100 Guitar Solos of all time.
Kentucky - Loretta Lynn
With a career spanning over 60 years, Loretta Lynn has earned awards from the Academy of Country Music, and the Country Music Association. She’s written over hundreds of songs and has won a number of Grammys. She is the first female country artist with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Her 1969 single, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” was named NPR’s “100 Most Significant Songs of the 20th Century.”
Louisiana - Louis Armstrong
Just as The Beatles are synonymous with the British Invasion of music, Louis Armstrong is a symbol of Louisiana. “Satchmo” was a trumpet player and one of the most recognizable and influential figures in all of jazz music. His soulful playing and distinct singing voice helped influence a number of artists like Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra.
Maine - Frank Churchill
Frank wasn’t much of a performer, but instead, he was a composer for a number of American films including Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Dumbo, and Bambi. He won an Oscar in 1942 for his work on Dumbo.
Maryland - Frank Zappa
Born in Baltimore, Frank Zappa is a self-taught musician with over 60 albums to his credit! He worked as a composer and a jazz artist since the 50’s. His band, the Mothers of Invention, released their first album in 1966, Freak Out!. Rolling Stone magazine included him on their 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list. He was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.
Massachusetts - Aerosmith
Steven Tyler started a band in New Hampshire, and eventually, the band would move to Boston, Massachusetts where Joe Perry and other band mates were. In the early 1970’s, Aerosmith solidified their legacy with songs like “Dream On” and “Sweet Emotion.” Like many of the artists on this list, Aerosmith found great success and have been winners of numerous Grammy Awards. The band even got to induct Led Zeppelin into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Michigan - Stevie Wonder
One of the most influential and prominent artists in soul, pop, and funk, Stevie Wonder’s singles included “Sir Duke,” "You Are the Sunshine of My Life,” and “Superstition.” He is the recipient of 25 Grammy Awards and has sold over 100 million records. He’s one of the few artists who has been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He also has an Academy Award.
Minnesota - Bob Dylan
Robert Allen Zimmerman was born in Duluth, Minnesota and has been responsible for influencing a number of musicians, some of them are even on this list! His songs in the early 60’s were political and provided social commentary on affairs of that time. He drew influences from folk singer Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams. He would go on to inspire artists like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, The Beatles and more. He even won a Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016, the first for a musician!
Mississippi - B.B. King
There’s a story that B.B. King used to tell about when he went into a burning building to save his precious guitar, Lucille. Music was everything to the King of the Blues and his soulful playing was evidence of that. He was inducted in the Blues and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1980 and 1987. In 2006, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.
Missouri - Chuck Berry
Chuck Berry’s influence on modern music is undeniable. The Beatles were especially fond of Berry, as the Fab Four covered many of his songs like “Roll Over Beethoven,” and “Rock and Roll Music.” His classic, “Johnny B. Goode” is also one of the most covered songs of the rock and roll genre. Berry was also known for his famous “duck walk” during live performances.
Montana - Jeff Ament (Pearl Jam)
We know, it’s kind of cheating to put Pearl Jam here, since they’re associated with the state of Washington, but we didn’t want to move the artist representing Washington, and we didn’t want to leave out Pearl Jam! Founding member of the band, Ament was born in Montana and eventually formed Pearl Jam in 1990. The group has sold over 30 million records in the US alone and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2017.
Nebraska - Elliot Smith
Born in Omaha, the singer-songwriter was known for emotional writing in his songs. Smith cited Bob Dylan and The Beatles as two of his biggest influences. Smith died at the age of 34 and left a number of fans wondering what could have been. One of his biggest fans, Madonna, even covered his song “Between the Bars.”
Nevada - The Killers
The Las Vegas rock band burst onto the charts with 2004’s Hot Fuss but before the album’s release, the band unleashed 2003’s “Mr. Brightside,” which just resurfaced on the UK’s top 100 charts earlier this year at number 93. The Killers are often cited as one of the biggest bands of their generation and have somehow survived years of change and evolution. Apparently, it’s not easy to kill The Killers.
New Hampshire - Ray LaMontagne
Born in Nashua, the folk singer has often been compared to Otis Redding and Van Morrison. With songs like “Jolene,” and others, he’s obtained success and has won three Boston Music Awards, and two Grammy nods, one of which he won for Best Contemporary Folk Album in 2010.
New Jersey - Whitney Houston
Born in Newark, Whitney Houston is the most awarded female act of all time. She has over 200 million records sold worldwide and has seven albums that reached diamond status. Her hits include “I Will Always Love You,” and “I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me).” Houston’s vocal talents helped her reach extreme success, and most critics have cited her as having one of the greatest voices in all of pop music. She’s in too many halls of fame to name!
New Mexico - The Shins
Formed in Albuquerque, New Mexico, The Shins are led by James Mercer and are known for hits such as “New Slang,” “Simple Song,” and “Australia.” Their sound is best distinguished by Mercer’s soft, melodic vocals and pop flourishes.
New York - The Ramones
If you’re responsible for defining an entire genre like punk rock, then you deserve to represent an entire state, right? That’s what The Ramones did! The Ramones influenced a number of acts such as The Misfits, Greenday, Motorhead, and even Metallica’s Kirk Hammett. Their hits include “I Wanna Be Sedated,” and “Blitzkrieg Pop.”
North Carolina - John Coltrane
The jazz saxophonist born in Hamlet, North Carolina is one of the most influential jazz musicians of all time. Most known for his experimental spin on jazz, he was awarded a special Pulitzer Prize in 2007 for his music and was inducted into the North Carolina Hall of Fame in 2009.
North Dakota - Peggy Lee
One of the most popular singers of her time, Peggy Lee’s soulful, smoky voice propelled her into the mainstream during the early 40’s. She had a number one hit in “Somebody Else is Taking My Place” and went on to receive 12 Grammy nominations.
Ohio - The Black Keys
The two-piece rock band from Akron, Ohio is made up of drummer Patrick Carney and singer-guitarist, Dan Auerbach. The two draw many similarities to Jack and Meg White’s The White Stripes for being a two-piece rock band filled with tons of fuzz and hard-hitting grooves. But since 2008’s Attack & Release album, The Black Keys have carved themselves a space in the music industry and are best known for their bluesy, garage rock. They’re not shy from experimenting either, as they‘ve collaborated with a number of hip-hop and rap artists for the album, Blakroc as well.
Oklahoma - Garth Brooks
The country star has built an empire over the years with numerous number one hits, and a handful of top albums. His singles include “Where Your Road Leads,” and “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair.” Fun fact: Brooks played professional baseball with the San Diego Padres in 1998!
Oregon - Esperanza Spalding
This is a controversial choice but there hasn’t been anything quite like Esperanza Spalding in a long long time. The self-taught jazz musical prodigy earned her four Grammys 2011. Her music is what some may refer to as jazz fusion and has cited Joni Mitchell and Madonna as her influences. Spalding plays both upright and electric bass during her performances. Her hits include “I Know You Know,” and “Earth to Heaven.”
Pennsylvania - Billie Holiday
“Lady Day” was known for her improvisation on stage and her voice is one of the most recognizable on this list. Her songs, in which her hits were “”All of Me,” and “Strange Fruit,” even influenced Frank Sinatra who said Holiday was the biggest influence on him.
Rhode Island - John Cafferty & The Beaver Brown Band
The band found mainstream success in the 80’s after they released the hit singles “Wild Summer Nights.” Their other hits include “On the Dark Side” and “Tender Years.”
South Carolina - James Brown
This was easy. The king of funk, James Brown was born in Barnwell, South Carolina and is one of the most influential artists ever. Brown hit the number one spot 16 times with hits like “Get Up Offa That Thing,” and “I Got You (I Feel Good).” Brown was an icon, what else can I say?
South Dakota - Shawn Colvin
With nearly 30 years of performances, Shawn Colvin won a Grammy in 1997 for her song “Sunny Came Home.” The singer-songwriter was born in Vermillion and has been playing guitar since she was 10! Fun fact: she was on an episode of The Simpsons and voiced the character of Rachel Jordan.
Tennessee - Aretha Franklin
Like a handful of other artists on this list, Aretha Franklin is an absolute icon. Not only does she probably have the best voice on the planet, she’s also influenced a ton of artists such as Beyonce, Christina Aguilera, Florence Welch, Jennifer Hudson and more. Her greatest hits include “Think” and “Respect.”
Texas - ZZ Top
The duo of Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill, alongside their appropriately named drummer, Frank Beards are Rock and Roll Hall of Famers with roots dating back to the late 60’s. Most notable for their long beards and sunglasses, the group is in the top 100 best selling artists in the United States.
Utah - Imagine Dragons
A pretty fresh band on this list, but Imagine Dragons are most likely going to end up as the biggest band out of Utah. They’ve already racked up two American Music Awards and a Grammy since their debut album, Night Visions, dropped in 2012. They found mainstream success with singles “”Radioactive,” and “It’s Time.”
Vermont - Phish
Formed in 1983, and most known for their improvisation, Phish influenced a number of bands thanks to their progressive style. With a focus on improvising, their live performances were highly anticipated among their fans. Their hits include “Farmhouse” and “Heavy Things.”
Virginia - Ella Fitzgerald
The Queen of Jazz started her solo career in 1942 and often found success in songs such as “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” and “Cheek to Cheek.” She’s influenced a number of artists such as Linda Ronstadt, Natalie Cole, Queen Latifah, and Odetta. She often collaborated with other jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong, Bill Kenny, Duke Ellington and more.
Washington - Jimi Hendrix
Hendrix took the electric guitar and made it sound like nothing anyone had heard before. He influenced the likes of Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and much more. Commonly referred to as the greatest guitarist of all time, Jimi Hendrix needs no explanation within guitar communities. Watch his Monterey Pop Festival performance, or his Woodstock performance, or listen to Electric Ladyland. Enough said!
West Virginia - Brad Paisley
Before he was selling car insurance, Brad Paisley had conquered the country music scene with three Grammy Awards and 14 Country Music Awards since his debut in 1999. His hits include “Whiskey Lullaby” and “She’s Everything.”
Wisconsin - Les Paul
No, not the guitar! Well, kind of. Les Paul, believe it or not actually performed as a jazz musician in the early 30’s. He recorded under the pseudonym “Rhubarb Red” before he started building one of the most famous guitars in the world in 1940. And the rest is history.
Wyoming - Chris LeDoux
Chris LeDoux influenced the likes of Garth Brooks and eventually rose to the mainstream in 1989. Before he rose to fame, he made a successful living as a rodeo champion. Some of the hits include “Copenhagen,” and “This Cowboy’s Hat.”