- Every state lays claim to at least one famous musician.
- We looked at each artist’s popularity, awards, and record sales to compile our list.
- Prince is famously from Minnesota, while Tony Bennett edged out the competition in New York.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Though places like New York and California are known for producing tons of celebrities, it turns out there’s at least one â€” in most cases, many more â€” famous musician from every US state.
We have already put together a list of the most famous band from every state â€” so for this one, we’re focusing on individual singers, songwriters, and performers. This encompasses country pioneers, rappers, jazz cats, pop stars…you name it. Even if they perform(ed) with a backing band, these musicians stand out as the star of the show.
The list is somewhat subjective, but to help determine the most famous musician from every state, Insider looked at each artist’s reputation (within their own era), record sales, and awards. It’s also important to note that while most of these people were born in their corresponding state, others were not, but spent a lot of time living there.
Check out which musician took the number one spot in your home state.
ALABAMA: Hank Williams
Hank Williams is widely considered the father of country music and the genre’s foremost songwriter. Before the pioneering musician tragically died at 29-years-old, he released a slew of singles that rocketed to the top of the country music charts, including “Kaw-Liga,” “Honky Tonk Blues,” and “Hey Good Lookin’,” according to the Hank Williams Museum.
Although his career was cut short, his impressive catalogue of songs lives on in the contemporary musical landscape thanks to covers from artists including James Brown, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and Ray Charles.
Williams was born in Mount Olive, Alabama.
Although she was born in Payson, Utah, Jewel Kilcher spent most of her life near Homer, Alaska, and is by far the state’s most successful musical export. The singer has earned four Grammy nominations and sold more than 30 million records. She’s best known for hit songs including “Who Will Save Your Soul” and “You Were Meant for Me.”
Jewel is also known for her yodeling, which she learned from her father Atz, a local musician and star of the reality show “Alaska: The Last Frontier.”
ARIZONA: Linda Ronstadt
Hailing from Tuscon, Arizona, Linda Ronstadt is one of America’s most successful and versatile singer-songwriters. Since her Grammy Award-winning breakout album “Heart Like A Wheel” hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and went platinum, she hasn’t looked back. Ronstadt has won 10Grammys out of 27 nominations and released numerous hit singles spanning many genres besides pop, including rock, folk, Latin, and country music.
ARKANSAS: Johnny Cash
There are few musicians in the history of music who are as accomplished and influential as Johnny Cash, who was born in Kingsland, Arkansas.
The Man In Black won 13 Grammys out of 35 nominations and received the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999. He saw multiple albums reach the top of the Billboard Hot 200 chart, including “At San Quentin” and “American V: A Hundred Highways” which both hit No. 1.
CALIFORNIA: Jerry Garcia
There never was and never will be another musician like Jerry Garcia. While he’s most known for his role in the Grateful Dead, he also released dozens of live and studio solo albums.
His spirited guitar solos emitted an energy that could mesmerize entire stadiums of fans while his vocals could rock your socks off just as easily as they could soothe your biggest troubles.
Garcia wasn’t in it for the awards or recognition – he just loved to play. And that genuineness is what contributed to his legacy. He was a working-class kid from San Francisco who changed rock and roll forever.
COLORADO: John Denver
Thanks to iconic hits like “Rocky Mountain High” and “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” John Denver cemented his place in the arena of folk-rock legends – and as the creator of some of the best campfire songs. Denver only won one Grammy but his legacy is unquestionably larger than his awards resume shows.
The singer wasn’t actually born in Colorado and spent much of his childhood moving around the US due to his father’s job in the Air Force. But he settled in Aspen later in life and adopted his stage name after Denver, the capital of his favourite state, according to his website.
CONNECTICUT: John Mayer
Since his debut album “Room For Squares” in 2001, John Mayer has evolved into one of the most talented singer-songwriters and guitarists in the game – so much so that the Grateful Dead tapped him to replace the late Jerry Garcia in its latest lineup. Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, Mayer has won seven Grammys out of 19 nominations and continues to please listeners with his soulful solos and gentle croonings.
DELAWARE: George Thorogood
With more than 15 million albums sold during a career just shy of five decades, George Thorogood is one of the most accomplished blues-rockers out there. With mega-hits including “I Drink Alone,” “Move It On Over,” and of course, “Bad To The Bone,” Thorogood and his band The Destroyers are known for their gritty tone and catchy riffs. Thorogood was born in Wilmington, Delaware.
FLORIDA: Tom Petty
Some of the most iconic singles populating classic rock radio have been penned by Tom Petty. From “American Girl” to “Learning to Fly” and “Wildflowers,” it seemed as if anything Tom Petty touched turned to gold. Or rather platinum.
Petty’s breakout third album “Damn the Torpedoes” went triple platinum and launched the musician and his band, the Heartbreakers, into superstardom. Throughout his nearly 40-year career, Petty, born in Gainesville, Florida, won three Grammys out of 18 nominations.
GEORGIA: James Brown
Dubbed the “Godfather of Soul,” James Brown set a new standard of showmanship while simultaneously moulding the future of funk, soul, and rap music. Thanks to songs including “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” “I Got You (I Feel Good),” and “It’s a Man’s Man’s World,” Brown scored 17 No. 1 hits and sold 50 million records during his career.
HAWAII: Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole
Honolulu’s Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole became the state of Hawaii’s first platinum-selling artist in 2005 after the singer’s hit 1993 album “Facing Future” sold more than 1 million CDs, according to the Honolulu Star Bulletin.
“Bruddah Iz” (who died in 1997 at the age of 38) posthumously hit 1 billion views on YouTube for his iconic medley of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” on January 6, according to Billboard. The outlet also reports that the medley has spent “a record 541 weeks on the World Digital Song Sales chart, including 332 non-consecutive weeks at No. 1 starting in 2011.”
IDAHO: Nikki Sixx
Although Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx wasn’t born in Idaho, he has revealed that he spent a few formative teenage years living in the state. Sixx helped Mötley Crüe receive three Grammy nominations, sell over 100 million albums worldwide, and record numerous chart-topping hits including “Kickstart My Heart” and “Girls, Girls, Girls.”
ILLINOIS: Miles Davis
Miles Davis is one of the most influential and innovative musicians in jazz history.
Born in Alton, Illinois, the trumpeter’s landmark 1970 album is an improvisational jazz masterpiece that inspired countless fusion musicians and went platinum in the process. Albums like “Kind of Blue” and “In a Silent Way” were critically acclaimed and have lived on as some of the best-selling jazz records of all time. Davis won eight Grammys out of 32 nominations, received the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and 10 of his recordings have been inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame.
INDIANA: Michael Jackson
What else can be said about the “King of Pop” that you don’t already know? With 13 Grammys out of 38 nominations, the wunderkind turned pop legend from Gary, Indiana, reigns supreme as one of the best performers in music history. Jackson boasts a remarkable arsenal of hits including “Thriller,” “Beat It,” and “Billie Jean,” but was just as famous for his moonwalking.
Although his legacy has been marred by accusations of sexual abuse (most recently brought to light in the documentary “Leaving Neverland”), Jackson’s music remains incredibly popular around the world.
IOWA: Glenn Miller
Glenn Miller, founder of the iconic jazz orchestra that shares his name, is a big band pioneer responsible for dozens of Top 10 hits including “In The Mood,” “Moonlight Serenade,” and “Chattanooga Choo Choo.”
Miller, born in Clarinda, Iowa, was posthumously awarded the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 and many of his songs have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. His orchestra still tours and plays his music around the globe.
Read more: The 20 best guitar solos of all time, ranked
KANSAS: Melissa Etheridge
Melissa Etheridge is known for her LGBTQ rights activism as much as she is for her raspy vocals and chart-topping singles. Her breakthrough 1993 album “Yes I Am,” which yielded the single “Come to My Window,” peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard 200 and went platinum six times. To date, Etheridge has been nominated for 15 Grammys and won two. Etheridge is from Leavenworth, Kansas.
KENTUCKY: Jim James
Jim James of Louisville, Kentucky, fronts the popular rock band My Morning Jacket and is known for his dreamy falsetto and masterful songwriting.
Since the band’s debut album in 1999, James has become one of the most in-demand musicians, collaborating with everyone from The Roots to Elvis Costello and Kermit the Frog. With the Jacket, James has earned three Grammy nominations. He has also released a number of solo albums and collaborations.
We recently named My Morning Jacket’s “The Waterfall II” the best rock album of 2020.
LOUISIANA: Louis Armstrong
With a legendary career spanning from the 1920s to the ’60s, Louis Armstrong emerged from New Orleans as an integral musician who would influence nearly every era of jazz music. More importantly, before Armstrong, jazz was largely orchestrated and did not feature much improvisational soloing. The trumpeter made extended solos a mainstay of his performance and changed the landscape of how cats approached jazz standards forever, becoming one of the hottest musicians of the early 1900s in the process.
MAINE: Ray LaMontagne
Ray LaMontagne’s guitar playing affects listeners deeply and his intimate lyrics are a gut punch to the soul that can evoke the happiest or saddest moments in life. Hits like “You Are The Best Thing” and “Jolene” have helped earn LaMontagne two Grammy nominations and one win. The singer moved to Maine after high school and worked at a radio station, which is where he heard a Stephen Stills song that inspired him to pursue music.
MARYLAND: Frank Zappa
Frank Zappa is one of the most prolific yet misunderstood composers of the 20th century, releasing 62 albums before his death in 1993.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Zappa was known for using intricate time signatures, syncopation, and zany (though sometimes offensive) topics in his songs. For Zappa, it wasn’t about writing hit singles, it was about getting his genius on tape so that he could enjoy it and if anyone else did, it was a bonus.
MASSACHUSETTS: James Taylor
There are few singer-songwriters whose careers have been as successful as James Taylor. The Boston-born musician has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, won five Grammys out of 19 nominations, and has been presented with countless awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Kennedy Centre Honours.
Taylor broke onto the scene in 1970 with his hit single “Fire and Rain” and went on to release dozens of other original songs and covers that continue to be crowd-pleasers at concerts.
MICHIGAN: Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder started his remarkable career as a child prodigy on Motown’s Tamla label at age 11. He scored his first No. 1 hit on the Billboard 100 a year later with the single “Fingertips, Pt 2,” which made him the youngest solo artist to top the chart. Wonder continued his career releasing hit album after hit album, winning an incredible 25 Grammys out of 74 nominations.
Wonder is one of only three artists to win Album of the Year three times in his career. His discography covers many genres from R&B to funk and blues, and Wonder’s use of synthesizers helped launch R&B into new stylistic directions.
Prince hit the ground running with his 1979 self-titled debut LP featuring the iconic jam “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” which immediately established the singer as a force in the pop/funk realm.
Prince truly proved his genius with the 1984 film release of “Purple Rain” – and its coinciding soundtrack – that launched him and his band into superstardom. The “Purple Rain” album sold over 13 million copies, spent 24 weeks at the top of the charts, and produced hits “When Doves Cry,” “Purple Rain,” and “Take Me with U.” Prince won seven Grammys and was nominated for 38.
MISSISSIPPI: Elvis Presley
Elvis Presley, better known as the “The King of Rock and Roll,” was a transformative figure who played an undeniable role in the trajectory of popular music in the US. His sex appeal matched with an electrified catalogue of original materials and covers propelled him to the top of the charts while laying the foundation for the electric blues and rock of the ’60s and ’70s. Elvis was born and raised in Tupelo, Mississippi, before moving to Memphis, Tennessee, as a teenager.
MISSOURI: Chuck Berry
Similar to Elvis, Chuck Berry, nicknamed “The Father of Rock and Roll,” played an integral part in the proliferation of the electric blues and rock and roll. His playing and more importantly his solos on songs like “Roll Over Beethoven,” “Maybellene,” and especially “Johnny B. Goode” turned thousands of listeners and guitar players onto this new genre of music, directly setting the course for the future of rock music.
Berry was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in its 1986 inaugural class and has topped many lists of the greatest musicians and guitarists. Berry was born in St. Louis Missouri.
MONTANA: Jeff Ament
Pearl Jam bassist and co-founder Jeff Ament was born in Havre, Montana, but moved to Seattle in the 1980s where he then met the rest of the guys from Pearl Jam, with whom he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. Ament is recognised for his skill on the upright and fretless bass in addition to the electric bass. He also played in the band Temple of the Dog and has released three solo albums.
NEBRASKA: Conor Oberst
Bright Eyes frontman Conor Oberst takes the top spot for the state of Nebraska. The Omaha-born rocker and his band have had some notable success on the charts: In 2005 its album “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning” peaked at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 and its 2007 album “Cassadaga” peaked at No. 4. After a nine-year hiatus, the band released a new album, “Down In the Weeds, Where the World Once Was,” in 2020.
NEVADA: Brandon Flowers
Brandon Flowers, lead singer of the Las Vegas band The Killers, has contributed some of the most popular alt-rock tunes of the past 20 years. Flowers and co. have had three albums reach No. 1 on Billboard’s rock charts and they recently broke the unique record of the most time in between No. 1 hit singles with “When You Were Young” in 2006 and “Caution” in 2020. We recently listed The Killer’s “Imploding the Mirage” as one of the best rock albums of 2020.
NEW HAMPSHIRE: Ronnie James Dio
Ronnie James Dio is one of the most prolific heavy metal musicians ever. Dio, born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, performed with multiple heavy-hitting metal bands including Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Dio, and Queensryche. He is widely regarded as one of the genre’s best vocalists and he is credited with popularising the devil horn hand gesture.
NEW JERSEY: Frank Sinatra
There are tons of great musicians from New Jersey including Frankie Valli, Bruce Springsteen, and Bon Jovi – but Frank Sinatra stands preeminent above all others.
Born in Hoboken, Sinatra went on to sell over 150 million records during his career and win nine Grammys out of 31 nominations. Hits like “(Theme From) New York, New York,” “Fly Me To The Moon,” and “You Make Me Feel so Young” were favourites for many generations of Americans and established Sinatra as one of the most prolific singers, performers, and actors of the 20th century.
NEW MEXICO: Demi Lovato
Demi Lovato, the Disney star turned pop sensation from Alburquerque, New Mexico, has dominated the charts for more than a decade. She’s had multiple albums and singles hit the top of the Billboard charts with “Give Your Heart a Break” and “Sorry Not Sorry” earning serious air time. Lovato has been nominated for two Grammys and in 2015 launched Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health, an organisation promoting awareness for mental health conditions.
NEW YORK: Tony Bennett
Like Sinatra, Bennett became one of the greatest singers and showmen of the 20th century. Now in his 90s, Bennett continues to perform while hit songs like “I Left My Heart In San Francisco,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” and “Rags to Riches” have been covered by numerous musicians. Bennett, who was born in Astoria, Queens, has won 18 Grammys out of 36 nominations, received the Kennedy Centre Honours, and won a host of other impressive awards.
NORTH CAROLINA: John Coltrane
John Coltrane is one of the most influential saxophonists and composers in jazz music history. Coltrane’s experimentation with free and avant-garde jazz, and with modes and cyclical chord progressions, helped propel the genre into new boundaries. During his career, Coltrane, who was born in Hamlet, North Carolina, collaborated with many of the genre’s best including Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. In 2016, the jazz icon was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize.
NORTH DAKOTA: Wiz Khalifa
Wiz Khalifa released his debut album in 2006 but didn’t truly break into the mainstream until his debut single for Atlantic Records, “Black and Yellow,” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. Since then, the rapper from Minot, North Dakota, has remained one of the most popular rappers, earning 10 Grammy nominations and features on some of the hottest songs of the past decade.
OHIO: Dean Martin
The singer, actor, and comedian Dean Martin was born in Steubenville, Ohio, and got his start singing in night clubs near his hometown. Martin quickly outgrew his humble upbringing and went on to become one of America’s greatest entertainers, pleasing viewers with his suave croonings for over five decades. He enjoyed a bountiful solo career singing jazz and contemporary standards before becoming the host of his eponymous iconic variety show.
OKLAHOMA: Garth Brooks
Garth Brooks is the No. 1-selling solo artist of all time with over 157 million album sales, according to his website. Additionally, he’s the only artist to appear on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in five consecutive decades: the ’80s, ’90s, ’00s, ’10s, and ’20s.
OREGON: Esperanza Spalding
Esperanza Spalding, who was born and raised in Portland, Oregon, is one of the great jazz geniuses of the 21st century. Spalding has won four Grammys including Best New Artist in 2011, becoming the first jazz musician to do so and famously beating Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence and the Machine, and Mumford and Sons for the win. She graduated from the Berklee College of Music in 2005 and then made history after being hired as one of the youngest instructors in the institution’s history.
PENNSYLVANIA: Billie Holiday
The innovative jazz singer Billie Holiday has had a direct influence on pop music over the last 70 years thanks to her flowery vocals and improvisational skills. Though she died of cirrhosis at age 44, many of her songs including the iconic “Strange Fruit” were inducted posthumously into the Grammy Hall of Fame or awarded Grammys. Holiday, who grew up in Philadelphia, is remembered as a pioneering singer far ahead of her time.
RHODE ISLAND: araabMUZIK
Abraham Orellana, better known by his stage name araabMUZIK, is a producer and DJ from Providence, Rhode Island, who has worked with rap and hip-hop giants including Cam’ron A$AP Rocky, and Joe Budden. He contributed to Jay Electronica’s Grammy-nominated2020 album and has played major festivals including Coachella and Pitchfork.
SOUTH CAROLINA: Darius Rucker
Darius Rucker rose to fame as the singer and rhythm guitarist of the rock band Hootie and the Blowfish, which produced multiple Top 10 singles and the hit album “Cracked Rear View,” which sold over 16 million copies in the US. Following his stint with Hootie, the Charleston, South Carolina, native has enjoyed a successful solo career that has yielded six studio albums and hit songs like Grammy Award-winning “Wagon Wheel” (a cover of Bob Dylan’s song) and “Come Back Song.”
SOUTH DAKOTA: Shawn Colvin
Singer-songwriter Shawn Colvin’s claim to fame came during the late ’80s and ’90s when her debut 1989 album “Steady On” won a Grammy for the Best Contemporary Folk Album. Her fourth studio album, 1996’s “A Few Small Repairs” won her another pair of Grammys and produced the chart-topping single “Sunny Came Home.” Colvin was born in Vermillion, South Dakota.
TENNESSEE: Dolly Parton
As we wrote in our timeline of the singer’s impressive career: “Equal parts country megastar, actress, and philanthropist, Dolly Parton has had a meteoric ascent throughout her six-decade career. She’s released a whopping 91 albums, has won nine Grammys out of 50 nominations, and has generated millions in revenue for the city of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, thanks to her theme park, Dollywood. Oh, and with record sales totaling over $US160 million, she’s the most successful country artist of all time.”
TEXAS: Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson is an absolute legend in the folk and country worlds. He’s responsible for writing and performing some of the genres’ most iconic songs and helping develop the outlaw country subgenre. Nelson scored 20 No. 1 and 40 Top 10 hits during his six-decade career. He also won 10 Grammys out of 52 nominations, the most recent of which coming in 2019 for the Best Country Solo Performance.
UTAH: David Archuleta
David Archuleta was born in Miami, Florida, but moved with his family to Salt Lake City, Utah, when he was a child.
Archuleta started his singing career by winning the children’s division of the Utah Talent Competition. This led to him winning the Junior Vocal Champion on the second season of “Star Search” in 2003 and eventually placing second on the 2008 season of “American Idol.” Archuleta has released eight studio albums and to date, his 2008 single “Crush” is his highest ranking single at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
VERMONT: Trey Anastasio
In addition to his work as guitarist and lead vocalist for the Grammy-nominated jam band Phish, Trey Anastasio, has released a score of solo albums and is a member of the band Oysterhead with Primus bassist Les Claypool and The Police drummer Stewart Copeland. He has also collaborated with the Grateful Dead, Dave Matthews, and Herbie Hancock, and has performed original compositions with orchestras around the country.
VIRGINIA: Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald, known as “The First Lady of Song,” was the most popular jazz singer for more than half a century, according to her website, and sold more than 40 million records. Known for her scat singing and dynamic range, Fitzgerald worked with many of the great performers of the 20th century including Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Frank Sinatra.
WASHINGTON: Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix’s guitar playing is among the most influential of all time, his albums are constantly ranked among the best in rock history, and his mark on the rock landscape is unforgettable. For many, Hendrix is the best to ever pick up the guitar, thanks in no small part to the innovations he brought to the instrument, included fuzz distortion and the wah-wah effect. Simply put there’s no denying that Hendrix, who was born in Seattle, is deserving of the most famous spot from Washington state.
WASHINGTON DC: Marvin Gaye
Dubbed the “Prince of Motown” Marvin Gaye originally burst onto the scene with hits like “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” to become one of the label’s brightest stars. Gaye dropped his biggest album, “What’s Going On,” in 1971 to critical acclaim. Subsequent albums like 1973’s “Let’s Get it On” and 1982’s “Midnight Love” yielded chart-topping hits and directly influenced the future of funk and R&B music.
Gaye won two Grammys out of 12 nominations and posthumously received the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 1996.
WEST VIRGINIA: Brad Paisley
Since his debut album “Who Needs Pictures” dropped in 1999, Brad Paisley has found nothing but success, winning three Grammys, two American Music Awards, 14 Academy of Country Music Awards, and 14 Country Music Association Awards, according to his website. The Glen Dale, West Virginia, native has had 32 songs reach the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart, 18 of which were No. 1 hits.
WISCONSIN: Justin Vernon (Bon Iver)
Hailing from Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Justin Vernon is known for his high-reaching falsetto and mix of traditional and boundary-pushing folk/indie rock songwriting. Vernon has found commercial and critical success as the singer and frontman of the indie rock band Bon Iver, which has won two Grammys out of eight nominations, including Best New Artist and Best Alternative Music Album for the group’s debut album “For Emma, Forever Ago,” which was recorded in a cabin in the woods of Wisconsin.
WYOMING: Scott Avett
Although his brother Seth was born in North Carolina, the state from which the band The Avett Brothers originates, Scott Avett was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The Grammy-nominated band Scott helped form is a delightful mix of bluegrass, folk, and indie rock known for its intimate sound and lyrics. The Avett Brothers have released 13 studio albums and EPs, the most recent of which, The Third Gleam, dropped in August 2020.