More often than not, where a band or musician is from can be a huge part of who they are and how their career is shaped. New Jersey isn’t just the home of Bruce Springsteen; New Jersey helped create Bruce Springsteen. And pretty much every state in the country has their own Bruce Springsteen, you just might not know who it is.
So, we’re here to help. Factoring in things like album sales, Grammy wins, and numbers pulled from the Recording Industry Association of America’s (RIAA) list of the best-selling music artists in the United States, as well as some other less concrete factors, we compiled a list of the band or musician that best represents each state. Let’s get started.
And we start with a fairly obvious one. Alabama got together in 1969 in Fort Payne, Alabama, originally under the moniker Wildcountry. They changed their name to Alabama in 1977 and they have more than 30 No. 1 country records. Alabama owned the 1980s: 27 No. 1 hits, seven multi-platinum albums. All told, Alabama has sold more than 75 million records. In 2006, they called it quits, only to regroup in 2010. They have been touring ever since.
Jewel was not born in Alaska. She was born in Utah which, in all fairness, occasionally resembles Alaska. You know, the mountains. But Jewel did move to Alaska when she was young and was raised by her father in the great white north. In 1994, she released her debut album, Pieces of You, one of the best-selling debut records of all-time. Jewel has sold more than 27 million albums and received four Grammy nominations. In recent years, she has released a country album and served as a judge on a couple different singing competition reality shows.
Arizona: Stevie Nicks
Born in Phoenix in 1948, Nicks moved around a lot as a child before meeting Lindsey Buckingham when she was a senior in high school in California. It would be about five or six years before they would both join Fleetwood Mac in 1975. When you add up her time with the Mac and her long solo career, Nicks has sold more than 140 million albums. Rolling Stone included her in their list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All-Time, and Nicks has been nominated for eight Grammys as a soloist. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988.
Arkansas: Johnny Cash
Even though he is closely associated with Tennessee, where he moved to in 1954, the Man in Black was born in Kingsland, Arkansas in 1932. Cash has been inducted into three different halls of fame: the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He’s sold more than 50 million albums and won 11 Grammys. Johnny Cash died in 2003.
California: The Eagles
The Eagles beat out The Beach Boys, The Grateful Dead, Fleetwood Mac, Metallica, and more. When it comes to The Eagles, I for one, definitely subscribe to the Tao of the Dude, but based on their record sales, I’m in the minority here. The band has sold more than 150 million albums, 40 million of which are Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) album. Since forming in L.A. in 1971, they have six No. 1 albums, as well as six Grammys.
Colorado: John Denver
Sorry, John Denver was born in New Mexico, not Colorado. But come on, it totally feels like he is and he did spend the majority of his life living in Aspen. The case for John Denver is pretty simple. He was named Colorado’s Poet Laureate in 1974, and his song “Rocky Mountain High” was named a state song by the Colorado legislature in 2007. I’m sorry, but 3OH!3 isn’t going to win this one. John Denver released more than 300 songs during his career, nearly 200 of which were original compositions,and his album sales exceed 33 million. Denver died in a plane crash in 1997.
Connecticut: Michael Bolton
New Haven, Connecticut: home of Yale University and Michael Bolton. One has a history of playing in metal bands, the other doesn’t. I bet you can’t guess which one. John Mayer is also from Connecticut and was in the running to represent his home state, but Mayer can’t compete with Bolton’s numbers: more than 75 million albums sold, eight top 10 albums, the voice of angel. Maybe next time, Johnny Boy.
Delaware: George Thorogood
Joe Biden might be rock ‘n roll, but he’s no George Thorogood and therefore, not Delaware’s representative here. Thorogood, born in Wilmington in 1950, started courting fame in the late ’70s with his fierce guitar playing and boogie rock tendencies, eventually riding the success of songs like “Bad to the Bone” and “I Drink Alone.” Backed by The Destroyers, Thorogood has released more than 20 albums and sold 15 million records. In 1981, he embarked on the 50/50 tour, in which he set out to play a show in each state in 50 days. And because he’s George Thorogood, he pulled it off, even fitting in Washington, D.C. on the day he played in Maryland.
Florida: Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers
Since coming out of Gainesville in the ’70s, Petty and The Heartbreakers have sold more than 80 million albums. Seeing as how Orlando is where almost every American boy band comes from, it’s kind of a small miracle Petty emerges as Florida’s representative. Hey, maybe rock ‘n roll isn’t dead after all?
I thought Georgia would belong to Ray Charles, but as in most cases, I was wrong. It’s all about Outkast, one of the most successful acts in the history of music, let alone hip-hop. Andre 3000 and Big Boi teamed up in Atlanta in 1992 and have sold more than 25 million albums – two of which, Aquemini and Stankonia, have been ranked by both Rolling Stone and Pitchfork as two of the best albums of that era. Outkast was nominated for 16 Grammys, taking home six. They went on hiatus in 2007, returning for a summer of shows in 2014. Andre 3000 has recently turned to acting, while Big Boi recently released a collaboration with the electronic rock duo Phantogram called Big Grams.
Hawaii: Bruno Mars
Not Jack Johnson, not Pepper, not even Hawaiian legend Don Ho could go toe-to-toe with Honolulu-native Bruno Mars. Did you know Mars was so successful? I didn’t. I knew he was pretty successful. But that’s selling the dude short. Since 2010, Mars has had five No. 1 singles and has sold more than 10 million albums. Yet if you count records he was involved with as either a singer and/or producer, that number jumps to 100 and 30 million. Lesson learned: Don’t underestimate Bruno Mars.
Idaho: Paul Revere and The Raiders
Don’t lie. You think of Idaho, you think of potatoes. You certainly don’t think about music. But hey, if you did, you’d be thinking about Paul Revere and The Raiders, who were huge in the ’60s and early ’70s. From Boise, the band’s song “Indian Reservation” was one of Columbia Records biggest sellers in the ’70s. You know the song, CheROkeeeee People, CheROkeeee tribe. Yeah, that song. That’s them. They’re from Idaho. Pretty cool, huh?
Chicago, originally going by the Chicago Transit Authority, got together in… you guessed it, Chicago in 1967. We can only imagine that other possible band names were the Chicago Public Works Department, the Chicago Parking Authority, the Chicago Municipal Building and the Chicago Parks and Recreation Department. Original band name be damned, though, because Chicago sold themselves some records, specifically more than 100 million of them. They had five No. 1 albums, 21 top-10 singles and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015. Their song “Colour My World” was also my parents’ wedding song, so yeah, points all around for Chicago with apologies to runner-up Earth, Wind and Fire.
Indiana: Michael Jackson
What is it about Indiana that they were able to produce two absolute legends in their respected fields: Larry Bird and Michael Jackson? MJ and the rest of his family came from Gary, Indiana and yes, The Jackson Five are definitely worth taking note of when discussing famous musicians from Indiana, it’s all about the King of Pop. His album, Thriller, is still the best-selling album of all-time, having sold more than 65 million copies. Jackson won 13 Grammys, 26 American Music awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as a member of The Jackson Five and as a solo artist. Overall, Jackson has sold more than 400 million albums worldwide. Jackson died in 2009.
Iowa: The Everly Brothers
If you don’t know who the Everly Brothers are, there is a really good chance your parents do. Phil (born in Chicago) and Don (born in Kentucky) Everly grew up in Iowa and their harmonies were a huge influence on the Beatles, among others. They had 35 Top 100 singles on Billboard’s charts, which is the most ever for a duo. The Everly Brothers have been inducted into both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Spoiler alert: Kansas is not the last band to share a name with the geographical location they are linked to that will appear on this list. But with that out of the way, let’s give it up for Kansas, who formed in the early ’70s in Topeka, first as The Reasons Why before changing their name to Kansas a few years later. The prog-rock legends who gave us “Carry on Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind” appeared on Billboard charts for more than 200 weeks throughout the 1970s and 1980s, having eight of their albums certified gold. Rest easy, though, Kansas is still going strong. In September 2015, they signed with Inside Out Music, a German record label, and recently released their 15 studio album, Somewhere to Elsewhere.
Kentucky: Loretta Lynn
I was pulling for My Morning Jacket here, but Loretta Lynn, a country music icon, has some serious stats that Jim James’ crew just couldn’t compete with. A native of Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, the 83-year-old Lynn is one of the most decorated female country music artists, having written more than 160 songs and released 60 albums. Sixty! Lynn has sold 45 million copies of those 60 records and has 10 No. 1 albums and 16 No. 1 singles on the country charts. Her 1967 song “Don’t Come Home a’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)” is not just good advice, but a song that was certified gold, making her the first woman in country music to achieve such a milestone.
Louisiana: Harry Connick, Jr.
If these designations were awarded based on influence, I’d be here all day kicking around who should represent Louisiana, struggling to determine who from the vibrant and deep New Orleans scene should represent the state. But seeing as how album sales are driving this bus, we’re giving the nod to Harry Connick, Jr., who has tallied more No. 1 albums than any artist in the history of jazz. More than just Will Smith’s buddy in Independence Day, Connick has sold more than 28 million albums world-wide, 16 here in the United States. He has seven top 20 albums and 10 of his albums have claimed the No. 1 spot on U.S. jazz charts.
Maine: Rustic Overtones
Based in sunny Portland, Maine, Rustic Overtones’ owned the late ’90s in Maine before getting noticed by Clive Davis, who signed them to Arista Records. The band ended up being collateral damage when Davis left the label in 1999 and Rustic broke up a few years later, not before being the first band to ever perform live on XM Satellite Radio. Rustic Overtones reunited in 2007 and have released three albums since then.
Maryland: Toni Braxton
Sorry, Jimmie’s Chicken Shack, but there’s no way you can stack up against the 67 million albums Braxton has sold worldwide. And sorry, Sisqo, but while “Thong Song” will forever hold a special place in all of hearts, Ms. Toni Braxton is rocking a trophy case that holds seven Grammys, nine Billboard Music awards and seven American Music awards.
See, I told you we’d have one more band that shares a name with the geographical location that is from the state they would go on to represent. Boston crushed the ’70s. Their debut album sold 17 million copies and overall, and they’ve sold more than 31 million albums. You might be asking yourself, Hey, what about Aerosmith? To which I respond, just wait.
I forgot Madonna was from Michigan and was ready to give Michigan to either Eminem or one of the Motown groups. Don’t I feel foolish. Madonna, a native of Bay City, Michigan, is kind of a big deal. Just ask Guinness, who has declared her the best-selling female recording artist of all-time. Or you could ask Billboard, who have her down as the top touring female artist of all-time. Madonna has sold an astonishing 300 million albums worldwide, which is a major feat regardless of gender or geographical location.
Born in Minneapolis in 1958, it’s still kind of crazy that of all places for Prince to be from, it’s Minnesota. It feels like it’d make more sense if you were to tell me he was from an undiscovered planet, just west of Jupiter. Or Florida. I could see Prince being from Florida. He’s from Minnesota, though, and he represents the state incredibly well, having sold more than one hundred million albums world-wide. His award collection is also remarkably diverse, snagging not only seven Grammys, but an Academy award and a Golden Globe. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004 and given his mysterious nature, might be standing behind you as you read this.
Mississippi: Elvis Presley
The King was born in Tupelo in 1935 and among the many things he accomplished during his career that spanned a couple decades was become the best-selling artist in the history of recorded music. At last count he had sold over six hundred million albums. As for the number of oil paintings he inspired? To be honest, it’s far too many to count.
Missouri: Ike & Tina Turner
In the 1970s, Ike and Tina Turner were a R&B power house, and they made a name for themselves destroying stages all across the country. Unfortunately, Ike’s drug use destroyed their relationship and it would take a few years for Tina to regain her footing and establish a solo career. But they were their strongest working in tandem, fronting the Ike & Tina Turner Revue and earning a Grammy for their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.” They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. Ike Turner died in 2007.
Montana: Jeff Ament
For all we know, there could be a bevy of talented musicians hanging out up there in Montana, enjoying the wide open terrain that the state has to offer. But if there are a lot of bands up there, none of them have failed to make much noise nationally, which is why we turn to Montana native Jeff Ament, bassist for Pearl Jam, to represent the state. Ament grew up in Big Sandy, Montana, a town of seven hundred and later attended the University of Montana. He left the school after two years, relocating to Seattle, where he went from Green River to Mother Love Bone to eventually Pearl Jam.
Wait, 311 is from Nebraska? Yes, yes they are. You thought they were from California. Or maybe Arizona. But the rap/reggae/rock pioneers are from lovely Omaha, Nebraska, home of the College World Series and those delicious steaks your uncle sends you for the holidays. 311 formed in 1988 and have been touring sheds around the country ever since. They are one of the few bands out there who don’t necessarily need a new album to support in order to tour, as evidence by their annual Unity tour, which happens every summer. If 311 is playing, there will be a crowd. It might not be your crowd, but it’ll be a crowd nonetheless.
Nevada: The Killers
Coming together in Las Vegas in 2001, the Killers have sold more than 22 million albums worldwide, all while confusing the heck out of me with their lyrics. No really, they have. I can’t be the only one who thinks that the majority of their lyrics make absolutely no sense. Confusing lyrics aside, though, you can’t argue with the band’s success, which includes being nominated for seven Grammys, seven BRIT awards and 24 NME awards. The Killers are currently working on a new album, their first since 2012.
New Hampshire: Aerosmith
Plot twist! Aerosmith, the “bad boys from Boston” are actually from New Hampshire. Yeah, it’s true. Steven Tyler met Joe Perry and bassist Tom Hamilton after Perry and Hamilton had played a show in Sunapee, New Hampshire. Shortly after, the initial incarnation of Aerosmith would move south to Boston. But yeah, Aerosmith started in New Hampshire and thus, are New Hampshire’s representative. And they’re certainly not a bad band to have represent your state, what with them selling more than 150 million albums world-wide, 70 here in the states, making them the best-selling American rock band. They have 25 gold albums, 21 top 40 hits on Billboard charts and have won four Grammys. Aerosmith, the secret pride of the Granite State, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2001.
New Jersey: Bruce Springsteen
Springsteen doesn’t need Chris Christie, he has all of New Jersey. And America, but that’s for another day. The Boss was born in Long Branch, a Jersey Shore town up the road from Asbury Park, where he earned his strips and met his future band mates. Springsteen remains a New Jersey resident but has a come along way since his early days at the Stone Pony. A member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 1999, he has sold more than 120 million albums world-wide, at least sixty five million in the United States. He has won 20 Grammys, two Golden Globes and one Academy award because Springsteen is nothing if not well-rounded.
New Mexico: The Shins
The Shins formed in Albuquerque in 1996, but things got rolling for them when Garden State came out in 2004. Their inclusion on the movie’s soundtrack helped gain them some mainstream success and was a main reason for their third album, 2007’s Wincing the Night Away getting as high as number two on the Billboard 200 list. The Shins’ frontman James Mercer is also one half of Broken Bells, his collaboration with Danger Mouse.
New York: Billy Joel
So many great bands and musicians came out of New York that thank God I had something like concrete numbers to help guide me. Those numbers are what separate Billy Joel from the likes of The Beastie Boys, The Ramones, Run-DMC, Paul Simon and so many others. Born in the Bronx in 1949, Joel’s career is a beast. He’s been nominated for a Grammy 23 times, winning six times, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999, and has sold more than 150 million albums world-wide. Joel is also the only artist to perform at both the old Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium and in 2013, he signed on to play a show at Madison Square Garden once a month for an undetermined amount of time.
North Carolina: Charlie Daniels
A giant of country music, Daniels was born in Leland, North Carolina in 1936. Daniels is best known for “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which he won a Grammy for in 1979. In 2008, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in 2009.
North Dakota: Lawrence Welk
When I hear or see the words “Lawrence Welk,” I think of my grandmother. That woman loved Lawrence Welk and his television show, which ran from 1951 to 1982. Welk has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is a member of the International Polka Hall of Fame, which is something a fellow North Dakotan, Wiz Khalifa, should probably strive for. Nothing says street cred in the rap game like inclusion in the International Polka Hall of Fame.
Ohio: The Black Keys
Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach formed the Black Keys in Akron, Ohio in 2001 and have gone from one of the smallest bands in the world (like, literally; they only have two members) to one of the biggest bands in the world (not literally, in a way, but kind of). They have been nominated for 15 Grammys and have won seven of them, making themselves public enemy number one for all the Bielebers out there along the way. Their last album, Turn Blue, debuted at number one in both the U.S. and Australia and sold 164,000 copies in the first week. Oh, and they sponsored a little league baseball team in Akron.
Oklahoma: Garth Brooks
I think we can all agree that collectively, we all kind of forgot how incredibly popular Garth Brooks was back in the day. That dude was a touring and album-selling machine. The Tulsa-native is the second best-selling artist in the United States, in front of Elvis Presley and behind The Beatles. He has sold 135 million albums in the states, 150 million world-wide. He has won two Grammys and 17 American Music awards. He is reportedly working on new material after a few years off.
I can sing almost all of “Santa Monica” right now. I won’t even have to try that hard. The lyrics have stuck with me like the wonderfully sweet memories of my first kiss or the pain of watching season one of The Wire for the first time. Everclear may have released more than two albums, but to me they’ve only ever released those first two: Sparkle and Fade (1995), So Much for the Afterglow (1997). Sparkle and Fade made it as high as number 25 on the charts, going platinum in the United States and Canada, while So Much for the Afterglow was certified double platinum.
Pennsylvania: Boyz II Men
Taylor Swift is from Pennsylvania and before doing any kind of research, I just assumed it would be her. It’s Philly’s own Boyz II Men, though. And by a lot, actually. Their song “End of the Road” was number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for a record thirteen weeks, breaking Elvis Presley’s record. They are only the third artist (after the Beatles and Elvis) to replace themselves at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, which is what happened when “On Bended Knee” replaced “I’ll Make Love to You” in 1994. Now a trio, the group continues to tour and record.
Rhode Island: The Talking Heads
Even though they are so closely aligned and associated with the New York New Wave scene of the late ’70s, the Talking Heads got together a few states over in Rhode Island. The band formed when members David Byrne, Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth were all students at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1974. Members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame since 2002, their songs “Psycho Killer,” “Life During Wartime,” and “Once in a Lifetime” were all included among the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of the five hundred songs that shaped rock ‘n roll.
South Carolina: Hootie and The Blowfish
A lot happened in 1994. O.J. Simpson had his White Bronco moment, Nancy Kerrigan had her Tonya Harding moment, Major League Baseball had their strike moment. All of those things happened with one continuously-playing album providing the soundtrack: Cracked Rear View by Hootie and The Blowfish. Darius Rucker might have fashioned himself a decent little career in country music, but Hootie is where he got his start. Coming together at the University of South Carolina in 1986, the band’s debut album, Cracked Rear View, became the 16th best-selling album of all-time and was certified platinum 16 times. The band won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 1996.
South Dakota: Shawn Colvin
Shawn Colvin sang that song, “Sunny Came Home.” You know it because somehow your dentist office still plays it whenever you are there. The native of Vermillion, South Dakota won two Grammys for the song and over the course of her career has been nominated ten times.
Tennessee: Dolly Parton
I’m just going to list Parton’s stats. No commentary. They speak for themselves. Twenty-five RIAA certified Gold, Platinum, Multi-Platinum albums, 25 songs that reached number one on the Billboard country music charts, 41 top-10 albums, eight Grammys, two Academy awards, 46 Grammy nominations. Parton has been nominated for a Grammy, Oscar, Tony and an Emmy. Take that, Tracy Jordan.
Texas: Kenny Rogers
Willie Nelson, ZZ Top and even Beyonce take a back seat to Kenny Rogers. The Houston native and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame has sold more than 120 million albums world-wide and charted more than 120 singles. He’s won a slew of Academy of Country Music awards, American Music awards and Grammys. He recently retired, except for the occasional Geico commercial.
Utah: The Osmonds
Presumably the only Mormons on this list (although, would you be that surprised if you found out Prince was a Mormon), The Osmonds from Ogden, Utah, started out as a barbershop quartet before eventually morphing into a vehicle for teen sensations Donny and Marie Osmond. The Donny and Marie Show ran from for three years in the mid-’70s, folding soon after the family built an elaborate television studio in Ogden. The Osmonds as a whole sold a bunch of albums, though, at least 102 million.
The traditional metrics don’t really apply when it comes to Vermont because Phish is synonymous with Vermont. They get the nod here, even though they don’t have the album sales used to judge bands in other states. They do, however, have their very own ice cream flavor: Phish Food from Ben & Jerry’s, and that should count for something. So should a track record of playing more than 1,600 shows since they got together in 1983 at the University of Vermont and never having played the same set twice. They also play a heck of a Halloween show.
Virginia: Dave Matthews Band
It’s almost hard to believe that it’s been more than 20 years since Virginia’s Dave Matthews Band released their breakthrough album, Under the Table and Dreaming. Somehow it feels like they’ve been around for so much longer than that. And by longer, I mean even before they first got together in Charlottesville in 1991. A summer without a DMB tour passing through your area is would seem as strange and lonely as a day going by now without a new Star Wars trailer being dropped. Thankfully the band has shown no signs of slowing down, despite losing saxophonist LeRoi Moore, who died in 2008. The band has sold more than 30 million albums during their career and are the only band to have six-consecutive studio albums debut at number one on the Billboard charts.
When it comes to choosing a band to represent Washington, you know it’s going to be a grunge band, and with that being decided, you then can safely assume that band is going to be Nirvana, although Pearl Jam would be close behind (hey, at least Pearl Jam will always have Montana). Nirvana came together in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987, and during their unfortunately short career, recorded albums that have sold more than 75 million copies worldwide. The single that introduced them to the bulk of humanity, “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” has sold an amazing eight million copies. Nirvana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.
West Virginia: Brad Paisley
West Virginia: wild and wonderful, home of Randy Moss and Brad Paisley. Born in Glen Dale, West Virginia in 1972, Paisley has had 32 of his singles make the top 10 of the Billboard country music charts and has sold more than 14 million albums. Paisley, a member of the Grand Ole Opry, has scored three Grammys and 14 Country Music Association awards.
Wisconsin: Violent Femmes
Daaaaaaay, after daaaaaay…the Violent Femmes have a handful of tunes that will stick with me forever. They came together in Milwaukee in 1980 and even though they are still out there touring today, made the most lasting impact on music in 1983, when they released their self-titled debut album, which has gone on to be certified platinum. Overall, they’ve sold more than 10 million albums and have gotten “Blister in the Sun” stuck in our head at least 57 times.
Wyoming: Chris LeDoux
LeDoux was born in Mississippi, but his family set up camp in Wyoming when he was in high school. I can say with 100 percent certainty that he is the only person to appear on this list who was not only a professional bull rider, but a member of the Rodeo Hall of Fame. LeDoux recorded 36 albums, the majority of which he released on his own and has sold at least six million copies of them. A big influence on Garth Brooks, LeDoux passed away in 2005.