America's most musical cities

25 April 2021, 18:00

Stars from the States: Blondie, Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana
Stars from the States: Blondie, Green Day, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nirvana. Picture: GAB Archive/Redferns/Michael Caulfield/AMA2009/Getty Images for DCP/Gie Knaeps/Michel Linssen/Redferns/Getty Images

Which parts of the USA have had the most success when it comes to music?

Radio X looks at the stars and the songs of the United States of America.

  1. New York, New York

    In the 1960s, NYC was the home of the Brill Building, the "song factory" where writers Burt Bacharach & Hal David, Neil Diamond, Carole King and many others penned some of the era's greatest hits. At the same time, the city had a thriving underground scene: Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel came out of the Greenwich Village folk clubs, while later in the decade, The Velvet Underground were the coolest band from New York's art world.

    The 1970s saw punk blossom in New York, with acts such as Talking Heads, Ramones and Blondie playing the legendary CBGB club, while the 80s saw NY bands as diverse as Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth and De La Soul find fame. With the dawn of the 21st Century came the new wave of new wave: The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Interpol, while James Murphy's LCD Soundsystem kept New York's influential club scene in the public eye.

  2. Boston, Massachusetts

    In the 70s, the East Coast city spawned Aerosmith and Boston (of course), plus the New Wave legends The Cars. In the 1980s, Boston became an alt.rock haven, first with the hugely influential Mission Of Burma, then with The Lemonheads and UMass graduates the Pixies.

  3. Los Angeles, California

    Los Angeles is home to Hollywood, of course, and UCLA, which is where The Doors formed in 1966. While LA was seen as a decadent place to record your album in the 70s, metal took hold in a big way in the 1980s, courtesy of Guns N'Roses, Mötley Crüe and Megadeth.

    LA is still home to the heavier side of rock with Rage Against The Machine, Linkin Park and The Offspring breaking through in the early 2000s. No survey of the city's music scene should overlook the area's rap and hip hop acts: NWA, Snoop Dogg, Ice T and Ice Cube to name just a few.

  4. Detroit, Michigan

    The Motor City gave the world the Motown label and all the incredible artists that came with it: Marvin Gaye, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, The Temptations, Smokey Robinson and many more. The decade also saw the frantic garage tunes of The MC5 and The Stooges.

    In the 80s, Detroit became known for techno, thanks to the DJing and production skills of Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson and Derrick May and others who changed the face of music.

    In the new millennium, Detroit again became the coolest city in America when The White Stripes led the vanguard of bluesy, punky garage rock, accompanied by The Von Bondies, The Dirtbombs, Electric Six and more.

  5. Seattle, Washington

    Jimi Hendrix was probably the most famous musician to come out of Seattle until the end of the 1980s when grunge made its way across the globe. The term was coined by the Seattle label Sub Pop and early practitioners included Soundgarden, Mudhoney and Screaming Trees, but it was the work of Nirvana and Pearl Jam that turned the genre into an international phenomenon.

    Seattle has tried to shake off the grunge tag in the past 25 years and many excellent artists hail from the Washington state area, including Fleet Foxes The Postal Service and Death Cab For Cutie.

  6. Nashville, Tennessee

    Nashville is, of course, home to country music, with artists as diverse as Dolly Parton, Dusty Springfield, Bob Dylan and Taylor Swift all heading to the city to record.

    In the 21st Century, Nashville is known for being the home of bands such as The Raconteurs, Mona and Kings Of Leon. Jack White's Third Man Recording label is housed there and Paramore and Miley Cyrus both hail from nearby Franklin.

  7. Memphis, Tennessee

    Memphis is the birthplace of the blues, and home to the influential rock 'n' roll label Sun Records whose roster included BB King, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison. Soul was also huge in Memphis, with many great names like Otis Redding, Booker T & The MGs, Al Green and Sam & Dave all associated with the city. Tina Turner hails from Nutbush, just to the North East of Memphis.

    Of course, the most legendary musical icon to have roots in Memphis is Elvis Presley, who moved to the city when he was 13 years old and died there at his home Graceland in 1977.

  8. Chicago, Illinois

    Chicago had a busy blues scene featuring Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and influential musicians including Buddy Guy and R&B pioneer Bo Diddley. Soul and funk were also hot in Chicago with acts such as Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, The Chi-Lites and Earth Wind & Fire all hailing from the city.

    In the 1980s, Chicago became famous for house music - the Warehouse, which gave the movement its name, was situated on 206 South Jefferson Street. The city also has a heritage of rock, including Smashing Pumpkins, Alkaline Trio, The Jesus Lizard, Plain White T's, OK Go and Fall Out Boy all having links to the area.

  9. Minneapolis, Minnesota

    Minneapolis is most famous for being the home of Prince, and his studio, Paisley Park, remains as a shrine to the multi-talented performer and musician.

    Other bands to hail from the city include the influential Hüsker Dü and The Replacements, Semisonic, Babes In Toyland, Soul Asylum, The Jayhawks and Low. Rapper and songwriter Lizzo was born in Detroit, but moved to Minneapolis aged 23, where she started her first groups, Lizzo & the Larva Ink and The Chalice.

  10. San Francisco, California

    In the mid 1960s, San Francisco became the hub of the USA's hippie counter-culture and many of the new movement's biggest artists came together for the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, kicking off the modern rock festival as we know it. Local bands included Jefferson Airplane, Sly & The Family Stone, Big Brother & The Holding Company (with Janis Joplin) and the gurus of the scene, The Grateful Dead.

    In more recent years, SF is known for rock bands like Metallica, Green Day, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Faith No More, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Papa Roach and many more.

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