What State Has The Most Music Diversity?

As I have listened to a wide variety of roots music over many decades, I am constantly amazed at how much the musicians from Texas have affected the music world.  Not only does it have a large stable of great songwriters, epecially in the country field, but many genres may have been started in that great state (western swing, honky tonk, and maybe zydeco).  I was trying to think of some reasons why any state has so many great musicians of many styles.  Large population, large size and geographic diversity may be important in the case of Texas and California, as well as cultural diversity. 

Tennessee not only has country and bluegrass centered around Nashville but jazz and blues in Memphis.  Louisiana would also be in the top tier due to cultural diversity.   I would put my homestate, North Carolina, just below this top tier as we have moderately large size and diversity and a large higher education exposure, especially in the Triangle,  which brings in students and musicians from other states who choose to stay.  Our music ranges from old spoken English ballads from the mountain hollers to sea shanties on the coast with alt. country, folk (Doc Watson) , pop rock, bluegrass (Earl Scruggs) in between.


What other states come to mind and what do you think are some of the reasons for their contribution to the music world?   The city of Chicago is almost a state of its own and has wonderful jazz and blues history.   

Ernest Tubb, Gene Autry and Tex Ritter are from Texas, too

I think Buck Owens started in the Seattle area, too

Some examples of North Carolina's roots music diversity:

(1)  0ld English ballads performed by generations of singers from isolated mountains hollows in Madison County on Tennessee border, with some songs containing dozens of verses

(2)  sea shanties sung by african american singers in coastal fishing villages

(3)  festivals including Merlefest, Union Grove Fiddler's Convention, and 2013-15 stint of IBMA annual conference.

(4) mali rock, zydeco, and funk band along side the great bluegrass artists in the vibrant mountain town of Asheville

(5) birthplace of Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson and many early bluegrass artists performed on WPTF in Raleigh.

(6) Sam Bush is alleged to have hung out in Raleigh in early-80’s and picked up idea of progressive bluegrass from New Deal String Band.

(7) Sugar Hill Records label started in Durham by transplant Barry Poss.

(8) Durham tobacco warehouses were major venue for Piedmont blues artists such as Rev. Gary Davis, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and Blind Boy Fuller.  Libba Cotton.

(9) Raleigh clubs were active in alt-country scene of 1990’s with Ryan Adams, Caitlin Cary, Tift Merritt.

(10) Selected other artists with NC connection:  Nappy Brown, Bob Margolin, Nikki Hill,  Carolina Chocolate Drops, Jimmy Herring, Warren Haynes, gospel star Shirley Cesar, Red Clay Ramblers, Thelonius Monk, George Clinton, Link Wray, Randy Travis, Avett Brothers, Jim Lauderdale, Max Roach, Mitch Easter, James Taylor, Ben Folds, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Nina Simone, the db’s, John Coltrane, David Holt, Scott Ainslie.

  Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee are the contenders. My case for all three involves their diversity in musical traditions that turning out musicians that continue to keep the music alive as well as expanding it. New york and California are incredibly diverse, but most of the styles have come from elsewhere.

I believe the hands down winner must be  the state of Louisiana .  Not only have they given us their (nearly) unique  versions of Cajun and Zydeco they have abundant versions of Rhythm and Blues, Country, Soul,  Jazz and a variety of Blues styles and the more mainstream rock, bluegrass and of course Americana.

I'm surprised by the responses to this question.  I'll grant that both Nashville and Austin are more musically  diverse than many people assume, but really for CURRENT DIVERSITY I seriously doubt that any states can seriously compete with California and New York.  As a Bay Area resident I can say that there is a very vigorous jazz scene (traditional, modern, and avant-garde flavors), a strong bluegrass and country (admittedly more bluegrass) community, and jam-band, rock and hip-hop bases as well as a couple of gamelan groups, a major center for Indian music, Mariachi festivals etc etc.  World class venues (Shoreline, SFJazz, Freight and Salvage, etc) for visiting musicians too.  Throw in what goes on in LA and San Diego and we can probably give NYC a run for its money.  And if you want to start throwing in 50 years of history like some of the replies, well we've got that too - too much to list.  No offence, but ....

Kinky Friedman, Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Lyle Lovett, Kelly Willis, Jimmie Vaughan, Junior Brown, Joe Ely, Willie Nelson, Bill Kirchen, Gary Clark Jr, Rosie Flores, Jimmie Dale Gilmore or Dale Watson. Ghosts of Waylon Jennings, Doug Sahm, Ann Richards, Lightnin' Hopkins,Townes Van Zandt, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Hoss... once your down in Texas, Bob Wills is still the King!
Further thoughts: Born in New York City, have lived most my life in Connecticut though. Connecticut is a pretty weak I'm afraid for music. Karen Carpenter and Michael Bolton. Mississippi deserves a shout out for John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Sonny Boy Williamson, Jimmie Rodgers, Faith Hill. Missouri gave us Chuck Berry, Sara Evans and Sheryl Crow. My California favorites Little Feat, Sly and the Family Stone, Dwight Yoakam, Randy Newman and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Georgia has Otis Redding, James Brown, Little Richard, Ray Charles. The B52's, Georgia Sattelites and REM too. Possibly Allman Brothers. Louisiana boasts Fats Domino, the Meters, Neville Brothers, Branford, Wynton and Ellis Marsalis, Professor Longhair, Dr John, Irma Thomas, Boozoo Chavis, Louis Armstrong, King Oliver, Harry Conick Jr, Slim Harpo and Louis Primo.

Yeah Jersey Rocks Sue!!

"Greetings from Asbury Park" by Bruce will always be one of my favorite albums!!!  I think I need to revisit it now!!


Thanks for the direction!!



New Jersey Hasn't done bad:

Frank Sinatra, The Shirelles, The Four Seasons,  Connie Francis, Ricky Nelson,  Lesley Gore, Bruce Springsteen, Bon Jovi, The Rascals , Paper Cut, The Fugees, The Jonas Brothers, Whitney Houston, The Smithereens, David Sancious.  Deborah Harry, Kate Pierson , Phoebe Snow, Gary Wright, Janis Ian, Willie "The Lion" Smith, Count Basie, Wayne Shorter, Sarah Vaughan, Bill Evans, Al Di Meola,, Nick Lucas,  Joe Pass,  Bucky Pizzarelli, The Sugarhill Gang,  Naughty By Nature,  Queen Latifah, The Misfits

Yeah,  I am remiss for not mentioning Bob!!!  Thanks Dave and I apologize for the rest of the great Michigan Muscians I neglected to mention as well!!!


Old Time Rock On!!!



Tommy, you're right, Michigan has a lot to offer.  How about native son Bob Seger, a guy who for a while helped keep the tradition of "old fashioned rock and roll" alive (in contrast to the today's rock without the roll)?

Hey Dave I also have to put in a plug for my home state of Michigan.  While not as diverse as a lot of others we had some great stuff. i.e. Motown, Funk, Punk, Rock, Blues, Jazz.  We had Question Mark and the Mysterians, Ted Nugent, Grand Funk Railroad, Iggy Pop, Alice Cooper, the whole Motown Thang, Cactus with Jim McCarty and Carmine Apice, Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels.  John Lee Hooker lived her for a spell and Son House died in Detroit!.....and J. Geils used to claim Detroit as their home eventhough they were from Boston.


Rock On!



Cool question Dave.  I have not given this much thought but I too recently have gained a deeper appreciation for Texas.  I went to Threadgills in Austin....this place is a virtual music museum with photos of so many artists on the walls.  The artists come from Country, Blues and Rock mostly.  But what is cool is to see Blues dude Mance Lipscomb hanging out with country artists.  Then see Bruce Springsteen when he gigged Threadgils etc.  I would have loved to hang out circa late 60's and through 1980 to see the overlap of Rock, Country and Blues folk at Threadgills!!  It must have been a magical time.  Of course Janis Joplin and SRV went through there with a huge number of other greats.  It seemed to be a meeting place and melting pot of different music genres, folks and styles!!!  Texas = Music Gumbo!!!





Very impressive Kyla!  It is hard to top the Northwest.  This is what I was hoping for.

Maybe a few others would include soul blues man Curtis Salgado from Eugene, accoustic blues of Kelly Joe Phelps, and electric blues band Too Slim and the Taildraggers, originally from Spokane but now in Nashville.  One of my favorite blues CD's at local public radio station is a set of recordings from Safeway Waterfront Blues Festival in Portland (1993).  A lot of good regional acts are on this CD. 

Glad you mentioned Chicago in the original post!!  Expanding to all of Illinois and going beyond Blues and Jazz:


Blues goes electric in Chicago

"Famous jazz musicians originally from Illinois include Miles Davis (from Alton, Illinois near St. Louis), Benny Goodman, Ramsey Lewis, and Herbie Hancock. "

Birthplace of House music

Wax Trax (Industrial)

Alison Krauss, Uncle Tupelo, Wilco, Son Volt

"Burl Ives, hailing from downstate Illinois, helped popularize folk music, with releases beginning in the 1940s."


Punk and Post-Punk

Post-rock (Tortoise)

Andrew Bird

Jim O'Rourke

The Chicago Symphony Orchsetra (esp.with Sir George Solti and Claudio Abbado)

Hip Hop - "Kanye WestCommonChief Keef,TwistaRhymefestR. Kelly, and Lupe Fiasco."

Let's not mention S****ing P*****kins or F*** O** B*y

On a separate note this reminded me that there is a great feature story on Bonnie Guitar in the ND archive. It's a good read.

Seattle and the Pacific Northwest have a long rich musical history that have produced chart toppers in all realms of musical styles.  I found this on the Seattle City Of Music Website:

The Northwest’s most notable talents, however, were not visitors or recent emigrants at all, but rather, our own native sons and daughters. Among those who the expansive world of music has embraced are Bing Crosby (the “world’s most recognized voice”); Mildred Bailey (“the first female big-band vocalist”); Bonnie Guitar (‘50s country/pop star & pioneering female producer); the Ventures (world’s most successful instrumental rock band); the Brothers Four and Chad Mitchell Trio (hit-making folkies); the Kingsmen (purveyors of the region’s signature song, “Louie Louie”); the Sonics (‘60s garage/punk pioneers); Jimi Hendrix (psychedelic bluesman); Larry Coryell (jazz fusion guitar pioneer); Heart (hard rockers); Mark O’Conner (fiddle virtuoso); Danny O’Keefe (folkie songwriter), Robert Cray (superstar bluesman); Queensrÿche (heavy metal heroes); Sir Mix-A-Lot (hip-hop star); and Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana (gods of the 1980s-1990s grunge scene). On an equally as impressive level, the Seattle Symphony has in the last couple decades earned a reputation as one of the world’s most-recorded orchestras.

I would add Macklemore, Brandi Carlile, Neko Case, Fleet Foxes, Kenny G and Bill Frisell to that list.

Ray Charles recorded his first single in Seattle and did his first radio and TV appearance here and Woody Guthrie had several lengthy stays in the area.

Top that!

Kim, I thought about New York due to size and cultural diversity but did not know how to discuss the various genres prevalent in NYC. I was hoping someone else would make the case.

Is New York too obvious? 



My home state is usually at the bottom of most lists.  However, I believe I can say without a doubt Mississippi has the most musical diversity.  Where to start?  Where it all started....THE BLUES!

Blues Musicians: Robert Johnson, B.B. King, Howlin Wolf, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Elmore James, Big Joe Williams, Albert King, Sam Chatmon, Fred McDowal, too many to list.....

Rock and Roll: Elvis Presley, Ike Turner, Bo Diddley, North Mississippi Allstars, R.L. Burnside, 3 Doors Down, Jai Johanny "Jaimoe" Johanson, George McConnell, 

Country: Jimmie Rodgers, Faith Hill, Marty Stuart, Charley Pride, Chris Ladoux, Steve Azar, Leann Rimes, Conway Twitty, Tammy Wynette, Mickey Gilley, 

Jazz/Opera: Mose Allison, Cassandra Wilson, Leontyne Price, Chalmers Clifton

Pop: Britney Spears, Lance Bass

R&B: Mary Wilson, Sam Cooke, Denise Lasalle, Dorothy Moore, David Ruffin, Rufus Thomas

Singer Songwriters: Steve Forbert, Mac Macanally, Jimmy Buffett, Paul Davis, Fred Knoblock

This list is hard to beat in both quantity and quality!  Happy to say that the musical tradition in Mississippi continues to fluorish!



Many thanks to those who responded.  It opened my mind to the fact that there are a number of states that could make up a Top 10 list and things keep evolving.  For example, I have come to realize in recent years that Tennessee is not just famous for bluegrass in eastern mountains, country in Nashville, and blues/jazz in Memphis but a lot of diversity thoughout the state.  I am amazed at how many bands of different genres are settling in the Nashville area.   Another example of an evolving hotspot is the mountain area of Asheville NC.  No longer just a bluegrass and old-time string band capital but a wide variety of bands from many genres have settled here.  In fact, my favorite funk band and Mali rock group resides there.  Must be the craft beer and mountain biking.