It is hard to underestimate the influence of American music on world culture. The U.S. has given birth some of the biggest genres such as the blues, jazz, rock and roll, and hip-hop, and it continues to reshape music today. Of course, there have been talented artists from every city in the US, but some cities have gifted the world more than others.
A city’s music scene is an integral part of its culture, and in some places music lies at the very heart of its identity. Holidaymakers often choose to visit places such as Memphis and New Orleans specifically to get a feel of the music scene. A visitor visa for the United States is often necessary for travelers coming from other countries.
Here is a list of the top ten greatest musical cities in the U.S. based on the genres, artists, and music scenes which have emerged from them.
Known as ‘The Big Easy’, New Orleans is known as the birthplace of jazz. The genre has continued to evolve over the years in the city, subgenres such as Dixieland developed and a host of iconic musicians like Louis Armstrong, James Brooker, Jelly Roll Morton, and Sydney Bechet.
But what really makes New Orleans so special is its buzz. Bars, restaurants, clubs and street corners are full of musicians, and this is not limited to jazz. New Orleans today is a hub of musical creativity which spans the genres.
The home of Hollywood is better known for its film industry but the City of Angels has produced an unbelievable amount of artists including rappers, rock bands, country singers, classical musicians, and DJs. Some of the most famous artists from L.A. include The Doors, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Cher, Guns and Roses, The Beach Boys, Pink, and Rage Against the Machine.
In more recent decades it has been more famous for its hip-hop scene, LA rappers and producers dominated the 80s and 90s with the emergence gansta rap and G-Funk. Dr Dre, Tupac Shakur, and Snoop Dogg a just a few of the biggest names in rap to come from LA.
Memphis is known as both the ‘Home of the Blues’ and the ‘Birthplace of Rock and Roll’ making it historically one of the most important cities for music in the world. Elvis Presley recorded his first song That’s Alright Mama in 1954 at Memphis’ Sun Studio which spawned rock and roll.
However, ‘The King’ is not the only superstar from the city. B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, and John Lee Hooker, are all from Memphis. Graceland is Memphis’ biggest attraction, complete the ESTA application and start planning your trip.
Chicago became the epicenter of jazz and blues when African-Americans moved north in search of jobs after World War II. Muddy Waters, the ‘father of modern Chicago blues’, along with other greats such as Buddy Guy, helped to redefine the genre.
In more recent years, house music was born in Chicago. The earliest style of house was played at The Warehouse, a Chicago nightclub, by DJ Frankie Knuckles. Also renowned for its soul and hip-hop music, Chicago has produced a range of artists including Kanye West, Nat King Cole, Anastacia, and The Smashing Pumpkins.
Detroit is synonymous with Motown, the music label which produced R&B artists such as Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Supremes, and Stevie Wonder. The record label still exists today though its heyday was in the 1960s.
Visitors traveling to the who are into Motown can visit the Motown Museum. Dubbed ‘Rock City’ by Kiss, Detroit is also famous for producing other artists like The White Stripes and Eminem.
New York has a unique musical heritage and one of its most impressive aspects is its variety, which is as diverse as its districts. The roots of bebop, disco, new wave, hip-hop, and salsa music all in ‘The Big Apple’. It is renowned for its range of venues such as Madison Square Garden, Carnegie Hall, and the Greenwich Village jazz clubs.
A wide range of artists including Jay-Z, Madonna, Burt Bacharach, Alicia Keys, The Strokes, Ella Fitzgerald, The Velvet Underground, and The Beastie Boys. Print the ESTA application to gain entry into the America and visit New York.
Seattle is best known for the grunge bands which emerged in the early 1990s such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and most famously, Nirvana. They forged what came to be known as the ‘Seattle Sound’. Since this period Seattle has been a major producer of alternative music acts and is renowned for its live music venues.
In recent years Death Cab for Cutie and The Shins have emerged from Seattle. However, though it was recognized widely at the time, Seattle’s history as a musical city goes back further than grunge. Jimi Hendrix lived and played in the city in the 1960s.
Known as ‘Music City USA’, Nashville is the most important city for country and western music in America. The radio show Grand Ole Opry is famous in the US, it is recorded live and visitors can go to a live recording at one of Nashville’s most historic venues, Ryman Auditorium.
Though it is famous for country music, the city’s music scene is more diverse. Bands like The Black Keys, Kings of Leon, and Paramore have emerged from Nashville.
Austin has been nicknamed the ‘Live Music capital of the World’ as there are hundreds of concert venues. Even on a quiet night your options are in triple figures. There are also huge festivals such as South-by-Southwest, Fun Fun Fun, and Austin City Limits.
There are also more intimate venues citywide which are often free or very affordable. Austin is most famous for its folk, bluegrass, jazz, blues, new wave, punk, and indie music scenes. Some of the most famous acts to come from the city are Janis Joplin, Willie Nelson, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
Over recent decades ‘Hotlanta’ has emerged as a creative hub for hip-hop, R&B, and metal artists. Famous acts such as Outkast, Ludacris, Toni Braxton, Usher, Janelle Monáe, and TLC have all emerged from Atlanta.
In addition, from the 1920s through to the 50s, Atalanta was a major city for country music and still retains some important venues. Today Metro Atalanta is home to Alan Jackson, Jason Aldean, Kenny Rogers, and Ray Stevens.