So what’s the best band in music history from each of the fifty states of the union? Armed only with Wikipedia and AllMusic.com, I decided to find out. I didn’t even take a second to check and see if similar lists are already posted all over the Interwebs, so don’t pop my bubble, ‘kay?
I tried to count bands based only on the actual city where they formed, as much as possible. Sometimes, yes, I had to choose the only signed band ever from a state, whether or not I was a fan or an expert on their music (no, I really know very little about Anchorage metalcore bands or the Helena, Montana ska scene). Sometimes I picked a successful band in a genre I’m not big on (Iowa, Missouri) if they were clearly The Band that had made good from the state. But on the whole I tried to pick acts that are both (a) unquestionably seminal in the history of pop, and (b) on my MP3 player right now. And along the way, I learned that Lynyrd Skynyrd isn’t from Alabama (rather, Jacksonville) and the Jayhawks aren’t from Kansas (Minnesota). I know, weird!
Alabama The Commodores. Over a bunch of country bands? This choice was easy like Sunday morning.
Alaska 36 Crazyfists. Now relocated to Portland, like every other band in America.
Arizona Meat Puppets, man. Though Calexico seems more Arizonan somehow.
Arkansas Evanescence–not a lot of selection here.
California The Beach Boys, of course. Thank goodness that the best American band of their era is also quintessentially Californian, thus saving me from having to weigh the relative merits of the Chili Peppers, the Byrds, the Doors, Metallica, the Eagles, Rage Against the Machine, the Platters…
Colorado Apples in Stereo, I guess–a good follow-up to the Beach Boys. I don’t know, am I missing someone here?
Connecticut Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, a Brooklyn band, met while they were all attending Connecticut College. In on a technicality!
Delaware George Thorogood & the Destroyers. A b-b-b-bad choice? Maybe. Who else you got, Delaware?
Florida Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, at least if you’re a Skynyrd non-fan like me. Delaware may be the First State, but Florida is clearly the First State of Sucky Bands. Creed, Matchbox Twenty, Limp Bizkit…and that’s before I even get to the boy bands.
Georgia R.E.M. beats the Allman Brothers, just as they never would in a bar fight.
Hawaii Pepper, I guess–though, again, I’m woefully ignorant of the Honolulu reggae scene.
Idaho Built to Spill! Finally, a case where, like, the only signed band from a given state is actually a really, really good one. (See also New Mexico.)
Illinois Wilco. Am I a huge racist for going Wilco over quintessential Chicago acts like the Staple Singers, the Impressions, and Earth Wind & Fire?
Indiana The Jackson 5. Outside of Gary, Indiana looks pretty bleak musically.
Iowa Slipknot (urg, see disclaimer above)
Kansas Mates of State, dammit, just for the satisfaction of not having to type “Kansas Kansas.” Apparently I just decided that duos count.
Kentucky My Morning Jacket. I actually already knew these guys were from Louisville, thanks to that sucky Cameron Crowe movie. Edited to add: Kentucky claims the Everlys, a much better choice, but I’m not sure they really “formed” there.
Louisiana Neutral Milk Hotel, if they count. All those Elephant Six guys claim to be Athens, GA bands, but Neutral Milk Hotel was from Ruston. If they don’t count…Better than Ezra, I guess. But I’m having a hard time working up too much enthusiasm for that.
Maine The Rustic Overtones. If you’re from the other Portland, the one without Stephen Malkmus et al, you probably love these guys.
Maryland Good Charlotte? If Maryland has produced a single legend (or even unappreciated critical darling) of a band, I can’t find it. Edited to add: Commenters pointed out that I missed the Orioles, a seminal doo-wop group with a very Maryland name.
Massachusetts Pixies! Sorry Aerosmith and a billion Boston college bands that Spin magazine was telling me to listen to in 1993.
Michigan Diana Ross and the Supremes. I knew it had to be a Motown band, much though I might love the Stooges or the White Stripes or whoever, but Supremes vs. Miracles was a tough choice. In fact, I’m having regrets right now.
Minnesota Prince & the Revolution…it’s killing me not to go Replacements, but hey, Prince is Prince. Paul Westerberg is the Morris Day of this particular showdown.
Mississippi 3 Doors Down, but this definitely a hold-your-nose-and-vote kind of thing.
Missouri Jars of Clay?!? (Urg, again. See disclaimer above, again.) Boy, Missouri, for a state with an unrivaled blues/jazz history, you sure haven’t done much for me lately. Edited to add: If duos are okay, Ike & Tina Turner have been mooted as a much better replacement here. Especially since Jars of Clay actually met up in Greenville, Illinois.
Montana The Skoidats, apparently. You can’t spell “Skoidats” without “Oi!” @#$%ing ska.
This is taking much longer than I imagined. Part 2 tomorrow.