Arizona has a rich culture and history of its own. Removed from musical capitals and hubs of hustle like Chicago, New Orleans, and New York, the state developed a mindset and musical approach unique to its location and produced many world-class works that went on to change the world with its limitless music.
Let’s take a look at some of these famous musicians from Arizona and learn more about their history and the work they produced as The Grand Canyon State.
1. Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac)
To start the list, we have singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks who was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1948.
But, before fame, Stevie Nicks’ rough vocals had already paired up with future Fleetwood Mac member Lindsey Buckingham.
Nicks and Buckingham later joined the band and helped them rise to the height of their power with songs like “Gypsy” and “Rhiannon”.
After Fleetwood Mac, Knicks continued his solo career and released songs such as “Edge of Seventeen (Just Like the White Winged Dove)”.
She eventually reunited with the group but also collaborated with the likes of Tom Petty and Don Henley, among others.
Knicks was also the first woman to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…twice!
2. Charles Mingus
Charles Mingus was born jazz player, composer, arranger, and conductor in Nogales, Arizona in 1922.
Mingus was a bass prodigy and traveled in bands, including with Louis Armstrong and Lionel Hampton, from a young age.
But, in addition to being a skilled performer, Mingus was a prolific and one of the most important composers of the 20th century.
At first, his work was traditional and was heavily influenced by Ellington’s roosters. Toward the latter of his career, he leaned toward avant-garde and rhythm and blues.
He achieved solo success with compositions such as “Haitian Fighting Song” and “Wednesday Night Prayer Rendezvous”. In his solo work, he was also able to put his frustration with racial injustice into his compositions.
Although Mingus was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, he continued to play for as long as possible until his death in 1979.
3 – Chester Bennington (Linkin Park)
Best known as the lead singer for the rock band Linkin Park, Chester Bennington came from Phoenix where he had a rough childhood.
Bennington backed away from poetry and singing until he found his place in the band Nu-metal Linkin Park.
In 2000, the group, known for mixing rap and rock with emotional vocals, released their debut record, Hybrid Theory. The album included songs such as “In The End” and “Numb”.
But Bennington struggled with substance abuse throughout his career due to his problems as a young man, which sadly followed him until his early death 41.
4. Linda Ronstadt
Born in Tuscon in 1946, Linda Ronstadt began her career as a country rock singer at Arizona State University until her debut album, Hand Sown Home Grown. After this recording, I began to find pop music.
Her solo career often focused on covering popular songs of the time, including the Rolling Stones’ “Tumbling Dice” and Alison’s Elvis Costello, eventually branching out into a new wave.
Rundstadt starred in Broadway theater productions as well as films before retiring due to Parkinson’s disease. Since then, she’s had an HBO special focusing on her gig in the 1980’s.
5. Jim Adkins (Jimmy Eat World)
Jim Adkins was born in Mesa, Arizona, where he learned guitar at an early age. In 1993, Adkins co-founded the popular rock band Jimmy Eat World.
They released their self-titled debut in 1994, co-singing and playing guitar.
The band achieved great success with their third album, Clarity, and since then they have had one successful album after another.
However, Adkins struggled with drinking until he found sobriety in 2013. Since then, he has pursued a solo career as well as creating a podcast called Pass Through Frequencies, where he talks with other musicians.
6. Marty Robbins
Born in Glendale, Arizona, singer-songwriter Marty Robbins grew up from a musical family and his father was a harmonica player.
But it wasn’t until after he joined the Navy during World War II that he began learning to play the guitar. It was then that he started writing songs.
Upon leaving, he returned to music in Arizona and secured a record deal that led him to release his first single in 1952, “Love Me or Leave Me Alone”.
Although his single “I’ll Go Alone” was number one he was a huge hit, and he followed it up with songs like “Knee Deep in the Blues”.
Robbins has never committed to just one genre but has raced in NASCAR. He continued to compose music until his death in 1981 and left a legacy of his own.
7. Michael’s Branch
Singer-songwriter Michelle Branch was born in Sedona, Arizona, in 1983. She found music learning early to sing at the age of three and learned to play guitar as a teenager.
Then she released her first album, “broken branchesThat her family helped her release her independently when she was only 17 years old. The following year, she signed with Maverick Records and released him.Soul room“.
In 2001, her first single, “Everywhere”, was a huge hit and a collaboration with Carlos Santana on “The Game of Love”. She even started a country music side project and is still shooting music.
8. Alice Cooper
Although he wasn’t born in the state, Vincent Fournier (aka Alice Cooper) brought the darkness to rock ‘n’ roll when he started with his first group, Earwigs, in Arizona before hitting it big with the band Alice Cooper.
Alice Cooper’s third studio album brought them success with the single “Eighteen”.
They developed a live stage show and released their biggest album, School’s Out, which saw the band break into the mainstream before disbanding.
Fournier officially changed his name to Alice Cooper and went solo.
Cooper experienced ups and downs in popularity over the next few decades, but she continued to release music into the 2000s, and even dabbled in films like Waynes World.
9. Jordin Sparks
Singer-songwriter Jordin Sparks was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1989. She got her first big break when she became the youngest-ever winner of American Idol in 2007 at the age of 17!
But prior to this win, she had already sung alongside Alice Cooper, toured with Michael W. Smith, and won a Coca-Cola Rising Star Award.
Her EP debuted in 2003, called So farShe has previously won two awards at the 2004 Gospel Music Association Academy, a runner-up in Music in the Rockies, and an appearance on American’s Most Talented Kids.
Her debut single “This Is My Now” was released when American Idol ended, and since then she has gone on to release music and acting on TV.
10. Roger Klein (Refreshments)
Born in Tempe, Arizona, singer-songwriter and guitarist Roger Klein achieved huge success as the lead of the post-grunge band The Refreshments.
Throughout the ’90s, they released music with songs like “Bandits“,”down together‘ And ‘wanted“.
Refreshments were independent darlings until her resignation in 1998.
Klein returned to Tempe where Roger Klein and Peacemaker started and played with many other musicians in the 1990s.
In 2013, Klein reunited with The Refreshments and has played festivals sporadically since then.
11. Dirks Bentley
County singer Dirks Bentley was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1975. He came from a non-musical family but found a love for music through recordings before connecting with fellow musicians on the Phoenix Bluegrass scene.
His self-titled debut, Dierks Bentley, debuted in 2003. With hits like “Free and Easy (Down the Road I Go)” and “Drunk on a Plane,” Dierks was able to showcase his own country rock and humorous styles. .
Bentley has won numerous awards since then, and he also plays on Hot Country Knights, his ’90s country music side project.
12. Louis Nash
Jazz drummer Lewis Nash was born in Phoenix but left Arizona for New York to play jazz with the greats.
At the age of 23, he joined Betty Carter’s band but is best known for his role in the Tommy Flanagan Trio.
Nash is one of the most prolific side musicians in jazz having played over 400 records with some of the biggest names in jazz such as Kenny Barron, Kenny Burrell, Ron Carter, Daisy Gillespie and many more.
He has also played with greats like Sonny Rollins, and also formed his own group, the Lewis Nash Ensemble.
13. Lalo Guerrero
Born in Tuscon, Arizona in 1916, guitarist and singer Lalo Guerrero learned guitar from his mother, and by seventeen he had left for Los Angeles.
There he put together a band and recorded popular songs such as “Marihuana Boogie” and “Vamos a Bailar”.
Guerrero has appeared in Hollywood films as well, and has led his band to mainstream pop with songs like “The Ballad of Pancho Sanchez”.
Guerrero created music until his death in 2005 and is considered the “father of Chicano music”.
14. Jesse Coulter
Country singer and pianist Miriam Johnson, also known as Jesse Coulter, was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1943. She was raised in a fifties family who grew up playing the piano in church at the age of eleven.
In 1961, she left to tour with her then-husband, guitarist Duane Eddy. The pair wrote songs together for the likes of Don Gibson and Nancy Sinatra.
After breaking up with Eddie, Colter returned to Arizona where she met country music artist Waylon Jennings.
He would help her find success, as well as work as her collaborator (as well as husband) for years to come including her 1970 debut, A Country Star Is Born.
In the 1980s, Coulter lost popularity but maintained a loyal fan base. The Psalms released in 2017.
15. Dom Flemons
Old-fashioned blues and country musician Dom Flemons was born in Phoenix, Arizona in 1982.
He started playing guitar and harmonica in his early teens. This led him to work throughout the Flagstaff area until he met the players who would go on to found his band, The Carolina Chocolate Drops.
The Drops has released several albums, including Dona Got a Ramblin’ Mind. Flemons pursued a solo career while he was still at Drops.
His debut album Dance Tunes Ballads & Blues led him to leave The Drops in 2012. He has continued writing, recording, and collaborating ever since.
Summing up our list of great musicians from Arizona
It’s hard to read this featured list too quickly.
With so much talent emerging from Arizona over the years, it’s hard to believe there won’t be more specials to come.
And like many other locations, Arizona puts its spin on things from history to culture, and from this list it’s easy to see how.