When it comes to music, Arkansas has produced some of the most influential and talented musicians of all time. From country to soul, R&B to rock, and everything in between, this state has been the birthplace of numerous legendary musicians. Singers, songwriters, and multi-instrumentalists have all emerged from Arkansas, leaving a legacy on the music world.
Let’s explore some of the best musicians Arkansas has cultivated, highlighting their contributions to their respective genres:
- 1. Johnny Cash
- 2. Ne-Yo
- 3. Al Green
- 4. Amy Lee
- 5. Glen Campbell
- 6. Dan Hicks
- 7. Levon Helm
- 8. Georgia Holt
- 9. Conway Twitty
- 10. Billy Bob Thornton
- 11. Louis Jordan
- 12. Jeremy Davis
- 13. Florence Price
- 14. Luther Allison
- 15. Ronnie Hawkins
- 16. Patsy Montana
- 17. Charlie Rich
- 18. Justin Moore
- 19. Kris Allen
- 20. Beth Ditto
1. Johnny Cash
Famed as the “Man in Black,” Johnny Cash is a legendary country singer-songwriter who was born in Kingsland, Arkansas. His music is known for its raw honesty and powerful storytelling, as well as its blend of country, gospel, and folk influences.
Cash recorded numerous hit songs throughout his career, including “Ring of Fire,” “I Walk the Line,” and “Folsom Prison Blues.” He has sold over 90 million units worldwide and is considered one of the most important figures in country music history.
Ne-Yo is a Grammy-winning R&B singer, songwriter, and producer gained fame with his hit songs such as “So Sick,” “Miss Independent,” and “Closer.”
Known for his smooth vocals and catchy hooks, Ne-Yo has collaborated with numerous artists and has sold millions of units worldwide. Aside from his songs, he is also known for being one of the judge in the series World of Dance.
3. Al Green
Al Green is a soul singer and songwriter who is known for his smooth and soulful vocals. Green recorded numerous hit songs throughout the 1970s, including “Let’s Stay Together,” “Tired of Being Alone,” “Take Me To The River,” and “Love and Happiness.” Green’s music has influenced generations of soul and R&B artists.
4. Amy Lee
Amy Lee is a singer, songwriter, and pianist who is best known as the lead vocalist of the rock band Evanescence. Evanescence gained fame with their hit songs such as “Bring Me to Life,” “My Immortal,” and “Going Under.”
Known for her powerful vocals and dark lyrics, Lee has become an icon in the rock music scene.
5. Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell was a country singer-songwriter, and guitarist who recorded numerous hit songs throughout his career, including “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Wichita Lineman,” and “Gentle on My Mind.”
In addition to his music career, Campbell was also an actor who appeared in several movies and TV shows. He has won plenty of awards, including six Grammys.
6. Dan Hicks
A singer-songwriter and musician from Little Rock, Dan Hicks is known for his songs “Canned Music” and “I Scare Myself.” His music is a mix of jazz, cowboy folk, and bluegrass. He is also famed for being the leader of the band Dan Licks and His Hot Licks.
7. Levon Helm
Levon Helm was a singer and multi-instrumentalist who gained fame as the drummer and vocalist of the legendary rock band The Band, which he co-founded with several other musicians.
The Band recorded numerous hit songs throughout their career, including “Up on Cripple Creek,” “The Weight,” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” In addition to his music career, Helm also appeared in several movies and TV shows.
8. Georgia Holt
Georgia Holt is a singer and actress who gained fame in the 1950s and 1960s as a pop and country singer, and she recorded several albums throughout her career.
Holt is also known for being the mother of the actress and singer Cher, and she has appeared in several movies and TV shows. Holt and Cher sang a duet entitled “I’m Just Your Yesterday” which is loved by fans.
9. Conway Twitty
Conway Twitty was a country singer and songwriter who recorded numerous hit songs throughout his career, including “Hello Darlin’,” “It’s Only Make Believe,” and “Tight Fittin’ Jeans.”
Known for his smooth vocals and romantic lyrics, Twitty is considered one of the most important figures in country music history.
10. Billy Bob Thornton
Billy Bob Thornton is an actor, musician and filmmaker who has released several albums such as “Private Radio,” “Hobo,” and “The Edge of The World” and has toured extensively around the world.
In addition to his acting career, Thornton is also an actor, who gained fame for his roles in movies such as “Primary Colors,” “Armageddon,” and “Bad Santa.”
11. Louis Jordan
Louis Jordan was a jazz, blues, and swing musician. Jordan was a saxophonist, bandleader, and vocalist who recorded numerous hit songs throughout his career, including “Choo Choo Ch’Boogie,” “Caldonia,” and “Let the Good Times Roll.”
Jordan’s music was known for its lively rhythms and catchy lyrics, and he is considered one of the most important figures in the development of rhythm and jump blues music.
12. Jeremy Davis
Jeremy Davis is a jazz musician who was born in Little Rock, Arkansas. Davis is a bass player who was a former member of the rock band Paramore. Davis is known for his virtuosic playing and his ability to anchor a rhythm section with his steady bass lines.
13. Florence Price
Florence Price was a classical composer who was s the first African-American woman to have a symphony performed by a major orchestra, and she wrote numerous other works throughout her career, including operas, piano concertos, and choral pieces.
Price’s music is known for its blending of European classical styles with African-American musical traditions.
14. Luther Allison
A blues guitarist and singer from Widener, Arkansas, Luther Allison was known for his powerful guitar playing and soulful vocals. Some of his songs include “Love Me Mama, “Night Life,” and “Live in Paris.”
Allison’s music was influenced by the Chicago blues scene, and he was a popular performer in blues clubs throughout the United States and Europe.
15. Ronnie Hawkins
Ronnie Hawkins is a rockabilly musician. He gained fame as the frontman of Ronnie Hawkins and the Hawks, which later became known as The Band.
Hawkins recorded several hit songs throughout his career, including “Forty Days” and “Mary Lou,” and he was known for his energetic live performances. Hawkins was also influential in the development of the rock and roll scene in Canada, where he has lived for many years.
16. Patsy Montana
Patsy Montana was a singer-songwriter who was one of the first women in country music to achieve major success, and she is best known for her hit song “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” which was released in 1935.
Montana continued to perform and record throughout her career, and she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
17. Charlie Rich
Charlie Rich was a country music singer and songwriter who had a string of hit songs throughout the 1970s, including “The Most Beautiful Girl” and “Behind Closed Doors,” which crossed over into the pop charts.
Rich was known for his smooth, soulful voice and his ability to blend country and other music styles, which led him to win a Grammy and be inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame.
18. Justin Moore
Justin Moore is a country music singer and songwriter who has released several hit singles throughout his career, including “Small Town USA” and “You Look Like I Need a Drink.”
Moore’s music is known for its traditional country sound and themes, and he has been recognized with several awards, including the New Artist of the Year award from the Academy of Country Music in 2014.
19. Kris Allen
Famed for being the winner of the eighth season of American Idol in 2009, Kris Allen is a singer-songwriter who was born in Jacksonville, Arkansas. He has since released several albums and toured extensively.
Allen’s music is known for its pop and rock influences, and he has been recognized for his hits “Live Like We’re Dying,” and “The Vision of Love.”
20. Beth Ditto
Beth Ditto is a singer and songwriter who is best known as the lead singer of the indie rock band Gossip, which gained fame with the release of their album “Standing in the Way of Control.”
Ditto’s music is known for its punk and soul influences, and she is also known for her outspoken activism on behalf of LGBTQ+ rights and body positivity.
Arkansas is a state that has contributed immensely to the music industry, producing some of the most influential musicians like Johnny Cash, Kris Allen, Ne-Yo, Patsy Montana, Glen Campbell, and Amy Lee.
These artists are recognized for their exceptional talent in storytelling through music. So, if you’re searching for a state with exceptional musical talents, Arkansas is an excellent choice.
Johnny Cash Featured Image (Top-Left) by: Heinrich Klaffs, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Ne-Yo Featured Image (Top-Right) by: monstershaq2000’s, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Al Green Featured Image (Bottom-Left) by: nizzzat from Graton, CA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Amy Lee Featured Image (Bottom-Right) by: Naomi Lir, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons