Wisconsin has given the world some of the most exceptional and influential musicians in history. From pop to soul, R&B to rock, and even in music production, the Badger State has produced a diverse range of musicians that have left an indelible mark on the music industry.
In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the best musicians from Wisconsin and explore their contributions to the world of music.
1. Les Paul
Les Paul was a renowned guitarist, songwriter, and inventor. He is credited with inventing the solid-body electric guitar, which revolutionized the music industry and paved the way for rock and roll.
Les Paul was also known for his virtuosic guitar playing and hit songs like “How High the Moon” and “Vaya Con Dios.”
2. Bon Iver
Bon Iver is an indie-folk band. The band’s founder, Justin Vernon, gained widespread recognition with his debut album “For Emma, Forever Ago.” Bon Iver’s music is known for its emotional depth, unique instrumentation, and Vernon’s distinctive falsetto vocals.
The band has won two Grammy Awards and has collaborated with other renowned artists, such as Taylor Swift, James Blake, and Kanye West.
3. Woody Herman
Woody Herman was a jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, and bandleader from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He led the Woody Herman Orchestra, which became one of the most popular and influential swing bands. Herman was known for his innovative arrangements and his ability to showcase talented soloists.
4. Skylar Grey
Skylar Grey is a singer, songwriter, and producer. She has written and produced hit songs for Eminem, Rihanna, and Nicki Minaj, among others. Grey has also released several successful solo albums, including “Don’t Look Down” and “Natural Causes”.
She is known for her haunting vocals and contributions in music-making and being a guest vocal for several artists.
5. Steve Miller
Steve Miller is a blues and rock musician who is the frontrunner of the Steve Miller Band. He is best known for his hits such as “The Joker,” “Fly Like an Eagle,” and “Abracadabra.”
Miller’s music is a blend of blues, rock, and pop, and his unique sound has made him one of the most popular musicians of his generation.
Tank, born Durrell Babbs, is a renowned singer-songwriter and record producer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He rose to fame with his hit singles “When We,” “Maybe I Deserve,” and “Please Don’t Go.”
He has released several critically acclaimed albums and has collaborated with numerous prominent artists such as Chris Brown, Beyonce, and Drake. Tank is also known for his outstanding vocal range and his ability to blend various music genres, including R&B, hip-hop, and soul.
7. Violent Femmes
The Violent Femmes is a funk punk band that is known for its unique sound, which combines folk, punk, and rock influences. It helped them gain a dedicated following in the 1980s.
The band is best known for their hit song “Blister in the Sun,” which has become a staple of alternative radio. Their self-titled debut album is certified platinum and has established the band’s name in the music industry.
Garbage is an alternative rock band who is known for their edgy and distinctive sound, which combines elements of rock, pop, and electronica. Some of their famous hits are “Only Happy When It Rains” and “Stupid Girl.”
They have released several successful albums and have been nominated for multiple Grammy nominations.
9. Al Jarreau
Al Jarreau was a jazz and R&B singer who is known for his smooth and soulful vocals, as well as his ability to scat and improvise in his performances. Jarreau won 11 Grammy Awards and was nominated for over a dozen more throughout his career.
Being one of the singers in the charity song “We Are The World,” he continues to be a well-regarded and influential personality in the realm of jazz and popular music.
10. Joe Schermie
Joe Schermie was a bassist and founding member of the classic rock band, Three Dog Night. Schermie played on many of the band’s hit songs, including “Joy to the World” and “Mama Told Me (Not to Come).”
He was known for his powerful and funky bass playing and his contributions to the band’s distinctive sound.
11. Bobby Hatfield
Bobby Hatfield was a singer and one half of the iconic duo, The Righteous Brothers. Born in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, Hatfield was known for his soaring tenor vocals and his passionate and emotional performances.
He and his partner, Bill Medley, produced several hit songs, including “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” and “Unchained Melody.”
12. Eric Benét
Eric Benét is an R&B singer and songwriter who is known for his smooth and romantic vocals, as well as his ability to write heartfelt and introspective lyrics.
Benét has released several successful albums and has collaborated with many other musicians throughout his career. He is also an actor, starring in television series and films.
BoDeans are a rock band from Waukesha, Wisconsin. The band is known for their energetic and rootsy sound, which combines elements of rock, folk, and country. Their hit song “Closer To Free” has been used as a theme song for the television series ‘Party After Five.’
14. Danny Gokey
Danny Gokey is a Christian singer and former American Idol contestant. He is known for his powerful and emotive vocals, as well as his inspiring and uplifting lyrics. Gokey has released several successful albums and is a popular artist in contemporary Christian music.
15. Jane Wiedlin
A musician who played a significant role in contributing to The Go-Go’s catchy and upbeat sound, Jane Wiedlin is widely recognized as the band’s rhythm guitarist and backing vocalist in the new wave genre.
This contribution led them to achieve commercial success during the 1980s. Additionally, Jane has released multiple solo albums and has also pursued careers in writing and acting.
16. Butch Vig
Butch Vig is a record producer and musician. He is best known for producing Nirvana’s landmark album, Nevermind, which helped to define the sound of the grunge movement in the 1990s.
Vig has also worked with many other successful bands, including Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, and Garbage (which he is also a member of). He is widely regarded as one of the most influential producers of his generation.
17. Andy Hurley
Andy Hurley is a drummer and musician. He is best known as the drummer for the punk rock band, Fall Out Boy. Hurley’s powerful and precise drumming style has helped to drive the band’s energetic and catchy sound, which has earned them a devoted fan base and numerous awards.
Jidenna is a rapper and singer who is known for his smooth and soulful vocals, as well as his unique blend of hip-hop and Afrobeat influences.
Jidenna’s breakout hit, “Classic Man,” earned him a Grammy nomination and helped to establish him as one of the most exciting new voices in contemporary music.
19. Kim Robertson
Kim Robertson is a harpist. She is known for her mastery of the Celtic harp and her ability to blend traditional and contemporary styles of music.
Robertson has released several albums and has performed throughout the world. She is also an educator, conducting workshops and performances in Somerset Folk Harp Festival.
20. Ava Max
Ava Max is a pop singer and songwriter who is known for her powerful and catchy vocals, as well as her ability to write memorable and uplifting pop anthems. Max’s breakout hit, “Sweet but Psycho,” was a worldwide sensation and helped to establish her as a rising star in the music industry.
She has since released several successful singles, chart-topping hits, and is widely regarded as one of the most exciting voices in pop music.
Wisconsin is home to some of the most exceptional and influential musicians across a range of genres, including Tank’s R&B and soul music, Les Paul’s jazz and innovative music production techniques, and Steve Miller’s rock music.
These musicians are just a few examples of the diverse range of music that has come out of Wisconsin, captivating us with their unique sounds and styles.
Butch Vig Featured Image (Top-Right) by: Valdo Howell, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Skylar Grey Featured Image (Bottom-Left) by: Michaelapratt, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Ava Max Featured Image (Bottom-Right) by: MasterMind5991, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons