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Music inspires, entertains and connects — with magic. Musical genres have changed through the decades but, from sea to shining sea, U.S. cities have been defined by their music culture. Whether your jam is blues, R & B, metal, grunge or good old rock n’ roll, you’ll find a music scene that incites you to rock like a boss.
The Big Apple has always been tops in musical chops. New York City gave birth to disco, hip-hop, and punk. Greenwich Village jazz clubs, like the Blue Note, saw Dizzy Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, and Lionel Hampton make their marks. Legendary, and now extinct East Village dive bar CBGB, got heads bobbing to the Ramones, Blondie and Talking Heads. In midtown, the grandfather of all arenas, Madison Square Garden, hosted almost every major rock band from ACDC to Led Zeppelin — and still does. The more intimate Beacon Theater on the West Side of town continues to play host to some of rock’s most revered artists.
Southern California and the City of Angels has been rightly dubbed the center of the West Coast music scene. From the wave catching sounds of the Beach Boys to the California Dreamin of the Mamas and the Papas, Los Angeles quickly became the hub of recorded music. In Hollywood, the Capital Records building, resembling a stack of records, stands guard over the clubs on the iconic Sunset Strip where bands like the Doors and Guns n’ Roses cut their teeth. Also, home to the Staples Center, Hollywood Bowl, and Greek Theatre, LA attracts worldwide performers to this city of rock bands, live music clubs and enough musical landmarks to fill your entire schedule!
The Windy City is the heart of the Blues – blues born in southern cotton fields and embraced by the rock musicians of late 50’s and 60’s. When African-Americans came north after WWII to find jobs, they brought Mississippi Delta music with them, electrifying and blending it with bright Chicago lights. Put the Chicago Blues Festival, alive with the styles of Muddy Waters and Buddy Guy, on your itinerary. Take in rock performers like The Smashing Pumpkins or go full music lottery at the Lollapalooza festival.
Elvis Presley, once said “I’ll stay in Memphis”— and it’s easy to see why. The city where Elvis recorded his first song, as well as Ike Turner and the Delta Cats’ Rocket 88, Memphis, Tennessee has deep roots in rock and roll history. Musicians like John Lee Hooker, B.B. King and Justin Timberlake all have called Memphis home. Meander down iconic Beale Street for live music at B.B. King’s Blues Club, Young Avenue Deli or the Blues City Café.
Tennessee also has bragging rights to Nashville, the epicenter of country and western music as well as a vibrant rock and roll city. Nicknamed "Music City USA”, Nashville bursts with honkytonks, the Ryman Auditorium and RCA Studio B. But its star legacy is the Grand Ole Opry, where a country music and variety show is still recorded live. Rhythms spills from every city pore, from music museums, live concerts and songwriter clubs. Johnny Cash and Dolly Partin may be Nashville royalty, but diverse acts like Paramore, Kings of Leon and Jack White have made this city rock in recent years.
If you’ve heard of Austin City Limits Festival, Fun, Fun Fest and South by Southwest, Austin, Texas has been on your musical radar. Artists like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Jamestown Revival, Janis Joplin and Spoon have all hailed from the “Live Music Capital of the World”. Stop into Stubbs or the classic Continental Club to dance as well as listen. With more than 250 live music venues, Austin is packed with nearly every musical style.
Music label, Motown, is indigenous to the soulful music it produced. The Temptations, Four Tops, Supremes, Miracles and Steve Wonder’s Motown hits made Detroit synonymous with gospel inspired R&B. Many of these R&B artists crossed over to rock and roll. From Detroit’s Bill Haley and the Comets and Mitch Ryder and his Detroit Wheels to Grand Funk Railroad and Bob Seger, the list of musicians who called this city home is long and illustrious. There hasn’t been a better time to visit “America’s Comeback City” as the once near-ghost town has been making a rockin’ return.
Once known for its ‘90’s grunge scene, Seattle, WA has been touted for decades for top notch musical acts. Birthplace of guitar god, Jimi Hendrix, it was the "Seattle Sound", forged by Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Soundgarden, that truly put Seattle on the musical map. Now popular music fests like Bumpershoot and acts like Death Cab for Cutie and Macklemore keep Seattle rockin’.
Of course, no discussion of U.S. cities that rock would be complete without mention of Cleveland. Considered by most music fans as the birthplace of rock and roll, it was the early 50’s when disc jockey Alan Freed aired his Moondog Rock & Roll House Party, blending popular blues and country hits with R & B records and dubbing this style as “rock and roll”. Fast forward to the mid-80’s when another Cleveland DJ, Norm Nite, cited Freed’s accomplishments in music and rallied public support for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to be built in Cleveland. The museum, located on the shore of Lake Erie, opened to the public in 1995 and is considered the top “must-visit” destination for rock and roll fans throughout the world.
These articles present general information and are for informational purposes only. They are not a substitute for legal, financial, medical, or other professional advice.