Minnesota is home to many musicians and producers who have left their mark on the national and international music scene. It began in the 1940’s with the Andrews Sisters. In the 1960’s and early 70’s, a small community of blues and folk artists gathered in the West Bank area of Minneapolis. This included musicians like; Bob Dylan, Koerner, Ray & Glover and Willie Murphy. In 1971, Bonnie Raitt recorded her debut album here with Willie Murphy’s band.
In the late 1970’s “The Minneapolis Sound”, a mixture of funk, rock, pop and R&B was created by Prince. The Minneapolis Sound continued it’s international influence thanks to local artists and producers like; The Time, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Morris Day, Alexander O’Neal, Vanity 6, Apollonia 6, Ta Mara & the Seen, Sheila E., Jesse Johnson, BrownMark, Mazarati, and The Jets.
In the 1980’s, Minneapolis rose to international prominence as the breeding ground for alternative rockers like The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, Soul Asylum, The Jayhawks, and Babes in Toyland. In the 1990’s and early 2000’s, Minneapolis gave birth to artists like Atmosphere, rapper Brother Ali and Owatonna’s own, Owl City.
There are many other local musicians who did not reach the pop charts, but did have an influence on those who did. The following is a list of those who were born or lived in Minnesota and received national attention for their work in music.
- Andrews Sisters (Minneapolis, MN)
LaVerne, Maxene, and Patty. One of the most successful female vocal groups in history. Most popular between 1930-1950’s. Their last Top Ten hit was “Sparrow in the Tree Top,” with Bing Crosby in 1951. They reportedly had 113 singles that hit the charts between 1938-1951. They graduated from North High in Minneapolis, but spent much time with extended family and relatives in Mound, even after achieving success. The Andrews Sisters received the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1996.
- Atmosphere (Minneapolis, MN)
Hip-hop group featuring rapper Slug (aka Sean Daley). In 2005 they reached #1 on Billboard’s Top Independent Albums chart with their album “You Can’t Imagine How Much Fun We’re Having”. In 2010 they reached #4 on Billboard’s Top Rap Albums for their album titled “All My Friends: Blood Makes the Blade Holy”.
- Babes in Toyland (Minneapolis, MN)
Formed in 1987, the all female punk rock band’s most commercially successful album was “Fontanelle” which reached #24 on the UK Albums Chart. The album sold 200,000 copies in the U.S.
- Bill Berry (Duluth, MN)
Berry was the original drummer for the alternative rock band R.E.M. He had a brain aneurysm while performing in 1995 and had to leave the band in 1997. R.E.M., with Berry, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007.
- Brother Ali (Madison, Wisconsin)
At age 15, Brother Ali moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota with his family. In the spring of 2007, his record “The Undisputed Truth” hit #6 on Billboard’s Top Independent Albums chart. In 2012 “Mourning in America and Dreaming in Color” hit #6 on the R&B Albums chart and #5 on the Top Rap Albums chart.
- The Castaways (Minneapolis, MN)
The Castatways were best remembered for their one hit “Liar Liar” which reached #12 on the U.S. charts in 1965. They also appeared in the 1967 film It’s a Bikini World. They still make appearances at festivals, street dances, and county fairs. Band members include Guitarist Roy Hensley, bassist Dick Roby, drummer Denny Craswell, lead guitarist Bob Folschow and keyboardist Jim Donna
- Eddie Cochran (Albert Lea, MN)
A rockabilly pioneer who died too young at the age of 21. Wrote “Summertime Blues” which was later recorded by The Who and reached #8 on Billboard. Inducted into The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in 1987 together with Bo Diddley, Bill Haley, Ricky Nelson, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins
- Crow (Minneapolis, MN)
Formed in 1967 by frontman Dave Wagner, this Minneapolis blues-rock quintet included guitarist Dick Weigand, his bassist brother Larry, and keyboardist Kink Middlemist. Their 1969 debut LP “Crow Music” featured the single “Evil Woman Don’t You Play Your Games with Me” which made it to #19 on Billboard’s “Hot 100” list. The album “Crow Music” made it to #69 on the Billboard 200 list. They had two other singles that made it to #52 and #56, and one more LP “Crow by Crow” that made it to #181.
- Nicholas David (Mrozinski) (Eagan, MN)
Inspired by everyone from Prince to Judy Garland, St. Paul singer and songwriter Nicholas David Mrozinski made quite the impression on NBC’s “The Voice” in 2012. Going by the name “Nicholas David”, this singer beat the pop music television odds with his soulful voice and appearance. He was able to reach the finals in this competition, but ended up in third place overall. Not bad.
- Dr. Demento (Barret Hansen) (Minneapolis, MN)
Syndicated Radio Personality who launched his career on the West Coast. He made hits from old and obscure recordings that no one had ever played on the radio, and was singularly responsible for the success of “Weird Al” Yankovic.
- Bob Dylan (Robert Zimmerman) (Duluth, MN)
Raised in Hibbing, MN. Singer/Songwriter; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1988; Grammy Awards winner, multiple times; Oscar for best song, 2001. Dylan was inspired by Woody Guthrie, and was one reason why he moved to New York City (from Minnesota) in January 1961 at the age of 19.
- Jonathan Edwards (Minneapolis, MN)
Singer/Songriter; Edwards wrote and performed the 1972 ballad “Sunshine” which reached #4 on Billboard’s “Hot 100” charts. He was born in Minnesota, but his family moved to Virginia when he was 6 years old.
- David Ellefson (Jackson, MN)
Electric Bassist. Ellefson is co-founder and core member of the American thrash metal band Megadeth, one of the best selling rock bands during 1980s and later. Known for his hard hitting bass playing style, Ellefson has received eight Grammy nominations, and multiple gold and platinum records.
- For All Those Sleeping (St. Cloud, MN)
Punk-Pop band formed in St. Cloud. Music described as bouncy, heartache-filled pop punk with a metalcore. Their album “Outspoken” reached #9 on Billboard’s Top Hard Rock Albums chart in 2012.
- Judy Garland (Grand Rapids, MN)
Please see our Actors/Actresses page for more information.
- Gear Daddies (Austin, MN)
A well liked local country-rock band in the mid to late 1980’s. They had no songs that reached the Billboard charts, but did have one song (“Zamboni”) that was featured in the movie “D2: The Mighty Ducks” and was also played often during intermission time at hockey games in North America.
- Gestures, The (Mankato, MN)
The Gestures only recorded two singles in the mid-’60s. but one of those, “Run, Run, Run,” made it to #44, and the Top Ten in several cities. They were described as one of the first American garage bands to write and perform British Invasion-derived material.
- Steve Greenberg (St. Paul, MN)
Musician/Songwriter; a self-proclaimed one hit wonder, Greenberg is best known for his 1980 hit song “Funkytown”, and originally recorded by the group he co-founded, Lipps Inc.
- Gypsy (Minneapolis, MN)
Progressive rock band formerly known as the Underbeats. Formed in 1964 by guitarist James Johnson, keyboardist James “Owl” Walsh, bassist Doni Larson, drummer Tom Green and subsequent addition of singer/guitarist Enrico Rosenbaum. Gypsy reached #44 on the Billboard 200 chart in 1970 for their album “Gypsy” and another album in 1971, “In The Garden” which reached #173 on the Billboard 200 charts. In 1970 they hit the US Billboard Hot 100 for their single “Gypsy Queen Part 1 and 2”.
- Catherine “Katie” Harrigan (Stillwater, MN)
Although not a famous singer, Katie passed on her love of singing to her child, the legendary Bing Crosby. Katie was born in Stillwater, MN, but her family moved to Tacoma, WA in 1888 when she was 16. Bing was born in Tacoma in 1903.
- Peter Himmelman (St. Louis Park, MN)
Singer, songwriter, performer as a children’s entertainer, TV and film composer. Scores for television shows “Judging Amy”, “Scoundrels”. Married to Bob Dylan’s adopted daughter Maria. His single “Woman With the Strength of 10,000 Men” made it to #18 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart in 1991.
- Husker Du (Minneapolis, MN)
An influential band that helped punk-pop cross over into the mainstream. Formed in 1979 by guitarist/vocalist Bob Mould, drummer/vocalist Grant Hart and bassist Greg Norton. Husker Du became the first of the mid-’80s independent post-punk bands to sign a contract with a major label. Their album “Warehouse: Songs and Stories” reached #114 on the Billboard 200 list.
- Jimmy Jam (James Harris III) and Terry Lewis (Minneapolis, MN)
Producer/Songwriter; with business partner Terry Lewis, both received the following Grammy Awards: Producers of the Year, 1986; Best Rhythm and Blues Song, 1993; Best Dance Recording, 2001; Recording Academy’s Governors Award, 2004
- Jayhawks, The (Minneapolis, MN)
An alternative country group that rose to brief national prominence in the 1990s. Their single “Waiting for the Sun” reached #20 on the Mainstream Rock Billboard list in 1993.
- Jimmy Jenson (Alexandria, MN)
Also known as the “The Swingin’ Swede”; Jimmy is an accordian player along the lines of “Weird Al” Yankovic, (he pre-dates Al). His musical parodies include “I Yust Go Nuts At Christmas”, and “Valkin’ in My Vinter Undervear” (“Walking in a Winter Wonderland”).
- The Jets (Minneapolis, MN)
“The Jets” (now called “Jetts”) were formed in Minneapolis in 1985. They were a classic 1985’s Teen Pop band with a Latin music influence, and strongly influenced by the music of the Jackson and Osmond families. Their singles “Crush on You” and “You Got It All” both reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1986. Their debut album “The Jets” went Platinum (1,000,000 sold) in July 1987, their album “Magic” went Gold (500,000 sold) in December 1987. They now live in California.
- Jan Michael Joncas (St. Paul, MN)
Liturgical composer; best known for his song “On Eagle’s Wings” which ranks at the top for most popular liturgical songs. He is an ordained priest, professor, author, and speaker.
- Koerner, Ray & Glover (Minneapolis, MN)
Koerner, Ray & Glover is the collective name of musicians Tony “Little Sun” Glover (harmonica), “Spider” John Koerner (guitar/vocals) and Dave “Snaker” Ray. According to Bob Dylan in his book “Chronicles, Volume One”; Koerner, Ray & Glover influenced his musical direction while he was a student at the University of Minnesota. Their breakthrough album, Blues, Rags and Hollers, was released in 1963.
- Leo Kottke (Athens, GA)
Although not from Minnesota, Kottke has lived here most of his life and is considered a Minnesotan. Well known for his 12 string folk guitar picking and his very low voice. Most popular in the 1970’s and 80’s. Several of his albums made it to the Billboard charts including “Dreams and all that stuff” which made it to #45 on the Billboard 200.
- Lamont Cranston Band (Hamel, MN)
Founded by Pat Hayes and his and brother Larry, the bluesy Lamont Cranston Band was extremely popular in the Upper Midwest club scene. One of their songs “Excuse Moi, Mon Cheri” was recorded by The Blues Brothers and then released on the B-side of “Soul Man”. Their most popular song was “Upper Mississippi Shakedown” (1981) which sold 100,000 copies.
- Bernie Leadon (Minnespolis, MN)
A founding member of rock group the Eagles (along with Glenn Frey and Don Henley). Leadon was with the group from 1972-75 during their landmark albums “Eagles”, “Desperado, “On the Border”, and “One of These Nights”. A grueling tour schedule wore him out and in 1975 he decided to leave the group and was replaced by Joe Walsh. Leadon moved on to a more country sound. His first post-Eagles album was Natural Progressions (1977) which reached #91 on the Billboard 200.
- Limited Warranty (Minneapolis, MN)
A 1980’s pop band who won $100,000 as Best Music Artist on Star Search in 1985, a TV talent show hosted by Ed McMahon. Their first single “Victory Line” reached #79 on the Billboard charts, but was their only hit to reach the charts. The band featured Greg Sotebeer, Paul Hartwig, Dale Goulett, Jerry Brunskill, Erik Newman.
- Lipps Inc. (Minneapolis, MN)
A studio band best known for their recording “Funkytown”, a song that spent four weeks at number one on the Billboard charts in 1980. Co-founded by Steve Greenberg with lead singer Cynthia Johnson. Studio musicians included David Rivkin (“David Z”) who had previously worked with an up and coming Prince.
- Mary MacGregor (St. Paul, MN)
Country/Rock Singer. Her 1976 album “Torn Between Two Lovers” reached #3 on the Country charts and sold over one million copies. She worked closely with Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary fame.
- Billy McLaughlin (Minneapolis, MN)
A unique New Age acoustic guitar player who used both hands on the fingerboard. Inspired by the minimalist compositions of Phillip Glass and Steve Reich. Reached #7 on the Billboard New Age charts for his album “Fingerdance” in 1997.
- Motion City Soundtrack (Minneapolis, MN)
Formed in 1997 by Minneapolis natives Joshua Cain (guitar) and Justin Pierre (vocals/guitar), this punk-pop genre band has released five studio albums and sold almost 600,000 records throughout their career. Their 2007 album “Even If It Kills Me” reached #16 on the Billboard 200 chart. Their 4th album “My Dinosaur Life” reached #15. The band currently includes members Jesse Johnson (Moog), and Matthew Taylor (bass) and Tony Thaxton (drums).
- Willie Murphy (Minneapolis, MN)
Murphy helped define the sound of blues and R&B in the Twin Cities in the 60s and 70s with his group “Willie and The Bees”. Murphy was hired by Bonnie Raitt to be the producer on her first album in 1971. In 1990 Willie Murphy was named as one of the three charter members of the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame along with Bob Dylan and Prince.
- Mark Naftalin (Minneapolis, MN)
Naftalin played keyboards with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band and was inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame in 2015. He recorded with John Lee Hooker, Otis Rush, Percy Mayfield, James Cotton, Michael Bloomfield, Lowell Fulson, Big Joe Turner, and many others. He the son of former Minneapolis Mayor Art Naftalin.
- Okee Dokee Brothers, The (Minneapolis, MN)
A bluegrass, folk and children’s music group. Both band members Joe Mailander and Justin Lansing grew up in Denver, Colorado but settled in Minneapolis and started The Okee Dokee Brothers. In June 2011, they canoed down the Mississippi River and wrote songs for their 2012 album “Can You Canoe?” which went on to win the 2013 Grammy for Best Children’s Album of the Year.
- Owl City (Owatonna, MN)
Owl City is the moniker used by Adam Young. His music is a blend of electronica and emo-pop. Young first gained attention by self-publishing his music on MySpace. He gained mainstream popularity in 2009 with the album “Ocean Eyes”, which reached #1 on the Billboard charts. The single “Fireflies” (from this album) reached #1 on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart. His 4th album “All Things Bright and Beautiful” reached #2 on the Billboard charts. His most recent album, “The Midsummer Station” was released on Aug 21st, 2012.
- Prince (Prince Rogers Nelson) (Minneapolis, MN)
Singer/Songwriter; Grammy Awards winner, 1984, 1986 and 2005; Oscar for Best Soundtrack, 1984; Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 2004; Actor, Purple Rain, Graffiti Bridge; NAACP Vanguard Award, 2005. By 2012, he had sold more than 39.5 million records.
- Gary Puckett (Hibbing, MN)
In 1968, Gary Puckett and “The Union Gap” had six consecutive gold records and sold more records than any other recording act that year, including the Beatles. The group disbanded in 1971.
- Replacements, The (Minneapolis, MN)
Formed in 1979, when Paul Westerberg joined a garage punk band formed by brothers Bob Stinson (guitar) and Tommy Stinson (bass) and drummer Chris Mars. Paul was Lead singer and songwriter. The Replacements were one of the seminal alternative rock bands of the 1980’s. Their 1989 single “I’ll Be You” reached #1 on the Billboard “Mainstream Rock” chart.
- Maria Schneider (Windom, MN)
Composer and Big Band Leader. Her 2007 composition “Cerulean Skies” won the Grammy for “Best Instrumental Composition”. Schneider and her orchestra have had ten Grammy nominations and three Grammy awards that span jazz and classical categories.
- Marilyn Sellars (Northfield, MN)
Country singer. Her 1974 hit “One Day At A Time” reached #19 on country charts and #37 on the Billboard Hot 100. Her album of the same name went to #1 on country charts.
- Semisonic (Minneapolis, MN)
An Alternative Pop/Rock band created by former members of Trip Shakespeare in 1993. Members were Dan Wilson (guitar), John Munson (bass), and Jacob Slichter (drummer). “Closing Time” was the band’s biggest hit, and dominated the airwaves in 1998 and picked up a Grammy nomination the following year.
- Columbus “Rahki” Smith (Minneapolis, MN)
Columbus “Rahki” Smith is a musician and producer. He is a 2015 Grammy recipient for Best Rap Song (“I”) which he co-wrote. Additional contributions include playing the drums on Lecrae’s “Gravity”; keyboard player and writer on Eminem’s “Recovery” album. Both Gravity and Recovery were awarded Grammys. He grew up in Minneapolis, but now lives in Los Angeles
- Zach Sobiech (St. Paul, MN)
An American singer-songwriter who gained a huge following on YouTube for his song “Clouds”, a musical farewell to friends and family prior to his death from cancer in May 2013. Days after his death, “Clouds” became the No. 1 rock song in the country and also reached No. 1 on iTunes. “Clouds” also won a regional Emmy Award in the Musical Composition/Arrangement category. Proceeds from sales of this song (over $500k) have been donated to cancer research by his family.
- Phil Solem (Duluth, MN)
Solem and Danny Wilde (Los Angeles, CA) made up the 1990’s group, The Rembrandts. Their most famous song was “I’ll Be There for You”, the theme for the sitcom Friends which reached #17 on the U.S. Billboard charts.
- Soul Asylum (Minneapolis, MN)
A multi-platinum-selling alternative rock band, originaly formed in 1981 as Loud Fast Rules. Member included, guitarist Dan Murphy, bassist Karl Mueller, rhythm guitarist Dave Pirner, and Grant Young on drums. They hit the Billboard charts in the early 1990’s with several albums and singles. Their big hit “Runaway Train” reached #2 on the Top 40 charts in 1993, and won the Grammy Award for Best Rock Song in 1994.
- Sounds of Blackness (St. Paul, MN)
Singing group/Gospel choir, originated at Macalester College; Grammy Awards winners, 1991, 1993 and 1998.
- Roger Steen (Pipestone, MN)
Guitarist for The Tubes, a perfomance rock band that reached the Billboard 200 several times in the 1970’s and 80’s.
- Suburbs (Minneapolis, MN)
The Suburbs hit the national charts with their 1983, 12″ single “Waiting” which got the band substantial play in dance clubs, and reached #42 on Billboard’s “Dance Music/Club Play Singles” chart.
- Tapes ‘N Tapes (Minneapolis, MN)
An Indie Rock band formed in 2003. They have released two albums that reached the Billboard Top Independent Albums chart; “The Loon” (2006) at #47, and “Walk It Off” (2008) peaked #14.
- Trampled by Turtles (Duluth, MN)
Formed in 2003, this progressive bluegrass band has had two #1 albums on Billboard’s “Top Bluegrass Albums”. Their music bridges a gap between their rock music roots with their newer interest in acoustic instruments. Their two #1 albums to date are “Stars And Satellites” (2012) and “Palomino” (2010).
- Trashmen, The (Minneapolis, MN)
The Trashmen formed in 1962 and played surf rock around the upper Midwest. The band included Tony Andreason on lead guitar and vocals, Dal Winslow on guitar and vocals, Steve Wahrer on drums and vocals, and Bob Reed on bass guitar. They had two songs that reached the Billboard charts in 1964, one was “Surfin’ Bird”, which hit #4, the other was “Bird Dance Beat” which hit #30.
- Urge Overkill (Chicago, Illinois)
Although formed in Chicago, the core members of Urge Overkill were Minnesotans Nash Kato on vocals/guitar (born Nathan Kaatrud in Minneapolis, MN) and Eddie “King” Roeser on vocals/guitar/bass guitar (born Litchfield, MN). They had two albums that reached the Billboard Heathseeker chart: “Exit The Dragon” (#3), “Saturation” (#2).
- Dan Wilson (Minneapolis, MN)
Musician/Songwriter; member of Semisonic, Wilson has had much success on his own. In 2011 he wrote three songs for the 2012 Grammy Award winning Album of the Year “21” by UK singer, Adele. In 2006, he co-wrote a number of songs for the Dixie Chicks 2006 album Taking the Long Way, and received the Grammy for Album of the Year, and Song of the Year for “Not Ready to Make Nice”.
- Martin Zellar (Austin, MN)
Lead singer and front-man for Minneapolis’s own, Gear Daddies. Zellar went on a solo career in 1992. His 1995 album “Born Under” reached #20 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. He has continued to play with the Gear Daddies on reunion tours.
Honorary Minnesota Groups/Musicians
Groups and individual musicians who were NOT formed or born in Minnesota, but have lived in Minnesota at one period of time.
- Johnny Butten (Somerset, England)
Musician; best known as the “World’s Fastest Banjo Player” and Guinness World Record holder. Butten moved to Hawley, MN in 2008 (at the urging of his music agent) and put together a band called “Telegraph Road”. Butten and his band, Telegraph Road, won the Minnesota State Bluegrass Band Championships in 2010.
- John Denver (Roswell, New Mexico)
Denver was one of the most popular recording artists of the early 1970s. This pop/folk singer wrote landmark songs like “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, “Rocky Mountain High”, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” and many more. Denver’s first marriage was to Annie Martell of St. Peter, MN. They lived in Edina, MN from 1968 to 1971. His 1971 album “Poems, Prayers & Promises” launched him into superstardom. His song “Sunshine On My Shoulders” was written on a Spring day in Minnesota.
- Hold Steady, The (New York City, NY)
Founded by Craig Finn, a Boston born BUT Minnesota-bred singer. Influenced by fellow Minnesotan Paul Westerberg (The Replacements). Finn relocated from the Twin Cities to New York and formed the Hold Steady in 2004. In 2012 he took a break and released a solo album, “Clear Heart Full Eyes”.
- Mason Jennings (born Hawaii)
Singer/Songwriter. One of the most talked about artists on the acoustic music scene with a loyal cult following. Jennings dropped out of school at an early age and moved to Minneapolis to pursue his musical career.
- Marcy Playground (New York City, NY)
Formed in New York City in the mis-1990’s, and named after Marcy Open School in Minneapolis. Singer/guitarist John Wozniak and bassist Dylan Keefe originally hailed from Minneapolis. Marcy Playground hit the top ten Billboard charts for their single “Sex And Candy” in 1997-98.
- Bob Mould (Malone, New York)
Co-founder of Husker Du (see above). Mould first came to Minnesota for college and ended up staying. Mould has had a successful solo career with several albums reaching the Billboard charts. His recent (2016) album “Patch The Sky” reached #4 on the Top Modern Rock/Alternative Albums Billboard charts.
- Alexander O’Neal (Natchez, Mississippi)
During the ’80s and ’90s, O’Neal racked up several Top Ten R&B singles and sold out Wembley Stadium in London for six consecutive nights. In the 1970’s, O’Neal moved to the Twin Cities. In 1981, Prince hired him to be the lead singer of “The Time”, but he was quickly replaced by Morris Day. O’Neal has had success with a solo career, but it is marked by drug abuse. In the 1990’s he moved to London.
- Bonnie Raitt (Burbank, CA)
Raitt has had several connections to Minnesota throughout her career. Her first album titled “Bonnie Raitt” was recorded at Big Island on Lake Minnetonka in the early 1970’s. It was produced by local musician Willie Murphy and included many local musicians. Raitt’s brother, Steve Raitt called the Twin Cities home and was a major force in the Twin Cities music scene from the 1970s through ’90s.
- Tiny Tim (New York, NY)
Entertainer/Musician – Ukulele player best know for the sixties song “Tip Toe Through the Tulips”. He moved to the Twin Cites in the 1990s to be with his third wife, Susan Marie Gardner (“Miss Sue”), whom he had married on August 18, 1995. He is buried in Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis, MN.
- Bobby Vee (Fargo, ND)
Musician; scored several pop hits during the early ’60s, before the British Invasion. He reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart in 1961 for his hit “Take Good Care of My Baby”, and had several other top ten hits between 1960-1963. He currently lives in St. Cloud, MN.