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The Best Musical Artists From Kentucky

Updated March 8, 2021 9.3k votes 1.0k voters 20.1k views109 items

List RulesOnly artists born or raised in Kentucky or bands formed in Kentucky.

Here are the best artists and bands from Kentucky. Many musical traditions are important to the people of Kentucky. Bluegrass is prominent in the region as well as Appalachian folk music. This type of music draws influence from English ballads and songs from Scotland and Ireland. Merle Travis, a famous country and western singer born in the state, developed a new style of guitar picking that was later named after him. Kentucky is responsible for a lot of great music, but have you ever wondered who the best musical artists from Kentucky are?

Some artists, like Nick Lachey of 98 Degrees, were born in Kentucky but raised elsewhere. Other famous artists like Joan Osborne spent their entire childhoods in the Bluegrass State. Numerous bands, such as Nappy Roots and My Morning Jacket, were based out of Kentucky for a time before they grew in national acclaim. Kentucky truly has a storied history, and these roots have influenced music for the past several decades. Other popular Kentucky artists include Billy Ray Cyrus, Cage the Elephant, The Everly Brothers, and Bryson Tiller.

These artists may come from all different kinds of genres, but it is up to the readers to decide who should take the top spot. Will a country act take first or a hard rock band? It is up to you, so start voting for your favorite Kentucky musical artists. 

  • 26

    Billy Ray Cyrus

    Country pop, Country rock

    AlbumsAchy Breaky Heart, Some Gave All, Change My Mind, Time Flies, Storm in the Heartland

    Billy Ray Cyrus (born August 25, 1961) is an American singer-songwriter and actor. He has released 16 studio albums and 53 singles since 1992, and is known for his number one single "Achy Breaky...  more

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  • 27

    Skeeter Davis

    Pop music, Nashville sound

    AlbumsLet Me Get Close to You, Tunes for Two, Your Husband, My Wife, The Ultimate Collection

    Skeeter Davis (born Mary Frances Penick; December 30, 1931 – September 19, 2004) was an American country music singer who sang crossover pop music songs including 1962's "The End of the World". She...  more
  • 28

    Days of the New

    Experimental rock, Grunge

    AlbumsDays of the New, Days of the New, Days of the New, Days of the New Presents Tree Colors, Touch

    Days of the New is an American rock band from Charlestown, Indiana, formed in 1995. The band consists of vocalist/guitarist Travis Meeks and a variety of supporting musicians. They are best known for...  more
  • 29

    Chris Knight

    Folk music, Country

    AlbumsHeart of Stone, Chris Knight, Trailer II, The Jealous Kind, A Pretty Good Guy

    Chris Knight (born June 24, 1960) is an American singer-songwriter from Slaughters, Kentucky. In addition to releasing solo records of his own material, Knight has had a successful career writing...  more
  • 30

    AlbumsClassics, 20 Greatest Hits, Country Heart, Songs for the Working Man, American Faces

    John Wayne Conlee (born August 11, 1946) is an American country music singer. Between 1978 and 2004 Conlee charted a total of 32 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, and recorded 11...  more

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  • 31

    Will Oldham

    Folk music, Alternative country

    AlbumsI See a Darkness, Lie Down in the Light, Superwolf, Beware, The Wonder Show of the World

    William "Will" Oldham (born January 15, 1970), better known by the stage name Bonnie "Prince" Billy, is an American singer-songwriter and actor. From 1993 to 1997, he performed and recorded under...  more

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    #181 of 230 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters#37 of 55 The Best Country Singers From Kentucky

  • 32

    Audio Adrenaline

    Contemporary Christian music, Alternative rock

    AlbumsAudio Adrenaline, Worldwide, Underdog, Don't Censor Me, Some Kind of Zombie

    Audio Adrenaline is a Christian rock band that formed in the mid 1980s at Kentucky Christian University in Grayson, Kentucky. The band has received two Grammy Awards and multiple Dove Awards. They...  more

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  • 33


    Noise rock, Rock music

    AlbumsSpiderland, Tweez, Untitled Slint EP

    Slint is an American math rock band consisting of Brian McMahan, David Pajo, Britt Walford, Todd Brashear, and Ethan Buckler. They formed in Louisville, Kentucky, United States, in 1986 and disbanded...  more
  • 34

    Adrian Belew

    Rock music, Industrial rock

    AlbumsInner Revolution, e, Side One, Raven Songs 101, Young Lions

    Adrian Belew (born Robert Steven Belew, December 23, 1949) is an American musician, songwriter and record producer. A multi-instrumentalist primarily known as a guitarist and singer, Belew is noted...  more
  • 35

    Bryson Tiller

    R&B, Hip hop
    Bryson Djuan Tiller (born January 2, 1993), is an American singer, songwriter and rapper. Tiller initially gained notable recognition following the release of his debut single, "Don't", and his debut...  more


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  • 36

    Joan Osborne

    Rock music, Folk music

    AlbumsRelish, Righteous Love, Little Wild One, Breakfast in Bed, Pretty Little Stranger

    Joan Elizabeth Osborne (born July 8, 1962) is an American singer, songwriter, and interpreter of music, having recorded and performed in various popular American musical genres including pop, soul,...  more

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  • 37

    Steven Curtis Chapman

    Christian music, Pop music

    AlbumsThe Music of Christmas, All I Really Want for Christmas, Christmas Is All in the Heart, This Moment, Signs of Life

    Steven Curtis Chapman (born November 21, 1962) is an American contemporary Christian music singer, songwriter, record producer, actor, author, and social activist. After starting his career in the...  more

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    #1 of 88 The Best '90s Contemporary Christian Artists#7 of 121 The Best '90s Christian Bands & Artists

  • 38

    Richard Hell

    Rock music, Protopunk

    AlbumsDestiny Street, Time, R.I.P., 3 New Songs, Another World

    Richard Lester Meyers (born October 2, 1949), better known by his stage name Richard Hell, is an American singer, songwriter, bass guitarist and writer. Richard Hell was an innovator of punk music...  more

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  • 39

    June of 44

    Rock music, Indie rock

    AlbumsFour Great Points, Engine Takes to the Water, In the Fishtank, Tropics and Meridians, Anahata

    June of 44 was an American rock band which was formed in 1994 from ex-members of Rodan, Lungfish, Rex, and Hoover. The band's music is often described as 'boat rock'. The band's name refers the...  more
  • 40

    Gary Stewart

    Outlaw country, Honky-tonk

    AlbumsOut of Hand, Cactus and a Rose, I'm a Texan, Battleground, Brand New

    Gary Ronnie Stewart (May 28, 1944 – December 16, 2003) was an American country musician and songwriter, known for his distinctive vibrato voice and his Southern rock influenced, outlaw country sound....  more

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  • 41

    Squirrel Bait

    Emo, Alternative rock

    AlbumsSkag Heaven, Squirrel Bait

    Squirrel Bait was an American punk band from Louisville, Kentucky active from 1983 to 1988. Squirrel Bait's dense, moody, melodic hardcore sound, featuring pronounced tempo shifts, foreshadowed the...  more
  • 42

    New Grass Revival

    Progressive bluegrass, Country

    AlbumsAnthology, Friday Night in America, On the Boulevard, Hold to a Dream, New Grass Revival

    New Grass Revival was an American progressive bluegrass band founded in 1971, and composed of Sam Bush, Courtney Johnson, Ebo Walker, Curtis Burch, Butch Robins, John Cowan, Béla Fleck and Pat Flynn....  more
  • 43


    Rock music, Post-grunge

    AlbumsTantric, After We Go, The End Begins, Mind Control, 37 Channels

    Tantric is an American rock band from Louisville, Kentucky, United States. The group was founded in 1998 by former Days of the New members Todd Whitener, Jesse Vest and Matt Taul, who added frontman,...  more

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  • 44


    Rock music, Math rock

    AlbumsRusty, How the Winter Was Passed, Fifteen Quiet Years

    Rodan was an American math/post-hardcore band in the early to mid-1990s. The best known lineup of the band consisted of Jeff Mueller, Jason Noble, Tara Jane O'Neil, and Kevin Coultas....  more
  • 45

    Brother Phelps


    AlbumsAnyway the Wind Blows, Let Go

    Brother Phelps was an American country music duo formed by brothers Ricky Lee and Doug Phelps. Prior to the duo's formation in 1992, both brothers were members of The Kentucky Headhunters, a Southern...  more
  • 46

    Shipping News

    Rock music, Post-rock

    AlbumsVery Soon, and in Pleasant Company, Save Everything, One Less Heartless to Fear, Flies the Fields

    Shipping News is an American post-rock/post-hardcore band. The group formed in the fall of 1996 when members Jason Noble and Jeff Mueller, who were both in Rodan, collaborated to create music for the...  more
  • 47

    Roscoe Holcomb

    Folk music, Old-time music

    AlbumsThe High Lonesome Sound, An Untamed Sense of Control

    Roscoe Holcomb, (born Roscoe Halcomb September 5, 1912 – died February 1, 1981) was an American singer, banjo player, and guitarist from Daisy, Kentucky. A prominent figure in Appalachian folk...  more
  • 48

    Halfway to Hazard


    AlbumsCome On Time, Halfway to Hazard

    Halfway to Hazard is an American country music duo composed of singer-songwriters David Tolliver and Chad Warrix. Though Tolliver and Warrix grew up in different towns in southeastern Kentucky, their...  more
  • 49


    Pop music, Rock music

    AlbumsAt Yankee Stadium, Ridin' in My Car, NRBQ, Tiddlywinks, The Care Bears Movie

    NRBQ is an American rock band founded by Terry Adams (piano), Steve Ferguson (guitar) and Joey Spampinato (bass). The year the group initially formed was 1965/6. Adams disbanded the group for a time...  more
  • 50

    Crystal Gayle

    Adult contemporary music, Country pop

    AlbumsOne From the Heart, A Crystal Christmas, Cage the Songbird / Nobody Wants to Be Alone, Ain't Gonna Worry, Hollywood

    Crystal Gayle (born Brenda Gail Webb; January 9, 1951) is an American country music artist. Gayle began her career in the 1960s performing in the background of her sibling's bands, most notably...  more

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