When musicians dream of hitting the big time, they usually picture a grand tour of the world's arenas and stadiums, where they can rock fans by the millions. While anyone can dream, when you run into once prominent musicians at the county fair, it's safe to say that they're not on their way to stadium status.
Really though, what's wrong with playing smaller, more local shows? There are lots of hit musicians who played county fairs, and they don't seem to be ashamed. Sure, there are plenty of insane things to uncover at the county fair, but a gig's a gig. It doesn't matter if it's a 50,000-seat stadium, or something a bit more, well, intimate.
Backstage life at the county fair is a little different from playing stadiums. When you lead the rock and roll lifestyle, some crazy things can happen, but for the bands who wound up at the fair, the craziest thing that'll happen is a wholehearted binge of turkey legs and deep friend Oreos. The drinks might not be comped, but when you've released a triple-platinum record, you can splurge on a giant, $12 cup of lemonade.
Queen Latifah's rap career started in the late '80s, and she soon became one of the most respected figures in hip-hop. Hits like "Ladies First" and "U.N.I.T.Y." proved she was an MC who could deliver a powerful message.
Queen Latifah eventually morphed her musical success into an acting career, starring in the TV show Living Single, and garnering an Oscar nomination for her performance in Chicago. In 2017, she starred in the hit film Girls Trip, but still found time to perform at the LA County Fair that September.
Genres (Music): Hip hop music, Contemporary R&B, Jazz, Soul music, Gospel music, + more
Albums: All Hail the Queen, Black Reign, Trav'lin' Light, The Dana Owens Album, Order in the Court, + more
#88 on The Greatest '80s Teen Stars
Blondie has unarguably experienced great mainstream success; hits like "Heart Of Glass" and "Call Me" were virtually inescapable when they were first released. The band broke up in the '80s, but then reformed in the '90s, and has been touring regularly ever since.
Sometimes, touring takes them to the occasional fairground; they played the LA County Fair in 2016, the Illinois State Fair in 2010, and the Wisconsin State Fair in 1999. In addition to touring, Blondie hasn't stopped writing new music; they released the album Pollinator in 2017.
Genres (Music): Hip hop music, Pop punk, New Wave, Classic rock, Disco, + more
Albums: Parallel Lines, Heart of Glass, Blondie, Eat to the Beat, The Platinum Collection, + more
Is Iggy Azalea too current to be playing county fairs? Possibly, as her huge hits "Fancy" and "Black Widow" came out in 2014. Even so, she performed at the 2016 LA County Fair, as well as the 2017 Alaska State Fair.
Iggy doesn't appear to be a fair circuit regular just yet, but she's not above performing for a crowd who just ate a bunch of corn dogs.
Genres (Music): Hip hop
Albums: Work, Glory, Change Your Life EP, iTunes Festival: London 2013, Bounce, + more
In the late '70s and early '80s, Styx was known for dominating the airwaves and packing stadiums across the country. Songs like "Come Sail Away" and "Too Much Time on My Hands" are written to reverberate across arenas, but they still seem to work when played at the fair.
For over 20 years now, Styx has basically been owning the fair circuit, showing other classic rock bands that state and county fairs are a great way to extend a group's career. In 1991, Styx played fairs in Illinois, Indiana, and New York, and the band hasn't looked back since.
Genres (Music): Pop music, Rock music, Heavy metal, Pop rock, Progressive rock, + more
Albums: The Grand Illusion, Paradise Theatre, Pieces of Eight, Kilroy Was Here, Cyclorama, + more