17 Of The Most Famous Musicians From Colorado You Should Know

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Musicians from Colorado have had a major impact on modern music. Ever since the early 1900s, the Colorado music scene has helped birth countless musical careers. From disco to heavy metal, and country to hip hop, the wealth of talent coming out of the sunshine state is phenomenal.

To highlight some of these talented musicians, in this post we’re going to take a look at 17 of the greatest and most famous musicians from colorado and explore some of their lives and contributions to the music scene.

Related: Read our post on other influential American musicians here.

1. Philip Bailey (Earth, Wind, and Fire)

Born and raised in Denver, Colorado, Philip Bailey was one of the two lead singers of the funk and disco band Earth, Wind, and Fire.

His unique four-octave vocal range helped the band achieve major success in the 1970s.

Bailey was also a prolific solo artist and recorded several R&B and gospel albums in the 1980s.

He reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100, performing a duet with Phil Collins titled Easy Lover.

Bailey continues to record music and has been featured alongside many modern pop stars, including Travis Scott, Stevie Wonder, and Kid Cudi.

2. Isaac Slade (The Fray)

Born in Boulder, CO, Isaac Slade founded The Fray in 2002 with bandmates Joe King, Dave Welsh, and Ben Wysocki.

The band went on to record their first album, How to Save a Life, in 2005 with their sound which is a mix of alternative and modern rock.

Slade performs as lead vocalist and pianist in the band, and their sound is comparable to Coldplay and Maroon 5.

The Fray is still recording and has been nominated for four Grammy Awards.

3. Neyla Pekarek (The Lumineers)

As a member of the folk-rock band The Lumineers, Neyla Pekarek played cello and provided vocals for the band. 

She started playing cello at age nine in Denver, Colorado. She also spent her college years at the University of North Colorado, where she received a degree in music education.

The Lumineers released four studio albums that saw the incredible success that peaked when their second album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200.

In 2018, Pekarek left the Lumineers to pursue a solo career.

4. Ross Lynch (R5)

As a resident of Littleton, CO, RossLynch began his music career in fourth grade. He’s known for being the lead vocalist of American pop band R5.

They formed in 2009 on their YouTube channel where they documented the beginning of their career.

From here, they would go on to record several EPs and sign a record deal with Hollywood Records in 2012.

As well as singing, he’s also had an extensive acting career appearing in movies and TV shows. 

5. Chris Broderick (Megadeth)

Hailing from Lakewood, Colorado, Chris Broderick is the guitarist for heavy metal band Megadeth.

Before joining the band,Broderick played with several bands, including Jag Panzer and Nevermore. 

He’s is a technically accomplished guitarist and has a degree in classical guitar performance. His skills made him popular in the Denver music scene in the 1980s.

From here he would go on to join Megadeth in 2007 where he spent seven years performing with them.

After leaving Megadeth in 2014, Broderick formed a new band Act of Defiance with drummer Shawn Drover which he continues to play with as well as Swedish metal band In Flames. 

6. India Arie

India Arie has had a prolific and successful music career since the launch of her first solo album, Acoustic Soul, in 2001. Since then, she has released seven albums that received critical success.

Born in Denver, Arie was encouraged to study music at an early age. But, he parents seperated she moved to Atlanta where she went on to found Groovement Earthshare.

This music collective helped her land her first live gigs and sign a record deal with Motown. 

India Arie continues to record, perform and top the charts today.

7. Jesse Carmichael (Maroon 5)

Providing keyboard and rhythm guitar for the band Maroon 5, Jesse Carmichael has achieved massive success as a musician.

He grew up in Boulder, Colorado and studied in New York with lead singer of Maroon 5 Adam Levine.

From humble beginnings, Maroon 5 has gone on to become one of the most successful pop/rock bands in history.

Their sound takes inspiration from Prince, Michael Jackson, and many other classic 80s pop stars. 

8. Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith)

Tom Hamilton is the bassist for Aerosmith. During his career, he also wrote several of the band’s songs including Sweet Emotion and Janie’s Got a Gun

Hamilton spent his early life in Colorado Springs and began to learn guitar at four years old.

In 1970, Hamilton began to play gigs with Joe Perry and David Scott. The trio met Steven Tyler and went on to form the band Aerosmith.

Since then Aerosmith has been rocking the world for over fifty years and has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. 

9. Vince Herman (Leftover Salmon)

Vince Herman performs as singer and guitarist of the jam band Leftover Salmon.

Since 1989 the band has been performing their signature mix of bluegrass, rock, and country.

From Boulder, CO,Herman, and Leftover Salmon continue to tour and perform at shows and festivals.

He also performs with his new band named Great American Taxi.  Both bands have an evolving sound and member list. 

10. Kip Winger

Kip Winger is a singer-songwriter that gained popularity as the frontman for his band Winger.

Born in Colorado,Winger was busy studying music by the age of 16. From there he would start to find success in the 1980s.

After a move to NYC, the band Winger was formed. Combining elements of glam metal, heavy metal, and pop, the band went on to huge success.

Winger had two platinum albums and several charting singles before breaking up in the mid-90s.

11. Jill Sobule

Jill Sobule began her folk-rock career in Denver. She released her first album, Things Here Are Different, in 1990.

It wasn’t until 1995, that Jill would achieve commercial success.

Sobule uses her songs to tell stories that are filled with her personal experiences. You can expect her songs to cover a wide range of topics and issues.

She is probably best known for her 1995 hit, I Kissed a Girl. Over her career, she has since released 12 solo albums.

12. Derek Vincent Smith (Pretty Lights)

From Fort Collins, CO, Derek Vincent Smith also known as Pretty Lights, helped light a spark on the electronic music and festival scene in the United States.

Starting around 2007, he became a late-night headliner for other jam bands, including STS9, The Disco Biscuits, and Widespread Panic.

Known for his unique live shows, Pretty Lights uses sampling and synths to traverse through a variety of musical genres, including glitch hop, hip hop, and jam band music.

The music is performed with several controllers through Ableton Live musical production software. 

Today you can find him touring and headlining shows and major music festivals worldwide.

13. Ken Curtis

Best known for his performance as Festus Haggen on the western Gunsmoke, Ken Curtis also had an extensive musical career throughout the 1940s and 1950s.

He grew up in southeastern Colorado and started his musical career singing with a country band calledSons of the Pioneers

Then, in 1941, he replaced Frank Sinatra as the lead vocalist of the Tommy Dorsey Band.

He next joined up with Shep Fields. He also performed as a featured singer on the country music radio show WWVA Jamboree in 1948.

14. Rydel Lynch (R5)

Our second musician from the band R5, Rydel Lynch was boring in Littleton in 1993.

In 2009, she formed the band R5 with her siblings, Riker, Rocky, and Ross Lynch. 

In 2015, Rydel and R5 signed a record deal with Hollywood Records and released their first studio album in 2013.

Since then, they have had several hits, with their second album debuting at number six on the Billboard 200.  As of 2018, the band has been on hiatus.

15. Randy VanWarmer

Next we have Randy VanWarmer who was a singer-songwriter from Littleton, CO.

He was best known for his hit Just When I Needed You Most, which was released in 1979.

Over his career, VanWarmer released 11 studio albums. He also wrote several songs for The Oak Ridge Boys, including their number one US country hit I Guess It Never Hurts to Hurt Sometimes

VanWarmer passed away on January 12, 2004, in Seattle. To celebrate his life, some of VanWarmer’s cremated remains were sent into space in 2007 and 2012.

16. Paul Whiteman

Known as “The King of Jazz,” Paul Whiteman was a popular bandleader and composer in the 1920s and 1930s.

Born in Denver, Colorado, Whitman joined the Denver Symphony Orchestra in 1907. By 1920, he formed his orchestra and began recording for the Victor Talking Machine Company.

His band quickly became one of the most popular jazz bands of the era.

Whiteman was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1973 to honor his long and celebrated musical career.

17. Laura Veirs

And finally, hrowing up in Colorado Springs, Laura Veirs began her musical career in the all-girl punk band Rair Kx.

She quickly moved on and began experimenting with country and folk music by 1999. Her self-titled debut album featured her on vocals and guitar.

She has since followed up with twelve studio albums throughout her career.

Veirs also runs an indie record label, Raven Marching Band Records. 

Summing Up Our List of Musicians From Colorado

Colorado has produced many famous musicians over the years.

From the early years of jazz to modern-day EDM and hip hop, you’ll find many different musical styles emanating from cities and towns in Colorado. 

This list is far from exhaustive. Did we miss your favorite musician from Colorado?

Let us know about them.

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.