18 Of The Most Famous Musicians From Florida You Should Know

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The Sunshine State has produced dozens of music icons spread across multiple genres in the music industry. The state enjoys considerable fame for hosting exuberant music festivals that attract music lovers from around the world. 

While some musicians were born in Florida, others embraced the state as their home. Our list of artists features stars that played pop, rock, hip-hop, blues, soul, jazz, and more.

In this post, we’re going to look at 18 of the greatest and most famous musicians from Florida.

Related: Our post on the greatest American musicians.

1. Sam Moore (Sam & Dave)

American singer Sam Moore grew up in Miami, Florida singing gospel songs. He and Dave Prater formed the soul duo, Sam & Dave which ran from 1961 to 1981.

He was known for his high tenor voice during his days with Prater and released a number of big hits such as Soul Man, released in 1967.

Moore also enjoyed a thriving solo career and received a Music of Black Origin (MOBO) lifetime achievement award in 2006.

He remains a member of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

2. Debbie Harry (Blondie)

Although she was born in Miami, Florida, Deborah Ann Harry the lead singer of the Rock band Blondie, was actually adopted at only 3 months old which meant she was raised in New Jersey.

She started her musical career as a backing vocalist for The Wind in the Willows. She went on to co-found Blondie with Chris Stein in 1974. 

Blondie’s 1981 cult hit Rapture became the first number-one single featuring rap vocals in the United States.

In the same year, Harry’s debut solo album KooKoo made headlines. It incorporated multifaceted genres.

3. Cannonball Adderley

Saxophonist Julian Edwin Adderley was born in Tampa, Florida. His family moved to Tallahassee where he grew up and studied.

It was at elementary school, he earned the nickname of Cannonball for his voracious appetite.

He went on to become a huge part of the jazz scene after moving to New York in the 1950s, forming his own band with his trumpet-playing brother Nat.

He soon caught the eye of jazz trumpeter Miles Davis who hired him for his band and Cannonball ended up playing on some huge records like Kind of Blue and Milestones.

But, he wasn’t just a sideman and went on to have huge success as a bandleader with hits like his single Mercy, Mercy, Mercy which did well in the pop charts as well This Here, Work Song, and Jive Samba.

4. Mike McCready (Pearl Jam)

Best known as the lead guitarist of the legendary rock band Pearl Jam, Michael David McCready was born in Pensacola, Florida in 1966.

But, his family moved to Seattle and it was here that he started playing the guitar at age 11 and formed his first band in high school. 

McCready became a part of the rock group Temple of the Dog before he founded Pearl Jam in 1980 with Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, and Eddie Vedder.

He serves as one of the band’s chief music writers and co-wrote the music for hit songs like Yellow Ledbetter and Given to Fly

5. Ronnie Van Zant (Lynyrd Skynyrd)

Known for being the lead vocalist for rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, Ronald Wayne Van Zant grew up playing his father’s instruments in Jacksonville, Florida.

He learned the guitar and piano but gravitated towards singing.

Along with his interest in music, he fancied a career in baseball. In fact, a teenage Van Zant met his future bandmates in a baseball game and formed Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1964.

But, sadly at the young age of 29, Van Zant along with two band members died in a plane crash in 1977 at the peak of their career. 

6. Ariana Grande

Pop legend Ariana Grande was born in Boca Raton, Florida and went to Pine Crest School and North Broward Preparatory.

She began her singing career as a child artist in theatre with her first role as Annie in the musical and idolized Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.

At 15, the singer starred in the broadway musical titled 13. In 2009, Grande secured the role of Cat Valentine in Nickelodeon’s hit show Victorious.

She made several recordings during her Victorious years.

With her 2011 debut album Yours Truly and subsequent releases, Grande bagged the tag of a sensational pop artist. 

7. Tom Petty (Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers)

Tom Petty, born and raised in Gainesville, developed an interest in Rock and Roll at 10.

The singer learned music from Don Felder, the lead guitarist of Eagles.

His biggest influences remained Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles.

Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers dropped platinum albums titled Damn the Torpedoes and Hard Promises.

The band secured a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002. 

8. Steve Aoki

Born in Miami Florida, D.J. and electro house musicians Steve Aoki, is best known for his EDM music. He s which he started creating in his college days.

Although he was born in Miami, he grew up in Newport Beach, California where he studied and started to host underground concerts as well as produce his own records.

It wasn’t until 1996 that he started his record label Dim Mak Records through which he released his own music as well as lots of other artists such as Infected Mushroom, Bloc Party and The Kills.

He also holds two Guinness World Records for “the longest crowd cheer” and “the most amount of glow sticks for 30 seconds”.

9. Jim Morrison (The Doors)

American singer for the band The Doors, Jim Morrison grew up immersed in literature, philosophy, poetry, psychology, and religion.

Born in Melbourne, Florida he drew vocal inspiration from Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra.

The Doors’ frontman wrote their famous song Peace Frog based on disturbing events during his childhood.

Their music stands out for its psychedelic and blues-infused rock genre.

Morrison died at the age of 27 in Paris of a speculated drug overdose. 

10. Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth)

Thurston Joseph Moore came from a musical household with pianist parents in Coral Gables, Florida.

He drew influence from New York City’s No Wave music Movement in his late teenage years. 

In 1981, Moore emerged as one of Sonic Youth’s founding members. He redefined guitar tunes with his unique blend of psychedelia, post-punk, and noise.

In 2012, Moore appeared in the number one spot alongside Lee Ranaldo in Spin magazine’s top 100 rock guitarists.

11. Denzel Curry

Denzel Curry showed an interest in music and poetry in his childhood days.

The hip-hop artist from Miami Gardens began rapping in elementary school and participated in rap battles. 

Curry’s association with rapper and producer SpaceGhostPurrp shaped his music career in 2011.

His first mixtape, King Remembered Underground Tape 1991 – 1995 made him well known.

Denzel’s failed relationship inspired the song called This Life. It formed a part of his award-winning album, Imperial.

12. Fred Durst (Limp Bizkit)

William Frederick Durst, better known as Fred Durst, the lead singing of Rock bank Limp Bizkit developed a taste in rap, rock, and heavy metal music at 12.

The Jacksonville singer drew inspiration from the early 1980s hip-hop and the New Wave scene. 

He infused rap, metal, grunge, and alternative rock in his work with his turbulent personal life influenced his songwriting.

Limp Bizkit dominated the scene of rap metal and underground music in the 1990s and early 2000s.

13. T-Pain

American Rapper and singer Faheem Rasheed Najm, better known as T-Pain, was born in Tallahassee, Florida. In fact, the T in T-Pain stands for Tallahassee and represents the difficulty of growing up and living there.

He started experimenting with music at 10 and would often visit a family friend’s music studio. As a result, his interest in hip-hop culture developed.

The music career of T-Pain took off in 2004 with his cover of Akon’s song Locked Up.

T-Pain won a collaboration with the record producer’s label Konvict Muzik and ventured into singing over rapping.

14. AJ McLean (Backstreet Boys)

Alexander James McLean began dancing, acting in musical plays, and learning the piano at a young age.

Born in West Palm Beach, he met fellow band members of the Backstreet Boys, Howie D. and Nick Carter while auditioning for Nickelodeon’s show GUTS.

At 14, the singer and dancer became the first member of Backstreet Boys who went on to worldwide success in the 1990s and 2000s.

As well as performing with the backstreet boys, McLean also performed solo gigs under his alter-ego, Johnny No Name. He released his first solo album, Have It All, in 2010.

15. Barry Kerch (Shinedown)

Known for being the drummer in the American rock band Shinedown, Barry Kerch started playing the drums at seven and took various music lessons.

Growing up by the East Bay, Florida, Kerch played the drums at events throughout his student years.

Influential drummers like Tommy Lee, Rick Allen, and Nicko McBrain shaped Kerch’s career.

It wasn’t until 2001 that he bagged a place in the rock band Shinedown.

The Jacksonville group boasts four gold and platinum albums and over 10 million sold albums worldwide.

16. Betty Wright

Born in Miami in 1953, American singer Bessie Wright began singing gospel songs with her siblings at two years old.

At 15, she released her debut album, My First Time Around, in 1968 and her song Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do ranked 40th on Billboard Hot 100. 

Following a thriving career, Wright founded Ms. B Records, her record label, in 1985.

The soul and R&B singer died from cancer at 66 in her Miami home.

17. Mel Tillis

American country singer and songwriter, Mel Tillis was born in Tampa, Florida and grew up in a family of musicians. His baker father played the harmonica and the guitar.

He grew up playing music too learning the guitar and drums and writing music.

In 1957, Tillis worked with Cedarwood Publishing as a songwriter for $50 a week writing for lots of different artists.

He also released 60 of his own albums 60 over the course of his career with numerous top 10 hits and 5 number one hits with his first being “I Ain’t Never” in 1972.

The album, Mel & Nancy, included a duet collection with Frank Sinatra’s daughter.

Among numerous accolades, Tillis received the National Medal of Arts in 2012 from President Barack Obama. 

18. Sean Kingston

And finally, Kisean Paul Anderson, aka Sean Kingston is a Jamaican American R&B artist who was born in Miami.

He grew up surrounded by music with his grandfather, Lawrence Lindo, also known as Jack Ruby, a celebrated reggae producer. 

The singer incorporated the capital of Jamaica, Kingston, in his stage name.

Kingston released his song Beautiful Girls in 2007, ranking first on the US Billboard Hot 100.

Sean Kingston collaborated with various artists for the theme of the 2010 Youth Olympic Games called Everyone.

Summing up our List of The Greatest Musicians From Florida

Florida has given rise to prominent musicians ranging from boy bands to rock and metal groups to soul and jazz singers, as well as several versatile artists.

These musicians not only enriched the state’s music scene but garnered a worldwide fanbase. 

The influence of Florida’s celebrated musicians has transcended the music scene, with some artists emerging as cultural icons who offer unique expressions and redefine art.

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Written by Dan Farrant
Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 10 years helping 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. Since then he's been working to make music theory easy for over 1 million students in over 80 countries around the world.