10 Greatest And Most Famous Musicians From North Dakota

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

The rural plains of North Dakota are known for producing crops, honey, and livestock. But did you know that they produce mountains of talent, too?

North Dakota may not be the first state you think of when you imagine famous musicians, but you may be surprised to find out how many come from the Peace Garden State.

Here are 10 of the most famous musicians from North Dakota that you should listen to. Let’s begin!

Related: Read our list of famous American musicians here.

1. Lawrence Welk

Born in Strasburg, North Dakota, in 1903, accordionist Lawrence Welk was raised on a homestead in a makeshift home made from an overturned wagon and began working on the family farm full-time in the fourth grade.

Welk bought his first accordion on loan from his father, whom he promised to repay by working for free until he was 21. On his 21st birthday, he left the farm and began performing with and leading big bands all over North and South Dakota.

After a wildly successful career as a recording and performing artist, Welk started The Lawrence Welk Show in Los Angeles in 1955, which ran until he retired in 1982.

2. Wiz Khalifa

American rapper Wiz Khalifa was born Cameron Jibril Thomaz in Minot, North Dakota, in 1987.

The child of a military family, Khalifa moved around the world for most of his childhood, finally landing in Pittsburgh, where he began writing, rapping, and performing.

Khalifa began recording his early mixtapes at the age of 15, releasing his first album, Show And Prove, in 2006. His first studio album Rolling Papers, released in 2011, peaked at #1 on the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts.

Khalifa is perhaps best known for his singles “Black And Yellow,” “Work Hard, Play Hard,” and “We Dem Boyz.”

3. Bobby Vee

American singer, songwriter, and musician Bobby Vee was born Robert Thomas Velline in 1943 in Fargo, North Dakota. 

Vee grew up playing with his high school band, which helped him get his career underway when he was just 15 years old.

The tragic deaths of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper in 1959 gave Vee his first big break, as he got to perform in their place at their next gig. 

Vee’s five-decade career as a recording artist began with his first single, “Suzie Baby,” which got him signed to Liberty Records in 1959. He had several other hits in the early 1960s, including “Take Good Care Of My Baby.”

4. Peggy Lee

Legendary female jazz singer, actress, and composer Peggy Lee was born Norma Deloris Egstrom in Jamestown, North Dakota, in 1920.

Lee is known as one of the most fantastic singers of all time. Her illustrious seven-decade career began on the radio, where she sang with Benny Goodman’s big band.

Of her 1,100 recordings and 270 compositions, Lee was most famous for her hits “Fever” and “Big Spender.” 

Among her many accolades, she was awarded a Hollywood Walk of Fame star in 1960 and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.

5. Jonny Lang

Jon Gordon Langseth Jr., popularly known as Jonny Lang, was born in Fargo, North Dakota, in 1981. Lang is an American blues guitarist, singer, and songwriter.

He began playing the guitar at the early age of four, coming to fame in the mid-1990s when he was just 15 years old. Even at that young age, his weathered, soulful voice was perfect for blues and R&B music.

Lang is perhaps best known for his hit single “Lie To Me.” So far in his career, Lang has released eight studio albums, including his latest, Signs, in 2017.

6. Lynn Anderson

Lynn Rene Anderson, professionally known as Lynn Anderson, was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, in 1947 but grew up in San Bernardino, California.

Anderson began her career as a country singer in the mid-1960s, rapidly becoming a successful country star.  

Her most famous song, “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden,” the first country music video to cross over and become popular among pop audiences, was named one of the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.”

Lynn Anderson died of pneumonia in July 2015, less than two months after the release of her final gospel album, Bridges

7. Reina del Cid

American singer and songwriter Reina del Cid was born Rachelle Cordova in Fargo, North Dakota, in 1988.

Del Cid is best known for her lead role in her self-named indie folk-rock band, Reina del Cid, which formed in Minneapolis before shifting to Los Angeles. She built her YouTube following by producing original songs and covers almost every Sunday. 

The independent band has released four studio albums (blueprints, plans; The Cooling; Rerun City; and Morse Code), promoting primarily through YouTube.

Reina del Cid’s next album, Candy Apple Red, was released in April 2022.

8. Gwen Sebastian

Gwen Noel Sebastian, known professionally as Gwen Sebastian, was born in Hebron, North Dakota, in 1974. Sebastian grew up on a cattle ranch where her parents, also musicians, taught her to perform.

She quit nursing school to pursue a solo career as a country music singer and songwriter in Nashville, signing her first recording deal in 2009.

Sebastian later appeared as a contestant on the television show The Voice. While she was eliminated early in the competition, she started touring with coaches Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert immediately afterward. 

Today, Sebastian continues to record and perform with Miranda Lambert, including the songs “Platinum” and “The Weight of These Wings.”

9. Ann Sothern

American actress and singer Ann Sothern was born in Valley City, North Dakota, in 1909. Her career in the entertainment industry included numerous stage, film, television, and radio acts, but she’s best known for the TV series “Private Secretary.”  

Sothern wasn’t always set on being an actress, however. As a teenager in Minnesota, she was a singer and composer, pursuing a career on Broadway, where she was moderately successful.

Unfortunately, despite her lengthy filmography, Sothern never had the mainstream success she deserved because Hollywood couldn’t handle such a strong and assertive woman.

10. Mary Osborne

Born in Minot, North Dakota, in 1921, Mary Osborne was a famous jazz musician between the 1940s and 1950s.

Growing up, her father, also a musician, encouraged her to pursue the arts. By the time she was four years old, she’d begun to learn to play the ukulele, violin, and piano. She could also tap dance and sing. 

She began playing on local radio professionally as part of an all-female trio in her teens, accepting chocolate bars as payment. 

As her career progressed, Osborne went on to perform with Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Dizzie Gillespie, and Al Cohn.

Osborne died of leukemia in 1992, ending her five-decade music career.

Wrapping Up Our List of Popular Singers From North Dakota

While the musicians on this list come from all over North Dakota, they each have one thing in common- their music has made an impact on people across the state and beyond.

For a state with a population of less than a million, North Dakota sure produces a lot of talented artists.

We hope you’ve enjoyed learning about these talented artists and that their music inspires you to create your own masterpiece. Who is your favorite North Dakota musician?

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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.