Texans are proud of their state and with good reason. There is a lot of history, culture, and natural beauty to be found in the Lone Star State. And when it comes to music, Texans have produced some of the biggest and most famous names in the industry.
Whether they were born there, grew up there, or started their musical careers there, in this post, we’re going to take a look at some of the lives and careers of these famous musicians from Texas. Let’s get started.
Next up we have rapper and singer Nelly who was born Cornell Iral Haynes Jr in Austin, Texas. But, he found limited success in Texas before moving to St. Louis.
In 1999, Nelly signed to Universal Music and dropped his debut album Country Grammar. This was a huge hit selling over getting to number one in the US.
Since then, Nelly saw massive success in the 2000s and collaborated with stars like Justin Timberlake and Kelly Rowland and is one of the best-selling rappers in history selling over 21 million albums.
3. Barry White
Born in 1944 in Galveston, Texas, Barry White is one of the most influential R&B and soul singer/songwriters in history.
With over 100 million records sold, White’s baritone voice and sultry songs have been an influence on many artists.
He gained success in the 1970s as a solo artist. He had countless songs top the charts during the era, including Can’t Get Enough of You Babe and You’re The First, The Last, My Everything.
White passed away in 2003 at the age of 58.
4. Stevie Ray Vaughan
During his short career, virtuoso guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan was influential blues and rock guitar player that made a huge mark on the music world.
Hailing from Dallas, Ray Vaughan began his career playing gigs after a move to Austin in 1972.
His first big break came playing for David Bowie on the hit Let’s Dance and after that, he went on to record albums and tour until 1989.
His unique style has been a major influence on modern blues, rock, and alternative music.
5. Willie Nelson
Born in Abbott, Texas, music legend Willie Nelson achieved massive success as a country music singer-songwriter.
While his music career began in Nashville, he would not see major success until his return to Austin, Texas. It was here in 1973 that Nelson began charting with hit albums Shotgun Willie and Phases and Stages.
Since then, he’s been one of the most successful country musicians in history.
He also organized the first Farm Aid Concert in 1985. The concert series continues to help American farmers every year.
6. Buddy Holly
Next, we have another legend Buddy Holly who was born in Lubbock, Texas, in 1936. He was born into a musical family and began to learn how to play guitar at an early age.
He had his first big break in 1955 after opening for Elvis Presley. Shortly after, he then formed the Crickets and released his hit, That’ll Be the Day, as well as hits like Peggy Sue, and every day.
Unfortunately, Holly’s career ended in 1959 as he died in a plane crash in Iowa.
7. Kenny Rogers
Born in Houston, Texas, country singer and songwriter Kenny Rogers was born in 1937.
He gained his hit song in 1967 with The First Edition. From there, the band switched to country-influenced music, and Rogers eventually started his solo career in 1976.
Since the 70s, Rogers had an incredibly successful career with big hits, including The Gambler and Lucille.
He was also a prolific collaborative artist and had massive hits with Dolly Parton, Lionel Richie, and The Bee Gees.
In total, he had more than 420 songs hit the charts and sold over 100 million records in his 61-year career before he died in 2020, aged 81.
Related: You might also like our post about popular songs about Texas here.
8. Ornette Coleman
Next, we have jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman who was born in Fort Worth, Texas in 1930.
Coleman is known for being one of the leaders in the free jazz movement and was instrumental in adding improvisation and jarring techniques to his compositions.
His famous album “The Shape Of Jazz to Come” came out in 1959, the same year that’s Miles Davis’ album “A Kind Of Blue” came out. The completely different sound these two albums have shows a real divide in where jazz was going.
Coleman has had a celebrated career and received the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2007.
He died in 2015 at the age of 85 due to cardiac arrest, leaving a huge legacy for jazz musicians worldwide.
9. Roy Orbison
Rock and pop singer-songwriter Roy Orbison was born in Vernon, Texas in 1936. His musical journey started young as his father gave him a guitar at age 6 and shortly after that he dedicated his life to music.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that things got really going for him when he achieved his first hits with “Only the Lonely” and “Running Scared“. He also toured with the Beatles building up a strong rapport and friendship.
Over the course of his career, he has been a major influence on music, and in 1987, he received an induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
He also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and Rolling Stone ranks him as number 37 on the “Greatest Artists of All Time” list.
Orbison passed away in 1988, but his legacy will live on, and his musical styles are still imitated by countless modern musicians.
Born in Dallas, Texas in 1978, singer Usher Raymond IV better known as Usher has gone on to be a successful and influential R&B musician.
After first starting to sing at church in Tennessee where his family moved while he was young
As a young teen, Usher joined LaFace Records and by 1994, he released his first album.
In 1997, his second album was a huge success, and Usher has been ruling the airwaves ever since.
Since then, he’s sold over 80 million records and recorded 9 number one singles.
11. Selena Quintanilla
Known as the “Queen of Tejano Music,” Selena Quintanilla was a Mexican-American musical icon.
She began her life and career in Lake Jackson, Texas. It was here that she found success in Tejano music and in 1987 she won the Tejano Music Award for Female Vocalist of the Year.
In 1992, she had her breakthrough and won her first Grammy in 1994 but, unfortunately, she died in 1995.
While short, her career and legacy had a huge impact on Tejano music and American/Mexican culture.
12. Scott Joplin
Scott Joplin was an influential ragtime composer and pianist from Texas although exactly where in Texas no one knows.
He developed his musical skills in Texarkana while in a vocal quartet. From here, he traveled throughout the U.S. playing gigs in Chicago St. Louis, New York City and other major musical hubs.
Known as the “King of Ragtime,” Joplin wrote over forty original pieces, a ragtime ballet, and two operas during his career.
His biggest hits were “The Entertainer” and “Maple Leaf Rag‘ which both sold a lot of sheet music during the time and do even to this day.
13. Waylon Jennings
Born in Littlefield, Texas, Waylon Jennings is best known as one of the founders of outlaw country music.
Jennings started his career early and had his first band, The Texas Longhorns, by the age of 16.
During the 1970s, Jennings became a major influence on country music. It was here that he, Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser, and Jessi Colter recorded country music’s first platinum album.
He has had a major impact on music and recorded 96 hit singles in his career. Artists like Hank Williams Jr, Marshall Tucker Band, and Sturgill Simpson cite his work as major influences.
14. George Strait
Country singer George Strait is another musician who has had a major impact on modern country music.
Born in Poteet, Texas, Strait had a string of successful albums in the 1980s. In 2000, Strait received Artist of the Decade by the Academy of Country Music.
Since then he’s sold over 100 million records and performs festival-sized tours yearly.
With over 61 number one hits on the country charts, Strait has accumulated more hits than any other musician in a single genre.
Today he’s still recording, touring, and selling millions of records.
15. Erykah Badu
Next, we have singer-songwriter Erykah Badu who was born and raised in Dallas, Texas in 1971.
In the 90s, she quickly came to prominence in the neo-soul musical genre after opening for D’Angelo in 1994 in Fort Worth, Texas.
From here, she recorded her first album, Baduizm, that went triple platinum.
Since then, she has had a major impact on modern soul music and is often labeled “The First Lady of Neo-Soul.” She continues to record and tour today.
16. Kelly Clarkson
Hailing from Fort Worth, pop singer Kelly Clarkson’s rise to fame after she became the first winner of American Idol. Here she gained a record deal with RCA and went on to record pop and country hits.
After her American Idol success, Clarkson has had an accomplished career. From number-one singles to awards, Clarkson’s career has been filled with pop success.
She’s also spent time behind the camera for television and film. Recently she just released her latest album, When Christmas Comes Around.
17. Machine Gun Kelly
Rapper and singer Colson Baker, known professionally as Machine Gun Kelly rose to prominence in 2007 after releasing mixtapes in Houston, Texas where he was born.
It was here that he signed with Bad Boy Records and released his first album, Lace Up, in 2012. The album peaked at number four, and he’s continued to release albums to massive commercial success.
Combining hip hop, rock, and pop-punk, MGK offers a unique take on popular music. His fans appreciate it, and he’s sold over 20 million records during his career.
In 2021, he won his first major award, Top Rock Artist, at The Billboard Music Awards
18. Kris Kristofferson
Born in Brownville, Texas, Kris Kristofferson found success as a singer in the early 1970s.
Here he won the Country Music Association’s Song of the Year award for Sunday Mornin’ Comin Down.
Over the years, he would go on to release 18 studio albums and has also had a prolific acting career.
He has been continuously acting since 1971 and has been featured in hits like Convoy, Planet of the Apes, and the Blade Trilogy.
19. Roy Hargrove
Trumpeter Roy Hargrove was an influential jazz musician and composer from Waco, Texas.
After a move to Dallas, Hargrove began to learn the trumpet. It was here that he developed his unique ability to improvise solos.
In the 1990s, Hargrove released his first studio album. This and his other albums quickly became some of the biggest jazz hits of the 90s.
Throughout the 90s and 2000s, Hargrove went on to record several albums as a bandleader and as a sideman. He also won 2 Grammy Awards.
20. Janis Joplin
Singer Janis Joplin was a music icon from Port Arthur, Texas. During the 1960s, she pioneered psychedelic rock combined with soul and blues.
Her first success came as lead singer for Big Brother and the Holding Company. During her career, she released only 4 studio albums.
But, Tragically an untimely death cut her career short after she died of a heroin overdose in 1970.
In 1971, Joplin would posthumously top the US charts with her single, Me and Bobby McGee and has sold over 18 million albums in the US making her one of the best selling artists of all time.
21. Don Henley (The Eagles)
As a founding member of the band, The Eagles, Don Henley is one of the most successful rock musicians of all time.
Born in Gilmer, Texas, Henley began his musical career after meeting Kenny Rogers. In 1971, he formed the Eagles and had hits like Take It Easy and Desperado.
The band was a powerhouse during the 70s and 80s and sold over 150 million records worldwide.
They also won six Grammy Awards and have influenced countless modern-day musicians.
When The Eagles split in 1980, Henley continued his musical career as a solo artist and has released 5 solo albums.
22. Lyle Lovett
Lyle Lovett is a country music singer/songwriter from Houston, Texas.
Since 1986, Lovett has had continued success and released 13 studio albums.
His songs mix outlaw country, bluegrass, folk, and rockabilly. This unique sound has blessed him with several numbers one’s on the Billboard Hot Country Charts as well as a Grammys for Best Male Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Album.
Lovett has also been a serious actor and appeared in man films and TV shows and even played Balthazar in Much Ado About Nothing at the The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles
23. Sly Stone
Hailing from Denton, Texas, Sylvester Stewart who is known professionally as Sly Stone is famous for leading the group Sly and the Family Stone.
His band was instrumental in creating psychedelic soul, funk, and progressive soul in the 1960s and 1970s.
The band first rose to prominence after a string of hits in the late 60s like “Dance to the Music,” “Everyday People” and “Family Affair“. While the band broke up in the mid-70s, Stone went to record several solo albums.
Sly and Family Stone was incredibly influential on modern music, and the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
24. Meat Loaf
Born in Dallas in 1947, Michael Lee Aday better known by his stage name Meat Loaf was a hard rock and metal musical icon.
His career spanned over 60 years and he sold over 65 million records worldwide.
During this time, Meat Loaf was also an actor and starred in classics like the Rocky Horror Picture Show and Fight Club.
As a musician, Meat Loaf was at the forefront of hard rock during his career. His power ballads were incredibly popular.
While being a massive commercial success, Meat Loaf had to wait until 1993 to receive his first Grammy award for I’d Do Anything for Love.
25. George Jones
Born in Saratoga, Texas, George Jones was a prolific country music singer and songwriter.
Known for his duets, Jones was an amazing harmony singer and joined forces with many of the biggest country musicians of the era.
During his career, Jones performed duets with Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Jerry Lee Lewis, and countless other major stars.
While he never had pop-crossover success, Jones had a monumental impact on country music and influenced many stars, including Frank Sinatra and Bob Dylan.
26. Blind Lemon Jefferson
Known as the “Father of Texas Blues,” Blind Lemon Jefferson was an influential blues and gospel singer-songwriter.
Born in Couchman, Texas, Jefferson found success when he joined Paramount Records in the 1920s.
While he had a short career, his legacy lives on. Many mainstream rock musicians covered his songs, including Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead, and Counting Crows.
27. Dusty Hill (ZZ Top)
As a founding member of the rock band ZZ Top, Dusty Hill revitalized southern rock in the 1980s.
Born in Dallas, Hill joined with bandmates Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard in Houston to form ZZ Top where he played bass guitar as well as sang.
Their distinctive look and southern rock stylings are unique. This style helped the find massive success throughout its 50-year career.
28. Taylor Hawkins (Foo Fighters)
And finally, we have Taylor Hawkins who is a drummer from Fort Worth, Texas best known for his work with the rock band The Foo Fighters.
Before joining up with the Foo Fighters in 1996, Hawkins found success as the lead drummer for Alanis Morisette.
Today, Hawkins still tours and records with the Foo Fighters.
Summing Up Our List Of Great Musicians From Texas
As you can see, musicians from Texas have had a major impact on shaping modern music.
No matter what genre you enjoy, there is a star in Texas ready to write and sing a song for you.
Have we missed someone you think deserves to be on this list? We’ll be updating it so let us know who we should add.