Music of Arizona

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The music of Arizona originally was influenced by Native American music. In the 20th century, Mexican immigrants. Banda, corridos, mariachi and conjunto became very popular in Arizona and innovative scenes popped up in immigrant communities across the state.

Other major influences come from styles popular throughout the rest of the United States.


Flagstaff has a community (non-professional) orchestra, the Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra. The FSO includes both townspeople and faculty and students from Northern Arizona University. The Orpheum Theater is the biggest performing venue in northern Arizona. The city hosts two music festivals, the Flagstaff Folk Festival and the Flagstaff Music Festival.

Native American flautist R. Carlos Nakai was born in Flagstaff.


Phoenix is a center for musical innovation, and has been called a rock mecca by Jim Adkins of Jimmy Eat World.[1] Jimmy Eat World, which gained fame as an emo rock group, is one of the most popular bands to come from Phoenix in recent years. Tempe (home of Arizona State University) and Mesa also coexist with Phoenix as part of the musical scene. Other Phoenix bands of notoriety include: Meat Puppets, Gin Blossoms, Phunk Junkeez, Dead Hot Workshop, Opiate for the Masses, The Jetzons, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers.

In the 1960s, rock and R&B bands inspired by British Invasion groups like The Beatles appeared in Phoenix. The most famous musician to emerge from this era was Alice Cooper, along with Bill Spooner (most famously of The Tubes); local stars included The Superfine Dandelion, Mike Condello, The Grapes of Wrath, Phil & the Frantics, P-Nut Butter and Floyd & Jerry. The group Pages was formed by Phoenix residents Richard Page and Steve George, who later formed the nucleus of the pop-rock group Mr. Mister. Dolan Ellis has lived in Phoenix most of his adult life. He moved to LA in the early 1960s, where he achieved national fame as an original member of the Grammy-winning folk group, The New Christy Minstrels. Dolan returned to Phoenix after a whirlwind success, while the group was still on top. In February 1966, Governor Sam Goddard appointed Dolan as Arizona's Official State Balladeer. Now Dolan has served 10 governors in that capacity, with no break in service. His work has earned him many awards, including selection as the first Arizona Culture Keeper, and having Senator John McCain read his accomplishments into the Congressional Record. Dolan spent a few years away from Phoenix from about 1993 through 2003, to found the Arizona Folklore Preserve in Ramsey Canyon. He still commutes to the AFP, where he continues to serve as Artist-in-Residence, about twice a month.

In the early 1980s, Phoenix saw a vibrant hardcore punk scene. The biggest bands included The Feederz, JFA (also known as Jodie Foster's Army) and Meat Puppets, the latter of which combined country influences and became a major influence on grunge. Other prominent rock bands of the time include Flotsam and Jetsam, Sun City Girls, Sacred Reich, Caterwaul, and Mighty Sphincter. CeCe Peniston is among the best-known Black musical performers from this area.

During the 1990s, Chester Bennington, current lead singer for Linkin Park, spent several years in Phoenix as the lead singer for the post-grunge band Grey Daze. Another prominent Phoenix musician, with whom Chester Bennington has collaborated, is DJ Z-Trip. This time also saw the formation and rise of pop punk/emo band Jimmy Eat World. Also Bob Stubbs formerly of the band Social Distortion played drums in quite a few local bands including The Voice and Glass Heroes.

The late 1990s and early 2000s saw a strong, emerging rock scene in Phoenix and the surrounding areas. Indie rock bands included Element 115 the band, The Stiletto Formal, Fine China, Peachcake, Sugar High, The Format, 36 Cents and a Dream. Punk influenced artists include Where Eagles Dare, Authority Zero, Sweet Bleeders, Haunted Cologne, and Andrew Jackson Jihad. There is also a growing post-hardcore scene including bands like Scary Kids Scaring Kids, Blessthefall, Eyes Set To Kill, The Word Alive, Greeley Estates. The middle part of the decade were marked by the transition from hardcore punk into death metal with bands such as The Irish Front, Knights of the Abyss and Job for a Cowboy. In recent years there has been a huge growth of local Arizona hardcore bands ranging from genres of hardcore punk, post-hardcore, metalcore and death metal. Country music star Dierks Bentley is from Phoenix and Michelle Branch is from Sedona.

There have been numerous Arizona residents that have had varying success on the American Idol. Jordin Sparks won the sixth season of American Idol. Sparks was later selected to sing the National Anthem at Super Bowl XLII, which happened to take place at her hometown of Glendale, Arizona. On the seventh season, Arizona had two contestants make it to the "Final Twelve". David Hernandez came in twelfth place while Brooke White made it to fifth place. The eighth season featured a regional audition at the Arena in Glendale on July 25, 2008. Several contestants made it to the "Hollywood phase" but only one made it into the final twelve; Scott MacIntyre, who came in eighth place. Despite this, Phoenix was called one of the "year's standout cities."[2]

Phoenix boasts a renowned orchestra, the Phoenix Symphony.

Hispanic/Latino music has a large following, and numerous import stores exist throughout the city for it. There are also several Spanish-language music radio stations. The annual "Fiestas Patrias" celebration brings many Mexican musicians to town, with groups such as Los Tigres del Norte.

Joe Bethancourt is another long-time resident that has achieved fame with his music.


Popular venues have included Comerica Theatre, Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion, Marquee Theater, The Clubhouse (no longer open due to shooting), Nile Theater, Long Wong's, Nita's Hideaway, The Mason Jar, Modified Arts, Trunk Space, Paper Heart Gallery, Club Red, and Compton Terrace. Companies have started operating, giving the Phoenix music goer many choices any given night for entertainment. These include Lucky Man Concerts, The Shizz, and Fizzle Promotions. Newer Groups like Chasing Venus and GoodBye Polars have been pushing to establish Phoenix as a city known for its distinct musical stylings. Phoenix, being so close to Texas and California, has developed an original music sound that is one part dirty blues, the other part California sweet. ZZ-Top meets Brian Wilson is Phoenix potential in a nutshell.

Dance clubs in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe are active, especially with students. Phoenix is still a common place for "raves", dance parties hosted in typically in warehouses, legal venues, or isolated desert locations.


The city of Tucson, Arizona, has an Official Troubador position, currently Ted Ramirez. Ramirez is a singer and songwriter who uses both English and Spanish lyrics, as well as singing in O’odham; he is also an Arizona Culture Keeper. The city of Tucson also produced the Ronstadt family, which most famously includes Linda Ronstadt; her brother Michael Ronstadt is a popular local musician. There are also many Ronstadt cousins who perform regularly in and around Tucson. Bobby Kimmel, who with Linda Ronstadt was one of 'The Stone Poneys', has returned to Tucson and performs frequently as part of BK Special

Tucson's music festivals include the Norteño Music Festival & Street Fair, which celebrates the Mexican-American style of norteño. Tucson supports an orchestra called the Tucson Symphony Orchestra.

The first weekend in May each year, the Tucson Kitchen Musicians Association, host the Tucson Folk Festival, a huge 2-day event on four stages, with about 100 acoustic music acts. The first festival was held in 1986.

Tucson boasts some of the best musicians, including several who have achieved national fame and recognition. Lalo Guerrero, known as the Father of Chicano Music and a recipient of the National Medal of Arts among many other awards, was born in Tucson, where he lived until his early 20s. But his heart was always in Tucson, and he returned there as often as possible, whether he was living in San Diego, Los Angeles, or, as in the last decades of his life, Palm Springs. Lalo died on March 17, 2005, at the age of 89. After services in Palm Springs, his ashes were returned to Tucson where a beautiful memorial tribute was held. On April 17, 2005, Lalo was one of the first inductees in the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame.

Travis Edmonson was named Tucson's Singing Ambassador of Goodwill in 1975, a mayoral appointment that still stands today. Lalo Guerrero was an inspiration to Travis, a musician of Anglo descent who grew up in Nogales and spent a lot of time across the border absorbing the culture and developing a unique ability for singing and playing the native music of Mexico. Travis and his friend Roger Smith (who later became a famous actor (TV's Father Knows Best, Wagon Train, Sunset Strip, and Mr. Roberts) before marrying an even more famous actress, Ann-Margret) were well-known at the University of Arizona for serenading women on campus. Travis went on to fame as a member of the Gateway Singers and especially as half of the Bud & Travis folk (and Mexican music) duo that was together off an on from about 1958 to 1965, producing 10 albums. Travis was inducted as an Arizona Culture Keeper in September 2005. His citation includes these words: "Edmonson has been at the vanguard of the movement to bring Latin music north of the border."

Some other famous Tucson musicians include Bob Nolan, Katie Lee, and Rex Allen. Bob Nolan, a founder of the Sons of the Pioneers and the composer of classics such as "Cool Water" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds," is a Tucson High graduate and is said to have written "Cool Water" while still in school.

Katie Lee moved to Tucson around the age of 1, and is an actress and folk singer. She is also an activist, and her cause is well-explained in her book, "All My Rivers Are Gone". Katie also wrote a book about cowboy music and recorded a double LP (with Travis Edmonson) by the same name: "Ten Thousand Goddam Cattle."

Rex Allen was the singing cowboy who replaced Roy Rogers in the waning years of that golden era. A native of Willcox, Arizona, he lived in Tucson in his later years. At the age of 11, John Denver received his first guitar from his grandmother while living in Tucson.

In the 1980s and throughout the 1990s Tucson was the site of a vital underground music scene centered around Club Congress and a handful of clubs and ersatz backyard parties located in the neighborhoods proximate to the University of Arizona. Many of these bands were of the indie rock and punk variety. They included Giant Sand, The Bled, Gat-Rot, The River Roses, Pollo Elastico, The Phantom Limbs (not the hardcore band), Al Perry, The Deadbolts, The Lonely Trojans, Mondo Guano, Machines of Loving Grace, The Fells, Digital Leather The Knockout Pills, Chick Cashman, The Weird Lovemakers, Rainer Ptacek, Doo Rag, Bob Log III, and The Sidewinders (later the Sand Rubies).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Jimmy Eat World Interview". IGN. 2004-11-29. Retrieved November 11, 2009. 
  2. ^ Vary, Adam B. (January 2, 2009). "American Idol Season 8: A Preview". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved November 11, 2009.