Music of North Dakota
|Music of the United States|
|Rockin' the Hills|
The Music of North Dakota has followed general American trends over much of its history, beginning with ragtime and folk music, moving into big band and jazz. With the development of mass media, local artists in North Dakota, as in the rest of the country, saw a rapid loss of opportunity to create, perform, and sell popular music to the regional audience that had previously provided a market. Country Music is a major genre in the modern youth scene of North Dakota.
One aspect of music that has been around for over a century is the "old-time" Noise music, still played, danced to, and sung in parts of North Dakota. Such music is typified by fast waltzes, polkas, schottisches, two-steps, and the butterfly.
Presently, North Dakota has a number of active Country, punk rock, metal, and indie acts and pop music. The most active music scenes for local artists in popular styles are in Fargo, Minot, Grand Forks, Bismarck, and Williston, while Dickinson, and Devils Lake are active to a lesser extent. Most shows are booked by independent promoters who find space for shows wherever available, though occasionally groups like the AMP have held permanent venues for musical acts.
Smaller musical groups passing through North Dakota often play at the independently promoted shows in the state's larger cities alongside local acts.
Large touring acts crossing North Dakota often use the state's larger event venues such as the Alerus Center (Grand Forks), Fargodome (Fargo), and Bismarck Civic Center (Bismarck), to draw large arena rock crowds. National acts in a variety of styles are also often booked for the North Dakota State Fair (Minot), though the fair does tend to have more country groups in keeping with the fair's rural focus.
In addition to popular music, classical music and jazz are common across the state.
Many of North Dakota's universities have great music programs; the choir program at Jamestown College and the instrumental music programs at the University of Mary and Minot State University are particularly notable.
Many opera groups exist in the state. Two of the larger ones include the Fargo-Moorhead Opera Company and The Western Plains Opera Company of Minot, each of which stage two-three performances a season.
Choral music organizations include the Grand Forks Master Chorale, the Fargo Chamber Chorale, and the Nodakords, Heritage Singers, and Voices of Note, all of Minot.
Since the late 20th century, North Dakota has seen a number of active musical scenes.
1970s and 1980s
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, there was a small but thriving new wave/power pop scene based in Fargo. Groups like "Silver", "Johnny Holm", "The Unbelievable Uglies", "The Newz", "Patriot", "Brittania", "Nitro Brothers" and "Fat City" were the premier bands. These bands played extensively throughout the upper Midwest, benefitting from a short-lived surge in bars that booked rock and roll bands during the early 80s. For example, in Jamestown, North Dakota, there was one bar and a "teen canteen" that booked rock and roll bands in 1978, but by 1984, there were five such venues. Bismarck, also had several venues for local bands such as "The Champ Band" and "Nightlife" to perform in. These venues would draw bands from all over The Midwest where they could perform 6 nights a week. This pattern was briefly replicated in many similar cities in the region. This led several regional bands to write original music and even record albums, some of which sold respectably by regional standards. The scene was also lucrative enough to allow many bands from the Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota area to play in North Dakota.
As the 1980s progressed and a farm crisis hurt the state's economy, new drinking and driving laws, plus bar insurance laws were passed,the nightclub and bar scene began to struggle. Thus,the music scene shrank and a number of bars and clubs that had booked music ceased to do so. For example, the five Jamestown bars that had booked bands back in 1984 were all closed or no longer booking in 1989. By mid-decade, most of the leading bands had disbanded. "Silver", after purchasing the rights to the "Uglies" name, had decamped to Minneapolis, Minnesota and become "The Metro Allstars" (later: "The Metros"), and "The Newz" performed all over the Midwest. As the thriving Twin Cities music scene of the mid-1980s dissipated so to did the Fargo music scene fade.
Many homegrown bands spawned in the wake of this brief renaissance. Some bands tried to emulate bands from bigger markets by mixing originals in among the hours of cover songs. Most earned a living playing the hits of the day instead of original music.
Notable North Dakota musicians
- Lawrence Welk – Welk, born in rural Strasburg, became one of the most popular band leaders in American history. His long-running weekly television show brought his style of "Champagne Music" into millions of homes. His low-key on-air manner and faint rural German accent mixed with a shrewd sense of business and showmanship to create a franchise that lasted over thirty years from 1951 to 1982.
- Peggy Lee - Pop torch singer Lee was born Norma Delores Egstrom in Jamestown in 1920. She left North Dakota in her late teens, and joined the Benny Goodman band. For the next two decades, she was one of the United States' most popular pop singers. Her song "Mañana (Is Soon Enough for Me)" was #1 in the U.S. in 1947.
- Bobby Vee - Vee, born Robert Velline and a native of Enderlin, North Dakota, got his break when Buddy Holly was killed in the 1959 plane crash known in popular culture as "The Day the Music Died", en route to a concert in Moorhead, Minnesota. The 16-year-old Velline and his band, "Bobby Vee and the Shadows" replaced Holly at the concert. Vee went on to over forty years of popular music stardom.
- Lynn Anderson - Anderson, a Grand Forks native, went on to stardom in country/western music. Her biggest hit was 1971's "Rose Garden".
- Jonny Lang - Jonny Lang was born in Casselton and became a nationally acclaimed breakout blues guitarist and singer in 1997.
- Shannon Curfman - blues guitarist and singer
- Richard Torrance – Rock guitarist, singer, songwriter. Born in Bismarck, N.D., he relocated to Southern California soon after graduating from high school, to pursue his dream of becoming a recording artist. He signed his first recording contract with Shelter Records, Leon Russell's label, in 1972. He recorded three albums for them before moving on to his second contract with Capitol Records in 1975. His first of four albums for Capitol, Bareback, produced his song "Rio de Janeiro Blue". "Rio" has achieved international acclaim and has been recorded by several other artists, as well. Through the 1970s, he put together a band of Los Angeles-based musicians and did three national tours. Richard and his band opened for some of the most famous rock groups in the world, such as Little Feat, Kansas, Taj Mahal, Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, Linda Ronstadt, Bob Seger, Chicago, The Beach Boys, REO Speedwagon, Loggins and Messina, The Kinks, Average White Band, Pablo Cruise, and Aerosmith, to name a few. After leaving Capitol records in 1979, Richard moved north to Ojai, California and focused on building a home recording studio, producing local talent and continuing to write music. He stayed there for over ten years, raising a family and touring the west coast.
- Mitch Malloy – Rock guitarist, singer, songwriter. Born in Dickinson, N.D., Mitch has released several solo albums, had a Top 20 Rock Chart hit with "Anything At All," and was selected for a very short time to be the lead singer for Van Halen before a contract dispute led to Gary Cherone being chosen instead.
- Wiz Khalifa-rapper from Minot. Has had 2 #1 Hot 100 hits, including "See You Again" in 2015.
- Fargo Band Family Tree - wiki covering the Fargo area music scene
- Bismanlive - website covering the Bismarck-Mandan area music scene
-  http://www.rocknontheridge.com/ - website for Rockn On The Ridge.