The Best-Selling Musical Act from Each State

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The Best-Selling Musical Act from Each State

Curious to learn who’s the most popular band from your home state? From Idaho? From Puerto Rico and Guam? (Google those last two—we’re not heroes.) This list (updated in part from information organized by one dedicated Reddit user in 2017) ranks the highest-selling musical acts from each state according to statistics provided by the Recording Industry Association of America in terms of total units sold. Gold records are equivalent to half a million albums, while platinum ones equate to a million albums. We’re looking at U.S.-only totals (for a global look, here are the best-selling albums of all-time). And we’re defining origin by state of birth or state where a band was formed. As for streaming data — well, that’s another article for another time, sheerly for our sanity here at Paste.

Alabama: Alabama
With nearly 47 million albums sold in the U.S., Alabama is the highest-selling country act in history, as well as out of anybody from their home state, Connecticut (kidding, kidding). The band is embarking on their 50th anniversary tour this year.

Alaska: Portugal. The Man
We know, we know, what about Jewel? (Technically, she was born in Utah, so just keep scrolling!) Formed in Wasilla, Alaska, the alt-rockers garnered enough national attention with hit “Feel It Still” (as well as for their clever music videos for subsequent singles) to make themselves Alaska’s highest-selling, most weirdly named band.

Arizona: Linda Ronstadt
In 1978, Tucson’s Linda Ronstadt was the highest paid woman in rock, after rollerskating her way into America’s hearts and wallets with six platinum albums less than a decade into her career. Throw in the albums she recorded with power trio Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton, and nobody else in Arizona stood a chance.

Arkansas: Johnny Cash
Raised in a New Deal colony in Arkansas, Johnny Cash capitalized on his outlaw reputation as the Man in Black. Both his highest-selling albums, Johnny Cash at San Quentin and Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison were recorded in front of live inmate audiences, though Cash himself never spent (extended) time in lockup. Combined the albums sold over six million copies and helped to respark Cash’s career,

California: The Eagles
What do you do with The Eagles? They were formed in California, introduced to each other when hired to play backup for Linda Ronstadt, but none of the original members are from the state. And still, their sound is indisputably representative of Southern California and, given the legacy of Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) as the most popular record sold, we’ll let ’em have it.

Colorado: The Fray
Grey’s Anatomy may have simultaneously established and destroyed The Fray’s career with its incessant use of the Denver band’s biggest, most melodramatic single “How to Save a Life” by effectively conditioning its audience with the Pavlovian reaction to weep from its opening chords. Sniffles aside, it must have worked—the album went platinum two times over.

Connecticut: Michael Bolton
Before he became a semi-frequent collaborator with The Lonely Island, New Haven’s Michael Bolton raked in 28 million album sales via hard-hitting bops like “Time, Love and Tenderness” and “Love Is a Wonderful Thing,” adored universally by somebody’s mother.

Delaware: George Thorogood
George Thorogood, a native of Wilmington, helped to popularize a blues-rock sound at the peak of his career with hits like “Bad to the Bone” and Bo Diddley’s “Who Do You Love?” He famously toured 50 states in 50 days, ensuring his influence was felt well outside the First State.

Florida: Backstreet Boys
Formed in Orlando, Florida (God’s country!), your favorite ’90s-boy-band-that-isn’t-N*SYNC take their state’s title for most popular group with 37 million albums, edging out Jim Morrison’s 33 million with The Doors and Tom Petty’s 31.5 million.

Georgia: Alan Jackson
If there’s one thing this list proves, it’s that country music sells: Newnan’s Alan Jackson is no exception. His career, built on a traditional country sound, peaked in the mid ’90s, though his 9/11-inspired “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” garnered national attention in 2002. He’s sold nearly 44 million records, with plenty more available at the Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, carrier of the Alan Jackson Collection.

Hawaii: Bruno Mars
Born in Honolulu, Bruno Mars rose to fame as a child impersonator of Elvis, before establishing himself as a songwriter—penning Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You!” and Cobra Starship’s “Hot Mess”— and an artist in his own right. Hits like “Uptown Funk” bordered on inescapable, especially when Mars contentiously swept the Grammys in 2018 with 24K Magic.

Idaho: Paul Revere and the Raiders
With all due respect to Built to Spill and Trevor Powers, musicians from Idaho are slim for the picking; Paul Revere and the Raiders take the title with four gold records. By the ’70s, the band shrugged off their colonial garb for their biggest hit, the less Americana-themed “Indian Reservation.”

Illinois: Chicago
And the winner for the highest number of indistinguishable album covers and/or titles by a musical group from Illinois goes to… Chicago! Based out of (forgive me) Chicago, the band has seven multi-platinum albums, including Chicago 17 (the one wrapped in brown paper), Greatest Hits, 1982-1989 (the one on, uh, sandpaper?) and Chicago IX: Chicago’s Greatest Hits (the one with paint buckets!).

Indiana: Michael Jackson
As the crown prince of Gary’s most famous family, Michael Jackson’s album sales are next to untouchable. For nearly a decade after Jackson’s death in 2009, Thriller held top spot as the highest-selling record ever at 33 million albums, though the Eagles recently reclaimed the title.

Iowa: Andy Williams
How many Christmas albums does it take to become the highest-selling musician from Iowa? The correct answer is five, plus “The Love Theme from The Godfather”! Keep crooning, Andy!

Kansas: Kansas
It’s a freebie, but Topeka’s native sons have outsold the rest with classic rock staples like “Carry On Wayward Son” and “Dust in the Wind.” The real question is, after 15.5 million records sold, has Kansas figured out a good conditioning routine for all that hair

Kentucky: Dwight Yoakam
In addition to seven platinum albums, country singer/songwriter Dwight Yoakam of Pikeville holds the record for the most appearances on The Tonight Show, with 26 performances.

Louisiana: Lil Wayne
Born in New Orleans, Lil Wayne got signed to Cash Money Records at 11 (and all this time you just thought he was short). In the 25 years since then, Weezy’s had 136 songs enter the Billboard 100 Charts (more than Elvis Presley, but less than those darn kids from Glee!) and has announced that 2018’s long-delayed Tha Carter V is his last album.

Maine: Howie Day
One hit was all it took to make this Bangor native the best-selling musician from Maine. Do you know all the words to “Collide,” even if you don’t want to? The subconscious answer is an irrevocable yes.

Maryland: Toni Braxton
The Severn-born singer has three multi-platinum records under her belt, including her self-titled debut and the 1996 album Secrets, featuring schmaltz-fest single “Un-Break My Heart.”

Massachusetts: James Taylor
Taylor was born in Boston and would split his youth between Massachusetts and North Carolina. His own Greatest Hits collection sold 11 million copies, not to mention his guitar and banjo contributions to Harvest and Blue.

Michigan: Madonna
The Queen of Pop hails from Bay City, Michigan—though, for many years, her hometown didn’t acknowledge her with any signage—and 10 million copies of The Immaculate Collection alone firmly make her the highest-selling musician from the state.

Minnesota: Prince
From Purple Rain to the Batman soundtrack, Prince’s career spanned 97 singles and 39 studio albums, each chock-full of sex and side-eye, and yet, he remained a lifelong resident of the state (“I like Hollywood. I just like Minneapolis a little bit better,” said Prince). His estate is now available to tour, though not without, ahem, controversy.

Mississippi: Elvis Presley
At 146.5 million albums sold, Elvis’s legacy is hard to compete with in Mississippi. Born in Tupelo, The King has outsold everyone else from the state, from Sam Cooke to Britney Spears, with no end to his reign in sight.

Missouri: Eminem
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Eminem is obviously a native of Detroit (like 8 Mile didn’t make that clear enough), but, in fairness, he was born and raised until age 14 in Missouri. Throughout the 2000s, Eminem had ten #1 albums on the Billboard Hot 100, nine of which debuted there consecutively, making him the highest-selling artist of that decade.

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