Every music genre has a handful of cities that have defined their history and evolution. Whether it’s because of their reputation as a prime concert destination or because of their connection to famous musicians, there is no denying these city’s importance to their genre. Country music is much the same. We’ve gone through and compiled a list of some of the most important and famous country music cities.
1. Nashville, Tennessee
The first place most people think of when it comes to country music destinations, Nashville time and time again has carved out a name for itself in country music history.
While it’s inclusion in this list at number one is almost a bit too obvious, there’s still no better choice for such a lofty position. Nashville contains the largest country music museum in the country, with anyone who was or is anyone in country music having a spot in its country music hall of fame.
2. Bakersfield, California
What many consider to be the “Nashville of the West Coast,” Bakersfield is known for its eponymous “Bakersfield Sound” which served as a precursor to the popular sub genre of outlaw country. It also houses a venue known as “The Crystal Palace,” a restaurant, dancehall, and concert stage founded by one of the legends in West Coast country music himself, Buck Owens.
The town has been known to have been a favorite haunt of such country music stars as Merle Haggard and Wynn Stewart.
3. Denver, Colorado
Home to a thriving country music community, a great number of country-themed bars and social gatherings can be found here. The largest of which being the Grizzly Rose itself, a huge concert space, dance hall, memorabilia shop, and bar all rolled into one. Those looking to interact with other country music fans and listen to world renowned artists giving live performances need look no further than Denver.
One of the hallmark outposts in the days of the Wild West, the spirit of the West is still alive in well in Denver and is carried over to its country music.
4. Memphis, Tennessee
The resting place of “The King” himself, Elvis Presley. While he might have been known as the king of Rock’n’Roll, Elvis incorporated many country and blues elements into his songs. In fact, the entire rockabilly sub-genre which Elvis helped pioneer has its roots planted deeply in country music.
Memphis is a testament to how culturally important Country has been to other forms of popular music.
5. Dallas, Texas
Those visiting Dallas will find greasy food, shady saloons, and country music festivals galore awaiting them. This historic city resting right in the heart of the West has been inspiration for a great number of cowboy ballads across the years.
It doesn’t get any more authentic cowboy than in Dallas, the same goes for its country music.
6. Louisville, Kentucky
Known for their world class famous wooden baseball bat brand, the “Louisville Slugger,” Louisville is also home to famous country singer/songwriters, Bonnie Billy and Tim Krekel.
There are plenty of country music events regularly hosted in Louisville such as concerts and line dancing. Those looking to see what the East coast has to offer in terms of country will find plenty of it in spade here in Louisville.
7. Chicago, Illinois
While maybe not one of the largest music capitols, Chicago is definitely the most varied. From bluegrass, to jazz and even hiphop, Chicago has played an important role in the history of many music genres. Country is of course no exception to this rule, with Chicago being the home to a a country music sound heavily inspired by the blues background of the city.
Catch a show at one of Chicago’s many fine saloons and country music bars in order to check out the city’s unique take on country music!
8. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The city of brotherly love is not only an important historical site to America’s heritage, but also the to heritage of country music.
Home to a bevy of folk musicians over the years, the music of Pennsylvania is American as it gets. This patriotism, history, and tradition has bled over into its country music scene, making the sound as authentically American as good old apple pie.
9. Muscle Shoals, Alabama
Home to famed country music recording labels, Muscle Shoals sound studio and FAME sound studios, this town has been an instrumental part of country music’s legacy. Both sound studios are still around and actively being used to produce records, keeping the town relevant even to today’s country music scene.
Because of the town’s connection to the recording industry, many modern up and coming country musicians can be found giving live performances in the bars around the town hoping to get their big break.
10. Branson, Missouri
Once a sleepy town with not much to its name, Branson’s popularity began to explode in the 1980’s and 1990’s thanks to its country music scene. The city was home to live performances of both Waylon Jennings and Loretta Lynn, leading to its current reputation as a country music concert destination.
Currently, the city is home to Clay Cooper who hosts regular performances in the city.
11. Dyess, Arkansas
While not a terribly large town with very few country music venues, this spot nevertheless is worth visiting to fans of country music. Why you ask? It was where legendary country singer Johnny Cash grew up and is where his childhood home still stands to this day.
Those interested in visiting Johnny Cash’s boyhood home will be very pleased to know that it has been opened to the public as a museum and is one of many Johnny Cash related tourism opportunities to be found in the city.
12. Austin, Texas
Austin has earned itself the moniker of “the live music capital.” While other cities might still trump Austin when it comes to their focus on country music, Austin is not without its fair share of designated honky tonks and country music bars.
Those looking for a good beer and some country tunes should be sure to check out the Broken Spoke, Ginny’s Little Longhorn, and Gruene Hall while down in Austin.
13. Jacksonville, Florida
The origin city of several southern rock musicians such as the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jacksonville has had as much of an impact on rock as it has country. The musicians that have come from this town all embody an edgy blend of country and rock sounds.
Famous country musician Tim McGraw also got his start in Jacksonville before eventually moving to Nashville.
14. Athens, Georgia
Known as the “Liverpool of the South,” Athen’s reputation is mainly of that as an indie rock and new wave capital. What many people do not know however, is that the city has also made several contributions to the country scene as well, mainly when it comes to experimenting with fusion music.
A sort of mad science laboratory, the musicians of Athens are known for blending country elements into other genres such as rock, grunge, and even hip-hop.
15. Knoxville, Tennessee
Knoxville has at one point been an important place to many country music stars such as Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, and the Everly Brothers.
Those looking to learn more about Knoxville’s storied history and relationship with country music are in luck, as one can take a tour known as the “Cradle of Country Music” which goes through some of the most famous spots of downtown Knoxville.
A country road trip to some of the top country music cities across the country is a fantastic idea for any country music fan. Check out our list of country road trip essentials!