Florida might not be known as a place where musicians are often discovered, but many of Florida’s cities have thriving music scenes. Many famous musicians of various genres had their start in Florida. Here are a few of the most well known.
Music legend Ray Charles was born in Georgia in 1930, but he moved to Greenville, Florida with his mother when he was just a baby. He began to learn music from a local café owner, Wylie Pitman, who taught him to play the piano. He began attending Florida School for the Deaf and the Blind in St. Augustine when he was about seven-years-old where he continued his musical education. He also lived in Jacksonville, Orlando, and Tampa before leaving the state to pursue a career in music.
Pop singer Jason Derulo is a current chart topper in Hollywood, but he got his start right here in Florida. He was born in Miami in 1989 and attended performing art school where he studied music. In mid-2015 he sold his 3 million dollar Coconut Creek mansion, but prior to that he lived in Florida part time and worked on his music in the home’s recording studio.
Okay, so this one’s pretty obvious, but he’s worth mentioning anyway. Rapper Flo Rida, also known as Tramar Lacel Dillard was born in Carol City, Florida. He was signed to independent Miami-based record label Poe Boy Entertainment in 2006. He took inspiration from his home when creating his stage name.
Latin Pop artist Gloria Estefan was born in Cuba in 1957, but her family moved to Miami, Florida when she was young. She graduated from the University of Miami with a BA in Psychology. Eventually she became the lead singer of Miami Sound Machine who were signed to Discos CBS International. After many years fronting the band she went on to become a successful solo artist.
Pop artist Mandy Moore was born in New Hampshire but grew up in Sanford, Florida. She was very involved in Orlando’s music scene, performing in local musicals and singing the national anthem at events. She was discovered as a teenager when she was singing in an Orlando recording studio and a FedEx delivery man who happened to have a friend who worked at Epic Records heard her singing and sent her demo to his friend. She was signed to the label shortly after that.
Pitbull was born in Miami to Cuban-American parents in 1981. He performs hip hop music, but he was very inspired by Cuban music and the Miami Bass style that was popular in South Florida in the 80s and 90s. He met Lil John when the rapper was visiting Miami which led to his first collaboration with a famous rapper.
Singer-Songwriter and front man Tom Petty got his start in Gainesville, Florida. His love of music was sparked by meeting Elvis Presley, who was shooting a movie in Ocala, when he was 10-years old. He was a part of several bands while he was young and performed solo, but he didn’t find mainstream success until he formed the band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers with other local musicians. Later he went on to form the Traveling Wilbury’s with artists from other popular bands and release 3 albums as an independent artist.
During the 1970s Jacksonville, Florida had a thriving southern rock music scene which eventually birthed the band that popularized Southern Hard-Rock: Lynyrd Skynyrd. All of the original members of the band grew up in Jacksonville. They became a very popular band in Jacksonville in the early 70s before being signed by MCA Records.
Pop rock band Matchbox Twenty started out in Orlando, Florida. They first formed a band known as Tabitha’s Secret which was a successful band in Orlando’s music scene. Eventually they lost a couple of members and became Matchbox Twenty in the mid-90s.
Backstreet Boys and NSYNC
The Backstreet Boys and NSYNC are included together because they were both groups formed in Orlando by producer Lou Perlman. Perlman was inspired to work in the music industry because of his cousin, Art Garfunkel. He believed boy bands would be a great way to achieve success, so he started a talent search in Orlando that led him to the boys who would later become the Backstreet Boys. He repeated this a few years later to form NSYNC. It’s probably worth noting that while both bands were formed in Orlando, not all of NSYNC’s members are from Florida (Justin Timberlake, for instance, is from Memphis).