20 notable musicians and bands from Austin, Texas
Paul Natkin/Getty Images

20 notable musicians and bands from Austin, Texas

With a music scene so legendary that it earned the moniker "Live Music Capital of the World," Austin, Texas has held a major influence on the world of music throughout the decades. From country to electro-dance music and everything in between, musicians who called Austin home at one time or another have made indelible marks on their respective genres. 

Flip through the slideshow below for a look at Austin's most iconic artists, ranging from psych-rock pioneer Rocky Erickson to experimental duo Explosions In The Sky and more. 

 
1 of 20

Roky Erickson

Roky Erickson
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One of the most innovative musicians in psychedelic rock, Roky Erickson never quite gained the level of prominence his talents deserved. Born in Dallas, Erickson moved to Austin as a child and dropped out of Travis High School in 1965. From there, he started a band called the Spades and then, at age 18, formed the 13th Floor Elevators. After struggling with mental illness for decades, Erickson made a musical comeback in the mid-2000s, earning a whole new crop of fans for his always-experimental sound. 

 
2 of 20

Gary Clark Jr.

Gary Clark Jr.
Nick Pickles/Redferns

Born in Austin and a guitarist from the age of 12, Gary Clark Jr.’s music spans rock, blues, soul, and R&B. In Austin, he played alongside legends like Jimmie Vaughan and has since grown into a bonafide music star, with four Grammy Awards under his belt. In 2020, Clark won Best Rock Song, Best Contemporary Blues Album, and Best Rock Performance for his album “This Land.” 

 
3 of 20

Ghostland Observatory

Ghostland Observatory
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Dance-friendly duo Ghostland Observatory, comprised of Aaron Behrens and Thomas Ross Turner, formed in Austin in 2004 and released their first full-length album a year later. Austin has been integral to the band’s rise, thanks to performances on the iconic “Austin City Limits” stage and shows at music festival South By Southwest. 

 
4 of 20

Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson
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A native of Abbott, about two hours north of Austin, Willie Nelson moved to Austin in 1972 after “retiring” from Nashville music. From there, he became a prominent fixture of the city’s music scene, performing regularly at the Armadillo World Headquarters, and staking his name as one of the founding fathers of outlaw country. In 1974, Nelson produced and appeared in the first-ever episode of the long-running PBS series filmed in Austin, “Austin City Limits.” 

 
5 of 20

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin
Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images

Born a few hours away in Port Arthur, Janis Joplin entered the legendary Austin music scene as a student at the University of Texas. There, she joined her first bands and made her first-ever recording of the song “What Good Can Drinkin’ Do” in 1962 in Austin. 

 
6 of 20

James McMurtry

James McMurtry
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The son of much-lauded American author Larry McMurtry, James McMurtry was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and grew up in Virginia. As an adult, he came back to San Antonio, not far from Austin, and later moved to the Capital City. He’s a frequent performer at the city's Continental Club with his band. 

 
7 of 20

Shakey Graves

Shakey Graves
Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Born Alejandro Rose-Garcia in 1987, the Americana artist known as Shakey Graves is a one-man band whose music deftly blends rock, folk, and blues. His most recent album, Can’t Wake Up, was released in 2018. 

 
8 of 20

Kinky Friedman

Kinky Friedman
Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

A Texas humorist and musician who’s run for governor a couple of times, Richard “Kinky” Friedman is one of the city’s most prominent storytellers. After graduating from the University of Texas in 1966, Friedman went on to serve in the Peace Corps and in 1973, formed his band Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys, with whom he rose to prominence in the mid-1970s. 

 
9 of 20

Jerry Jeff Walker

Jerry Jeff Walker
Paul Natkin/Getty Images

Perhaps best known for his song “Mr. Bojangles,” Jerry Jeff Walker was born in New York and relocated to Austin in the 1970s, where he earned the respect of artists like Willie Nelson, Guy Clark, and Waylon Jennings. Walker died in Austin in 2020, after a lengthy battle with throat cancer, at the age of 78. 

 
10 of 20

Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams
Paul Natkin/Getty Images

A country icon with an outlaw soul, Lucinda Williams was born in Louisiana and started her music career in Austin in the 1970s. Later, Williams moved to Los Angeles, where she built a cult-following of fans and minor mainstream success. In 1989, Williams made a critically acclaimed appearance on PBS’s Austin City Limits. 

 
11 of 20

Asleep At The Wheel

Asleep At The Wheel
David McNew/Newsmakers

A group that blends Western swing, country, and Texas’s distinct musical influence, Asleep at the Wheel headed to Austin on the advice of Willie Nelson in 1974. Since then, they’ve become stalwarts of the state’s music scene, recording dozens of full-length and live albums throughout the decades. 

 
12 of 20

Spoon

Spoon
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for SXSW

An indie band that rose to prominence in the early 2000s, Spoon was first formed by lead singer Britt Daniel and drummer Jim Eno in Austin in 1993. The band released its first major-label album in 1996, but really hit it big with 2007’s “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga.” The band’s most recent album was released in 2016, but Spoon is currently planning to release its 10th full-length album sometime in 2021. 

 
13 of 20

Townes Van Zandt

Townes Van Zandt
Jack Vartoogian/Getty Images

A legendary songwriter known for hits like “Pancho and Lefty,” recorded by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, Townes Van Zandt was born in Fort Worth, Texas, and lived in Austin for a number of years. He met Bob Dylan, a noted fan of Van Zandt’s introspective songwriting, in the city’s iconic South Congress district. Later, Van Zandt moved to Tennessee, where he lived largely off the grid before his death in 1997. 

 
14 of 20

Daniel Johnston

Daniel Johnston
Jordi Vidal/Redferns via Getty Images

Arguably one of the most remarkable songwriters in Texas music history, Daniel Johnston first attracted attention from Austin music fans while working at a McDonald’s restaurant in the 1980s. He’d moved to the city just a few years earlier, and started making music before developing severe mental illness. Music fans started paying attention to Johnston in the early ‘90s, when Kurt Cobain wore a t-shirt emblazoned with the art from Johnston’s 1983 album “Hi How Are You.” 

 
15 of 20

Parker McCollum

Parker McCollum
Danielle Del Valle/Getty Images

A rising country star born in the Houston suburb of Conroe, Parker McCollum currently makes his home base in Austin. In 2015, McCollum started attracting attention from country fans after the release of his independent album “The Limestone Kid,” earning him comparisons to Texas Country greats like Charlie Robison. In 2019, McCollum signed his first major-label deal with Universal Music Group’s MCA Nashville imprint. 

 
16 of 20

And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead

And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead
Marc Broussely/Redferns

Alt-rock faves And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, co-founded by Jason Reece and Conrad Keely, really got its start after the two musicians moved to Austin in the late ‘90s. Since, the band has built a cult following of fans of its hardcore-influenced sound, and released 10 full-length albums. 

 
17 of 20

Shawn Colvin

Shawn Colvin
Gie Knaeps/Getty Images

Born in South Dakota, Shawn Colvin moved to Austin after joining a band with college friends while attending Southern Illinois University. It wasn’t until 1993, though, that Colvin really became an Austinite, moving back to the city shortly after the success of her debut album “Steady On” in 1989. She still makes a home in the city and was inducted into the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame in 2019. 

 
18 of 20

Explosions in the Sky

Explosions in the Sky
Katja Ogrin/Redferns

This innovative post-rock four-piece from Austin got its start in 1999, when Midland, Texas natives Michael James, Munaf Rayani, and Mark Smith joined forces with drummer Chris Hrasky. After releasing albums and earning a local fanbase, the band wrote the soundtrack for the critically acclaimed film Friday Night Lights, about Texas high school football, in 2004. 

 
19 of 20

Bob Schneider

Bob Schneider
Gary Miller/FilmMagic

A regular in the Austin music scene — and Texas more broadly — Bob Schneider made his way to the city after dropping out of the University of Texas at El Paso. His presence in the scene has been honored with more than 50 Austin Music Awards, starting in 1992, when he was playing with bands like Joe Rock Head and Ugly Americans. 

 
20 of 20

Black Joe Lewis

Black Joe Lewis
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Formed in Austin in 2007, Black Joe Lewis and the Honey Bears do an incredible job of fusing blues, rock, and soul in a decidedly eclectic, uniquely Austin way. They’re a favorite of the festival circuit thanks to the band’s endlessly energetic live performances. 

Amy McCarthy is a Texas-based journalist. Follow her on twitter at @aemccarthy

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