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In the United Statesmarker, Californiamarker is commonly associated with the film, music, and arts industries; there are numerous world-famous Californian musicians. Hardcore punk, hip hop, country and heavy metal have all appeared in California. Furthermore, new genres of music, such as third wave ska, have their origins in California.

Official symbols

The official state song of California is "I Love You, California", written by F. B. Silverwood and composed by Alfred F. Frankenstein of the Los Angeles Symphony Orchestra. It was designated the state song in 1951. Other songs, including "California, Here I Come", have also been candidates for additional state songs since 1951, but in 1988 the official standing of "I Love You, California" was confirmed.

California also has an official fife and drum band, the California Consolidated Drum Band, which was so designated in 1997.

The state's official folk dance is the square dance, which has been found in California since at least the Gold Rush.

Native American music

Native Americans of many different kinds lived in California prior to the discovery of the New World by Europe. Most of the tribes were culturally related to each other, as well as to the Human-speaking peoples of Arizonamarker and New Mexicomarker. They use a relaxed vocal technique, in stark contrast to Native Americans from much of the rest of North America. The songs of this area are non-strophic, and are characterized by the use of a rise, a section of a song which is slightly higher in pitch than the rest of the song. This technique is absent or rare outside of the California-Yuman area, known only among some tribes on both coasts of North America.

In the late 19th century, Native American music began to be incorporated by classical composers throughout the country. In San Francisco, Carlos Troyer published compositions like Apache Chief Geronimo's Own Medicine song with a piano accompaniment by Troyer. He also later published two Zuni songs.

Early foreign influences

The earliest Spanish and English explorers in California encountered Native Americans and established missions to convert them to Christianity. Chanted prayers and hymns were often used, and choirs were eventually formed; many missions formed Native American choirs among recent converts.

As California's European, Asian and African population increased in the 19th century, the state became the earliest West Coast territory admitted to the United Statesmarker. As on the East Coast, music at the time was dominated by popular minstrel shows and the sale of sheet music. Performers included the Sacramentomarker-born Hyers Sisters and Black Patti. The state's large Mexicanmarker population brought traditional folk guitar to California, including virtuoso Luis T. Romero. Chinesemarker immigrants came to California to work on the transcontinental railroad and soon became a large minority in the state; the San Franciscomarker Chinese Opera House was built in 1880, though two years later saw the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in order to prevent more immigration. The visit of King Kalakaua of Hawaiimarker in 1874 saw the Hawaiian national anthem, "Hawaii Ponoi" (written by the king) set to music by Henry Berger. In the 1880s, Carlos Troyer became a prominent composer, incorporating Spanishmarker and Zuni influences. Polishmarker composer Anton de Kontski's Polish Patrol and Awakening the Lion were also quite popular.

Spanish music in California

Manuela García was the most prolific performer recorded by Charles Fletcher Lummis
The Spanish missions in California has brought European music to the area. From the late 18th century to the late 19th century, many visitors to California remarked on the uniqueness of the Spanish language music in California. This music was distinctively Californian, different from both Mexican and Spanish music of the time (though many elements are found throughout these traditions).

With the arrival of many Americans from the East Coast, as well as immigrants from as far away as China, however, Spanish folk music began to dwindle in popularity in California. Charles Fletcher Lummis, himself an immigrant to California, recorded many kinds of Spanish and Native American folk music for the Southwest Society of the Archaeological Institute of America.

Later in the 20th century, other revivalists like Gabriel Eulogius Ruiz and Al Pill helped keep Spanish-California traditions alive.

1950s and 60s

Bakersfield sound

In the 1950s and early 1960s, country music was dominated by the slick Nashville sound that stripped the genre of its gritty roots. The town of Bakersfieldmarker saw the rise of the Bakersfield sound as a reaction against Nashville, led by people like Buck Owens and future star Merle Haggard.

Surf rock

In the early 1960s, youth in southern California became enamored with surf rock groups, many instrumental, like The Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, The Chantays, Royale Monarchs and The Surfaris. Surf rock is said to have been invented by Dick Dale with his 1961 (see 1961 in music) album "Let's Go Trippin'". Surf rock's popularity ended in the mid-1960s with the coming of psychedelic music, however bands like Papa Doo Run Run have continued to perform and tour for the last 40 years.

Psychedelic rock

The late 1960s saw San Francisco and Hollywoodmarker rise as the center for psychedelic rock and a mecca for hippies. Haight-Ashburymarker became a countercultural capital, and bands like Jefferson Airplane, Loading Zone, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Country Joe and the Fish, Santana, The Charlatans, Big Brother & the Holding Company and the Grateful Dead helped to launch the blues- and folk-rock scene; other bands, like Moby Grape and The Flamin' Groovies used a more country-influenced sound, while Cold Blood incorporated R&B and Orkustra played a sort of freeform psychedelia. Of all these bands, the Grateful Dead were undoubtedly the longest-lasting of all. They continued recording and performing for several decades under the leadership of Jerry Garcia, experimenting with a wide variety of folk, country and bluegrass, and becoming a part of the jam band phenomenon.

Hollywood's Sunset Strip area produced bands like The Byrds, The Doors, Love, Buffalo Springfield, and The Seeds. The Byrds went on to become a major folk-rock act, helping to popularize some of Bob Dylan's compositions and eventually launching the careers of folk-rockers like David Crosby and country-rock fusionist Gram Parsons.

Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart, both from Antelope Valley, started their aggressively experimental music careers during the late 1960s.

The band Iron Butterfly is another noted California psychedelic band, coming out of San Diego.

San Francisco psychedelic scene

This era began in about 1965, when The Matrixmarker, the first folk club in San Francisco, opened; Jefferson Airplane, then a newly-formed and unknown band, performed that night. Later that year, a band known as The Warlocks became the Grateful Dead, performing at The Fillmoremarker, which was to become a major musical venue in the area. Jefferson Airplane became the first San Francisco psychedelic band signed to a major label, followed soon after by Sopwith Camel. In 1966, the first acid test was held, and the use of the drug LSD became a more prominent part of psychedelic rock, and music in general. One of the first albums from the scene was Country Joe and the Fish's Electric Music for the Mind and Body (1967). A year later, the band Blue Cheer released Vincebus Eruptum, which launched a national hit with a cover of Eddie Cochran's "Summertime Blues"; Blue Cheer is now regarded as a progenitor of heavy metal.

1970s and 80s

The early part of this era was dominated by country rock acts such as The Eagles and Poco, and singer-songwriters such as Jackson Browne and Joni Mitchell. There were also funk acts that were prominent such as War from the South Central (now Southmarker) district of Los Angelesmarker, Sly and the Family Stone and Tower of Power from Oaklandmarker. Santana blended rock, jazz, funk and Latin music. This period also saw a number of difficult to classify acts arising who did not sell many records, but proved to be very influential on things to come, such as Kim Fowley and Captain Beefheart, both of whom had been active in the 1960s but reached their artistic peaks during this era, and Sparks, all from Los Angeles. Fowley would go on to manage and produce the all-female proto-punk group, The Runaways.

The Tubes, who mixed progressive rock with wild theatricality, and Journey, formed from among some of Carlos Santana's sidemen and eventually experiencing a peak as one of the most popular AOR acts in the United States, were virtually the only acts from San Francisco to gain any sort of fame in the mid-1970s.

Californians Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham joined Fleetwood Mac in the 1970s and were a key part of the band's multi-platinum success.

Glam metal

Glam metal arose along the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles in the 1980s with bands like Quiet Riot, Mötley Crüe, and later Poison and quickly became known for anthemic hard rock and power ballads, as well as band members' distinctively feminine make-up, hair, and clothing in spite of the scene's macho posturing. This scene would die out in the 1990s due to grunge.

Hardcore and pop punk

Los Angeles

Los Angeles' original late 1970s punk scene received less press attention than their counterparts in New York or London, but it included cult bands The Screamers, The Germs, The Weirdos, The Dils, The Bags, and X.

Youth Brigade of Los Angelesmarker were a group from LA who eventually became known for founding the Better Youth Organization (BYO), which advanced the hardcore scene and humanist ideals. Other Los Angeles-area hardcore and punk groups included Wasted Youth, UXA, The Hollywood Squares, The Mua Mau's, The Gears, Black Flag, The Circle Jerks, Vom, Dr. Know (featuring former child star Brandon Cruz), Legal Weapon and The Mentors (originally from Seattlemarker), along with future underground stars NOFX.

South Bay

In the Los Angeles South Bay, American hardcore punk was born with bands like Black Flag Circle Jerks and the Minutemen, who formed in the mid- to late 1970s. San Pedro, Hermosa Beachmarker, Wilmingtonmarker, Manhattan Beachmarker and Hawthornemarker spawned more locally famous acts like Red Crossmarker, who would later incorporate garage rock, power pop and glam influences into their sound and change their name to Redd Kross, The Last, Circle Jerks, Nip Drivers,Saint Vitus, The Descendents, and Saccharine Trust. The famous movie about the hardcore scene, The Decline of Western Civilization, was shot in this area, largely in an abandoned church in Hermosa called the Creative Craft Center. The movement fell out of popularity around the Mid 80's.The late 80's/early 90's saw a revival in the South Bay punk scene with punk bands like Bad Religion and Pennywise under the Epitaph Records label.

Orange County

In Orange Countymarker, the band Middle Class, from Santa Anamarker, was probably the most influential; their "Out of Vogue" is sometimes considered the first hardcore recording. The original hardcore bands in Orange County came from the Fullerton, Camarker area, where The Adolescents, Agent Orange and Social Distortion and D.I. formed. Social Distortion would later incorporate blues, country and early rock influences into their sound and become one of America's premier roots rock bands. Farther south, Huntington Beachmarker was also an influential center of hardcore, and is known as the origin of slamdancing. Huntington bands like Vicious Circle, True Sounds of Liberty and The Crowd had a reputation for being aggressive and sometimes violent, while Uniform Choice, and Doggy Style somewhat later bands, became known as the prominent straight edge bands from the West Coast. Another Orange County band of note is The US Bombs fronted by Duane Peters. True Sounds of Liberty (TSOL) was perhaps the most infamous for violence, and for an abrupt and unpopular change towards proto-Gothic rock and, much later, Aerosmith-style heavy metal as the scene developed; future underground stars The Vandals evolved from TSOL's eventual breakdown. Other Orange County bands included Suicidal Tendencies, (who were from Venicemarker but were associated with Orange County hardcore), China White, Shattered Faith, Social Task, The Screwz and Channel 3. The Dils were originally from Orange County but later relocated to San Francisco, Californiamarker. Intro5pect also comes from the OC.

San Diego

The Neutrons gained limited success, eventually changing their name to Battalion of Saints. The Donkey Show was a ska band that saw some notoriety during the late 80's, helping to establish the genre known as 3rd wave ska. The mid-90's Unbroken became a very influential hardcore band in not just San Diego, but California in general. Highly influential Post-Hardcore luminaries, Drive Like Jehu (and the subsequent band, Hot Snakes) hail from San Diego as well. Sharing members with Drive Like Jehu, Rocket from the Crypt, gained notoriety in the 90's. In the pop-punk scene of the '90s, Blink 182, from Poway, rose to stardom. From the reggae scene came Slightly Stoopid. More recently, bands like The Locust and Cattle Decapitation, all of which feature members prominent in the hardcore community in San Diego, have become increasingly popular on a worldwide basis. Additionally, Rob Crow of Pinback, Goblin Cock, Thingy, Heavy Vegetable, guest vocals for Team Sleep, as well as a myriad of other projects has grown to much popularity in the last few years.

San Fernando Valley

Also of note is the band Bad Religion, who hailed from the western San Fernando Valleymarker and were only marginally associated with hardcore punk rock from the South Bay area. The punk scene in the eastern San Fernando Valleywas closely tied in with that of nearby Hollywood and produced bands such as The Dickies, Fear, and The Angry Samoans.The band Iconoclast, Public Nuisance, and some members of Circle One also hailed from this area. Public Nuisance were affiliated with a gang of punk rockers known as the Circle One Family. Numerous punks shows in the 1980s, including shows by Circle Jerks and Black Flag, took place in a warehouse on the old site of Devonshire Downs in Northridge. In more recent years, the post-punk-inspired band, She Wants Revenge has been based in the San Fernando Valley.

San Francisco

Outside of New York, London, and Cleveland, San Franciscomarker probably had the earliest punk scene, at least as far back as 1976. The scene was aided by San Francisco's infamous laid back attitude towards alternative lifestyles, and the legendary record label Alternative Tentacles. Crime and The Nuns were first, followed by Chrome, The Mutants, VKTMS, The Contractions, Angst, The Sleepers, Pop-O-Pies, Sick Pleasure (aka Code of Honor), Crucifix, Negative Trend, The Avengers , SSI, Flipper and Pink Section. The most influential San Francisco hardcore band was the Dead Kennedys, whose frontman, Jello Biafra, became a noted social activist even after the band's dissolution. Many hardcore bands moved to San Francisco, including legends MDC, as well as DRI, The Dicks and Rhythm Pigs (all from Texas).


Berkeley, Californiamarker experienced a hardcore boom led by Fang. Berkeley also saw hardcore fusing with heavy metal to form thrash metal and bands like Possessed, Faith No More, Metallica, and Exodus.

Also in the mid-late 80's hardcore, pop punk, and ska punk bands gained a following with bands such as Operation Ivy , Crimpshrine, The Mr. T Experience, The Lookouts, Isocracy , Green Day, and Plaid Retina. These bands played at the infamous Gilman Street Project and released records on Lookout! Records.

San Jose

San Josemarker's most famous hardcore band was Whipping Boy, who played with local bands like Tongue Avulsion and The Faction. Also where the famed punk band Rancid started out.

San Josemarker's most famous hip hop/gothic live band is Kung Fu Vampire. Kung Fu Vampire is most known for their performances at The Playboy Mansionmarker, selling out local hot spot The Blank Club and winning the Silicon Valley's Best band award two years in a row.


In the 1980s, skacore bands like Operation Ivy - two of whose members formed Rancid in the 1990s - became popular, primarily in southern California and in the Long Beachmarker area. During the middle of the next decade, descendants like Sublime, Rancid, and Sugar Ray became mainstream sensations. In more recent years, skacore in L.A. has been defined by the sounds of Latin rhythms and sometimes mix with music genres such as cumbia, marachi, hardcore, punk, and metal. The most notable label for promoting this newer Latin based skacore is Evoekore Media. Some notable bands are Viernes 13, La Resistencia, 8 Kalacas, La Banda Skalavera, Los Arambula, and Red Store Bums. Regardless of the huge sensation skacore has cause many speculate that Evoekore Media has "killed" the ska scene. With their over priced charge of 20-50 US dollars at the door many wonder if the underground scene which use to cost between 2 to 5 US dollars will ever come back. Or will it remain a over rated mainstream scene that Evoekore has created.

Alternative rock

At the same time that Gothic rock began in the United Kingdommarker, a parallel death rock scene evolved in Los Angeles out of the punk scene, with bands like 45 Grave and Christian Death.

Inspired by bands like The Gun Club and Ohiomarker transplantsThe Cramps, cowpunk bands such as Tex & the Horseheads, Blood On The Saddle, and The Lazy Cowgirls arose from Los Angeles in the 1980s.

The Paisley Underground scene would arise out of Los Angeles in the mid-1980s around Redd Kross, The Three O'Clock (originally The Salvation Army), The Bangles, The Dream Syndicate and others. In a completely different vein, the Red Hot Chili Peppers also first came to national attention about the same time with their mix of punk, funk, rock, and theatricality, although they would not become a huge-selling act until the end of the decade.

Santa Cruzmarker spawned Camper Van Beethoven in the mid-1980s.

Jane's Addiction would arise out of Venice in the late 1980s.

During the grunge era of the early 1990s, Los Angeles became less important nationally as a source of alternative rock, and bands like The Nymphs, The Hangmen and The Miracle Workers never got the attention they might have if from Seattle. The only internationally popular bands that came out of Los Angeles during this time were Hole and Stone Temple Pilots.

Bands such as Incubus and Hoobastank were also popular in California in the 90's.

30 Seconds To Mars is a popular alternative rock band, originating from Los Angeles, California.

Thrash metal

The Bay Area thrash scene was centered around San Francisco in the 1980s and 1990s. Bands associated with this scene include Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, Exodus, Vio-lence, Death Angel, D.R.I., Testament, Forbidden, Defiance.

Hip hop

Also during the 1980s, hip hop music flourished in Los Angelesmarker and surrounding areas, especially Wattsmarker and Comptonmarker. Derived from New York Citymarker, hip hop drew upon primarily Jamaicanmarker and East Coast influences, though early 1970s black nationalist poets The Watts Prophets were also notable.

The earliest forms of Los Angeles hip hop were hardcore hip hop artists like Ice-T (whose mid-80s "6 'N Da Mornin'" is arguably the first West Coast gangsta rap track) and a kind of dance music called electro hop. Among the most popular electro hop groups was the World Class Wrecking Cru, which included future star Dr. Dre and 2pac, among others. In 1988, Dr. Dre, along with Eazy-E and Ice Cube, released Straight Outta Compton under the name N.W.A. The album took many hip hop fans by surprise, as it single-handedly placed West Coast hip hop on the map and quickly moved gangsta rap into the mainstream.

1990s and 2000s

Hip hop

In 1992, Dr. Dre's solo debut, The Chronic, made West Coast hip hop and Death Row Records the dominant sound in hip hop, drawing primarily upon George Clinton's P-Funk for samples and the general, slow, lazy funk. Death Row Records soon acquired Tupac Shakur, Warren G and Snoop Doggy Dogg as a feud developed between the East and West Coasts. In the mid-90s, Shakur and his rival Notorious B.I.G. were both shot and killed. Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight was imprisoned, and most of the label's acts tried to leave. The lack of leadership helped put New York, Atlanta and New Orleans on the top of the hip hop charts, leaving local would-be legends and underground MC's (emcees) to work under self-financed productions. Jeremiah St.Clair, MC Overflo, and few others can still be found making platinum quality singles, and battling newer school street corner rappers, almost like a petition or social demonstration on preserving hip hop etiquette. Many consider lesser known rappers like Jeremiah St.Clair (originating from the early 90's) as the last real hip hop mc's.

In the 1990s, underground hip hop flourished in the San Francisco Bay Areamarker. Early pioneers included Too $hort and E-40; their success helped pave the way for new performers like RBL Posse, whose 1992 "Don't Gimme No Bammer" achieved some crossover success. The Bay Areamarker's thriving underground rap scene has produced literally hundreds of artists, some of the better known being Andre Nickatina, The Coup, Michael Franti, Parismarker, Blackalicious, and Emcee Lynx. The Bay Area is also home to the relatively new "Hyphy" sub-genre. Mac Dre was one of the notable innovators.

Indie rock

The early 1990s saw the emergence of Pavement, an influential indie rock band from Stocktonmarker. In the mid-1990s, Beck came out of the Silver Lakemarker (a neighborhood in Los Angeles) indie rock scene. Los Angeles has also produced the folky singer-songwriter Ross Altman.

The early 2000s have seen the emergence of Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Or, The Whale, The Aislers Set, The Botticellis and Scissors for Lefty from San Francisco and The Quarter After, Scarling., Autolux, Giant Drag, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and the Warlocks from Los Angeles. Though originally from Portland, much of Elliott Smith's music is about and was created in Los Angeles. Groups from the San Francisco


During the 1990s, San Diego saw the emergence of Heroin, Antioch Arrow, and other innovative hardcore bands. Many released albums on the Gravity Records label.Southern California saw the rise of Christian hardcore, specifically Spirit-filled hardcore during the mid-90's with the likes of The Blamed, Bloodshed, Focused, No Innocent Victim, and Unashamed. This led to drummer Jason Dunn of No Innocent Victim starting Facedown Records.As metalcore became the popular subgenre of hardcore in the late 1990s to early 2000s, bands such as As I Lay Dying, Atreyu, Bleeding Through, Eighteen Visions and Throwdown made their mark in Southern California.

Nu Metal

Nu Metal was a musical genre that has origins in the mid 1990s. It typically fuses influences from the grunge and alternative metal of the 1990s with funk music, hip-hop, and various heavy metal genres, most often thrash metal and groove metal. It started with bands like KoЯn, Manhole, and Snot.

Music festivals and organizations

California hosts many well-known music festivals in a wide variety of fields, including the Stern Grove Festival, Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festivalmarker, Harmony Sweepstakes A Cappella Festival, High Sierra Music Festival, and Facedown Fest. The Monterey Pop Festivalmarker, held in 1967, is perhaps the most famous concert in California's history; the show launched the international careers of performers like Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Otis Redding and Janis Joplin.

Music organizations in the state include the Community Arts Music Association. There is also an organization that gives out California Music Awards.

Classical music in California

California has a number of established orchestras, including the San Francisco Symphony (1911), Fremont Symphony Orchestra, Oakland East Bay Symphony (formed in 1988 by combining two older organizations), San Diego Chamber Orchestra, Peninsula Symphony Orchestra (1949), and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association (1919).

20th century avant garde composer John Cage was born in Los Angelesmarker. Other notable composers from California include David Cope, Henry Cowell, Harry Partch and Terry Riley.


  • Blush, Steven (2001). American Hardcore: A Tribal History. Feral House. ISBN 0-92291-571-7
  • Nettl, Bruno (1965). Folk and Traditional Music of the Western Continents. Inglewood, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

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