South Carolina musicians run through the wide spectrum of American music – blues, jazz, country, soul, funk, and rock and roll. This is NOT a comprehensive list of great musical artists from the Palmetto state, rather it is an attempt to show the wide range of diversity and quality music that South Carolina has given to the world. If you’re interested in reading about the roots of American popular music (and South Carolina’s role) read my book, Doin’ the Charleston.
“Smooth,” “Push” & “3 AM” – Written by Rob Thomas (Lake City and Turbeville, SC)
Thomas is the lead singer of the band Matchbox 20. “Smooth” won a Grammy Award for both Santana and Thomas.
An Army brat, he was born at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, West Germany an army hospital. Thomas’s parents divorced while he was very young, at which point his father retired and disconnected from the family. He and his sister were raised by his mother and grandparents in Turbeville, South Carolina. When he was 12, his mother was diagnosed with cancer. He attributes the song “3AM” to this time.
“Little Darlin’” & “Stay” by Maurice Williams. (Lancaster, SC)
Maurice (with the Zodiacs)earned Rock and Roll immortality for the classic “Stay”, which was famously covered by Jackson Brown in 1977. “Little Darlin’ hit #2 in 1957 and was featured in the film American Graffiti.
“Take The Highway” & “Can’t You See” by Toy Caldwell (Spartanburg, SC)
As guitarist and main songwriter for MTB, Caldwell and the Marshall Tucker Band are stalwalts of the 1970s Southern rock movement and the greatest rock band from South Carolina …
“FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN” by George McCorkle (Spartanburg, SC)
McCorkle, second guitarist for The Marshall Tucker Band, was a major songwriter for the Tuckers. “Fire” is one of the great Southern country rock songs of the 1970s.
“HALF OF MY MISTAKES” by Radney Foster and Bobby Houck (of the Blue Dogs, Charleston, SC)
Houck, who is part of The Blue Dogs, wrote this amazing song with Texas music legend, Radney Foster. Foster is one of the best writers/performers on the Country/Alt/Americana scene today.
“AIN’T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH” & “AIN’T NOTHING LIKE THE REAL THING” & “YOU’RE ALL I NEED TO GET BY” & “LET’S GO GET STONED” by Nicholas Ashford (Fairfax, SC) and Valarie Simpson
The husband and wife team known as Ashford & Simpson is as big a part of the Motown story as is Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross; they were one of the top songwriting units for Berry Gordy’s assembly line production. “Stoned” was their first major success as a hit for Ray Charles.
“SUMMERTIME” by George Gershwin and Dubose Heyward (Charleston, SC)
Heyward wrote the libretto for this opening song for the opera “Porgy and Bess.” There are more than 1000 recorded versions of this song, but Billie Holiday’s version takes the cake.
“EVERY DAY IN THE WEEK BLUES” by Pink Anderson (Laurens, SC)
After being raised in Greenville and Spartanburg, SC Anderson joined Dr. Frank Kerr of the Indian Remedy Company in 1914 to entertain the crowds while Kerr tried to sell a concoction purported to have medicinal qualities.He traveled with Leo “Chief Thundercloud” Kahdot and his medicine show, often with the Jonesville, South Carolina based harmonica-player Arthur “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson. In May 1950, Anderson was recorded by folklorist Paul Clayton at the Virginia State Fair.
Syd Barrett, of English progressive rock band Pink Floyd, came up with the band’s name by juxtaposing the first names of Pink Anderson and North Carolina bluesman, Floyd Council.
“STILL” by Whisperin’ Bill Anderson (Columbia SC)
Major country star of the 60s, 70s and 80s. In later years Anderson hosted a game show on TNN.
“THINKIN’ PROBLEM” by David Ball (Rock Hill, SC)
A successful country singer during the 1980s, this is a bone fide honty tonk classic.
“I GOT YOU (I FEEL GOOD)” & “PAPA’S GOT A BRAND NEW BAG” & “IT’S A MAN’S MAN’S MAN’S WORLD” by James Brown (Barnwell & Beach Island, SC)
Where do you stop listing the classic songs of James Brown? A legend and a force of nature.
“A NIGHT IN TUNISIA” & GROOVIN’ HIGH” by Dizzy Gillespie (Cheraw, SC)
A monumental talent … one of the greatest musicans of the 20th century.
“CORNER POCKET” by Freddie Green (Charleston, SC)
Freddie Green was guitarist for the Count Basie Orchestra for 50 years … the longest job in jazz history. “Mr. Rhythm” was also a brilliant song writer and arranger, as you will hear in this Basie classic.
“LONG BLACK TRAIN” by Josh Turner (Hannah, SC)
A major country /gospel star, whose first hit, “Long Black Train” is a genuine classic.
“BLUES FOR LAWRENCE” & A GATHERING IN THE CLEARING” by Cat Anderson (Greenville, SC)
Anderson grew up in the Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston, SC and played in their boys brass band. He played for more than 20 years with Duke Ellington in the 1950s-70s.
“YOU’VE GOT TO STAND FOR SOMETHING” by Aaron Tippin (Traveler’s Rest, SC)
A honky-tonky singer who had a successful run in the 1990s.
“ONLY WANNA BE WITH YOU” & “OLD MAN & ME (WHEN I GET TO HEAVEN)& “TIME” by Darius Rucker, Mark Bryan, Dean Felber and Jim Sonnefield (Hootie and the Blowfish)
These guys need no introductions … took the music world by storm in 1990s and now a South Carolina icon …
“JAZZ BATTLE” & “LET’S GET TOGETHER” “Lina Blues” & “TILL TIMES GET BETTER” by Jabbo Smith
A legendary jazz player who never became a legend. He was another member of the Jenkins Orphanage Band from Charleston, SC and a major artist in the 1920s and 30s.
“JAZZ ME BLUES” & “DOWN HOME BLUES” & “AT THE JUMP STEADY BALL” by Tom Delaney
Yet another musician from the Jenkins Orphanage House in Charleston. He was a prolific songwriter of “negro blues” songs in the 1920s. “Jazz Me Blues” is an American Standard. Delany also wrote the obscure and filthy “All The Girls Love Big Dick”.