15 Legendary Musicians and Bands from Austin, Texas

austin musicians

I am proud to be a native of Austin, Texas, one of the best music cities in the world and the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital”. Austin lives and breathes music, and the city has done a great job supporting the music and art communities over the past few decades.

As you might expect, Austin’s music scene has given birth to some wonderful and wildly successful musicians and bands. In this post, I will reveal 15 of the most iconic musicians from Austin, Texas! 

Listen along with my Austin music Spotify Playlist!

1. Stevie Ray Vaughan

One of the most talented blues guitar players of all time, Stevie Ray Vaughan, is a true Austin legend. In the 1980s, when heavy metal, dance-pop, and glam rock were dominating, Vaughan led the blues genre to a new wave of popularity. His improvisation skills and soulful blues style were extremely distinct, and though his career was cut short when he died in a helicopter crash, he definitely left his mark on blues music.

Stevie Ray Vaughan’s beat-up Fender Strat is one of the most recognizable guitars out there and is the instrument that he used for most of his career. Ask anyone from Austin, and they will tell you that Vaughan is one of the most beloved musicians from the city. In fact, there is a statue of him in front of Auditorium Shores in downtown Austin!

2. Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin had one of the most powerful female voices of all time. Born in Port Arthur, the singer moved to Austin to attend the University of Texas in 1960 and got her start at a local bar in North Austin called Threadgill’s. By 1963, she had moved to San Francisco, but I like to think that her time in Austin performing at Threadgill’s really helped develop her iconic music style.

Janis Joplin sadly died in 1970 as part of the “27-club,” a group of musicians that includes Jimi Hendrix, Amy Winehouse, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, and Brian Jones, who all passed away at the age of 27. 

3. Willie Nelson

While not specifically from Austin, Willie Nelson spent a lot of his career based in the city and has had a major impact on the city’s music scene. Willie Nelson started his career in Nashville but quickly got sick of the corporate structure of the Nashville country music scene. He moved to Austin in 1972 and became a key figure in the Outlaw Country movement along with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Merle Haggard. It was in Austin that Willie found his real success as a musician, and has had an indescribable effect on the country music genre and country guitar playing.

Nelson is one of the most successful Texas musicians of all time and has had an impressive career spanning more than 6 decades. In 2012, the city of Austin unveiled a statue of Willie to commemorate his influence on the Austin music scene.

4. Gary Clarke Jr.

Gary Clarke Jr. seamlessly blends blues, rock, soul, and hip-hop into a unique and characteristic sound. Gary Clarke Jr. signed with Warner Bros in 2012 and released Blak and Blue, which was a major hit that catapulted him to success. This album peaked at #6 on the Billboard 200 in the USA and contained some of his most popular tunes, including “Bright Lights” and “When My Train Pulls In.”

Clarke’s most successful song to date is his cover of “Come Together” by the Beatles, which is an awesome modern approach to the classic tune. Gary Clarke Jr. is the King of Austin R&B and has even won 4 Grammy awards!

5. Shakey Graves

Alejandro Rose-Garcia, known by his stage name Shakey Graves, is an Austin singer-songwriter with an extremely distinctive playing style. It would be difficult to put an exact genre label on Rose-Garcia’s music, but it can best be described as a mix of blues, indie, and folk. He started off his career as a busker and street performer and was even named the “Official Busker” at the Railroad Revival Tour in 2011, which featured massive artists such as Mumford and Sons, Edward Sharpe, and Old Crow Medicine Show. Shaky Graves is an iconic Austin artist who has influenced many musicians in the city (myself included!)

He generally plays as a one-man band, even during live performances during which he plays guitar, sings, and stomps on a bass drum.

6. Daniel Johnston

Few artists have had such an impact on the “Keep Austin Weird” scene as much as Daniel Johnston. He was a musician and artist with a style so unique words wouldn’t do it justice. Johnston suffered from bipolar disorder and paranoia throughout his life, which hindered him in many ways. But despite his mental illnesses, he had a serious knack for songwriting and art. He started out his career by handing out mix tapes of his self-recorded album at his McDonald’s job. His songwriting is brutally honest and touches on the tragic process of him losing his mind. He spent much of his adult life in psychiatric facilities and sadly passed away in 2019.

Daniel Johnston gained a lot of mainstream attention and even a record deal with Atlantic after Kurt Cobain wore the t-shirt for his album Hi, How Are You in 1992. 

7. Spoon

Spoon is one of the best-selling and most famous Austin bands. Spoon’s style is a powerful blend of pop-rock and alternative indie music. The band initially formed in the late 90s and has released several hit albums and singles since then. Their major breakthrough into the mainstream was in 2007 with their album Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, which contains two of their most successful songs, “The Underdog” and “Don’t You Evah”.

With a career spanning more than 20 years and 10 studio albums to their name, it is safe to say that Spoon is an Austin band that you need to listen to!

8. Ghostland Observatory

An electronic rock duo from Austin, Ghostland Observatory is a great band to listen to if you are looking for funky grooves and danceable rhythms. My best description of Ghostland Observatory is The Strokes meets Daft Punk, as they merge guitar-centric rock music and vocals with synth and electronic beats. The band has been comprised of just two members since it started in 2004: Aaron Kyle Behrens and Thomas Ross Turner. 

Ghostland Observatory saw some pretty major success in 2007 with their release of Paparazzi Lighting, and the single “Sad Sad City”, which is their most popular song.  

9. Lucinda Williams

Though originally from Lake Charles, Louisiana, Lucinda Williams spent a lot of time in Austin during the early days of her career. She got her start in the late 70s and 80s, playing in various venues in Austin, and developed a beautiful playing style that blended folk, country, and blues.

Williams is an incredible songwriter whose poetic, lyrical work really stands out. In fact, Time Magazine and The Rolling Stone have both ranked Lucinda Williams among the best songwriters of all time!

10. Asleep at the Wheel

Asleep at the Wheel was originally formed in the teeny town of Paw Paw, West Virginia, but the band moved to Austin in the mid-70s to contribute to the growing country music scene in the city. This country band has been pumping out music for more than 50 years. Asleep at the Wheel plays easy-listening country music that centers around piano, guitar, and fiddle. They have released many albums in their decades-long career and have had a couple of charting singles, including “The Letter (That Johnny Walker Read),” which is the band’s most successful song.

11. Black Joe Lewis

Black Joe Lewis, originally Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears, is an Austin musician who beautifully embodies the musical energy of James Brown with a modern twist. He plays a modern reinvention of 70s soul music, with classic 12-bar blues riffs, groovy guitar riffs, and upbeat lyrics. Black Joe Lewis got his start in 2007 when he released his full-length self-titled debut album. He then went on to release two more critically acclaimed albums: Tell ‘Em What Your Name Is and Scandalous.

My personal favorite Black Joe Lewis tunes are “Booty City”, “I’m Broke”, and “B***h, I Love You”, which is also his most popular song.

12. The Black Angels

Austin’s premier psychedelic rock band, The Black Angels, formed in 2004 and has since become one of the most successful bands to call the city home. The band channels the vintage sounds of classic psychedelic rock of the 1960s while still staying modern. Heavy, driving guitar riffs, powerful drums, and dark, meaningful lyrical content characterize the Black Angels’ music.

The Black Angels have released 6 albums, the most successful of which were their debut LP Passover and the 2010 release Phosphene Dream. They have toured with several major artists, including The Black Keys, Queens of the Stoneage, and Wolfmother (just to name a few).

13. Dayglow

Sloan Struble, known by his stage name Dayglow,  is one of the youngest additions to my list. Dayglow is an indie-pop band influenced by artists like The Doobie Brothers and Tame Impala. The Austin-based solo artist was born in 1999 and has become extremely popular in the past few years since releasing his debut album, Fuzzy Brain, in 2019. His success is in part is due to the fact that a few of his singles went viral on Tiktok.

Dayglow’s single “Can I Call You Tonight” has more than half a billion streams on Spotify and is certified platinum by the RIAA.

14. Bob Schneider

When I grew up in Austin in the early 2000s, Bob Schneider was a household name, and he remains one of Austin’s most beloved musicians. Schneider isn’t originally from Austin, but he has been based there for most of his career. He started his career in the mid-90s with Ugly Americans until he launched a solo career in 1999. In the following couple of decades, Schneider released several hit albums, including Lovely Creatures and The Californian. Schneider’s songwriting skills are very impressive; just try to listen to “40 Dogs (Like Romeo and Juliet)” without singing along!

It would be difficult to pin Bob Schneider to a single album, as his songwriting varies from album to album, and his music style has been extremely versatile. He plays everything from rock to folk, country, reggae, and even rap!

15. Shawn Colvin

Wrapping up my list of the top Austin musicians and bands is Shawn Colvin, a singer-songwriter legend. She released her debut album “Steady On” with Columbia Records in 1989. By far, Shawn Colvin’s most successful and popular hit is her 1997 hit single “Sunny Came Home”, which was nominated for 3 Grammy awards and won 2.

Like many musicians on this roundup, Colvin wasn’t born and bred in Austin, but I still count her as an Austin native since she spent many of the pivotal years of her career in the city.