Indiana’s Contribution to Music

A while back, I posted about Indiana authors of note. Here’s a follow-up post comprising a list of contributors who’ve made a huge impact to music from the Hoosier state!

During the big band era, many of the musical instruments were manufactured in the northwestern region of the state (referred to locally as “the region”, namely Crown Point, Hammond and Elkhart. But here’s a list of a few individuals from the “Hoosier Fatherland” who have made a major impact on the art of music.

  • Hoagland Howard “Hoagy” Carmichael (November 22, 1899 – December 27, 1981), born in Bloomington, Indiana, was an American composer, pianist, singer, actor, and bandleader. American composer and author Alec Wilder described Carmichael as the “most talented, inventive, sophisticated and jazz-oriented of all the great craftsmen” of pop songs in the first half of the twentieth century. Carmichael was one of the most successful Tin Pan Alley songwriters of the 1930s, and was among the first singer-songwriters in the age of mass media to utilize new communication technologies, such as television and the use of electronic microphones and sound recordings.
  • Cole Albert Porter (June 9, 1891 – October 15, 1964) was an American composer and songwriter. Born to a wealthy family in Peru, Indiana, he defied the wishes of his domineering grandfather and took up music as a profession. Classically trained, he was drawn towards musical theatre. After a slow start, he began to achieve success in the 1920s, and by the 1930s he was one of the major songwriters for the Broadway musical stage. Unlike many successful Broadway composers, Porter wrote the lyrics, as well as the music, for his songs.
  • John Leslie “Wes” Montgomery (March 6, 1923 – June 15, 1968), of Indianapolis, Indiana, was an American jazz guitarist. He is widely considered one of the major jazz guitarists, emerging after such seminal figures as Django Reinhardt and Charlie Christian and influencing countless others. Montgomery was known for an unusual technique of plucking the strings with the side of his thumb which granted him a distinctive sound.
  • Frederick Dewayne Hubbard (April 7, 1938 – December 29, 2008), also of Indianapolis, was an American jazz trumpeter. He was known primarily for playing in the bebop, hard bop, and post-bop styles from the early 1960s onwards. His unmistakable and influential tone contributed to new perspectives for modern jazz and bebop.
  • The Jackson 5, or Jackson Five, currently known as the Jacksons, are an American family music group from Gary, Indiana. Formed around 1964, the founding members were elder brothers Jackie, Tito and Jermaine. Younger brothers Marlon and Michael would join soon after. They participated in talent shows and performed in clubs on the Chitlin’ Circuit. They entered the professional music scene in 1967, signing with Steeltown Records and releasing two singles with the Steeltown label. In 1969, the group left Steeltown Records and signed with Motown.
  • David Lee Roth (born October 10, 1954) is an American rock vocalist, songwriter, actor, author, and former radio personality from Bloomington, Indiana. Roth is best known as the original (1974–1985) and current (2006–present) lead singer of hard rock band Van Halen. He is also known as a successful solo artist, releasing numerous RIAA-certified Gold and Platinum albums. After more than two decades apart, Roth re-joined Van Halen in 2006 for a North American tour that became the highest grossing in the band’s history and one of the highest grossing of that year. In 2012, Roth and Van Halen released the comeback album A Different Kind of Truth. In 2007, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  • John J Mellencamp (born October 7, 1951) previously known as Johnny Cougar, John Cougar, and John Cougar Mellencamp, is an American musician, singer-songwriter, painter, and actor born in Seymour, Indiana. He is known for his catchy, populist brand of heartland rock, which emphasizes traditional instrumentation. Mellencamp rose to fame in the 1980s while “honing an almost startlingly plainspoken writing style that, starting in 1982, yielded a string of Top 10 singles,” including “Hurts So Good,” “Jack & Diane,” “Crumblin’ Down,” “Pink Houses,” “Lonely Ol’ Night,” “Small Town,” “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.,” “Paper in Fire” and “Cherry Bomb.” He has amassed 22 Top 40 hits in the United States. In addition, he holds the record for the most tracks by a solo artist to hit number one on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart, with seven. Mellencamp has been nominated for 13 Grammy Awards, winning one. Mellencamp released his latest album, Sad Clowns & Hillbillies, on April 28, 2017, to widespread critical acclaim.
  • Gary Burton (born January 23, 1943), from Anderson, Indiana, is an American jazz vibraphonist, composer, and educator. Burton developed a pianistic style of four-mallet technique as an alternative to the prevailing two-mallet technique. This approach caused him to be heralded as an innovator, and his sound and technique are widely imitated. He is also known for pioneering fusion jazz and popularizing the duet format in jazz, as well as being a major figure in music education from his 30 years at the Berklee College of Music.
  • Brenda Gail Gatzimos (née Webb; January 9, 1951), known professionally as Crystal Gayle, is an American singer from Florence, Indiana. Best known for her 1977 country-pop crossover song, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue”, she had twenty #1 country songs during the 1970s and 1980s (18 on Billboard and 2 on Cashbox) with six albums certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. Gayle became the first female artist in country music history to reach platinum sales, with her 1977 album We Must Believe in Magic. Also noted for her nearly floor-length hair, she was voted one of the 50 most beautiful people in the world by People magazine in 1983. She is the younger sister of the country singer-songwriter Loretta Lynn and the singer Peggy Sue and a distant cousin of singer Patty Loveless. Gayle is a member of the Grand Ole Opry and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, near Lynn’s star.
  • William J. Gaither (born March 28, 1936), also from Anderson, is an American singer and songwriter of Southern gospel and Contemporary Christian music. He has written numerous popular Christian songs with his wife Gloria; he is also known for performing as part of the Bill Gaither Trio and the Gaither Vocal Band (GVB). In the 1990s, his career gained a resurgence (as well as the careers of other southern gospel artists), as popularity grew for the Gaither Homecoming series.
  • W. Axl Rose (born William Bruce Rose Jr.; raised as William Bruce Bailey; born February 6, 1962) is an American singer, songwriter, record producer and musician from Lafayette, Indiana. He is the lead vocalist of the hard rock band Guns N’ Roses, and has also been the band’s sole constant member since its inception in 1985. In addition to Guns N’ Roses, he has been the lead singer of AC/DC since 2016. Due to his powerful and very large vocal range and energetic live performances, Rose has been named one of the greatest singers of all time by various media outlets, including Rolling Stone and NME.
  • Richard Shannon Hoon -(September 26, 1967 – October 21, 1995), also from Lafayette, was an American singer-songwriter and musician. He was the lead singer of the band Blind Melon until his death in 1995. Hoon was born in Lafayette, Indiana and raised in nearby Dayton, Indiana with his half-sister, Anna, and half-brother, Tim. He reportedly began using his middle name, Shannon, to avoid confusion with his father, who was also named Richard. In high school, he played football, wrestled, and was a pole vaulter. Shannon’s musical influences included the Grateful Dead, The Beatles, John Lennon, and Bob Dylan. After graduating from McCutcheon High School in 1985, Hoon joined a local glam metal band named Styff Kytten, which also featured guitarist Michael Kelsey. He took on the role of frontman and lead singer of the band. It was around this time that he wrote his first song and called it “Change.” He was also a member of the Lafayette band Mank Rage, along with David Lank and Darren Mickler, during this time.
  • Lonnie McIntosh – (July 18, 1941 – April 21, 2016), known by his stage name Lonnie Mack, was an American rock music artist from West Harrison, Indiana, whose recordings drew from the full range of black and white Southern roots music influences. Although he spent much of his career in the shadows of “semi-obscurity”, he is considered “one of the most important and influential” rock guitarists of his era and one of the great singers of blue-eyed soul.
  • Roadmaster –
  • Flynnville Train –
  • Carl Storie – singer, songwriter, “Faith Band”, wrote (Put on Your Dancin’ Shoes)
  • J. Michael Henderson –
  • Dave Cirtin (Certain) – bass player of renown and contributor to this article
  • Carol Falkner –
  • Kim Younkin – From Dunkirk, Indiana, Kim Younkin has been performing since the age of nine, and has entertained audiences throughout the United States. Ronnie Milsap, Tanya Tucker, and Dr. Hook have utilized Kim’s talents as an opening act on some of their tour dates. Kim’s music video “Cadillac” played to nationwide audiences on MTV, and won the “Basement Tapes Competition”. HBO and several other programs such as “Texas Hit Review” have aired the video. Kim writes his own music and lyrics. He plays several instruments including lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar, twelve-string guitar, trumpet, piano and drums. Kim was a classmate at Northside, though he was a couple of years ahead. I remember him from those days because his family moved into Muncie allowing him to play on our basketball team. That team was probably the best that ever came out of Muncie Northside High and being ranked number one all season, should have won the state championship. However, they were defeated in the first round of the semi-state by Rushville, who eneded-up winning the whole shebang. That year’s team featured Sam Drummer, who should bave been Indiana’s “Mr. Basketball” that year but settled for second place to Peru’s Kyle Macy. One day in the mid-1990s at my local watering hole in Irving, Texas, I over-heard the lady tending bar that she was going to see a very popular musician that night named Kim Younkin. Since that name is not too common, I instantly assumed that it was the Kim Younkin of my high school days. A year or so later, I was at a place called “the Filling Station” on Greenville Avenue in Dallas when the nightly entertainment was Kim Younkin. We talked quite a bit and became friends, which was interesting because we never personally knew each other in High School. He performed entirely solo (until my drunken buddy got up on the stage with him LOL), and was very obviously talented. He has a large following, even to this day, in the North Texas area. Kim received his degree, under full athletic scholarship from Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. Kim is currently playing as a solo act in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. He performs lead guitar and vocals with his own bass and drum tracks which he recorded himself. This gives Kim the sound of a full band, enabling him to play at larger venues.

This is an on-going “work in progress” but has been a fun one to put together. Thanks for visiting!

Steve D.

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