Regional music is a fabulous partner to literary traveling, especially when the lyrics and history fit. Here are ideas for (mostly) traditional music from the roots of where you are headed on the road:
Alabama Hank Williams
Alaska John Gourley
Appalachia Track down early recordings of The Carter Family and catch a concert at the Carter Family Fold on a weekend. Any banjo music works too.
Arizona Linda Ronstadt
Arkansas Johnny Cash
California Go ’60s with The Beach Boys, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, The Mamas and the Papas (“California Dreamin'”), and Stevie Wonder.
Colorado Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys)
Connecticut Michael Bolton
The Dakotas Native American music.
D.C. John Sousa, patriotic music.
Delaware George Thorogood
The Delta You need Elvis, blues musicians like John Lee Hooker, and Lynard Skynard.
Florida For Northern Florida, go with the homegrown rock of early Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Matchbox 20. For South Florida, there’s Usher, of course, but how about the ’70s when Miami produced most of the world’s biggest pop acts? The BeeGees, Andy Gibb, K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Jimmy Buffet, Gloria Estefan and other Latin-American artists will round out the sound.
Georgia Gladys Knight and, of course, Ray Charles’s “Georgia On My Mind.” Also, the B-52s.
Great Plains Native American music (see www.loc.gov/folklife/LP/AFSL39Plains.pdf).
Hawaii Israel Kamkawiwo’ole’s “Somewhere over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World” and “Aloha ‘Oe.” (Or just turn on the car radio when you are in Hawaii; many stations there play Hawaiian music.)
Idaho Soundtrack to “Napoleon Dynamite”
Iowa Andy Williams
Kansas “The Wizard of Oz” soundtrack, “Dust in the Wind,” by Kansas.
Kentucky Bluegrass, Loretta Lynn, and The Judds.
Louisiana Jazz Creole music and Tim McGraw
Massachusetts Boston Pops, patriotic music.
Michigan Motown. No exceptions.
Missouri Kansas City Jazz: Count Basie, Lester Young, and Charlie Parker.
The Midwest Blake Shelton and John Cougar Mellencamp.
Mississippi: See “The Delta” and take a side trip on the Mississippi Blues Trail (msbluestrail.org)
New Jersey Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons and Bruce Springsteen.
The poet country of the Northeast Paul Simon.
New York Jay-Z, Billy Joel, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Broadway music, opera, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing.”
North Carolina Foggy Mountain Boys and Randy Travis.
North Dakota Rapper Wiz Khalifa.
Ohio Tracy Chapman.
Oklahoma Garth Brooks.
The Rockies John Denver.
South Carolina James Brown.
Tennessee Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Amy Grant, Kenny Chesney.
Texas Lots and lots of Willie Nelson.
Utah Mormon Tabernacle Choir (and Imagine Dragons for extra fun).
Virginia Patsy Cline
Washington Kenny G, Jimi Hendrix, Grunge (Nirvana, Pearl Jam), and Heart.
West Virginia Michael W. Smith.
The West “Rodeo” by Aaron Copland.
Wisconsin Steve Miller.