Top Black Music Cities

Soul Of America and our partner Soul-Patrol, have accumulated a library of background info, musical artist reviews, interviews and audio clips. Over the years, this content has enriched to national significance.

Marvin_Gaye, Top Black Music CitiesBlack folks often write about Black Music in terms of a personality or their latest hit record or concert. Those approaches are entertaining and often enlightening, particularly for readers who have little background knowledge about the artist. But if we also examine important aspects of Black Music in a geographic and chronologic manner, your point of view can take on a new dimension (no pun intended) that connects old school with new school. Such a bird’s eye view of Black Music has cultural significance to our many visitors because its easy to connect with the great music of Marvin Gaye, to name but one.

Top Black Musicians in Cities

Though it blossomed in cities, Black Music was born from the agony of slave plantations that sparked Negro spirituals. And when the moonshine flowed in devilish moments, it sparked others to sing the Blues. No one can assign a precise birth date or sole originator for those musical genres in before the days of records and tapes.

We know however, that the lineage of commercial Black Music points to five sources: Scott Joplin (St. Louis) invented Ragtime. Buddy Bolden (New Orleans) invented Jazz. W.C. Handy (Memphis) published the first catalog of Blues music. Thomas A. Dorsey (Georgia to Chicago), the Father of Gospel music, who got a huge assist from Mahalia Jackson (New Orleans), the Queen of Gospel. Lastly, continent-trotting bandleader and entertainer Louis Jordan (Arkansas) was the Father of R&B in the 1940s.

Sam Cooke

Sam Cooke

The evolution of R&B was further propelled by an old “Blues Shouter” named Big Joe Turner (Los Angeles), Ruth Brown (Virginia-DC-New York) and Ike Turner (St. Louis), the Artist & Repertoire man who authored the first Rock n’ Roll record, discovered Tina Turner and Jackie Wilson, and introduced Elvis Presley and B.B. King to Sun Records. Early Rock n’ Roll was further shaped by Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry and Little Richard who remained tied to the music genre, even as its commercial support and artistic growth crossed over to white audiences.

You could not be a successful Black Music artist in the 1950s without the constituent elements of Soul (Gospel, Jazz, Blues and R&B) in your background. So the inventor of Soul Music is a hazy subject for debate among music historians. But the conditions for Soul Music to sprout were perfectly clear in Memphis, New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, New York and Los Angeles. Large talent pools were born in or migrated to those markets, including Ray Charles, Ike Turner, Sam Cooke, Etta James, Solomon Burke, James Brown, Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, Curtis Mayfield, Jerry Butler, Nina Simone and the Isley Brothers, who all put their stamp on Soul Music from during its formative years of 1955-1958.

Simultaneously, record companies including, but not limited to Vee Jay, Chess, King and Mercury in Chicago, Stax in Memphis, Motown in Detroit, and Atlantic in New York City added urban sophistication, while preserving black cultural authenticity. They expanded Soul Music as a commercially healthy alternative to the white-influenced evolution of Rock n’ Roll. Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Otis Redding, Jerry Butler, STAX and Motown took Soul Music to another level in the 1960s.

Founded in 1971, Philadelphia International Records revived Soul Music from the near-death experience of Disco Music. Big props to Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff for sustaining Soul Music up to the rise of Hip-Hop.

Since 2003, the deaths of Ray Charles, Barry White, James Brown, Bo Diddley, Isaac Hayes, Luther Vandross, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, BB King, Maurice White of Earth Wind & Fire and Prince has dealt a devastating loss of artists who made American Music great. Elder Hip-Hop stars are recognizing the importance of our musical legacy as well. Age has a way of doing that. See this Black Music article written by Bob Davis in Elmore magazine, then dive into the Top Black Music Cities below.

Despite our loses, Black Music is ever evolving. A new generation of music-makers has evolved from Run DMC to Tupac, from Biggie to NWA, from En Vogue to Beyonce, from Nas to Pulitzer Prize winner, Kendrick Lamar. Black Music don’t die, it multiplies!

Atlanta Hip-Hop & Neo-Soul

Baltimore Jazz
Baton Rouge Zydeco
Birmingham Jazz & Soul

Charleston Jazz
Chicago Blues
Chicago Gospel Music
Chicago Soul Music
Cleveland Rock & Roll

Dallas Blues & Jazz
Detroit Motown
Durham Blues

Houston Blues & Soul

Indianapolis Jazz & Soul

Jackson Gospel, Blues & Soul

Kansas City Jazz

Las Vegas
Los Angeles Jazz & Soul

Memphis Blues & Early R&B
Memphis Rock n Roll
Memphis STAX & Soul Music

Nashville Gospel
New Orleans Jazz
New Orleans Blues
New Orleans Gospel
New York Soul Music

Philadelphia TSOP
Pittsburgh Jazz

St. Louis Ragtime
St. Louis Blues to R&B
St. Louis Josephine to Nelly
San Francisco Bay Area Funk

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4 replies
  1. Torbjørn Engan says:


    I am about to find a university in southern US , and the criteria i have is the music in the south
    and how strong the traditions is being kept alive and also new styles.

    Many,many of the persons i listen to has a deep tradition from the south, James Brown, Mahalia Jackson,
    the gospel singers, the blues musicians, etc etc. Where should be the area or university where a person most
    certaintly would experience the true feeling of the rural, the black traditions, as well as other traditions .
    Also where the church music is alive.

    Where do you recommend a student to go ?

    Greetings from Norway

    Torbjorn Engan

    • blue says:

      You could choose from over a dozen historically black colleges & universities in the Black Colleges section reached from our top green navigtion bar.

  2. Torbjorn Engan says:

    Hello. Basiclly all my dearest music is music rooted in black America, and even from
    the African continent. So if i should find a place in the US where would i go?
    From what you know , is there any special community colleges, affordable , for a male
    music student over 50, where you think it would be a chance to experience “the real music” from black America.

    Torbjorn Engan Norway

    • blue says:

      Look inside SoulOfAmerica’s NYC, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Memphis, New Orleans, St. Louis, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Houston, and Nashville travel guides.


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