Regional comedy and music
August 16, 2017 9:19 AM   Subscribe

Who's the most famous musician or comedian that no one outside of your state has heard of?

I've recently become re-obsessed with Williams and Ree, a musical comedy duo from South Dakota.

It might have something to do with current events, but I've found this stuff really comforting lately. I love how specific their references are, how they make jokes that are specific to the culture and racial politics of one part of the country. It got me thinking: every state must have a Williams and Ree, right? I want to hear them.

It's different from the beloved local celebrity, who simply benefits from being the biggest fish in her pond but could just as well be in a different pond. It's also different from the folksy country musician, who might write about a specific place but does it in a way that's general enough that it could really be talking about any small town. I want to hear stuff that's funny and meaningful to people in Florida that I won't get.
posted by roll truck roll to Media & Arts (14 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
There's a band from Columbus called the Dead Schembechlers whose songs all reference Ohio State football. (Bo Schembechler was the longtime, and yet only somewhat successful, head coach at our arch rivals, the University of Michigan, and he had previously been an assistant coach at OSU.) A lot of the songs are combative in nature, but it's mostly a facade. Colin Gawel, whose previous band Watershed was both very good and signed to a major label (so someone out there may have actually heard them), and who now owns a pretty great little coffee shop, is actually a really sweet guy. The jokes are such that if you aren't interested in the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, you probably won't find it funny at all. But if you are interested, they're often hilarious.
posted by kevinbelt at 9:42 AM on August 16

Comedian Bob Marley (yes, really) is pretty popular and fills a very specific New England humor niche that the now-retired Tim Sample filled in the '70s.

There are a ton of great Maine bands, but I can't think of anyone who you'd somehow get more if you're local. There is a local rapper named Spose who had a big local radio hit called King of Maine which I'm not sure you'd get if you're from away. (You should for sure check out his first release I'm Awesome which has local references and is filmed here in Portland.)

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there is Schooner Fare, particularly Our Maine Songs, but although their songs are about living in Coastal Maine I think they're pretty universal in themes.
posted by anastasiav at 9:59 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]

Not all that famous any more, I guess, but the original Bert and I recordings by Marshall Dodge and Bob Bryan feature verrrrry dry humour in the downeast Maine tradition. ("You can't get there from here", etc.)

A little bit more recently, all around New England talent and media personality Fritz Wetherbee recorded Speak N'Hampsha Like a Native in a similar fashion.

As a lifelong rural New Englander from a long line of lifelong New Englanders, I can attest that this type of subtle, understated humor is spot on.
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 10:10 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]

Not exactly what you're looking for, but my uncle Lee was in a band in the 70's called Hotel that was pretty big in their home state of Alabama and basically nowhere else. The band's been defunct for decades but he's still a minor local celebrity among a certain subset of Alabamians.
posted by saladin at 10:16 AM on August 16

In terms of music I've always loved Scissorfight's "Things gone awry in the New Hampshire wilderness" sinister mountain man shtick (which I think does actually tap into something authentic.) E.G., Deliver the Yankee Coffin / Fang / Blizzards, Buzzards, Bastards / New Hampshire's Alright if You Like Fighting
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 10:22 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]

Oregon's own Dead Moon aren't well known outside of Portland, though I have heard them on WFMU. Which is a shame, as lordy do they kick butt.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:34 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]

This is a bit more widespread than just regional, but most of the Modern Orthodox Jews in the NE Corridor are obsessed with watching Soon By You.
posted by Mchelly at 10:34 AM on August 16

Rusty Dewees, The Logger, in Vermont.
posted by jessamyn at 10:39 AM on August 16

Da Yoopers, michigan.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:19 PM on August 16

Chicago's Chris Ligon doesn't have a web presence, and he's not even 'kinda famous' around town, but he does have a bit of a cult following and has even gotten a little national recognition in the past few years.

He's an extremely clever songwriter who can veer from left field to wistfully poignant within the space of a few bars. Try to imagine Mose Allison as a regular on Hee Haw.

You can find a few interviews and reviews online, and more videos shot by fans, and even a couple from his brother's wedding.

Mostly he sells CD-Rs at his shows, but a few years ago Terry Adams (of NRBQ) put out a compilation on his CLANG! label, and you can find those songs on iTunes and Spotify.

Chris' brother Scott is part of Chicago much-loved pop-vocal group The Flat Five, and they finally got an album together last year, and it's all Chris Ligon tunes. Highly recommended.
posted by hydrophonic at 9:43 PM on August 16

Ed's Redeeming Qualities local to both Boston and San Francisco. Inimitable!

I've been chatting with college friends from the very early 90s lately and several of them thanked me for introducing them to Ed's.
posted by bendy at 10:47 PM on August 16

Washington, DC music: Wale, Chuck Brown (and the entire genre of go-go), The Dismemberment Plan. Washington, DC (musical) comedy: The Capitol Steps.
posted by capricorn at 2:52 PM on August 17

Stephen Bennett, Guitarist, Virginia.
posted by 4ster at 7:08 PM on August 17

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