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 (23 answers total) 7 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, 2017

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, 2017 [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, 2017 [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, 2017

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, 2017 [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, 2017 [2 favorites]

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, 2017

Rusty Dewees, The Logger, in Vermont.
posted by jessamyn at 10:39 AM on August 16, 2017

Da Yoopers, michigan.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 2:19 PM on August 16, 2017

North Dakota singer Chuck Suchy

posted by SyraCarol at 3:58 PM on August 16, 2017

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, 2017

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, 2017

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, 2017 [1 favorite]

Stephen Bennett, Guitarist, Virginia.
posted by 4ster at 7:08 PM on August 17, 2017

From New Orleans, Benny Grunch and the Bunch.
posted by Nat "King" Cole Porter Wagoner at 11:27 PM on October 15, 2017

Lou & Peter Berryman (no relation) capture so many details of Wisconsin culture. From Have You Heard About the Heat to Squirrelly Valley Two Step (Fox Valley) to Dem Deer so frequently seen on the road to Poniatowski famous mostly for its location. And, on the other side, the perfect generic local song, Your State's Name Here .
posted by Jesse the K at 7:17 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seattle's Jason Webley has earned renown outside of the Northwest over the years, but mostly scattered in small pockets (and also apparently Russia, where he still tours), but he mostly remains well-known in the Seattle area and less-known outside. I remember when he was a busker on the Ave and the University of Washington's Red Square; my first Webley show was in 2001 at one of his annual Halloween "death-day" shows.
posted by duffell at 7:43 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh! As long as I'm reminiscing about Seattle, we had a local sketch show in the 1980s and 1990s, Almost Live, which mainly consisted of Seattle-specific comedy. (A few of the cast members have achieved fame.)
posted by duffell at 8:00 AM on October 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

Kim Massie is an amazing "St. Louis Blues Diva" who is at the Beale on Broadway a few times a week. She's fantastic, but she doesn't have a big following outside of the midwest (or St. Louis, unfortunately).
posted by ChuraChura at 8:43 AM on October 17, 2017

I think it's been referenced in MeFi somewhere, but it has to be Charlie Berens with the Manitowoc Minute

(Yes, I live there. We are all very happy to have something to talk about besides Making a Murderer, because no matter which "side" of that conversation you're on, it's not fun).
posted by TheFantasticNumberFour at 9:57 AM on October 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Lawsuit was a band that was popular in the town I live in before I moved there, but once I heard that they had once existed (the now-deceased singer knew a professor of mine and he came to class), I got a kick out of their music.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:48 PM on October 20, 2017

Melbourne, Australia.

The unfortunately now defunct TISM. They were so Melbourne-specific fans from other states were often confused by their references!
posted by maxcelcat at 8:01 PM on October 24, 2017

I cant' believe I missed this until now... The most famous person from my tiny hometown of Husum, Sweden is Eilert Pilarm. Elvis impersonator with his own style.

I believe my uncle has one of his original cassette tapes that were distributed hand to hand down at the mill. I've seen him in concert a few times. A quiet, unassuming man who had a lot of fans to begin with because he was a super nice guy. He had some issues mentally, and thought at one point that he WAS Elvis. He's better now, and only does Elvis once in a while for fun. Now he lives his own bachelor life, still the same shy guy I remember as "that odd guy my parents know" from my childhood.
posted by gemmy at 8:37 PM on November 3, 2017 [1 favorite]

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