When it comes to Kentucky, it’s hard not to associate it with anything other than the world-famous Run for the Roses, the Kentucky Derby (and sure, for some, a certain fast food chain.)
And with the 137th Kentucky Derby set to take place this weekend, we here at MTV wanted to pay homage to some other winners from the state, namely the eclectic variety of musicians and bands that hail from there. In addition to the many bluegrass and country artists that call the great state their old Kentucky home, there’s also been boy bands (Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson of the Backstreet Boys hail from the state), chart-topping rockers and hip-hoppers. Here are some of our favorites … a Musical Mint Julep to enjoy before the big race.
Perhaps the name most synonymous with Kentucky musicians, Butcher Hollow native Loretta Lynn is a country music pioneer. The Grammy-winning legend, whose life and music was chronicled in the Oscar-winning film “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” has released some 70 albums and written songs that didn’t shy away from tweaking society’s standards. While she has earned respect and accolades the world over, the influential singer-songwriter is still the pride of Kentucky. Lynn has been honored by the Kentucky Commission and is part of the Women Remembered exhibit in state’s Capitol building.
My Morning Jacket
The voluminous rockers hail from Louisville, and are one of the most respected bands in the business. Known for their impressive live shows (including a now-famous four-hour set at Bonnaroo in 2008), My Morning Jacket has both a rabid fan base and critical appeal. Their Southern roots, which have always been a part of their music, will no doubt be heard on their upcoming album Circuital, as lead singer Jim James and his bandmates recorded it back home.
Cage the Elephant
Up-and-coming Alt-rockers from Bowling Green who, like MMJ, have earned their place on the musical map thanks to their live shows. Since forming in 2006, they’ve released two full-length albums, which have spawned head-bobbing radio hits such as “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” “Back Against the Wall,” “In On Ear” and “Shake Me Down.”
Also hailing from Bowling Green, the Nappy Roots continue to push the boundaries of hip hop, releasing albums like 2003’s critically-praised Wooden Leather. While founding member R. Prophet has since left the group, Skinny DeVille, Big V, B. Stille, Ron Prophet and Fish Scales continue to make music that truly stands out in the hip-hop community.
Black Stone Cherry
Unlike most of their Kentucky brethren, Black Stone Cherry brings Southern hard rock and metal to the mix. The band, which formed a decade ago, has released three albums and have toured with the likes of Nickelback and Alter Bridge. In addition to being hometown heroes in Edmonton, the rockers have found great success in Europe as well.
And before we go place our bets, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention even more Kentucky acts — like Audio Adrenaline, Ricky Skaggs, Will Oldham and Slint — all of whom prove that the state is home to a whole lot more than just horse racing and the Colonel’s Original Recipe.