by Jason Gubbels | April 7, 2014
Country music may be popular coast to coast and north to south, but even hard-core fans can be surprised by the number of country performers hailing from locations well north of the Mason-Dixon line. While the American Southland remains both the spiritual and physical home of country, the art form has always been partly shaped by Yankees, even going all the way back to some of the earliest examples of country music on record (it was talent scout and Missourian Ralph Peer who discovered Fiddlin' John Carson, Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family in the 1920s). Several early country superstars claimed Northern pedigrees, from Canadian-born Bob Nolan of the legendary Western group Sons of the Pioneers to Ohio-raised cowboy singer Roy Rogers and Wisconsin-based bandleader Pee Wee King. Towering above them all is the legendary Canadian Hank Snow, who sang fondly of his origins on "My Nova Scotia Home": "There's a place I'll always cherish/ 'Neath the blue Atlantic sky/ Where the shores down in Cape Breton/ Bid the golden sun to rise."
In fact, our list of Yankee-born country artists proved so large we decided to cut out the great state of California entirely from our playlist (besides, it's hard to think of The Golden State as a northern region). Ohio is excellently represented, perhaps unsurprisingly given its shared borders with Kentucky and West Virginia -- Bobby Bare, David Allen Coe and Johnny Paycheck all claimed the state as home (Dwight Yoakam was born in Kentucky but was raised in Columbus, Ohio). Connie Smith and Crystal Gayle both hail from Indiana, while the state of Illinois can lay claim to Alison Krauss, David Lee Murphy, Suzy Bogguss and the Chicago-based Pine Valley Cosmonauts, itself headed by Welsh-born Jon Langford. Travel up to the higher reaches of North America and you'll find Lynn Anderson (North Dakota), Anne Murray (Nova Scotia), Paul Brandt (Alberta), Terri Clark (Quebec) and Hot Country legend Shania Twain (Windsor, Ontario).
And perhaps most surprising are the actual dyed-in-the-wool New England/Northeast-born Yankees who've dented the country charts, from the New Jersey triptych of Juice Newton, Clint Black and Mary Chapin Carpenter to the Maine Down Easters, Patty Griffin and Dick Curless. Even Massachusetts gets into the game via Jo Dee Messina. And what modern country playlist would be complete without Pennsylvania-born powerhouse Taylor Swift? Check out the full playlist for all of our Northern interlopers crashing the country gates.