Music of Milwaukee

Music of Milwaukee

Milwaukee has a long history of musical activity. The first organized musical society, called "Milwaukee Beethoven Society" formed in 1843, three years before the city was incorporated. This was later replaced with the Milwaukee Musical Society.

The large concentrations of German immigrants contributed to the musical character of the city. Saengerbund festivals were held regularly. Also notable is the founding of the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music in 1899.

Venues such as Pabst Theater, Marcus Amphitheater, Riverside Theater, The Northern Lights Theater, and The Rave frequently bring internationally-known and critically acclaimed acts to Milwaukee.

Milwaukee has enjoyed a vibrant history of rock, jazz, soul, blues, punk, ska, industrial music, goth, hip hop, electronica and pop music bands. Some musicians who have risen out of the Milwaukee scene to regional and national prominence are Coo Coo Cal, Rico Love, Jerry Harrison, Woody Herman, Liberace, saxophonist Warren Wiegratz, blues giant Hubert Sumlin, the BoDeans, Maritime, Violent Femmes, Citizen King, The Gufs, Eyes To The Sky, Fever Marlene, Streetz & Young Deuces, The Promise Ring, Little Blue Crunchy Things, Eric Benét, Al Jarreau, Oil Tasters and Koala Taxi. The city is also home to Beer City Records, a local punk rock label.



Milwaukee's rock scene has been nationally recognized as one of the most dynamic and growing in the America. Acts like Violent Femmes, Jaill, BoDeans, Citizen King, Die Kreuzen, The Gufs, Fever Marlene, The Promise Ring, Little Blue Crunchy Things , Woolton Parrish,and Test Pilot have all been based out of Wisconsin's brew city.Indie/Punk record label Snapdragon Records,Founded by Kristan Harris in 2002 ex member of Member of Subdue a Pop/Punk/Ska band from milwaukee featured on Van's Warped Tour 2003 has been a staple and helped legitimize milwaukee's presence in the 00's in the nation music spotlight..

Record Labels

Snapdragon Records Milwaukee is also where Snapdragon Records is located which has gained substantial recognition nation wide with national distribution through SONY/RED/MRI.Their artists have been featured on Van's Warped Tour, MTV,Fuel,Fuse summerfest.Origonally a pop punk label that has adapted through out the years with the genre. They have historically supported several notable wisconsin artists including Madisons skacore artist I Voted For Kodos, Pop Rock artist The Starrs,MIlwaukee's The Response and have featured Milwaukee artists on nationally distributed compilations such as Since By Man,Bosio,Subdue,The Response,Red Letter DiariesTemper Temper.SDR also supports the community with their sponsorship locally of the rock for life blood drives usually hosting the event driving kids with their live concerts.


Milwaukee is noted for many Pop Punk/ska artists such as The Promise Ring,Eighty-D,5 o'Clock Charlie,Pavlov's Dogs, SECW(Straight Edge Crack Whores),The Oakwoods,The Response,Bosio,Subdue,Molitor,Idle 13, and many other artists.

Hip Hop

Milwaukee's hip hop scene has received national recognition, most recently when Black Elephant was featured in the "Unsigned Hype" section of "The Source" magazine.[1] Streetz & Young Deuces, also featured in "The Source" Magazine in the "off The Radar" section has brought much in the way of international and national attention to Milwaukee. They are currently sponsored by Crunk Energy Drink.[citation needed]

Other notable Milwaukee hip hop acts include, Tank (American singer), Rico Love, Coo Coo Cal, Gerald Walker, the Rusty Ps, Kid Cut Up, Brew City Ballas and Haz Solo. In 2001, Coo Coo Cal's "My Projects" became the first commercially successful single by a Milwaukee hip hop act since Arrested Development strung together a set of hits in the early 1990s.

Rico Love, who spent most of his childhood in Milwaukee and claims the city as his hometown, gave it even more recognition in the hip-hop circle, with his signing to Usher's Us Records and releasing his hit single "Settle Down" from the soundtrack to In the Mix.[citation needed]

Milwaukee is also where the Core DJ's began. Milwaukee native, The CEO of the Core DJ's & radio DJ, Tony Neal started Core in Oct of 2004.[citation needed] Since then, The Core DJ's has become the largest coalition of urban DJ's in the world with over 500 DJ's worldwide.[citation needed]


Milwaukee's jazz scene has produced many nationally recognized artists including Al Jarreau, Brian Lynch, Jon Weber, Carl Allen, Eddie Allen, Lynne Arriale, Billy and Mark Johnson, Russ Johnson, John Sullivan, and Juli Wood. Several other jazz masters have held Milwaukee ties through the years, including Melvin Rhyne, Bunky Green, George Braith, Woody Herman, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Many Chicago musicians make the trek to Milwaukee to play at the city's many jazz clubs, such as Jazz Estate, Caroline's, Blu, and ARJ's. Many restaurants also feature live jazz. Milwaukee hosts the Third Ward Summer Sizzle (recent headliners have included John Faddis, David Sanchez, Herbie Mann, Delfayo Marsalis, Kevin Eubanks, Jack McDuff, Chris Botti, Ernie Watts), The Hal Leonard Jazz Series at the Pabst Theater, and the popular Thursday night jazz series "Jazz in the Park" which goes from Labor Day to Memorial. Additionally the Jazz Estate on Milwaukee's east side is a current place which has housed many famous jazz acts throughout Milwaukee's history and continues to do so today.


Milwaukee is host to the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Edo de Waart. Other notable ensembles in the Milwaukee include: the Milwaukee Symphony Chorus, the Florentine Opera, the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, and the Fine Arts Quartet.


Bars like The Up and Under are notorious for great blues music. This bar is considered the best venue for live music in all of Milwaukee according to[citation needed]


Milwaukee is also home to a thriving club scene booking regular international DJs such as Richie Hawtin, LTJ Bukem, Mark Farina, Derrick Carter and The Founder of The CORE Dj's, Tony Neal. In the early 1990s, the city was home to a vibrant rave scene, especially fostering hardcore techno, thanks to Drop Bass; but the scene dwindled after reactions by local authorities. Milwaukee is also a center of the breakcore scene with labels such as Addict Records and Zod Records.


Milwaukee has a rich history in metal from the now infamous "Milwaukee Metal Fest" (one of the first festivals in the United States to bring international and nationwide metal legends to play for thousands of eager fans) to the current small but thriving local metal community. Often overlooked, the metal community is strong and continues to grow.


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