8 Country Acts with Ties to New York and New Jersey

When you think of the stars of country music, it’s inevitable that locales like Nashville or Austin come to mind. Music City and Texas are known for harboring and honoring its many twangy standouts. 

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But in truth, stars from the country music genre come from all over the world, from Memphis to Melbourne to Montana. Even the New York-New Jersey area boasts some of the best.

As such, we dive into eight stars of country music who were from the Big Apple and beyond, from Dierks Bentley to Breland to Jimmy Dean and more.

1. Dierks Bentley

Born on November 20, 1975, in Phoenix, Arizona, Dierks Bentley graduated from The Lawrenceville School in New Jersey in 1993. He spent a year later in Vermont at the University of Vermont for college before transferring to Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. He graduated Vanderbilt in 1997 and has grown his country career in Music City ever since.

Bentley worked at The Nashville Network, which is now Paramount Network, researching old footage of country performances. From this work came a ban from the Grand Ole Opry for trespassing, which he did as part of his research. That ban would later be lifted when Bentley released his debut self-titled album in 2003. Two years later he was invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

2. Jimmy Dean

The man who made sausage a household name was also a country music singer, television host, actor and businessman. He started on CBS in 1957 and rose to fame as a result of his country music crossover hit, “Big Bad John.” He also hosted The Jimmy Dean Show in 1963. That show gave puppeteer Jim Henson his first big break and national exposure with his piano-playing dog character, Rowlf. While Dean, who was born in 1928 in Texas, doesn’t have big New Jersey roots, he and his wife were residents of Tenafly, New Jersey, in the 1980s.

3. Kristin Chenoweth

Born on July 24, 1968, in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Kristin Chenoweth sang gospel music as a child. She’s risen to fame thanks to her work in musicals like Wicked and has released several celebrated albums. She’s also played roles on television like Annabeth Schott in NBC’s The West Wing.

As a college student, though, she was performing at the Lyric Theatre in Oklahoma. She was named “most promising up-and-coming singer” in the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions, which gave her a full scholarship to Philadelphia’s Academy of Vocal Arts. But two weeks before she started school there, she went to New York City to help a friend move. While there, she auditioned for the 1993 Paper Mill Playhouse show Animal Crackers in New Jersey. She was cast in the role of Annabelle Rittenhouse and relocated to the area full-time.

4. Tom Wopat

Born on September 9, 1951, in Lodi, Wisconsin, Tom Wopat became a well-known actor and singer. He played Lucas K. Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard. Later, he had a small role in the 2012 movie Django Unchained and in the television show Longmire. But he’s also performed often in musicals and recorded several country albums.

He had a series of well-received singles in the 1980s and 1990s. As far as ties to New Jersey, Wopat has spent time in West Milford during his time as a performer. He even earned a birthday shoutout from the local paper a few years ago HERE.

5. Victoria Shaw

Born on July 13, 1962, in New York City, Victoria Shaw has recorded four albums and charted four singles on the Billboard Hot Country chart as an artist. She has also written six No. 1 songs, including Garth Brooks’ “The River” and “She’s Every Woman.” Born in Manhattan, she was inspired by artists like the Eagles and Linda Ronstadt and began to write songs early in her life. Later, she moved with her sister Lori to L.A. to pursue her career before eventually relocating to Nashville.

6. Breland

Born on July 18, 1995, in Burlington Township in New Jersey, Breland bridges country with rap, R&B, gospel, and soul music. His 2019 breakthrough, “My Truck,” became a viral sensation, later earning a remix with Sam Hunt and multi-platinum status. The up-and-coming star celebrated his first No. 1 in 2022 as a writer and collaborator on Bentley’s “Beers On Me” with HARDY. Breland’s debut LP, Cross Country, dropped in September 2022. His debut single, “For What It’s Worth,” is at country radio now.

7. Richard Sterban

Born on April 24, 1943, the 79-year-old Richard Sterban originates from Camden, New Jersey. He attended high school at the nearby Collingswood High School in the state and later attended Trenton State College, which is now known as The College of New Jersey. In other words, he’s Garden State through and through.

Later, the burgeoning musician toured with J.D. Sumner and the Stamps Quartet and sang backup for Elvis Presley. He eventually joined the Oak Ridge Boys and became known for his signature bass solo in the group’s hit “Elvira.” More recently, Sterban has been the voice of The Roadhouse, a Sirius radio channel, and was a minority owner of the Nashville Sounds minor league baseball team.

8. Clint Black

Originating from Long Branch, New Jersey, Clint Black was born on February 4, 1962. Today, the 60-year-old country musician is a fan favorite. He signed to RCA Nashville in 1989 and released his debut album, Killing’ Time, which garnered him four consecutive No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot Country charts. To date, more than 30 singles have landed on the Billboard country charts while a whopping 22 have hit No. 1.

Photo by Jim Wright / Greenroom PR

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