The Very Best Albums by Florida-Born Bands

Music history has been made in Florida decade after decade. Here are the albums we still love.


June 8, 2022
A map of central Florida, with a pen hovering over Orlando.
Take a road trip through music history in Florida. Neil Mewes / Unsplash

Florida is best known for its beaches, warm waters and sunny days, but the state has more than its fair share of amazing musicians. Here are our favorite albums by bands that formed and flourished in Florida.

Old School

The R&B duo Sam & Dave –  Sam Moore and Dave Prater – formed in Miami in 1961 and were the inspiration by the Blues Brothers act in the ’80s. Their 1966 debut album “Hold On, I’m Comin'” topped the Billboard R&B chart that year. Cited by scores of legendary musicians for their influence, Sam & Dave are inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame, the Memphis Music Hall of Fame, and the Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame. The duo won a Grammy Award for “Soul Man” and received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2019.

Founded in 1973 in Hialeah by Harry Wayne Casey, KC and the Sunshine Band ruled the disco era in the ‘70s and kept right on making music for decades beyond. Their self-titled album in 1975 has “That’s The Way” and “Get Down Tonight.” The band’s name is a combination of a shortened version of Casey (“KC”) and an ode to the state where they’re from – the “Sunshine” state.

Huge Hitmakers

Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers formed in Gainesville in 1976 and were wowing arena audiences until Petty’s death in 2017. “Damn the Torpedos,” from 1979, featured “Refugee” among other hits. Before his rock fame arrived, Petty worked briefly on the grounds crew of the University of Florida – but didn’t attend the college as a student. An Ogeechee lime tree that Petty reportedly planted while employed at UF is now called the Tom Petty tree.

Matchbox Twenty from Orlando was an FM radio powerhouse in the ’90s. Their debut album, “Yourself or Someone Like You” in 1996 was certified Platinum 12 times over.

Southern-Fried Rock

Formed in Jacksonville in the ’60s, Lynyrd Skynyrd popularized Southern rock with the anthem “Sweet Home Alabama,” an instant classic off their 1974 album “Second Helping.” The band’s career was abruptly halted on Oct. 20, 1977, when their chartered airplane crashed, killing Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, and backup singer Cassie Gaines.

Founded by Donnie Van Zant (the younger brother to Skynyrd’s Ronnie Van Zant), 38 Special had a much more mainstream sound on hits such as “Hold On Loosely,” featured on 1981’s “Wild-Eyed Southern Boys.” The band continues to perform today with co-founder Don Barnes the only remaining original member.


Shock rock icon Marilyn Manson (aka Brian Hugh Warner) got started in the late ’80s in Fort Lauderdale. The 1988 concept album “Mechanical Animals” dealt with the pitfalls of fame and substance abuse.

Miami’s 2 Live Crew made headlines in the late ’80s with the sexually explicit lyrics of their hip-hop songs. We can’t name any songs from their 1989 album “As Nasty as They Wanna Be” without getting into trouble ourselves, but their fans loved it. 

Dance Floor Favorites

Miami’s Pitbull is a rap/pop star who has sold more than 25 million albums while serving as an ambassador to the state’s Latin American community. His 2012 album “Global Warming” is a star thanks to singles like “Back in Time.”

Miami is the star again with Gloria Estefan, who broke open the barriers to Latin music with “Conga,” the iconic hit from the 1985 mega-selling album “Primitive Love.”

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