The Sounds of Iowa

From stages that celebrate legendary rock 'n' rollers to museums that pay homage to big bands, music enthusiasts of all kinds will love what Iowa’s composing.


Clear Lake

You’ll step back in time to the day the music died when you visit the legendary Surf Ballroom, where music icons Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper played their final shows during the 1959 Winter Dance Party. Here, you’ll be greeted with 1950s charm, complete with fake palm trees and oceanfront murals.
After you’ve watched a show and checked out the iconic rock 'n' roll memorabilia, head north of town to visit the memorial site of the plane crash that took the lives of these three talented performers.


Mason City

Just a few minutes from Clear Lake is the Music Man Square honoring the Broadway hit musical, The Music Man by composer, playwright and Mason City native, Meredith Willson. At the square’s River City Streetscape – where it’s always July 3, 1912 – you can tour the Meredith Willson Museum and stop in Mrs. Paroo's Gift Shop.
Visit in May for the North Iowa Band Festival, featuring a marching band parade and a full weekend of live entertainment. In December, you can sing along to carols played by more than 100 tuba, sousaphone and euphonium players at Iowa’s largest “TubaChristmas” event.


Are you a big fan of big band music? Then you won’t want to miss the Glenn Miller Birthplace Museum, dedicated to one of the biggest names in this music genre. In June, catch the Glenn Miller Festival, and in October see the Southwest Iowa Band Jamboree. Both feature all-star big band lineups and local talent.


Photo via Rolling Stone

“Wake Up Little Susie.” “Bye Bye Love.” “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” These are just three of the hit songs that made The Everly Brothers famous. Visit their childhood home and then take a stroll down the Iowa Walk of Fame that commemorates Iowans who have made an impact on the nation and world.



Looking for a magnificent musical experience? Head to the River Music Experience performing arts venue and museum honoring the famous 1920s jazz soloist, Leon “Bix” Beiderbecke. You’ll have more than 150 shows to choose from every year.



Photo via NPR

Wall Lake
You’ll be over the moon (river) for the birthplace home of Andy Williams. The 1960s pop singer and variety show host was born in Wall Lake in 1927 and went onto record 17 gold-certified and three platinum-certified albums.



Iowa is rich with rock 'n' roll history – and the Iowa Rock 'N' Roll Association Museum is just the place to learn all about it. See exhibits that capture the spirit of Iowa rock 'n' rollers past and present.


Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and Tony Bennett are just a few of the musicians who made Bart Howard’s song “Fly Me to the Moon” a top cabaret hit. Born in Burlington, Howard was a talented composer and performer. At the Des Moines County Heritage Center, you can learn about cabaret music in America with exhibits and performers that will make your toes tap.

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