From the streets to fame? (Musicians)

Has there ever been a street musician who virtually earned his living by playing in the streets, who later became a famous, recording artist?

(I’d like to exclude classic blues musicians, because there are likely a lot of them who would fit this pattern)

I am back from a long day, so I am sure I am missing obvious ones, but the jazz guitarist **Stanley Jordan **- he plays with a wonderfully unique two-handed tapping technique - played on NY streets before he broke loose…

I don’t know if she would qualify as “famous”, but Mary Lou Lord went from busker to recording artist under Sony’s WORK label.

The Violent Femmes were seen playing on the street by a member of The Pretenders and were offered a set during their show that night.


“Famous” is relative. If you’ve heard of these people and know who they are, they’re famous. If you’ve never heard of them then they’re not.

Loreena McKennitt started out busking Celtic harp in Toronto. cite

Katell Keinegstarted busking at age 16. cite

I could have sworn I read once that Lisa Gerrard was a busker in Australia before she met Brendan Perry and formed Dead Can Dance, but I can’t find a link anywhere.

I first heard of Billy Bragg as a busker, but his Wikipedia page says that he had a band beforehand. As is usual for record companies, they re-wrote his history to suit themselves.

Michelle Shocked is fairly unique in that she had a hit record without knowing she did, or even intending to release a record. Her album The Texas Campfire Tapes was a Walkman recording of her playing songs around a campfire at the Kerrville Folk Festival.