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Famous directors, musicians and movie stars from Kentucky

A-list actors, top-notch musicians and others make up the list of famous Kentucky celebrities. Who knew that George Clooney, Johnny Depp and Merle Travis all once called the Bluegrass State their home? See what other top musicians and movie stars from Kentucky you can recognize. Meet more Kentucky celebrities here.

Conrad Bachmann (November 26, 1932-) Bachmann began his acting career over forty years ago with his appearance in the Dobie Gillis series. Since then he has gone on to do hundreds of episodics, over four hundred commercials, twenty features, and numerous stage productions.  Conrad has also founded the Louisville Film Arts Institute (LFAI) in Louisville which produces the Louisville International Festival of Film (LIFF).

Ned Beatty (May 17, 1936-) – Beatty has appeared in more than 100 films, best-remembered for his role in “Deliverance” in 1972. Born in Louisville.

Foster Brooks (May 11, 1912-2001) – Actor and comedian most famous for his portrayal of a lovable drunken man. Perry Como discovered Brooks in 1969, appeared regularly on “The Dean Martin Show.” Born in Louisville, died in Encino, California.

Laura Bell Bundy (April 10, 1981-) – Actress and singer who has performed in a number of Broadway roles, both starring and supporting, as well as in television and film. Born in Lexington.

John Carpenter* (January 16, 1948-) – Film director, screenwriter, producer, editor, composer, and actor. His name is most commonly associated with horror and science fiction. Born in Carthage, New York, family moved to Bowling Green in 1953 when John was around 5 years old.

Steven Curtis Chapman (November 21, 1962-) – Contemporary Christian musician, advocate for adoption and many charities. Born in Paducah.

George Clooney (May 6, 1961-) – Actor, director, producer and screenwriter. Clooney has balanced his performances in big-budget blockbusters with work as a producer and director, as well as social, liberal and political activism. The United Nations named Clooney a “Messenger of Peace” in 2008. Born in Lexington, grew up in Augusta.

Rosemary Clooney (May 23, 1928-2002) – Singer and actress. She came to prominence in the early 1950s, received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002. Starred with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in the movie “White Christmas.” Born in Maysville, died in Beverly Hills, California.

John Conlee (August 11, 1946-) – Country music singer spanning from 1978 through late 1987. Born in Versailles.

William Conrad (September 27, 1920-1994) – Film, television director, actor and narrator in radio, film, and television known for his baritone voice. Fighter pilot in World War II. Born in Louisville, died in Los Angeles, California.

J.D. Crowe (August 27, 1937-) – Banjo player and bluegrass band leader. Crowe’s New South band is widely considered one of the most influential bluegrass groups since the 1970s. Born in Lexington.

Billy Ray Cyrus (August 25, 1961-) – Grammy Award-nominated American country music singer, songwriter and actor. Best selling debut album of all time for a solo male artist, father of Miley Cyrus. Born in Flatwoods.

Kassie DePaiva (born March 21, 1961-) is an American soap opera actress and singer. She was credited prior to 1996 as Kassie Wesley. She was born Katherine Virginia Wesley in Morganfield, Kentucky. DePaiva is married to fellow One Life to Live actor James DePaiva. The two have one son, James Quentin DePaiva (b. May 12, 1997).

Jackie DeShannon (August 21, 1944-) – Born Sharon Lee Meyers. Singer-songwriter with a string of hit song credits from the 1960s onwards. One of the first female singer-songwriters of the rock ‘n’ roll period. Born in Hazel.

Johnny Depp (June 9, 1963-) – Actor and musician known for his portrayals of offbeat, eccentric characters such as Jack Sparrow in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film series. Born in Owensboro.

Irene Dunne (December 20, 1898-1990) – Film actress and singer of the 1930s and 1940s. Dunne was nominated five times for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Born in Louisville, died in Los Angeles, California.

Don & Phil Everly - Don Everly, (February 1, 1937-), Phil Everly (January 19, 1939-January 3, 2014) – Brothers and top-selling country influenced rock and roll performers. Don Everly was born in Brownie, Muhlenberg County. Phil was born in Chicago, Illinois.

Heather R. French (December 29, 1974-) - Miss America 1999-2000, she has received numerous awards for her work with veterans. Born in Augusta.

Rebecca Gayheart (August 12, 1971-) - Television and film actress. Born in Hazard.

Crystal Gayle (January 9, 1951-) - Born Brenda Gail Webb. Country Singer best known for a series of country-pop crossover hits in the late 1970s and 1980s. 18 #1 hits. Born in Paintsville.

Haven Gillespie (February 6, 1888-1975) – Composer and lyricist. Wrote Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.  Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972. Born in Covington, and died in Covington.

D.W. Griffith (January 22, 1875-1948) – Premier pioneer Academy Award-winning American film director. Born in La Grange, died in Hollywood, California.

Charles Edward Hall (1951 -   ), born in Frankfort, graduated from Murray State in theatre, has acted in various New York City productions, the most famous as the singing, dancing, talking, ho-ho-hoing Santa Claus of The Radio City Christmas Spectacular.  His role with the Rockettes for the past 30 years makes him the longest-running actor in the same role.  He has co-written  the book Santa Claus is for Real:  A True Christmas Fable.   He returns to Kentucky every summer to direct and write for the Twilight Theatre productions in Western Kentucky.

Tom T. Hall (May 25, 1936-) – Country balladeer, songwriter, and country singer. He has written 11 #1 hit songs, with 26 that reached Top 10. Grammy award winner in 1973. Born in Olive Hill.

Lionel Hampton (April 20, 1908-2002) – Jazz vibraphonist, pianist, percussionist, bandleader and actor. Hampton ranks among the great names in jazz history. Born in Louisville, died in New York City. Jazz Hall of Fame, 1984.

Larnell Harris (July 6, 1948-) – Gospel singer, songwriter and recording artist. Five Grammy awards and 18 Dove awards. Born in Danville. Kentucky Headhunters - Grammy Award-winning American country rock band. Band has won three Country Music Association awards and an Academy of Country Music award. Band origin is Metcalfe County.

Grandpa Louis Marshall Jones (October 20, 1913-1998) – Banjo player and “old time” country and gospel music singer. Cast member of the TV show Hee Haw. Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, 1978. Born in Niagra, died in Nashville, Tennessee.

Ashley Judd (April 19, 1968-) - Actress, known for playing a number of strong women characters in films. Daughter of country music star Naomi Judd. Born in Granada Hills, California, mostly raised in Kentucky.

Naomi Judd (January 11, 1946-) As country music’s most famous mother/daughter team, The Judds scored twenty top-10 hits and fifteen #1s. The duo won 5 Grammy Awards. Other ventures are TV, movies and author of several self-help books. Born in Ashland.

Wynonna Judd (May 30 1964-) – Born Christian Claire Ciminella. Country music singer. Daughter Wynonna and mother Naomi rose to fame in the 1980s group “The Judds.” Wynonna began a solo career in 1991. Born in Ashland.

Jennifer Lawrence (Aug 15, 1990 - ) Born and raised in Louisville, this award winning actress has starred in blockbusters like The Hunger Games, Silver Linings Playbook (best actress Oscar, American Hustle, and a Golden Globe) and X-Men as Mystique. She’s active in several charities, including Special Olympics and Feeding America, and organized an early screening of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire to benefit a special disabilities organization in Louisville.

Lily May Ledford (March 17, 1917-1985) – Folk and country music pioneer. One of the original Coon Creek Girls. Born in the Red River Gorge area of Powell County, died in Lexington.

Brian Littrell (February 20, 1975-) Singer-songwriter; a member of the Backstreet Boys. He is also a contemporary Christian recording artist. Born in Lexington.

Patty Loveless (January 4, 1957-) – Born Patricia Lee Ramey. Country music singer. She is the 65th member of the Grand Ole Opry. Born in Pikeville.

Loretta Lynn (April 14,1935-) – Born Loretta Webb. Country music singer-songwriter, she was one of the leading country vocalists and songwriters during the 1960s and 1970s. The movie “Coal Miners Daughter” is based on her life story. Born in Butcher Hollow.

Lee Majors* (April 23, 1939) - AKA Harvey Lee Yeary.  Actor, best known for several high profile roles on television in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Born in Wyandotte, Michigan, moved to Kentucky when he was a year old. Graduated from Eastern Kentucky University.

My Morning Jacket - Grammy-nominated rock band. The band formed in Louisville, in 1998.

William Smith "Bill" Monroe (September 13, 1911-1996) – Musician, singer, mandolin, and banjo aficionado. Career spanned 60 years. Referred to as “The Father of Bluegrass.” Born in Rosine, and buried there.

John Michael Montgomery (January 20, 1965-) – Country music artist, songwriter and rhythm guitarist. Born in Danville, raised and lived in Garrard County.

Nappy Roots – American alternative Southern rap quintet that originated in Bowling Green. Best known for its hit single “Po’ Folks”.

Patricia Neal (January 20, 1926-2010) Award winning actress of stage and screen. Born in Packard, Whitley County.

Joan Osborne (July 8, 1962-) – Singer-songwriter; best known for her song “One of Us,” and for her work with members of “The Grateful Dead.” Born in Anchorage, Kentucky.

Annie Potts* (October 28, 1952-) – Actress best known for playing the role of Janine Melnitz in the Ghostbusters and sitcom, Designing Women. Born in Nashville, Tennessee, and grew up in Franklin.

Boots Randolph (June 3, 1927-2007) – Musician best known for his 1963 saxophone hit, “Yakety Sax.” Major part of the “Nashville Sound” for most of his career. Born in Paducah, died in Nashville, Tennessee.

Kevin Richardson (October 3, 1971-) – American singer and former member of the Backstreet Boys, model, actor, and composer. Born in Lexington.

Jeanie Ritchie (December 8, 1922-) – American folk singer, songwriter, and Appalachian dulcimer player. Born in Viper, Perry County.

Ricky Skaggs (July 18, 1954-) – Grammy-winning country and bluegrass singer, musician, producer, and composer. Born in Lawrence County.

Kevin Skinner (February 25, 1974) – American country music singer who was the winner of the fourth season of America’s Got Talent. Born in Mayfield.

Jordan Smith (November 4, 1993 - ) This popular, inspirational singer won The Voice, season nine (2015) He was born and raised in Harlan, a Southeastern Kentucky mining town, where he attended Wallins Elementary and graduated from Harlan County High School. Find Jordan Smith on iTunes when he’s not busy recording, touring or performing at local events or church.

Mary Travers (November 9, 1936-) – Member of folk group Peter, Paul and Mary. Born in Louisville.

Merle Travis (November 29, 1917-1983) – American country western singer. Inducted into the Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame in 1970, and elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1977. Born in Rosewood, died in Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

Keith Whitley (July 1, 1954-1989) – American country music singer. Whitley’s career in mainstream country music lasted from 1984 till his death in 1989, but he continues to influence an entire generation of singers and songwriters. Born in Sandy Hook, died in Tennessee.

Rumer Willis (Aug 16, 1988 - ) An actress who appeared in movies including Hostage and House Bunny, and in a variety of TV shows (90210, Hawaii 50) including Dancing with the Stars, which she won in 2015. Rumer, the oldest daughter of Bruce Willis and Demi Moore, was born in Paducah.

Dwight Yoakum (October 23, 1956-) – American singer-songwriter and actor, most famous for his country music. Born in Pikeville.

James Albert "Jim" Varney, Jr. (June 15, 1949 – 2000) was an American stand-up comedian, actor, musician, writer, voice artist, and comedian, best known for his role as Ernest P. Worrell, who was used in numerous television commercial campaigns and movies in the following years, giving Varney fame worldwide and playing Jed Clampett in the 1993 movie version of The Beverly Hillbillies.

Billy Vaughn (April 12, 1919-1991) – Singer, multi-instrumentalist, song writer, and orchestra leader. While at Western Kentucky University he was part of a vocal trio, “The Hilltoppers) He later became the most successful orchestra leader of all time. Born in Glasgow, died in Escondido, California.

Hilltoppers (1929 -) - Jimmy Sacca, (October 7, 1931-) - Donald McGuire, (July 9, 1930–) - Seymour Spiegelman (October 1, 1930 -), later added a pianist, Billy Vaughn, (1919 –1991) – Group started while attending Western Kentucky University and went on to become world famous. Donald McGuire was born in Hazard, Kentucky.

Sturgill Simpson (June 8, 1978- ) is a Grammy nominated, American country music and roots rock singer-songwriter, born in Jackson, Kentucky.

Josh Hutcherson (October 12, 1992-) born in Union, Kentucky and star of numerous critically acclaimed and award winning films including, The Kids Are All Right (2010), Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012), and the main character, Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games (2012) series. 

* Denotes not born in Kentucky