The band was originally called The Hanson Brothers, The three young boys sang a cappella and recorded songs like "Rockin' Robin", "Splish Splash" and "Johnny B. Goode", as well as their own material. Their first performance as a professional group took place in 1992 at the Mayfest Arts Festival in Tulsa.
Hanson also appeared on Carman's Yo! Kidz: The Vidz, which included Taylor cast as a young Biblical David facing Goliath, Isaac cast as an event announcer, and other members of the family including Zac in the stands cheering on this "sporting event".
All three boys started their musical careers as pianists. Isaac later picked up a second-hand guitar, Zac borrowed an old set of drums, and Taylor became the keyboard player of what turned into a garage band. The band recorded two independent albums in their hometown of Tulsa, Boomerang (recorded in autumn 1994, released in 1995) and MMMBop (released in 1996). The latter featured the original version of the song "MMMBop", which would later become the runaway single on their debut commercial record Middle of Nowhere. The boys then found themselves at the South By Southwest (aka SXSW) music festival in Austin, Texas. There, they were promptly signed by manager Christopher Sabec. He shopped them to several record companies, most of which dismissed the band as either a novelty or fraud before Steve Greenberg, an A&R representative for Mercury Records, heard them play a set at the Kansas State Fair. After this performance, they were signed almost immediately by Mercury. They soon became a worldwide sensation with the release of their first major-label album, Middle of Nowhere
Middle of Nowhere was released in the U.S. on May 6, 1997, which was declared 'Hanson Day' in Tulsa by Oklahoma's then-governor Frank Keating. Although 'Hanson Day' was originally intended to be a one-time occurrence, many Hanson fans all over the world still recognize May 6 as Hanson Day every year. Hanson's popularity exploded during the summer of 1997, and Mercury Records released Hanson's first documentary Tulsa, Tokyo, and the Middle of Nowhere and their Christmas album Snowed In in the wake of their success. Hanson also launched MOE (which stood for Middle of Everywhere), a fan club magazine that ran for 12 issues. After numerous unauthorized biographies of each of the brothers were published, Hanson turned to their close friend, Jarrod Gollihare of Admiral Twin, to write their authorized biography. Hanson: The Official Book reached number 9 on the New York Times Best Sellers List (nonfiction) on February 1, 1998. The band was nominated for three Grammy Awards in 1998: Record of the Year, Best New Artist, and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal. During the summer of 1998, Hanson began a highly successful concert tour, the Albertane Tour. They performed a string of shows throughout stadiums and arenas in the U.S., targeting young audiences with a playful and energetic style. A live album, titled Live From Albertane, was released the following fall, as well as their second documentary The Road to Albertane.
In response to the demand for their earlier work, Hanson re-released MMMBop as 3 Car Garage, minus 4 tracks, in May of 1998. To date, the tracks from Boomerang have not been re-released. Three tracks from Boomerang ("Boomerang", "More Than Anything", and Rain (Falling Down)") and two of the remaining tracks from MMMBop ("Incredible" and "Baby (You're So Fine)") were released on the first MOE CD sent to fan club members.
During the Albertane Tour, Hanson wrote and demoed what would later become the songs for their second major studio album, This Time Around. During this time period, Mercury Records, the band's label, had been merged with Island Def Jam. Almost immediately following the changeover Hanson released their second album, This Time Around, in May 2000 but due to lack of promotional funding sales were low and the label eventually pulled funding for their tour. The band toured through the summer and fall of 2000 on their own funds.
After a 3 year struggle, depicted in the documentary film Strong Enough to Break by Ashley Greyson, the brothers left Island Def Jam Records. As appears in the documentary, the main struggle with the label was what the band felt was lack of creative freedom. This, after label executives refused over 80 songs from the band, believing new material lacked marketability, and insisting on restricting the recording process. Hanson now records for their own independent label, 3CG Records. The label has distribution deals through Alternative Distribution Alliance in the United States, Cooking Vinyl in Europe, Sony BMG in Asia and with various other distributors throughout the world. During the dispute with their former label, Hanson signed with the management company, 10th Street Entertainment, which also manages artists such as Meat Loaf and Blondie.
Released on April 20, 2004, Underneath debuted at #1 on Billboard Top Independent Albums chart and #25 on the Billboard 200 album chart , making Underneath one of the most successful self-released albums of all time.
In autumn 2005, Hanson toured in the U.S. and Canada to support The Best of Hanson: Live & Electric. They also visited colleges to showcase Strong Enough to Break, the documentary chronicling difficulties with and departure from Island Def Jam. During college visits, the band held question-and-answer sessions about independent artists role in the music industry.
Hanson toured South America and Europe and performed their first full electric shows in Australia during the 2005 "Live and Electric" tour. In July 2006, the band recorded with a school choir in Soweto, South Africa to create "Great Divide", which was released through iTunes in December 2006. All proceeds from the song were directed towards research and prevention of AIDS in Africa.
On September 10, 2007, Hanson began "The Walk Tour" in Nashville. During the tour, Hanson continued their work against poverty and AIDS in Africa, partnering with American company, TOMS Shoes. As part of TOMS' "Shoe Drop", for every pair of shoes sold, the company donated another pair for a child in Africa. Hanson brought awareness to this campaign by asking fans to join them in a 1-mile barefoot walk before each concert, to represent what a typical African child goes through on a daily basis.
The Walk tour was suspended after Isaac underwent lifesaving surgery for a pulmonary embolism. Doctors treated his condition by relieving blood flow restrictions caused by excess chest muscle and scar tissue from the repetitive motions of guitar playing The tour resumed with Midwest and Eastcoast dates March through May, 2008. The brothers wrapped up the second leg of "The Walk Tour" after playing 20 concerts in four weeks. They plan to tour again in fall 2008.
Hanson embarked on the "Walk Around the World Tour" starting on September 7, 2008 in Portland, Oregon and ending November 16, 2008 in San Diego, California. Once again Hanson will be helping to fight poverty in Africa by continuing their 1-mile walks before the shows. A coffee table book titled "Take the Walk" will be released in late 2008 to coincide with their "Walk Around the World Tour". This book will present the bands story behind their inspiration for their fight on poverty in Africa. The book will also feature a special EP with new tracks recorded especially for the project. Both the music and the book will raise further funds for aid groups in Africa.
In March, 2007, Hanson began a "preview tour" to promote The Walk and give fans a taste of recent work. Over 6-days, Hanson performed at the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, New Jersey, Toad's Place in New Haven, Connecticut, The Crocodile Rock in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and The Supper Club in New York City. On March 30, Taylor and Zac appeared in Dallas, TX to screen their documentary at the AFI Film Festival. Afterward, the brothers held a Q&A session along with director Ashley Greyson. Hanson performed in the UK during April 2007, playing songs from The Walk. They also promoted the release of the single "Go" and UK release of the album.
On May 6, 2007, the 10th anniversary of Hanson Day, the band re-recorded their first studio album, Middle of Nowhere, at The Blank Slate bar in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The band invited fan club members, causing hundreds to fly to Oklahoma for the acoustic event. Hanson played concerts in the summer of 2007, supporting release of The Walk. The band appeared in Providence, Boston, New York City, Toronto, and Los Angeles. The record Middle of Nowhere Acoustic was released at the end of that year, exclusively on Hanson.net. Including all but 2 songs of those originally in Middle of Nowhere (Speechless and With You in Your Dreams) and featuring the song Yearbook, never performed live before.