As wannabe musos, most work through their day jobs dreaming of the opportunity to make it in the music business. The older they get, of course, they feel that the possibility becomes more remote, but they can still dream. Here’s a list of jobs musicians had before they were discovered – it’s just a reminder that there’s always a chance that things will change.
Toby Keith – Oil Rig worker in Oklahoma until signing a deal at Mercury Records, Nashville, his debut album “Toby Keith”, which contained his first chart topper, “Should’ve Been A Cowboy”,
Kurt Cobain – Janitor Cobain had to sweep floors before his smash hit Nevermind.
Chris Cornell – Fish Handler Before Chris Cornell joined Soundgarden, he worked for a seafood wholesaler. His job entailed wiping up the slime left behind by the fish and throwing away the left over guts.
Ozzy Osbourne – Construction Worker, Plumber, Car Factory Horn-Tuner and Slaughterhouse Worker This master of odd-jobs apparently had experience with blood and guts even before the infamous bat incident. Nothing prepares you for a career as the Prince of Darkness better than time spent working in a slaughterhouse
Cyndi Lauper – Dog Kennel Cleaner and Ear Piercer
Ronnie Lane – The guitarist from the band Small Faces (and later Faces when Rod Steward and Ronnie Wood joined), was a plumber who used his income to purchase his first guitar. Shortly after that he started his first band and went on to become one of the UK’s most influential rock and psychedelic guitarists of the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Joe Cocker – Famed singer Joe Cocker, who played at Woodstock and turned the Beatles tune “With a Little Help from My Friends” into a generational anthem, was a working class guy from Sheffield, England. He initially worked in the plumbing trade and was an apprentice gasfitter for British Gas while also pursuing a career in music.
Eddie Vedder – Night Security Guard Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder used clock in each night at the La Valencia Hotel as a security guard. He may not have been the best security guard though as one rumor suggests he was eventually fired for playing his guitar instead of doing his job.
Johnny Cash – Military Code Breaker During his time in the army Cash was assigned to the cryptographic intelligence unit, and was apparently pretty good at it.
Gene Simmons – Assistant to Editor at Glamour and Vogue While teaching at an elementary school and being a lifeguard at a hotel pool were a couple of his jobs, being an editorial assistant for fashion magazines beats all for the Kiss bass player.
Keith Richards – Ball Boy Hard to imagine Richards actually working but according to folklore he did spend time as a teenager working as a ball boy at a tennis club.
Noel Gallagher – Construction Worker Although it has to be said he was working for his dad… Gallagher also famously went on to become a roadie for the Inspiral Carpets pre-Oasis.
Mick Jagger – Porter at a Mental Hospital A couple of good ones here: selling ice creams at a beach resort as well as carting the patients of mental hospital around.
Rod Stewart – Gravedigger This is one of the most famous pre-rock gigs, but as well as making holes at London’s Highgate Cemetary he also spent some time as a professional soccer player with Brentford Football Club.
Pink – Worked at McDonalds And with that, a million 15-year-olds at Maccas have now got a new dream.
Frank Sinatra – After high school he worked as the circulation manager of the Jersey Observer newspaper.
Elvis Presley – Truck Driver at the Crown Electric Company in Memphis.
Snoop Dog – Drug Dealer/Grocery Shop worker That’s Snoop Dog for you – serving the citizens of Long Beach, California whatever way he can…
Fergie – (Black Eyed Peas) : Voiceover Artist Apparently her most famous one was as the voice of Sally in some Charlie Brown cartoons.
Brandon Flowers – (The Killers) : Casino Worker Working the chips in Las Vegas must have been interesting for a while…
Elvis Costello – Data Entry Clerk Costello’s most famous gig was at a computer at Elzabeth Arden but also pounded the keys at a bank.
Jonathan Davis – (Korn) : Embalmer Davis studied mortuary sciences and worked at a funeral home in California before taking his dark side to the stage.
Madonna – Worked at Dunkin Donuts
Greg Graffin – (Bad Religion): Paleontologist Gregory Walter Graffin, Ph.D., kept his music and professional lives separate, holding a number of teaching jobs, including stints at UCLA and Cornell University while in the band.
Gwen Stefani – Worked at Dairy Queen Serving soft serve was a start but she did move on to working at a department store before joining her brother’s band.
Sting – Construction Labourer, Tax Officer, Bus Conductor, Teacher A good string of jobs to prepare you for life as bass-wielding front man.
James Brown – Shoe Shiner, Car Washer, Cotton Picker Some tough gigs there, but he also spent some time working in a pool hall.
Kanye West – Worked at Gap clothing store
Frank Bello – (Anthrax): Waiter Was he any good? Bello says he got crappy tips and that’s why he feels fortunate to make a living from music.
Sebastian Bach – (solo, Skid Row): Landscaper Apparently he only lasted two weeks before getting sacked for singing too loudly on the job.
Eminem – Short order cook/Dishwasher Good jobs to give you material to rap about?
Debbie Harry – Waitress The Blondie front woman was a waitress at legendary restaurant and club Max’s Kansas City in New York City.
Tom Ataya (Slayer): Respiratory Therapist Sounds impressive and it is. Araya worked in hospitals helping people with things like asthma.
Alanis Morisette – Envelope Stuffer Who knew this was actually the title of a job?
B.B. King – Tractor Driver One of the first permanent jobs for this typically itinerant bluesman was behind the wheel of a tractor – and supposedly he loved it.
Beyonce Knowles – Hair Salon worker Beyonce worked at her mum’s salon sweeping up hair before fame took over.
Jon Bon Jovi – Christmas Decorations Assembler
Tom Waits – Pizza Restaurant worker Waits wrote several musical tributes to Napoleone’s Pizza in National City, California. The place is still in business and features plenty of his tunes on its jukebox.
Kim Deal – (Pixies/Breeders): Biochemical Lab Technician After school Deal went to seven different colleges without graduating from any of them. But she eventually got an associate degree in biology and worked in a biochemical lab.
Chuck Berry – Beautician/Robber Interesting combo! Berry served three years in Algoa Intermediate Reformatory for an armed robbery (so he wasn’t very good at robbery), before training as a beautician for a short time.
Freddie Mercury – Market Stall Operator Mercury kept himself busy selling clothing and art in Kensington market — something he continued to do even after Queen released their first album.
Boy George – Grocery Bagger You would get a bit of a shock finding Boy George bagging your groceries wouldn’t you?
Nick Hammer – (Death Cab for Cutie): Sanitation Worker Ah, the thinking man’s description of a garbo!
Tim Hauser – founder of the band Manhattan Transfer started out as a cab driver in Los Angeles, CA.
Phillip Glass – Renowned Composer, Taxi Driver, Plumber. Glass was questioned about his day jobs as taxi driver and plumber.
He recalls: “While working, I suddenly heard a noise and looked up to find Robert Hughes, the art critic of Time magazine, staring at me in disbelief. ‘But you’re Philip Glass! What are you doing here?’ It was obvious that I was installing his dishwasher and I told him I would soon be finished. ‘But you are an artist,’ he protested. I explained that I was an artist but that I was sometimes a plumber as well”. Stories of famous-composer-actually-working-man-shock from that period abound. . On another occasion, a woman tapped on the side of his cab and told him that he had the same name as a “very famous composer”.
As Clay Wirestone of Mental Floss describes, “Even after the premiere of his opera Einstein at the Beach at the Met in 1976, the 39-year-old Glass went back to driving a cab. He kept at it for the next three years.” Glass worked his make-a-living-job while still making time for composing. Knee Play 5 from Einstein on the Beach, which Glass wrote while driving a cab.
A prolific composer and one of the most successful creators of more than 20 operas (all with pretty weird titles), eight symphonies, numerous concertos for violin, piano and timpani, and more than 30 film scores
Glass didn’t earn a living from his music, in fact, until he was 42. Until then, he drove cabs, shifted furniture and worked as a plumber. “I was careful,” he explains, “to take a job that couldn’t have any possible meaning for me.”
Gradually, the commissions trickled in and, by the time Glass was 44, he realised that the cab driver’s licence that he’d renewed as a precaution might not be needed. Einstein on the Beach, his music theatre collaboration with Robert Wilson, performed at the Met in 1976, was followed by Satyagraha, an opera which drew on the early life of Mahatma Gandhi, and then by Akhnaten, a vocal and orchestral composition sung in Akkadian, Biblical Hebrew and Ancient Egyptian. Clearly, we are not talking populist. On the other hand, Glass was soon reaching a mass audience with his film scores. His first, for Koyaanisqatsi, directed by Godfrey Reggio, is still regarded as one of his best. Others include Kundun, and The Truman Show.