51 Jobs Musicians Had Before They Were Famous
As wannabe musos most of us work through our day jobs dreaming of the opportunity to make music our career. The older you get the more remote the chance becomes, but hey, we can still dream. Here’s a list of jobs musicians had before they were famous – if only as a reminder that there’s always a chance that things will change and music will indeed become you job!
1. 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.
2. 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!
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. Jack White: Upholsterer
Where did Jack White’s Third Man record label come from? White used to have his own furniture shop called Third Man Upholstery – and apparently he was a damn good upholsterer!
6. 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.
7. Ozzy Osbourne: Construction Worker, Trainee Plumber, Car Factory Horn-Tuner and Slaughterhouse Worker
A jack-of-all-trades, Ozzy no doubt honed his bat biting days working in an abattoir. That said, I’m intrigued as to what a car-horn tuner actually does…
8. 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. Yep, that’d prepare you for a life in rock.
9. 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.
10. Pink: Worked at McDonalds
And with that, a million 15-year-olds at Maccas have now got a new dream.
11. Cyndi Lauper: Dog Kennel Cleaner and Ear Piercer
Um, okay… but was it the dogs’ ears she pierced or human ones?
12. Elvis Presley: Truck Driver
The Crown Electric Company in Memphis never had a more tuneful employee behind the wheel.
13. Kurt Cobain: Janitor
Grunge was never far from Cobain as he used to sweep the floors as a janitor before his life took a whole new direction.
14. Snoop Dog: Drug Dealer/Grocery Shop worker
That’s Snoop Dog for you – serving the citizens of Long Beach, California whatever way he can…
15. Moby: Golf Caddy
That’s a kinda cool job – wonder what he plays off these days?
16. Fergie (Black Eyed Peas) : Voiceover Artist
Apparently her most famous one was as the voice of Sally in some Charlie Brown cartoons. I’d love to know which ones.
17. Brandon Flowers (The Killers) : Casino Worker
Working the chips in Las Vegas must have been interesting for a while…
18. 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 before kicking on.
19. Jonathan Davis (Korn) : Embalmer
Davis studied mortuary sciences and worked at a funeral home in California before taking his dark side to the stage.
20. Chris Cornell: Fish Handler
Soundgarden’s Cornell once worked for a seafood wholesaler, and he spent his days cleaning up the slime and fish guts at the fish markets.
21. Madonna: Worked at Dunkin Donuts
Wonder if the donut experience drove her to become such a fitness fanatic?
22. 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!
23. 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.
24. Sting: Construction Labourer, Tax Officer, Bus Conductor, Teacher
A good string of jobs to prepare you for life as bass-wielding front man.
25. James Brown: Shoe Shiner, Car Washer, Cotton Picker
Some tough gigs there, but he also spent some time working in a pool hall.
26. Kanye West: Worked at Gap clothing store
Obviously where he picked up his style…
27. Jack Black: Telemarketer
How cool would it be to get a call from Jack? I reckon he could have sold you anything he wanted.
28. 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.
29. Sebastian Bach (solo, Skid Row): Landscaper
Apparently he only lasted two weeks before getting sacked for singing too loudly on the job.
30. Gotye: Library Assistant
Doing customer service at the local library to YouTube sensation. Not bad!
31. Eminem: Short order cook/Dishwasher
Good jobs to give you material to rap about?
32. Lance Bass: Snow-blower
I suppose that mean he only worked half a year at a time at best – plenty of spare time to develop a music career.
33. Debbie Harry: Waitress
The Blondie front woman was a waitress at legendary restaurant and club Max’s Kansas City in New York City.
34. Tony Iommi: Sheet Metal Worker
Heavy metal was always close to his heart with a stint as a sheet metal worker where he managed to chop off the end of one of his fingers. A prosthetic finger tip helped develop his unique playing style.
35. Serj Tankian (System of a Down): Software Company Owner
Pretty impressive! Tankian graduated from California State University with a marketing/business degree and formed his own company making “proprietary vertical industry modular accounting software”.
36. Tom Ataya (Slayer): Respiratory Therapist
Sounds impressive and it is. Araya worked in hospitals helping people with things like asthma.
37. Alanis Morisette: Envelope Stuffer
Who knew this was actually the title of a job?
38. 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.
39. Beyonce Knowles: Hair Salon worker
Beyonce worked at her mum’s salon sweeping up hair before fame took over.
40. Jon Bon Jovi: Christmas Decorations Assembler
I have no idea what a Christmas decorations assembler even is. Seasonal work though I guess…
41. B.o.B: Sandwich Maker at Subway
Would have been fun grabbing a s.u.b from B.o.B!
42. 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.
43. Courtney Love: Stripper
Nothing to say really. Love worked as an exotic dancer in Portland, Japan, Taiwan and Alaska.
44. Jeff Buckley: Hotel Receptionist
Buckley worked the front desk at L.A.’s Magic Hotel for six years. I wonder if that was where the magic happened?
45. 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.
46. 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.
47. Ian Curtis (Joy Division): Welfare Officer
Helping the unemployed find work is a good way to ensure you aren’t unemployed yourself!
48. 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.
49. Boy George: Grocery Bagger
You would get a bit of a shock finding Boy George bagging your groceries wouldn’t you?
50. Bon Scott: Postman
Scott as a postie is pretty good, but he also worked as a barman for a while which seems much more appropriate.
51. Nick Hammer (Death Cab for Cutie): Sanitation Worker
Ah, the thinking man’s description of a garbo!