The Surprising Past Careers of 13 Famous Musicians
Remember when Drake was an actor on Degrassi? In the grand tradition of before-they-were-famous stories there exists a laundry list of odd jobs and career detours. After all, success is an ever-winding road. We’ve rounded up some of the most surprising vocational pit stops along the way for some of our favorite icons of rock. Keep scrolling to see them all.
Las Vegas born frontman Brandon Flowers worked as a bellhop at the Gold Coast Casino Hotel in his native Sin City. The Killer’s crooner has confessed to having once rummaged through the bags of Morrissey guitarist Boz Boorer while stowing his luggage. “I shouldn't have done it, and I still feel bad, but I went through one of them. I just wanted to see what Boz was listening to.”
In his youth, Eddie Vedder patrolled the night shift as a security guard at La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla, Calif., recording music and surfing on his time off. In the '90s, Vedder was working at a gas station, before picking up with a Seattle-based group looking for a vocalist. Vedder’s self-recorded demo Momma-Son, highlighting his distinctive pipes and original lyrics, won him the gig. The band, Mookie Baylock, would later change their name to Pearl Jam after running into trademark issues.
Simmons held a number of jobs before cultivating his stage persona as a makeup-heavy, serpent-tongued bass player. Résumé highlights include stints as a hotel pool lifeguard and elementary school teacher, but most notably, as an editorial assistant at Vogue and Glamour. Seems the Demon had a formal education in the narrative value of costuming.
Before blending beats, DJ and mash up master Gregg “Girl Talk” Gillis was a biomedical engineer student, with a focus on human tissue studies at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. “I do biomedical engineering work—I’m nerded out by day,” Gillis said of his early days, describing his moonlighting DJ alter ego as a “double life.”
Uber-stylish, mega-babe, fashion maven, and singer Gwen Stefani was dishing out soft serve before joining her brother’s band, No Doubt. Known more for her confectionary-colored lips and rock-hard abs, she also manned the cosmetics counter at MAC back in the day, where we assume she made a killing. Come on, who wouldn’t buy lip gloss from Gwen?
Before lending his ultra-tailored aesthetic to the music scene, Jack White operated his own Third Man Upholstery Shop in Detroit. He apprenticed for three years and worked under a handful of masters in the craft to meticulously hone his technique. White’s band at the time, The Upholsterers, allegedly made a recording of which only 100 vinyls were ever pressed. White is said to have hid the rarities in various pieces of furniture. The shop’s slogan, “Your furniture’s not dead,” would later spin off into White’s label motto for Third Man Records: “Your turntable’s not dead.”
Yeezus could once be found on the payroll at Gap. In his teens, West worked as a retail employee shilling khakis and T-shirts to the masses. Earlier this year, he told Style.com he dreams of stepping in as creative director for the brand. “I’d like to be the Steve Jobs of the Gap,” says West. “I’m talking about full Hedi Slimane creative control of Gap is what I would like to do.”
Prior to Southern California-based band Cold War Kids taking off, Matt Maust tells us the strangest job he ever held down involved vacuuming book covers individually by the dozens for a school library in transit. "They tore down the old library and the books were just sitting in a big warehouse for a year. Evidently dust is very damaging for books," says Maust. The bassist and accomplished visual artist studied graphic design at Biola University, where he met lead singer Nathan Willett. The group's fresh crop of unreleased bonus tracks on limited edition vinyl Five Quick Cuts dropped this week for Record Store Day.
At the tender age 18, a young Jagger held down a part-time gig as a porter at Bexley Psychiatric Hospital. The icon even allegedly lost his virginity to a nurse on the grounds (in a store closet no less), before going on to write about nervous breakdowns and mother’s little helpers.
Before the legendary metal rocker was making history biting the heads off bats onstage, Osbourne worked in a slaughterhouse. He claims to have vomited daily on the job. The native Brit held a string of equally colorful professions from car-horn tuner to construction worker.
Patti Smith had a short-lived yet dramatic stint working in a toy factory. She has often been quoted on being ostracized and picked on by the other female employees. The Godmother of Punk credits discovering the poetry of Rimbauld, an artist that would come to influence her work deeply for years to come, while cruising a nearby bookstore on her lunch break.
courtesy of ANTI
In the mid ‘60s, the trademark husk and twang of Tom Waits was, in fact, otherwise engaged getting promoted from dishwasher to pizza cook at Napoleone’s Pizza House in San Diego. Waits wrote the tune "The Ghosts of Saturday Night (After Hours at Napoleone’s Pizza House)" as an account of his experience on the job.
Far from an overnight success, The Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne spent 11 years as a fry cook for fast food chain Long John Silvers. Despite being robbed at gunpoint while on shift, he speaks of his tenure with the chain fondly. “In the beginning, it seemed like a dead-end job," he has said. "After two weeks, I knew all I needed to know and it freed my mind. It allowed me to dream about what my life could become.”
Have a favorite before-they-were-famous celeb moonlighting gig? Tell us in the comments below.