13 Surprising First Jobs Of Your Favorite Musicians

Started from the bottom, now they’re here. Go figure! Read the unexpected roots of these musicians, then connect with an incredible array of world-class artists and experience unforgettable performances with the American Express UNSTAGED concert series.

1. Jack White was almost a priest. And then an upholsterer.

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Jack White’s life could’ve very easily gone in a couple of different directions. Fans of the former White Stripes frontman know that well before he formed one of rock’s most renowned duos, White applied — and was accepted — to a seminary in Wisconsin. Opting for public school instead, he took on a three-year upholstery apprenticeship, later forming his own company — Third Man Upholstery — which would subsequently share its name with the artist’s indie music label.

2. Kanye West sold sweaters at The Gap.

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Yeezy’s time slinging skinny jeans wasn’t a well-kept secret — gigging as a sales assistant inspired the song “Spaceship” off of his debut album — but now that the hip-hop superstar is designing and selling his own line of, uh, minimalistic duds, it looks like everything’s come full circle.

3. Gene Simmons was an English teacher and an assistant fashion editor.

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Well before he donned his iconic (and demonic) Kiss makeup, Simmons took center stage in front of a much, much smaller crowd. The rock legend taught English at a public school in Manhattan’s Spanish Harlem, leaving after several months to work as an assistant editor at both Glamour and Vogue.

4. Gwen Stefani worked the counter at Dairy Queen.

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No Doubt’s leading lady has come a looong way from her part-time teen work. The renaissance woman’s earliest endeavors weren’t quite as glamorous as roaming the side-streets of Harajuku. Case in point? She earned her spending money mixing Blizzards at the local Dairy Queen.

5. Chubby Checker was a chicken plucker.

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So a couple of things:

1) Yes, the godfather of the Twist made his pre-fame ends meet by plucking the feathers from chickens on a poultry farm in South Philadelphia.
2) We live in a world where “Chubby Checker, Chicken Plucker” was an actual thing that happened. Who says there’s no such thing as miracles?

6. Bruno Mars was a pint-sized Elvis impersonator.

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Everything about this pompadoured crooner drips stardom, so it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch that his early days were spent entertaining on his native Hawaii. The young Mars performed five days a week with his family’s band as “Little Elvis,” a teeny-tiny Presley impersonator — a gig that landed him a quick cameo in 1992’s Honeymoon in Vegas.

7. Johnny Cash broke codes for the military.

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Long before he sang the blues about serving time in Folsom Prison, Johnny Cash was enlisted by the United States Air Force to intercept and decipher Russian intelligence transmissions. Interestingly, this made the Man in Black the first American to find out about Joseph Stalin’s death when it was tapped out over the wire.

8. Slayer’s Tom Araya was a respiratory therapist.

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When you think Slayer, you think blood-soaked thrash metal. When you think Slayer vocalist Tom Araya, you think… healthcare professional? Maybe not, but it’s true: In the years preceding Reign in Blood, Araya became a certified respiratory therapist, later using the scratch he made from his medical work to fund Slayer’s debut album.

9. Beyoncé Knowles cleaned up in her mom’s beauty shop…

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It’s kinda hard to imagine Beyoncé being anything except the flawless pop goddess that she so obviously is, but once upon a time she spent her weekdays sweeping up after customers in her mom’s Texas beauty parlor.

10. …while the Good Charlotte guys rubbed shampoo in at a salon.

BEImages / Jim Smeal / Rex / Via sing365.com

Similarly, twin pop-punk prodigies Joel and Benji Madden worked as “shampoo technicians” before they made it big with Good Charlotte. So, you know, the next time someone asks you what Beyoncé and the Good Charlotte dudes have in common, now you have an answer.

11. Mick Jagger slung scoops of ice cream.

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Every rock-‘n’-roll revolutionary has to start somewhere, and influential British Invader Mick Jagger was selling popsicles and waffle cones well before he was a Rolling Stone. Perhaps even more interesting: “Paint It Black?” Actually written about brain freeze. Go figure.

12. Ozzy Osbourne worked at a slaughterhouse.

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Okay, maybe this one isn’t super surprising in retrospect. The Black Sabbath vocalist’s early odd-jobs ran quite the gamut, with the wee Osbourne spending time as an apprentice toolmaker, car factory horn tuner, and, yep, a full-fledged slaughterhouse worker.

13. And, of course, Drake was a star on Canadian primetime TV.

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We’re not saying you didn’t already know about Drake’s turn on Canadian teen drama Degrassi: The Next Generation. We’re just saying, hey, remember when Drake was on Canadian teen drama Degrassi: The Next Generation?

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