Rock Stars' Jobs Before They Were Famous

Updated on December 17, 2018
Rainbeaux profile image

Rainbeaux has been a music journalist for 30 years. Her first job was cleaning kennels. She feels these rockers' pain.

 Kiss at Hellfest in Clisson, France, 2013
Kiss at Hellfest in Clisson, France, 2013 | Source

From gravedigger, to tennis pro, to slaughterhouse grunt, these 10 rockers paid their dues (with interest) before they became stars. First, they had to endure plenty of employment without enjoyment. Here are the jobs they held while they were still slaves to the grind.

Rock Stars' Jobs Before They Were Famous

  1. Ozzy Osbourne—Slaughterhouse Worker
  2. Tom Araya—Respiratory Therapist
  3. Ace Frehley—Jack of All Trades
  4. Lars Ulrich—Tennis Player
  5. Joe Elliott—Steelworker
  6. Gene Simmons—Elementary School Teacher; Assistant to Editor of Vogue Magazine
  7. Joe Strummer—Gravedigger
  8. Debbie Harry—Playboy Bunny
  9. Patti Smith—Toy Factory Worker
  10. Jonathan Davis—Embalmer

For Ozzy, a slaughterhouse was no funhouse.
For Ozzy, a slaughterhouse was no funhouse. | Source

1. Ozzy Osbourne—Slaughterhouse Worker

Ozzy Osbourne has always had a knack for reinventing himself, and the same was true before he commanded a stage. He was a plumber trainee, construction worker, car factory horn-tuner (apparently there is such a thing), and toolmaker’s apprentice. However, there was one job that even struck terror into the heart of the Prince of Darkness himself—being a slaughterhouse laborer. It’s unclear whether or not he bit off any heads while working there.

A sinister-looking slaughterhouse under a bleak sky.
A sinister-looking slaughterhouse under a bleak sky. | Source

I had to slice open the cow carcasses and get all the gunk out of their stomachs... I used to vomit every day. The smell was something else.

— Ozzy Osborne
Tom Araya at Nova Rock 2014.
Tom Araya at Nova Rock 2014. | Source

2. Tom Araya—Respiratory Therapist

Okay, wait. A respiratory therapist? Is this the same guy who sings Raining Blood, Angel of Death, Evil Has No Boundaries, and Show No Mercy? Yep. As a respiratory therapist, Tom Araya wasn’t devoted to jackhammering eardrums into submission, but, rather, was dedicated to saving lives. He took care of people who had trouble breathing, or were suffering from heart attacks, strokes, or shock.

Tom studied respiratory therapy at Brotman Medical Center.
Tom studied respiratory therapy at Brotman Medical Center. | Source

For Tom, however, it was anything but a noble calling. He was only working at the Brotman Medical Center in Culver City, California, to help finance Slayer’s debut, Show No Mercy. When the album began taking off, Tom mercifully escaped day-job tedium.

I’d get up in the morning and deal with traffic, and then leave at three and deal with traffic.

— Tom Araya (during an interview on KNAC)
Ace Frehley, original guitarrist of Kiss, performing live in 2011.
Ace Frehley, original guitarrist of Kiss, performing live in 2011. | Source

3. Ace Frehley—Jack of All Trades

It’s hard to imagine that the legendary guitarist Ace Frehley was, at one time, a mere mortal who slogged away at a day job. Well, actually, several day jobs. He delivered furniture, drove cabs, delivered liquor, and carried mail. Luckily, KISS rescued him from all of that drudgery. Well, actually, his incompetence at work beat KISS to the punch.

I lasted about six months [at my mail job], which is the average time I held a job!

— Ace Frehley
Metallica's fans are very glad Lars sucked at tennis!
Metallica's fans are very glad Lars sucked at tennis!

4. Lars Ulrich—Tennis Player

Whether walloping drums for Metallica or slamming tennis balls, Lars Ulrich has always been adept at non-contact sports. His dad, Torben Ulrich and his grandfather, Einer Ulrich, were both professional tennis players in Denmark. Inheriting their knack for the sport, Lars quickly became an elite player, ranking in the country’s Top 10.

Lars' dad, tennis pro Torben Ulrich, in 1977.
Lars' dad, tennis pro Torben Ulrich, in 1977.

However, after the family moved to California, when Lars was 16, he didn’t cut it by U.S. standards. The door to tennis banged shut and the one to a phenomenal career with Metallica burst wide open.

I realized that my ability wasn't enough to be a successful professional and the discipline necessary was not in me.

— Lars Ulrich
Whether a rock musician or a steelworker, Joe Elliott has always worked with heavy metal!
Whether a rock musician or a steelworker, Joe Elliott has always worked with heavy metal!

5. Joe Elliott—Steelworker

It seems that Joe Elliott was always a metal magnet—even before he helmed Def Leppard. For about four years, he was a steelworker in his industrial hometown of Sheffield, England. His boss eventually got wise to the fact that Joe was goofing off in the basement, and fired him. However, it wasn’t all for nothing. He wrote most of the lyrics for Def Leppard’s first album, On Through the Night, in that basement.

I wanna read and roll all night, and study ev-er-ee day!
I wanna read and roll all night, and study ev-er-ee day!

6. Gene Simmons—Elementary School Teacher and Assistant to the Editor of Vogue Magazine

In rock music circles, Gene Simmons’ outrageously imaginative costumes have influenced the wardrobes of countless up-and-coming musicians. He is, in a sort of reptilian way, en vogue. He had exceptional typing skills, and was hired as an assistant to Vogue Magazine’s editor in the mid '60s (pre-KISS).

In his early 20s, Gene was also a sixth grade teacher at P.S. 75 in New York’s Spanish Harlem. He only lasted six months there before KISS skyrocketed. But, he was motivated by more than merely enriching young minds.

I started teaching for the same reason as I started a band. I had a need to get up on the stage. Everyone needs attention, but some more than others.

— Gene Simmons (in an interview in Rolling Stone magazine)
Joe isn't diggin' his job.
Joe isn't diggin' his job. | Source

7. Joe Strummer—Gravedigger

At one point in his life, Clash's frontman Joe Strummer was in a grave situation—a dubious job digging plots at St. Woolos Cemetery in Newport, Wales. Prior to that illustrious career, he was kicked out of art school for painting a canvas red with used feminine hygiene products.

Richard Frame holding Joe Strummer's first guitar. (Joe's widow is looking on.)
Richard Frame holding Joe Strummer's first guitar. (Joe's widow is looking on.)

Richard Frame, a longtime friend that Joe met in art school, said that Joe wasn’t cut out for shoveling six feet under. However, that’s not what got Joe ousted. He was caught sleeping in a grave.

He thought he was fitter than he was, but he was useless as a grave digger.

— Richard Frame
Debbie Harry's stint as a Playboy Bunny was not as glamorous as you'd think.
Debbie Harry's stint as a Playboy Bunny was not as glamorous as you'd think. | Source

8. Debbie Harry—Playboy Bunny

Debbie Harry’s beauty is just as celebrated as her talent. From 1968 to 1973 it earned her a gig as a Playboy bunny. However, being a waitress at that famed establishment was anything but dignified: “I was just a hysterical waitress,” she explains. “They were just all so wild; they’d come in wrecked out of their brains, wanting a zillion things.” Their constant drunken lechery was something Debbie had to creatively contend with.

I fooled around with drugs and was consequently often half-asleep!

— Debbie Harry
Patti rocks the house!
Patti rocks the house! | Source

9. Patti Smith—Toy Factory Worker

What sounds cuter and sweeter than working in a toy factory? Apparently, many things. Patti Smith was viciously harassed by her co-workers while testing and packaging toys.

The stuff those women did to me in that factory was horrible. They’d gang up on me and stick my head in a toilet full of p***.

— Patti Smith
Jonathan Davis
Jonathan Davis | Source

10. Jonathan Davis—Embalmer

There are probably not a whole lot of people who would name “embalmer” as their preferred career choice, but Korn’s Jonathan Davis embraced it. He studied the grisly practice of cadaver preservation at the San Francisco School of Mortuary Science (often called “the Harvard of Mortuary Schools”).

A great job, if you can't stand dealing with the public!
A great job, if you can't stand dealing with the public!

After graduation, Jonathan was hired as a funeral home embalmer, as well as an assistant at the Kern County Coroner’s Department in California. He was later plagued by PTSD from his six intense years of dealing with the deceased.

If you wish you were a rock star, well, be careful what you wish for. You may have to do time suffering through some pretty miserable jobs before you’re playing a packed house at Madison Square Garden. The saying, “Don’t quit your day job,” will, unfortunately, become your mantra.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, spinditty.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://spinditty.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)