Paying dues doesn’t always mean singing in bars.
Some people have fame thrust upon them; some have to struggle to the top, pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. These country stars wallowed in awful or surprising jobs to support themselves while writing songs and recording albums. At least two of these artists quit their jobs because their conscience wouldn’t let them continue:
10. Eric Church- Home Shopping Call Attendant
Eric Church admits he was possibly the worst salesman ever. He would actively try to talk his costumers out of their purchases. But that’s because he worked the graveyard shift and many of his callers were drunk. Church was actually doing them a favor, saving them from buying 200 knives. He got fired, of course, but that’s ok, because he has a much better job now.
9. Willie Nelson – Handyman
Willie Nelson was born in the midst of the Great Depression to a family that had been hit hard. It may be it was this mindset that influenced him to work just about any job, no matter. He picked cotton, joined the Air Force, worked various gigs as a disc jockey, trimmed trees and worked in the oil fields. Nelson also made saddles, bounced at a club, answered phones as a relief operator and worked in an autohouse. Sometimes he made music too. I’d say that particular job turned out well.
8. Reba McEntire – Rancher
In Reba McEntire‘s autobiography, she goes into detail about her early life as a little girl on her daddy’s farm. She recalls one anecdote where she was helping her father castrate bulls. He’d lop ‘em off and hand them to his little girl, who would plop them in a bucket. Then Reba would bring them up to the house where they would clean them and bring them up to the kitchen to fry.
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7. Trace Adkins – Roughneck
Trace Adkins spent 14 years working on oil rigs and oil fields before becoming a country singer. He says it was his favorite job he ever had. He skipped out on college early, attracted by the promise of money and adventure. Working as a roughneck Adkins nearly lost his pinky finger had his forehead slashed open and got shrapnel in his leg. Oh, he also got marooned on a rig once.
6. Chris LeDoux – Rodeo Champion
When Chris LeDoux sang about roping and riding, he wasn’t acting. He starting riding as a kid and was in his first rodeo by the time he was 13. In 1970, he entered the professional circuit, winning the bareback championship. Meanwhile, he wrote songs and cut albums to help pay his way. Ok, though he was a champion riding the rodeo is still a pretty hard and thankless career.
5. Dierks Bentley – Toilet Cleaner
Dierks Bentley spent a summer cleaning 250-gallon portable toilets for properties at Lake Powell. Sounds fun, right? He recalls an incident when one of the machines he was using to clean backfired, spewing its contents up into the air. Dierks tried to outrun it but admitted he got nailed. Well sir, you don’t have to clean toilets anymore.
4. Big Kenny Alphin – Contractor
Big Kenny Alphin opened his own contracting business in the 80s, successfully growing it until it had 75 employees. He built large custom homes, subdivisions and businesses. Though this isn’t necessarily a bad job, what happened next was terrible. The recession, downfall in real estate value, and the S&L Crisis hit Big Kenny’s business hard and forced him to shut the doors, laying off all his employees.
It would take more than ten more years for him to find success in Nashville.
3. Rodney Atkins – Repo Man
Rodney Atkins used to work reposing vehicles from people who couldn’t make their payments. It all got to be too much for him one day when he was jumping a truck that he had to bring in, and the owner came out of the house to help him. When Atkins finally got the truck started and the man’s kids were clapping, he says it broke his heart. He quit the same day.
2. Kip Moore – Sod Layer
Kip Moore at one time worked in South Georgia laying sod. He recalls that the heat made the job miserable. Not to mention when he wouldn’t be looking and someone would toss a patch of sod at him and hit him in the back. Then he would be hot and dirty. Actually, that kind of sounds like a country song.
1. Kris Kristofferson – Janitor
Kris Kristofferson has been many things throughout his storied life: helicopter pilot, Army Captain, and English professor, but it was ultimately his job as a janitor at Columbia Recording Studios in Nashville which would be the worst and the most rewarding. While he was there he met Johnny Cash, who accepted some of his songs but chose not to use them. Cash would later end up recording many of Kristofferson’s songs, including one of his biggest hits, “Sunday Morning Coming Down.”