There are some jobs troops leaving the service are expected to go after, but world-class musician isn’t typically one of them. Still, these 13 veterans prove that it can be done.
1. Elvis PresleyIt’s not like Elvis needs an introduction. He was drafted in December 1957 and reported for his induction in March 1958. He turned down offers to perform for the troops in lieu of traditional service. Instead, he became a tanker and served in West Germany.
2. Johnny CashBefore “The Man in Black” was a famous singer, he was a U.S. Air Force Morse code intercept operator who was the first westerner to learn of Joseph Stalin’s death.
3. George StraitThe “King of Country” served in the U.S. Army from 1971 to 1975. While in the Army, he began playing with an Army-sponsored band, “Rambling Country.”
4. Toy CaldwellA founding member of the Marshall Tucker Band, Toy Caldwell served in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam. After he was injured by a land mine in 1967, he was shipped home and medically discharged.
He created the Toy Factory band which would later become the Marshall Tucker Band. They released 14 albums. Five went gold, and an additional two went platinum.
5. Craig MorganCraig Morgan, now a country music star, spent nearly a decade as a forward observer in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division and 82nd Airborne Division. He would serve another six and a half years in the Army Reserve.
6. ShaggyShaggy, the Grammy-winning singer of “It Wasn’t Me,” developed his vocal skills while calling cadence as a field artillery cannon crewman in the U.S. Marine Corps. By his own account, he wasn’t a great Marine, but he did fire during the first Gulf War.
7. Willie NelsonThe legendary Willie Nelson was once a lackluster airman. He was discharged after only nine months due to back problems. He maintains ties to the veteran community though, advocating for veteran issues and providing support to vet groups.
8. Maynard James KeenanThe frontman for Tool, Keenan spent three years in the Army, starting with a stint in the U.S. Military Academy Prep School. He turned down an appointment to West Point and instead completed an enlistment before going on to become a world-famous musician.
9. George JonesGeorge Jones was once the top name in country music. In 1951, two years before he was discovered, he was a newly enlisted Marine. Jones never served overseas though the country was at war with Korea. He was stationed in California where he played gigs during his off time. His country music career took off in 1953.
10. Kris KristoffersonKris Kristofferson came from a military family. His father was in the Army Air Corps and his brother became a Navy jet pilot. Kris graduated Ranger School and became a helicopter pilot before eventually leaving the Army.
He was disowned by his family for leaving the service to pursue music. He went on to write hits like “Me and Bobby McGee.”
11. Jimi HendrixBefore he was famous worldwide for shredding guitars, Jimi Hendrix was famous in the Army’s 101st Airborne Division for being a bad soldier. He was a poor marksman and undisciplined. Fellow soldiers complained about his constant guitar strumming.
He was allowed out after a year when an ankle injury on a training jump gave the Army an excuse to let him go. Only a few years after his discharge, the Jimi Hendrix experience wowed London and launched Hendrix’s career.