These Country Stars Had Some Wild Jobs

September 4, 2018

Most of country's biggest stars haven't always lived a glamorous life in the limelight. Before they were famous, many of them had to work jobs that were often difficult, demanding and sometimes downright dirty. Check out what some of your favorite stars did for work!

Garth Brooks - Between customers, Garth Brooks would write music, turning out at least one of his hits amongst selling Justins and the Luccheses. Mid-90s hitmaker Ken Mellons tells the story of running into Brooks as both tried to fit cowboys and cowgirls in boots of just the right skin and color. “He gave me his business card, and I still have it today. I thought that was pretty neat, and a few months later I’m driving down the road and hear him on the radio,” Mellons says.

Rodney Atkins - He was an ambitious young entrepreneur who opened his own lawn mowing business at age 12. He started out mowing a neighbor’s lawn before starting a landscaping business, which included mowing cemetery plots for $10 a plot. That’s pretty good money! Even after all his country music success, Atkins refuses to hire a landscaper at his own home in Nashville. He prefers to do it himself, pushing dirt around with his own tractor.

Colt Ford - Once had two professional loves: country music and golf. Unfortunately, there isn’t a way to be successful at both, so the singer (whose real name is Jason Farris Brown) dropped his clubs for the pen and microphone. It’s not clear how much professional golf he played — one article says he appeared at only a single Nationwide Tour event — but he did quite a bit of teaching.

Craig Campbell - Before Craig Campbell became a country star with hits like "Family Man" and "Fish," he worked as a prison guard at the Rogers State Prison in Reidsville, Ga. During his two-year run as a guard, he did everything from search cells and inmates, to patrol the grounds of the strictly male facility.

Carrie Underwood - She was 21 years old when she auditioned for American Idol, and she was no slacker prior to doing so. She took jobs as early as her freshman year of high school, which is when she worked as an attendant at a Checotah, Okla. gas station. Later, she put in time at a hotel, a pizza place and a veterinary clinic. After high school, Underwood went to Northeastern State University, where she focused on journalism.

Lee Brice - Before, and perhaps during, college at Clemson University, Lee Brice helped out at his father’s commercial electric business in his hometown of Sumter, S.C. It’s likely he didn’t spend too much time 100 feet in the air in a tiny bucket during his tenure with dad, however -- the singer has a fear of heights.

Blake Shelton - He probably had the most boring pre-fame job. He dubbed tapes — as in cassette tapes. There’s a small portion of Taste of Country readers who’ve never held a cassette tape (or tried to reel it back in with a pencil), but even those who remember the days of Side A and Side B didn’t know that people got paid to dub cassette tapes.

Reba McEntire - A cowgirl who helped her father turn bulls into steers. “I would stand behind the bull and hold his tail while Daddy sliced the sack and cut the cord and let the testicles fall," McEntire explains. "Daddy would pass the testicles to me and I’d put them in a bucket.”

Faith Hill - “Fries, burgers, cash register — I did it all,” Faith Hill says about working at McDonald’s. “I hated it. God bless the people that work there.” Hill flipped burgers prior to moving to Nashville. Upon moving to Nashville, Hill ditched restaurant work in favor of a job behind a desk at publishing office. She no doubt smelled better at the end of each day.

Dierks Bentley - Might have held the most disgusting pre-fame job: emptying house-boat toilets after they’d been on the water for a day, week or longer. Unfortunately he wasn’t working with modern equipment, so there were malfunctions. “I tried to outrun the rain,” he says of one specific stormy morning. “Got nailed.” No day on the road can ever be that bad.

Kix Brooks - During college, Kix Brooks spent some time working for his father on an oil pipeline in Alaska, and then moved to Maine to write advertising. In 1983, he recorded a single that flopped and then released his debut album in 1989. Ultimately, he wouldn’t find success until being teamed with Ronnie Dunn to form Brooks and Dunn.

Jason Aldean - His country music dreams rode on the back of a Pepsi truck for years before he officially moved to Nashville. The singer began working at a Georgia Pepsi plant at age 17, and soon drove the delivery truck. ”I was the guy that rode around in a truck and delivered drinks to all the convenience stores, so this was kind of my back-up plan,” Aldean says.

Gretchen Wilson - Before taking her talents to Nashville, Gretchen Wilson paid her dues in bars and clubs around rural Illinois. Mostly it was just one bar, a dive called Big O’s. By age 15 she had dropped out of school to tend bar and cook for the rowdy customers. She worked her way up to manager pretty quickly, and always kept a loaded 12-gauge shotgun near her for protection.

Toby Keith - First employment was at his grandmother’s bar. It was there he’d help out doing odd jobs while watching bands come play nightly. He says the experience shaped his future, and he’s written multiple songs about those nights.