These Country Singers Used To Do Regular Jobs

May 04, 2021Roshanak

Most celebrities had to work normal jobs to survive while they made their dreams happen. As Dolly Parton would say, “Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living!” Tim McGraw had a gig cleaning shopping market carts, and Reba McEntire would help her father with bulls. What job do you think Blake Shelton or Carrie Underwood had?

Image Credits: Getty Images/Terry Wyatt


Clarkson became huge after American Idol, but she had a bunch of regular jobs before finding fame. She used to sell vacuum cleaners and worked as a telemarketer in Ft. Worth, Texas. But that’s not all! The singer was also a cocktail waitress for some time and even a promoter for energy drinks.

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Shelton might be one of the biggest names in music, but he had to make a living before finding fame. The singer said that one of his least favorite jobs was as a cassette tape dubber. Some of our readers might be too young to have ever owned a cassette, but dubbing them was a real gig.

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Can you believe that Brooks worked with his father in an oil pipeline? That was when they lived in Alaska. However, he later moved to Maine and did advertising. He started releasing music in the 1980s, but the singer didn’t find fame until he formed Brooks and Dunn with Ronnie Dunn.

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Aldean’s story proves that anyone can achieve their dreams. He used to be a Pepsi truck driver for several years before moving to Nashville to pursue music officially. The singer started working at the Georgia Pepsi plant at 17 years old, and his job was to deliver the soda drinks to several convenience stores around the area.

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Keith worked at his grandmother’s bar every once in a while. He had several jobs there, such as bussing tables and organizing. However, the best part was watching all the bands playing at night. The singer wrote several songs about his experience working there.  

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Underwood is another American Idol alum that made it big in country music. She was just 21 years old during her audition. However, the singer started working early in her teens at a gas station in Checotah, Oklahoma. Her other regular gigs consisted of a hotel, a pizza parlor, and even a veterinary clinic.

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You might remember Campbell best from his songs “Family Man” and “Fish,” but he wasn’t always a musician. He worked for two years as a jail guard at the Roger State Prison in Reidsville, George. His job consisted of patrolling the cells and keeping the inmates in check.

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Ford might be an amazing country artist, but he has another passion: golf. Eventually, he started focusing on music and achieved one of his dreams. He could have become a professional golfer, as Ford competed on a Nationwide Tour at one point. But it seems that the singer loved teaching others about this sport.

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Brooks has been pure country all his life. He used to work as a cowboy boot salesman. Country artist Ken Mellons even talked about seeing Garth working at a store helping others pick the right boot. “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 once said.

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Can you imagine having Sheryl Crow as your teacher? Well, the singer used to work at Kellison Elementary School before making it in music. Interestingly, she started as a backup singer for stars such as Rod Stewart and Stevie Wonder. Luckily, Crow made it on her own.

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Tom Waits is not considered a solely country musician, but he has dabbled in the genre. You might have heard the song “Blind Love,” which is considered one of the best country ballads ever made. Interestingly, the singer used to work at Napoleone’s Pizza in California before making it in entertainment.

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It seems that Eldredge has always been focused on music from a young age. He was studying at Middle Tennessee State University but would skip class to write songs. The singer said he was passionate about getting a degree. However, music was pretty important as well.

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Young used to be a bartender at Orange County but stopped because he started performing every night. “That actually that was the year that made me realize that… I had kind of reached the ceiling of what was capable in Orange County. I needed to make the move up to L.A… but 2008 was a fun kind of bar gig year,” he said.

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TJ Osborne got a publishing deal before earning fame in music. However, he eventually lost the deal. He became a roadie for Phil Vasser and moved up. Meanwhile, John Osborne was doing his own thing, touring without a manager with many other aspiring artists. Eventually, they got together and made it big.

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In 2007, Swindell moved to Nashville and got his first job there. “Ten years ago, I had just moved to Nashville,” he told ABC News. “I was just living in Nashville, probably selling merchandise for Luke Bryan. That was my first job here. So, crazy to think what 10 years can do.”

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Brown explained that he was just a regular 18-year-old and worked at Target. He also had a job at FedEx at some point. Eventually, he started uploading covers to Facebook and vent viral with a cover of “I Don’t Dance” by Lee Brice. “That's where everything took off from there. Yeah, I didn't know what was going on. My phone was like I could scroll for days because I didn't turn my notifications off,” Brown added.

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Rhett was a bit lost before finding his true passion. He decided to go to school because that’s what everyone else did. However, the singer changed majors several times before telling his mom that he had to drop out. Eventually, Rhett started writing songs and performing.

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Just like Colt Ford’s passion for golf, Rogers was a huge fan of tennis. He would play eight hours a day at one point. He could have become a professional player for sure. However, the world is lucky that he decided on music. “I was ranked two spots above Bjorn Borg in doubles,” Rogers once said.  

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Before becoming a popular country singer, Kramer was an ice-skater. She even went to pre-game skating shows (like for the Detroit Red Wings) in high school. Jana also went on competitions like the Junior Nationals. Can you imagine her on the ice instead of the stage?

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“I was gonna be a surgeon,” Dustin Lynch revealed in an interview. While it wasn’t his regular job before fame, it was his original plan. However, the singer focused on music after a while, and the rest is history. It’s hard to imagine missing out on his music if he had followed his other passion.

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You probably know Brown best from his song “Chicken Fried,” but he actually knows a little about cooking. The singer had a restaurant in Georgia called Zac’s Place. Interestingly, he originally worked at McDonald’s and serving catfish. It’s amazing how things can change with hard work and talent.

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It’s hard to imagine McGraw doing anything other than performing, but he used to work as a shopping cart cleaner. Did you know that a specific job? “Me and my buddy used to go out and clean shopping carts from grocery stores,” the singer added. “We would clean them and fix the wheels.”

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Owen is another country musician that loves golf, and he was actually a professional player at some point. He used to play at Florida State University before going pro. Unfortunately, the singer had a wakeboarding accident and had to quit. He started playing guitar while recovering, and the rest is history.

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Twitty wanted to be a musician from an early age and even joined the Phillips County Ramblers at ten years old. However, his real dream back then was to be a baseball player and eventually got a contract for the Philadelphia Phillies. Unfortunately, he was drafted during the Korean War, and when he returned, the singer decided to focus on music because he admired Elvis Presley.

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Chase might have looked familiar to you even before becoming a great country artist. He helped write “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line and released his first song, “Ready Set Roll.” However, you might also recognize Rice as the runner-up of the 21st Season of Survivor.

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McEntire was a cowgirl through and through, as she used to help her father castrate bulls. The singer explained that she stood behind her father, who did the work, and Reba would help out by getting rid of the residue. Can you imagine doing that kind of farm work?

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Just like many people in the U.S, the singer used to work at McDonald’s. “Fries, burgers, cash register — I did it all,” Hill said. “I hated it. God bless the people that work there.” After moving to Nashville, Faith took a job at a publishing office. It was much better than being in a restaurant.

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Bentley had one of the hardest jobs on this list. He used to empty house-boat toilets every day. The worst part is that he had to do it manually because there was no modern equipment. Clearly, the singer wanted to leave that career as soon as possible.

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Like many artists on this list, Wilson used to work at a bar in her hometown in Illinois. It was called Big O’s, where she worked for many years after dropping out of school at 15. The singer worked her way to manager and eventually focused on her dreams.

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Before his college years at Clemson University, Brice worked for his father’s electric business in South Carolina. Meanwhile, he actually earned a football scholarship for school and might have become a professional football player. However, he was injured and had to change plans.

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Atkins actually started his own lawn mowing company at 12 years old. The singer started working on his neighbor’s yard before starting the business officially and included cemetery plots in his deals as well. Even after becoming a huge star in country music, Rodney still prefers mowing his own grass.

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Pickler is another American Idol alum, and she used to work at Sonic in Albemarle, North Carolina. She used to waitress there using roller skates. Unlike some of the others on this list, the singer has never said anything bad about working at Sonic. So, Kellie probably enjoyed her job!

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After moving to Nashville, Church found a job for the home shopping channel. Yes, he had the graveyard shift and answered the calls from late-night shoppers. Interestingly, the singer was fired from his job for trying to convince a shopaholic out of buying a certain item.

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McBride used to work at Garth Brooks concerts, but not on the stage. She was actually the lady that sold t-shirts at concerts back in the ‘90s. Brooks discovered her great voice and offered her a gig as his opening act. Now, that’s a great background story!

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Earle worked in a car wash in Houston, Texas, during the 1970s. It was a hard time due to the gas crisis, and the job was actually pretty dangerous. So, his manager even told him to be armed at all times because some bikers would get troublesome. That’s scary!

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Nichols used to work as a meat hawker before achieving his dreams. That’s the person that has to take all the frozen meat from a truck into a restaurant or wherever it was delivered. "It was so apparently bad that by the end of the day, we would walk halfway up the driveways, and people would just come outside and shake their heads, 'No, get back in the truck,'" Nichols said.

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You might recognize Phillip Sweet as the singer from Little Big Town, but he was actually a janitor at a Nashville mall before making it in music. "It would get pretty gruesome after a day's worth of customers," Sweet explained. "I got paid seven dollars per hour, and I was by myself most of the time, so I would come up with song ideas to block out the Muzak playing over the mall speakers."

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Working in oil fields was pretty rough, but that was Adkins' pre-fame gig. His coworker actually told him that he would eventually get hurt. That turned out to be true because the singer got a cut on his forehead after a cable snapped and suffered a leg injury due to a tank explosion.

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At the age of eight, Cash was picking cotton at his family’s farm. In his autobiography, Cash, the singer wrote, "The bolls were sharp, and unless you were really concentrating when you reached out for them, they got you. After a week or two, your fingers were covered with little red wounds, some of them pretty painful."

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Nelson is still considered one of the biggest legends of country music, and he had all kinds of jobs before becoming famous. He was in the Air Force and worked at regular places for a while. Eventually, the singer landed a radio host gig in Vancouver, Washington.

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LeDoux is another artist on this list with deep roots in country culture. He was actually a roper back in the day. The singer started riding horses at an early age and participated in his first rodeo as a teenager, becoming a pro in the ‘70s. He even won championships but would find time to write songs on the side.

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You might know Big Kenny best from the duo Big and Rich, and like Willie Nelson, he had many jobs before making it in country music. After high school, the singer had a t-shirt company and a logging business. Alphin even became a developer during his 20s but moved to Nashville a few years later to pursue his dreams.

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Moore used to lay sod in Georgia, but he definitely hated it, especially because it was always hot. The singer listened to country music to pass the time. Eventually, Moore started writing his own music and decided to pursue a career in entertainment to avoid having a boring job again.

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Kristofferson is another legend on this list, and he had a bunch of interesting jobs back then. He was a helicopter pilot, an Army captain, and an English teacher. However, the singer became a janitor at Columbia Recording Studios in Nashville. Johnny Cash sometimes accepted his songs but didn’t use them for several years. But once he did, everything changed for Kris.

Image Credits: Getty Images/Rick Diamond

So, don’t worry if you’re working any of these jobs and only dreaming for now. Your career can take off anytime soon. Let us know which of their earlier jobs was the most surprising. If you liked this article, share it with your friends that love country music. See you next time!

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