The top 5 rocking vets

Eric Dehm
March 16, 2018 - 10:43 am

White House Photo

While veterans have some things in common, we work in a variety of job fields upon completing our time serving the country. Some become teachers, some become police officers and some... well, some become rock stars. 

Below is a list of the top five veterans involved in the guitar-based arts. While a couple on the list may not be technically in the "rock" world, they are forefathers who influenced it without a doubt. Some vets aren't included because of their musical genre (USAF vet/rapper Ice-T  and USMC vet/reggae singer Shaggy being two examples) and one huge one isn't because his service came after his stardom, let's be honest, Elvis's time in the Army was more of a publicity tour than anything resembling normal service.

5. Jason Everman - U.S. Army

Bleach-era nirvana-- •if you had to pick 3 nirvana songs to listen to for the rest of your life, what would they be?• #nirvana #kurtcobain #jasoneverman #kristnovoselic #chadchanning #80s #bleach #punk #seattle #rock #lovenirvana

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First he played in Nirvana, then he moved on to join Soundgarden and followed that up by...enlisting in the Army? Everman (back left with his Nirvana bandmates above) may be the least known name on this list, but considering his service with the Army's famed 2nd Ranger Battalion and 3rd Special Forces Group, his service may be the most noteworthy. The combat veteran deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan and reportedly spent some of his time studying with Buddhist monks in Tibet! 


4. B.B. King - U.S. Army

White House Photo

The late, great, B.B. King is known as one of the all-time great blues guitarists. We're talking about a legend whose guitar Lucille is more famous than all but a few guitarists! As Eric Clapton will tell you, King has influenced every modern rock guitarist, whether they realize it or not. Before his lengthy, impressive music career, King served in the Army during World War II. He spent his time in uniform stateside working at a unit that produced and procured cotton.

3. Maynard James Keenan - U.S. Army

US Army Photo

He's the lead singer of Tool, A Perfect Circle and Puscifer and he's the man behind Jerome, Arizona's Caduceus Cellars. He's also an Army vet. After high school Keenan would attend the Military Academy Prep School, though he would eventually leave MAPS and serve out his time in the enlisted ranks. He described his time in the Army as somewhat uneventful during an appearance on Marc Maron's WTF podcast (below), and also reveals that it was none other than Bill Murray who convinced him to join the service.

2. Johnny Cash - U.S. Air Force

USAF Photo

The Navy's now-defunct winter blues uniform may have been nicknamed the "Johnny Cash" but the "Man in Black" spent his time in uniform in the Air Force. Cash enlisted in 1950 and spent four years as a Morse Code operator in Texas and Germany. If the 2005 film "Walk The Line" is accurate, Johnny began writing some of his biggest hits while wearing the uniform, including "Folsom Prison Blues." No word on if the Air Force tried to claim any royalties on his music created in uniform. 

1. Jimi Hendrix - U.S. Army

US Army Photo

The man widely considered the greatest guitar player of all time tried his hand at being a soldier first. It didn't work out nearly as well as the music gig would eventually. Jimi served with the Army's 101st Airborne from 1961-1962. While he didn't spend much time in the Army, Jimi did bring something from his band of brothers in the 101st along with him into the music world. Specifically, one of his brothers-in-arms. Jimi met bass player Billy Cox while both were serving at Fort Campbell and Cox would eventually be a member of several of Jimi's bands including Band of Gypsys, New Experience and the short-lived Gypsy Sun and Rainbows which played only three shows, one of which was Hendrix's legendary Woodstock performance.