Curious what The White Stripes were like before they were rock stars? Megan White grew up the younger of two children in Grosse Point Woods, Michigan, and was remembered by high school classmates as a quiet, artsy type.
While John Anthony Gillis (Jack White), who also was from the Detroit area, was the youngest of 10 children. He was raised in a Catholic household, served as an altar boy and, apparently, at one point during his early teens, considered becoming a priest. But music obviously was his true calling. He actually started playing drums in the first grade and went on to also learn the guitar and piano. Before even starting high school, Jack was a one-kid band, recording his own songs.
Young Meg, on the other hand, didn’t befriend a drum set until she was in her twenties. And guess who brought them together? Her then husband, Jack. She’s been quoted as saying that when she started playing drums with him in those early days “it was childlike.” Turned out that childlike style combined with Jack’s was just the sound the world wanted to hear.
So let this “before they were rock stars” story be an inspiration to us all: You’re never too young, or too old to start rocking. And if you don’t have an instrument, we have a few DIY instruments to make some noise with.
Before Stevie Wonder was ripping it on the clavichord with “Superstition,” he was just a kid, playing songs for Motown CEO/producer Barry Gordy, with dreams of making it big despite his lack of sight.
Born Stevland Hardaway Judkins, Wonder was found by Gerald White of the band The Miracles, who pestered his brother Ronnie to check out this amazing kid. He had heard Wonder at a friend’s house and finally got Ronnie to see the talented boy perform. Reportedly, Ronnie was so impressed he took Stevland to Gordy who dubbed the boy Little Stevie Wonder because he was “the eighth wonder of the world,” and signed him at age 11.
Wonder would go on to record several albums under the name, until the mid-1960’s when he’d drop the “Little.” Beforehand, he had a few hits, most notably “Fingertips (Pt. 2),“ which featured Marvin Gaye playing drums.
Here are some videos/songs from that time in Stevie’s life:
Little Stevie Wonder in a film called Bikini Beach
Elvis Aaron Presley was born on January 8, 1935 in East Tupelo, Mississippi, the only son of Gladys and Vernon Presley. His twin, Jesse Garon, was stillborn. It was in the middle of the great depression and times were hard. Gladys worked at a garment factory and Vernon performed odd jobs. Vernon built a home on Old Saltillo Road for the new family. When he was eight, Elvis sometimes sang on a local radio broadcast called Saturday Jamboree that let the audience participate. At age ten his school teacher entered him in a children’s talent contest at the state fair where he sang “Old Shep” and later got a spanking from Gladys for going on a carnival ride. Gladys gave him his first guitar for his eleventh birthday. He wanted a rifle. Elvis occasionally performed for his classmates throughout junior high, but when his idol Mississippi Slim invited him to perform on his show, Elvis apparently had acute stage fright. He eventually got over it and the rest is history. Here are some remarkable images of The King as a wee prince.
Elvis with his parents, 1938
A very young Elvis Presley, 1939
Elvis, Age 6, 1942
With His Parents in 1943
Elvis and Gladys Presley
Elvis in the 7th Grade, Milam Junior High
In honor of Lullaby Renditions of Elvis Presley, out yesterday, it’s Elvis week on the blog. Stop by each day for fun stuff including a free Rockabye Baby Elvis coloring page, activities, and more!
Can’t get enough baby Elvis? Listen to an exclusive full-length sneak peek of “Love Me Tender” (lullaby style) here.
Oh, and by the way, we’re giving away five Lullaby Renditions of Black Sabbath CDs! Enter here.
In recent years Paula Abdul has been portrayed by the media as a scatter-brained judge on American Idol, which she recently left. But her launch to fame was anything but unfocused. She was born on June 19, 1962 in Los Angeles and while singing never played a big part in her youth, dancing did. She took dance lessons at an early age and was a cheerleader at Van Nuys High School. During her freshman year at California State University at Northridge she made the cheerleading squad for the Los Angeles Lakers. This next part is important and the reason why you need to move to Los Angeles if you want your kid to have a career in entertainment. After three months with the squad she became the head choreographer and was discovered by the Jacksons (as in the Jackson 5) at a game. She was hired to choreograph their “Torture” video and then their tour. She went on to choreograph videos for many artists including Janet Jackson. Abdul used her savings to cut a demo and while her voice didn’t compare to Whitney Houston, her dancing ability was what sold her. Forever Your Girl debuted in 1988 and eventually spent 10 weeks on top the Billboard 200 album chart. The lesson here to teach your children? Even if you’re not good at every aspect of performing you can still break in to the business by being great at one part of it, or at the very least, maybe meet the Jacksons at a basketball game.
Born in Canada 1984 in Belleville, Ontario, Avril’s mother recognized talent early in wee Avril. They performed a duet in the church choir when Avril was only two. At the age of five the family moved to Napanee, Ontario, which as anyone in the music industry knows is where you go to be discovered. Somehow it worked out. She was discovered by her first manager while singing country covers at a bookstore.
In 2000 she was signed to Arista Records as an artist, but when she was pitched songs to record she informed the label she wanted to write her own. Her debut album Let Go was released in 2002 and sold over sixteen million copies worldwide. Check out her hit “Sk8er Boi” from that album, but even catchier is her single “Girlfriend” from her third album The Best Damn Thing.
Watch out for that hair! Would you have thought that someone with a ‘do like that would end up selling over 100 million albums and winning 5 Grammy awards?
Mariah was born on March 27, 1970 on Long Island, New York (again, the hair), and if you’re wondering where the voice came from, her mother was an opera singer and vocal coach. She began singing at the age of three, attended Harborfields High School in Greenlawn, New York and spent a lot of time as a demo singer for local recording studios. Carey moved to New York City to chase her dreams and attended beauty school before becoming a back-up singer for Brenda K. Starr. Hard to believe with her voice that she would ever back someone else. In 1988 Mariah met Columbia Records Executive Tommy Mottola (through Brenda K. Starr) and her career was launched with her debut album, Mariah Carey, in 1990.
If you look back on all the success Mariah has had over her career, there is only one lesson to take away from all of it. You should have been an opera singer and taught your kids to sing when they were three years old.
Did you know that the Nine Inch Nails front man who wrote songs such as “Bite the Hand That Feeds” and “The Perfect Drug” was originally in a high school marching band? Yes, Trent Reznor, born Michael Trent Reznor had an interesting past before making the move to wearing mostly black and getting insanely jacked arms.
Reznor, who used his middle name because his father shared the same name, grew up in a Lutheran household in Mercer, PA until his parents divorced and he went to live with his grandparents. His grandmother pushed him into taking classical piano at age 5 and he showed a great interest in music.
When he hit high school, KISS and David Bowie became his main interests, though he’d go on to join his high school’s marching band and concert band. He played tuba and tenor saxophone. He also showed promise in theater, even having his classmates vote him “Best in Drama” after his roles as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar and the lead in The Music Man. Yes, Trent Reznor was the lead, singing “Seventy Six Trombones” in a school play.
Later, Reznor would head to Allegheny College and join a band called Option 30. Though he’d lose interest in the band quickly and leave college after a year to head to Cleveland. There he joined a band called The Urge and later another called The Exotic Birds.
Still trying to find his sound, Reznor played keys for Lucky Pierre, The Innocent, and Slam Bamboo before landing a job at Right Track Studios as a janitor. During off hours, the owner would allow Reznor to record some demos, which would later gain the attention of several labels and the rest is history.
Tool’s famous front man Maynard James Keenan was born James Herbert Keenan, one of many surprising facts about the man’s early life. But perhaps the most amazing part of his story is the fact that the man who wrote a song called “Stinkfist” not only sang in Glee Club, but also joined the Army at one point.
After a rough upbringing consisting of a stifling stepfather and a sick mother, Maynard was inspired to join the Army by watching Bill Murray muck it up in the movie Stripes. Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t that seem like a bad reason to join the army? Maybe he should have watched Full Metal Jacket. He studied at West Point Prep School and got great marks in English and Math. He also was a singer in Glee Club and was on the cross-country team.
At one point in James’ time at the school, he named himself Maynard seemingly out of nowhere. Later he dropped out of West Point and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his love of animals by working as an interior designer for pet shops. Yes, you read that right.
Maynard’s pet shop design job didn’t last long. He was fired and he ended up in set design. Later he would meet future Tool guitarist Adam Jones and future band-mate Danny Carey, who was his neighbor. Danny heard Maynard yelling at another neighbor in the alley behind his apartment and thought Maynard would make a great singer. Carey wold sometimes fill in for drummers who missed rehearsal at Maynard’s apartment. This would of course lead to the formation of Tool, and the rest is rock history. Maynard, among other musical projects, now also makes his own wine at his home in Jerome, AZ. Not a bad life for an ex-pet store interior designer, eh?
Classic rock radio staples Pink Floyd have driven more than one young man to a life of collecting black light posters or playing “Wish You Were Here” for spare change, but few were probably aware that the soulful guitar impresario, David Gilmour, did a bit of busking himself before joining the band. Students of The Wall might also be surprised to know that Gilmour was an excellent student.
Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour started out going to school up the street from his future band mates, Roger Waters and Sid Barrett, at a place called the Perse School in Cambridge. Waters and Barrett attended a rival school, the Cambridgeshire High School for Boys. Gilmour spent most of his time studying modern languages to A-Level (which is British for nerd), and like the man he’d eventually replace, Barrett, he also spent his lunchtime learning to play the guitar. Wish I went to a school that had allowed us to take our recess with a guitar.
Gilmour eventually started playing in the band Joker’s Wild in 1962 until 1966 when he decided to busk around Spain and France with some friends, though he found little success. In a July 1992 interview, Gilmour stated that he actually ended up being treated for malnutrition in a hospital because of how badly remunerated his music was then. After bumming around a bit more, in 1967 Gilmour returned to England driving a van with fuel that had been stolen from a building site in France. This adventure kind of sounds like the British version of Road Trip, or something from an episode of Benny Hill, at least.
It wasn’t until December of 1967 that Nick Mason, Pink Floyd’s drummer, approached Gilmour about joining the band to make it a five piece. This was of course before Barrett would go mad and be replaced by Gilmour. But we all saw that one coming after hearing his song “Bike” for the first time. Want to hear more baby Floyd? Check out Lullaby Renditions of Pink Floyd!
Who is this handsome young fella? Want to take a guess which world famous rock band he’d turn out to be the lead singer for? We’ll give you a hint: He’d never forgive us if we told you. Yes, he’d dub us unforgiven.
Still don’t know? Read the answer and see more amazing musician yearbook photos here.