Happy Veterans Day! 5 Musicians That Served in the Military

Happy Veterans Day to all of the past and current service men and women across the world! This year is seems extra important to come together and recognize the sacrifices soldiers make everyday to make this country safer. With everyone and their mother on Netflix; I recommend checking out the documentary “Restrepo” this weekend, it’s a intimate look at what soldiers in the Middle East go through on a daily basis.

As you get your Veterans Day Weekend started, take a look at musicians below that you might not of known to be veterans of the US Military, God bless America!

John Coltrane

John Coltrane’s first ever recording of him playing music took place on a Hawaiian base in 1946. He enlisted the day America dropped the A-bomb on Japan and even though his stint was short of a year, he lead many bands while his time in the service. Apparently, you had to get graded on your music ability prior to enlisting to lead a band; his skills were so good they let him slide. Relax away to “I’ll Wait and Pray.”

Ray Manzarek of The Doors

Besides being from Chicago, Ray Manzarek – keyboardist of The Doors, was stationed in Thailand for two years while serving in the Army. He was known as an interesting character in the military and apparently grew a bunch of grass for his fellow soldiers. He went solo after Jim Morrison’s death but never had the same success as with The Doors.

Johnny Cash

Born J.R. Cash, the Air Force made him choose John as his first name when he enlisted. He served 4 years in the Air Force from 1950-54 and was honorably discharged as the rank of a Staff Sergeant. Stationed in Germany, his job was to intercept Soviet Morse Code during the beginning of the Cold War. Here’s a tremendous quote from Johnny on his ability to intercept Soviet code: “I had such a talent for that particular line of work and such a good left ear, that in Landsberg, where the United States Air Force Security Service ran radio intercept operations worldwide, I was the ace. I was who they called when the hardest jobs came up. I copied the first news of Stalin’s death.”

Jason Everman of Nirvana and Soundgarden

Check out this must read NY times piece on Jason Everman, the Pete Best of 90’s grunge that ended up being a War Hero in the special forces. He was hired as the back up guitarist to Kurt Cobain in 1989 and even toured for the album Bleach. After his role was cut, he went to another future heavyweight – Soundgarden. He got kicked out once more and then began what was a highly decorated military career. Here he is performing a record store show in June of 1989 with Nirvana.

Billy Cox

We all know that Jimi Hendrix was in the military, but if he never met Billy Cox during his short stint in the army, Band of Gypsys might of never existed. It was after the breakup of Jimi’s first band, The Experience, that he called his old army pal Billy Cox to fill in on bass at Woodstock and then go on to form Band of Gypsys up until Jimi’s death. Below is a digital remastered recording of them absolutely shredding together in 1969.


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