June 14, 2018

Rock Stars Who Were Athletes Growing Up

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Rock Stars Who Were Athletes Growing Up Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

It is pretty well known that athletes have a love affair with music. The reverse is also very true.

The many years on the air have afforded me the opportunity to talk to many pro athletes and rock stars. They always say the same thing. The rock stars would like to be pro athletes and the athletes would love to be rock stars. It is more than just thinking the grass is greener. They know full well the pitfalls.

Some pro athletes are actually pretty good musicians. When Tommy Hutton was playing for the Philadelphia Phillies, he also performed in some local clubs. I had him on the air where he played guitar and sang very well. That probably surprised the fans who thought he was just a slick fielding first baseman.

Rock fans might also be surprised at the skills of some of their rock heroes. They wouldn’t be alone. It was only because I had a chance to talk with many of the rock stars who were also athletes that I found out. Somehow their athletic prowess was never part of the record company’s bios. Perhaps they decided that the two lifestyles don’t mix. Rock stars aren’t supposed to have the image of being athletic.

It seems that many of the British stars dreamed of being pro footballers. I didn’t envision Elton John playing pro soccer (to us Americans). It wasn’t until the second interview I did with him that it even came up. In addition to his revelation about his soccer abilities, Elton told me that he was a big sports fan and played other sports as a kid. At that time the song “Philadelphia Freedom” had just been released and Elton told me that it was about a new pro tennis team that he just bought into with the tennis great Billie Jean King.

Apparently Elton was a pretty good soccer player, but not as good as Rod Stewart or Bob Marley. It has been said that both were well on their way to being pro soccer stars when they got hurt and had to give up the sport. Rod told me he would never have thought of becoming a singer had it not been for his injury. Soccer’s loss was certainly music’s gain.

Not all Brits wanted to play pro soccer. Mick Jagger wanted to play pro basketball. That may be hard to believe, except for the amount of energy he exhibits in concert. It all started at a very young age. His father was a gym teacher and he learned the skills early on. The dream of playing in the NBA was foiled by a very serious injury while he was still in school. Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night was also a good basketball player.

In my conversation with Meatloaf he revealed that his stage name came from a name he picked up in high school. It was his high school football coach who gave him the name that he has used his entire musical career.

Meatloaf wasn’t the same caliber of player as Clarence Clemons of The E Street Band. Clarence was not only good enough to earn a football scholarship to college, but was invited to play professionally. Again, it was an injury that changed his life. It was only after the injury that he got serious about a music career.

It may seem hard to believe, but Brian Wilson was the quarterback of his high school team. Kris Kristofferson is such an all-around individual that he was not only an actor, songwriter, performer, a Rhodes Scholar (Oxford) but also played football.

George Thorogood says that he would have been a pro baseball player if music didn’t take his life down a different path. He did play semi–pro baseball with a team known as the Delaware Destroyers. That became the name of his backup band. George is still a big fan and is considered not only a great student of the game, but a very knowledgeable historian of the sport.

Joan Jett wasn’t able to be a player, but is a big baseball fan. She told me that her childhood dream was to make enough money to buy her favorite team. The Baltimore Orioles is the team that both of us have followed since we were kids. I had a friend who did public relations for the Baltimore Orioles who was able to get me a hat that was worn and signed by her favorite player, Brooks Robinson. While Joan Jett didn’t play baseball, she was a track star in high school. She still stays in great shape.

Joan is only one of several rock stars who were runners in high school. Sheryl Crow was an all-state performer in the hurdles while attending high school in Missouri. Like Joan, she also stays in great shape and runs a road race once in a while.

Reportedly Sting was an outstanding cross-country runner in high school. Bob Seger was a pretty good miler in high school (see Bob Seger story here). Neither of them was as good as Alice Cooper. Not only Alice, but his entire original band, ran for their high school cross-country team that won the Arizona State Championship (see Alice Cooper story here).

Billy Joel has designs on being a pro boxer. He still works out on the punching bags.

I didn’t know this when I last talked to Roger Waters or I would have asked him if the rumor that he played Rugby was true or not. It wouldn’t surprise me.

While that rounds out this list of rock stars who were athletes, I am sure that I have left off some Stars from the list.

Maybe it will lead to a part two.

Joan Jett Orioles

Joan Jett in an Orioles uniform


Sheryl Crow Track

Sheryl Crow running hurdles

1 comment

  • Comment Link Stew McElhone Monday, July 3, 2023 posted by Stew McElhone

    Hi T, Love your article on Artists and Sports. Your info on George Thorogood is spot-on. I used to catch George at John and Peters in New Hope, PA on Saturdays playing for pass-the-hat tips back in '72-73.
    I was playing for a semi-pro softball team (sponsered by the Hurst shifter company) while Geo was playing hardball in DE. Think he said he played SS. Anyway, we talked about playing a best of 3 series - 1 hardball, 1 softball, and then based on the run differential, a third game either/or. The games never happened though, because Geo got a big gig opening on a tour, may the Stones? Anyway, he is one of the truly nicest, humblest guys I ever met. Sorry we never got to play the series! Love your blogs - keep up the good work. BR,Stew Mc

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