When Johnny Paycheck hit the top of the charts in 1977 with “Take This Job and Shove It,” he gave voice to disgruntled workers everywhere who wanted to tell their employers exactly how they felt.
After all, who hasn’t had a job that made them want to revolt? Before they were famous, some of country’s top artists paid their dues in a variety of vocations from a Sonic Drive-In to a Virginia morgue. As we all celebrate the Labor Day holiday, here’s a look at what some of your favorite artists consider the worst job they’ve ever had.
Luke Bryan: “I had to clean out a grain bin elevator that had water in it. All the corn had mildewed and soured, so I had to spend a whole week dumping rotten corn out of a big grain thing, and it took about a week for the smell to get out of my body. It was on my dad’s peanut mill. It was an awful job. My mama still cusses my daddy out for doing that to me.”
Tim McGraw: “Picking tomatoes in Louisiana. I mean, I had a lot of bad jobs. Pulling weeds in rice fields is not a good job either, especially with water moccasins in the river. [But] picking tomatoes … that’s a pretty nasty job.”
Kellie Pickler: “Working in fast food. … I worked at Sonic, and it was a great job for when I was in school. I think everyone should experience what it’s like to work in the food industry where you serve other people. It will make you treat people differently that’s for sure. … I did almost get ran over on Halloween. A car backed out and almost ran over me. I had to slam my tray down on the back of his trunk because his car about hit me.”
Brad Paisley: “My internship at Fitzgerald Hartley [Management] was the worst. I’m not kidding. It was the worst internship of my entire time at Belmont [University]. It wasn’t a paid job, so it doesn’t count as a job, but it was horrible. I quit that one, and I said, ‘I’ll never be managed by them,’ so never say never.” (Paisley is managed by Fitzgerald Hartley.)
Alan Jackson: “I’ve had so many jobs. I’d have to sit down and recap the first 25 years of my life to figure that out [the worst job]. I’ve always worked in construction or worked on cars or sold cars or something like that. I graduated from high school and started college. I only went about a year and a-half and then quit. This man in town had a company where they sold cleaning supplies for businesses like school systems. You would go around and sell stuff to wax and wash their floors and their bathrooms and the equipment to do that. They hired me to do that, and I had to drive around to all these businesses and take their orders and try to sell them stuff. I hated that more than anything I’d ever done in my life.”
Chris Young: “The worst job I’ve ever had was an HVAC [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] job in a church. I came home so tired. I was using a cutting torch every day and got so dirty. I had to come home and strip on my back deck because I was so dirty.”
Billy Currington: “I started working, like, at [age] 12, landscaping. This was summer, every summer. And roofing. I started when I was about 16, roofing houses, and that was probably one of my toughest jobs because down there in south Georgia, it gets hot. … The concrete job was my least favorite of all — six years of that — and I couldn’t take it no more. After that job, that was my turning point. Either I’m going to do something else for a living (laughs) or quit and try to really focus on music and get this record deal.”
Rodney Atkins: “My last day as a repo man was pretty awful. An auto dealer asked me to track down and pick up a car after the payments had been delinquent for months and there had been several unsuccessful attempts to contact the customer. I located it in the driveway of a mobile home. With the spare key the auto dealer had given me, I tried to start the car, but the engine wouldn’t turn over. I pulled my truck closer and was under the hood of the car attaching jumper cables when the door of the home opened and the guy and his two little kids came outside. I was expecting him to be angry, but instead he walked up and asked if he could help. He apologized for not making payments and said he was glad I was taking the car. After talking for a bit, I turned the key, and when the car started up, the kids started cheering and clapping, ‘Yay!’ Even though I knew getting rid of that car and its payment was a relief for that guy, the kids’ faces smiling, being happy that I got the motor running just broke my heart. I returned the car to the dealer, handed him the keys and told him I couldn’t do any more repo work.”
Joe Nichols: “Selling steaks door to door. I sold steaks for one day like those guys that ride around in the freezer truck selling meat to all the ‘neighbors.’ I tried to sell steaks, but I’m a terrible salesman because I’m really honest, and they saw it in my face. I was terrible and miserable. It was a July day in Nashville, and there was no air conditioning in the little two-cylinder truck they gave me. I didn’t sell anything or make any money. I spent my last $10 on gas for that little thing, and that was it. It was July 1998. At the end of the day, I said. ‘I’m done.’ Matter of fact, the owner felt sorry for me. He felt terrible for me and was like, ‘Here’s your $10 back for the gas. Don’t ever do anything like this again because you are not good.’ It was bad.”
Phil Vassar: “I didn’t think it was that bad, but I was an orderly. I worked in Virginia Baptist Hospital and I worked in a morgue. I’d assist with autopsies and stuff. That was kind of an interesting smell, but it was a good job. I’d work double shifts, and I’d work lock up. They’d lock me in, and that was interesting [except] when you are falling asleep, it’s scary. At night, something would happen, somebody would pass away and then we’d have to pick the body up and that kind of stuff. It was definitely interesting. … I thought about being a doctor, and if I wasn’t doing what I’m doing, that’s probably what I would have done. I’d always wanted to help people … but all that schooling that wasn’t going to happen.”
Steve Wariner: “When I was in junior high, I detasseled corn for a seed company one summer in Indiana. They would recruit young teenagers to work in the fields, go down the rows and pull the tops or tassels out. It had to do with the pollination process, I suppose. When I signed up, though, I didn’t realize they would bus us all to a town 30 minutes away to get to the cornfields. We would then split up into groups and start down the rows and pull until late afternoon. The hardest part for me was getting up about 5 a.m. to meet the bus at 5:45 a.m., followed by the 30-minute ride to greet those wet, spider-webby, snake-filled corn rows. The morning sun would just be coming up as we would start our day. It was tough. But, hey, at least we were getting paid a whole lot of mon … oh, never mind!”
Joel Crouse: “I worked at a print shop for two days and quit because I had never been so bored in my entire life. All I did was cut and fold paper … something so simple was so terrible at the same time.”