The 6 Strangest Previous Careers of Famous Musicians

#3. Johnny Cash Was a Military Code Breaker

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There are only two things that people from all walks of life will agree on. One is that no one should buy hair from a kiosk in the mall. Two is that Johnny Cash was the shit. And part of the reason for Cash's appeal was that he was a little bit of everything. Drug abuser and born-again Christian. Country, rock and gospel hall of famer. Guy who faces the toilet paper toward the toilet one time, and away from the toilet the next time. And like Elvis, Jimi and MC Hammer, Johnny put in his time in the military.

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To answer your question, yes, he always looked old.

But here's where things get awesome in a crazy Man in Black kind of way. Cash was assigned to the cryptographic intelligence unit. As in, the group that stood between America and the Soviets at a time when schoolkids were told to protect themselves from nuclear bombs by hiding under their desks. And Cash wasn't just on KP duty like all the other Southern sons of sharecroppers -- he was one of the guys who intercepted Soviet Morse code. It's like finding out Marilyn Monroe was also a CIA assassin.

Oh, and he was pretty freaking good at it. He was so great at cracking Soviet messages, in fact, that he was the guy who got called for the hardest jobs. That's why it was Johnny freakin' Cash who was the first American to pass along the news that Joseph Stalin was dead.

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"I stroked a man in Moscow, just to watch him die."

But when Johnny's time was up, he bolted. For him, the whole thing had been like a prison sentence -- his job was so hush-hush that he couldn't talk to anyone about it, and his off-base travel was severely limited. On the other hand, one of the reasons Cash was so good at honing in on signals was because the job trained his ears for tones and rhythm. So maybe we wouldn't have gotten the Johnny Cash we came to know if he had never done his Cold War spy stuff.

#2. Slayer's Singer Treated Asthma for a Living

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Tom Araya is the singer-bassist of speed metal behemoth Slayer, best known for singing catchy little tunes such as "Raining Blood," "Angel of Death" and "Dead Skin Mask." He looks exactly how you'd imagine:

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He's legally required to wield an axe or guitar at all times.

Sure, you sort of know that a guy like that may have a childhood, and a home, and a family, maybe even a cat or two. Yet your gut instinct insists that men like Tom are constructed at a shipyard, then handed a guitar and placed in a cellar somewhere, where they proceed to headbang with a bunch of other similarly manufactured guys until someone offers them a record contract. And if cats feature anywhere in the picture, it's as a snack.

But this is Tom Araya, an idealistic young man on his way to train as a respiratory therapist:

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Senior Quote: "Lather, rinse and repeat. You gotta repeat."

Araya spent his pre-fame (and beginning-of-fame) years in the 1980s as a respiratory therapist. So if a kid came into the ER during an asthma attack, this was the guy who fixed him. Or if someone was about to die and needed a tube jammed down his throat, Tom was their man. He was also something of a Robin Hood: If he felt that he hadn't helped a patient enough, he made a point of just, no kidding, not billing them.

Therapy Tom's undoing proved to be his commitment to Slayer, combined with the stubbornness of his superiors. He had used a good chunk of his salary to finance the band's first album and, as they were gaining momentum, was getting ready to reap the rewards in the shape of a European tour. The hospital, however, wasn't having any of it and said that Araya could take his request for time off and shove it.

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"Oooooh, I've been waiting for a reason to try out this new 'Shove It' stamp!"

Araya returned the favor, instantly terminating his contract and walking away into the death metal sunset.

#1. That's Dr. Bad Religion to You

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Greg Graffin is the vocalist and "only constant member" of Bad Religion, and as such, one of the biggest players in the field of American punk rock. He has been spitting spiteful social commentary at audiences around the globe since 1979, and like everyone else in this article, this punk rocker has a surprising career history up his sleeve. Unlike all the others, he's never quite managed to let go of his.

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Or of his early '90s flannel.

Which is to say, Gregory Walter Graffin, Ph.D., is leading something of a double life. When Bad Religion took off at the start of the '80s, Graffin -- a bookworm by nature -- was working his way to becoming a trained paleontologist. But instead of following the traditional route of getting a respectable day job and playing some noisy music with his friends on the side, he opted for the exact opposite scenario: Graffin wound up keeping his academic career around as a hobby while Bad Religion was tearing through receptive ear holes worldwide.

And as is so often the case with interesting hobbies, Graffin found himself rather deeper in academia than he had bargained for. As years went by, he dabbled with paleontology and zoology to the point where he actually ended up a Ph.D. and has published several esteemed books in his field ... and held a number of teaching jobs, including stints at UCLA and even lecturing at freakin' Cornell University.

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"I told you guys, we don't start playing until I get to discuss the Cretaceous Period!"

On the side of his day job.

As a punk rock singer.

Follow Pauli on Twitter, read his blog and explore his other Cracked articles.

For more odd choices famous people made for careers, check out 7 Celebrities Who Had Badass Careers You Didn't Know About and 8 Celebrities You Didn't Know Were Geeks.

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