7 Roadies Turned Rock Stars

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Becoming a rock star is not something that just happens. There are skills to be gained, lessons to be learned, and dues to be paid. That is why some legends are first born behind the scenes after the equipment has been hauled, instruments have been tuned, and stage doors slammed.

From Noel Gallagher to Tupac Shakur, here are seven roadies turned rock stars.

1. Jello Biafra

Before Jello Biafra was the frontman of the punk group Dead Kennedys he was a roadie in the late 1970s. The then-high schooler was in charge of setting up equipment for the local Boulder, Colorado, band the Ravers, who would later reach acclaim as the Nails.

The rocker was inspired to start his own band after the Ravers opened for the Ramones and soon left Colorado for New York with a record deal in hand. Shortly after, he formed a band called the Healers before setting his sights on the San Francisco punk scene where he molded the Dead Kennedys.

2. Noel Gallagher

Noel Gallagher had been a longtime guitar player when he joined the road crew of the English rock band Inspiral Carpets. He had originally auditioned for the band when their lead singer spot became available but was instead offered a position as their roadie and guitar technician, a role he remained in for two years before joining his brother Liam’s band, Oasis.

3. Frank Bello

Frank Bello joined the heavy metal band Anthrax behind the scenes as a guitar tech, but he soon replaced bassist Dan Lilker shortly after the release of their debut album, Fistful of Metal. He has been the band’s bassist ever since.

“We were playing little local shows and I teched for them and they were auditioning bass players and I auditioned and it all worked out nicely, obviously,” he said in an interview with Glide Magazine. He described his first show playing with Anthrax as “very scary” adding, “it was all adrenalin. And I just said, you got to go for it, and that’s kind of what I still do.”

4. Tupac Shakur

In the early ’90s, Tupac’s career began as a roadie and occasional backup dancer and singer for the rap group Digital Underground. It was in the shadows of this ensemble that he paid his dues. His big break came with the Digital Underground track “Same Song.” His performance on the song helped him secure a record deal with Interscope Records.

5. Lemmy Kilmister

Lemmy Kilmister always had rock in his sights. His early musical career involved working as a roadie for legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix and British prog-rockers the Nice.

After a stint as a musician in the band Hawkwind in the early 1970s, he founded the pioneering heavy metal group, Motörhead.

6. Henry Rollins

It was as a roadie for the Teen Idles – a band that would spawn the hardcore punk group, Minor Threat – that Henry Rollins’ talents as a vocalist were revealed. He once urged the band to let him sing when their frontman didn’t show up for practice and word of skills spread from there.

He joined Black Flag as the lead singer just as the original vocalist, Dez Cadena, was looking to step into a guitarist role in the band.

7. Billy Powell

It may be hard to believe that Lynyrd Skynyrd’s longtime keyboard player Billy Powell began as one of the band’s roadies. A member of their road crew for two years, it wasn’t until Powell showed off his chops during a show break that the band offered him a position in the group.

Photo by Midori Tsukagoshi/Shinko Music/Getty Images

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