Blog | Rock 'n' roll Scouts


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It's the 2014 BRIT Awards this week, so we’re turning the spotlight on some former Scouts who went on to become stars of rock and pop. From guitar heroes and songwriting superstars to chart sensations, all have made their mark.

In many ways their success is hardly surprising. After all, Scouts and music go hand in hand – just check out the super catchy Let It Out, the result of the Bright Sparks Project, a recent nationwide competition to find young and creative Scouting talent.

From all-singing, all-dancing Gang Shows, the Scout equivalent of Royal Variety, to rousing Scout and Guide Bands, there have always been opportunities for musical Scouts to showcase their talents. And campfire sing-alongs, often accompanied by guitar or even ukulele, are still a great way to get together, have fun and share laughs. It’s not all ‘kumbaya’ and clapping hands either – Scouts cover everything from AC/DC to Jay-Z, not to mention loads of their own compositions. Rumour has it that it was even a Scout Leader who came up with the world famous ‘Pizza Hut Song’.  

But who made it big and how did being a Scout contribute to their rise to super stardom? Here’s this week’s top ten, along with a playlist featuring a specially selected song from each…

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10. Jim Morrison, The Doors – the famous front man was a Cub Scout in the Boy Scouts of America. The American Indian influences of Den meetings may even have sparked his interest in mystical lore and spirituality, which went on to inform many of his lyrics and poems. Today, Jim Morrison’s old Cub Scout uniform is exhibited at the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, along with a handwritten poem titled ‘The Pony Express’, which Morrison wrote aged ten. In a 1968 interview with Rolling Stone, he claimed it was the first poem he ever wrote.

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9. Jarvis Cocker, Pulp – Sheffield’s favourite son was a Scout before he formed Pulp. Their album Different Class went on to sell more than a million copies. Jarvis donated the platinum disc to his old Scout Group in Sheffield, which was auctioned to help them raise funds for a new HQ. ‘The woman who runs the Cub Pack collared me in Boots,’ he remembers. ‘And she said about the Cubs needing somewhere to do their thing. And I thought: well if you can ‘elp in some way... I'll give ‘em something. It was good was Scouts, when you went camping out and that. It was a good laff.’

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8. Dave Gilmour, Pink Floyd – The visionary Pink Floyd guitarist’s childhood was somewhat troubled. He had a difficult relationship with his parents, which was alleviated by heading off to Scout camp every summer – ‘it was terrific’, he recalled in an interview with Mojo magazine. Later, Gilmour met Syd Barrett and the pair became true teenage tearaways, heading off to France to spend the summer of 1965 hitchhiking and camping. Those Scout skills came in handy: ‘Bacon and eggs on the Primus for breakfast – fantastic!’, says Dave. ‘I remember sitting in the campsite reading by torchlight. We had a great time.’

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7. Mariah Carey – America’s favourite diva joined the Girl Scouts while growing up on Long Island. It might be hard to imagine Mimi starting a camp fire, but she’s certainly got an outdoors spirit. She has set up Camp Mariah, a Fresh Air Fund-operated summer camp in Fishkill, New York State to help disadvantaged, inner-city youths. She is also a major benefactor of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

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6. David Bowie – From this picture, it is clear that the young David Robert Jones (on the left) brought the same sense of style to his Scout Troop that was later employed in creating Ziggy Stardust. His time at the Scouts also led to his first musical performance, at a Scout camp on the Isle of Wight in 1958. David accompanied his friend George on the ukulele, while George played washboard bass and sang. Perhaps Bowie also got his love of dressing up and making a statement from those childhood days. In Boys Keep Swinging, Bowie’s sardonic riposte to the Village People, taken from his 1979 album Lodger, he even sings: ‘When you’re a boy, you can wear a uniform’…

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5. Taylor Swift – It’s true: the Nashville-based pop-country sensation was once a Girl Scout. She must have learned a thing or two about good turns as well as selling cookies, as Tay Tay has contributed to diverse causes from children’s literacy to music education and cancer research. No stranger to charity concerts and benefits, in 2012 Swift was recognised with a Kid’s Choice Big Help Award.

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4. Niall Horan, One Direction – the Twitter-baiting teen heartthrob was a Scout in his younger days. Since then he’s gone on to big things: after finishing third in the X Factor in 2010, 1D were snapped up by Simon Cowell’s record label and have released three chart-topping albums. The boys also hold a unique world record – they’ve got more Twitter followers than any other music group, with 17.7 million followers and counting. Niall’s own Twitter account reveals a Scout’s spirit and sense of adventure – his biog proudly proclaims: ‘I like climbing trees!’

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3. Sir Paul McCartney, The BeatlesMacca honed his songwriting craft from a young age, but still found time for Scouting. By his own admission, he wasn’t the world’s greatest Scout – he once confessed, ‘I didn't get many badges, although I got a bivouac badge for camping out’. Nevertheless, his experiences clearly made an impression. His 2008 Grammy-nominated song That Was Me starts with the line ‘That was me, at the Scout camp’. This refers to a camp the young Paul went on in July 1957 at Hathersage in Derbyshire. One John Lennon also pitched up on the same camp!

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2. John Lennon, The Beatles John was once a member of the 3rd Allerton Scout Group. The Cub Pack met in St Peter's Church Hall, the very place where John first met Paul on 6 July 1957. Scouts formed a key part of his musical education. ‘John’s Scout leader, Bill Whiteside, had a brother, Charlie, who lived near Penny Lane,’ recounts John's fellow Scout David Ashton. ‘Charlie could play chords on a banjo and we often had a camp fire sing-song.  I remember making nettle soup and bread twists on sticks while Charlie taught John the chords to Way Down Upon the Swanee River.’ John also got to perfect his skills on the harmonica, which later featured prominently on the early Beatles hits Love Me Do and From Me to You.

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1. Keith Richards, The Rolling Stonesthe hard-living, seemingly indestructible rocker credits Scouts for nurturing the leadership skills that helped him form a band. In Life, his autobiography published in 2010, Keith says: ‘I got to be Patrol Leader within six weeks – I just shot to the top. That was the first time I realized I might have that (leadership) possibility. I'm like, “Hey, I'm just going to duck and dive.” Once I had a bunch of guys together, it doesn't matter if it was the Scouts or a band, I could see my way clear to pull all their various talents together.’


Of course, there are loads more musical ex-Scouts, including up and coming Bright Sparks star Kayleigh Ann Walters, Canadian songstress Celine Dion, former Blur bassist Alex James, indie-pop songsters Scouting For Girls and evergreen rock chick Sheryl Crow. Know anyone else we’re missing? Let us know @UKScouting

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