Musicians Who Dodged The Draft
Although Draft Dodging in the United States has been around since the Civil War, it is during Vietnam that most of us associate with people dodging the draft. Of these people, there were many famous musicians who dodged the draft. This does not mean that they were deferred because of medical reasons, religious beliefs or that their numbers didn’t come up – these people did something to allow the army to excuse them from service. While people of all walks of life avoided the draft, the following people are all famous musicians who dodged military service.
Possibly the most famous of the draft dodgers only because he bragged about getting out of the war in the magazine “High Times” in 1977. He told the magazine that he got out of going to Vietnama by not showering for a month prior to his induction. The week before, he started urinating and defecating in his jeans. This is how he showed up to the draft board. Pretty disgusting. He told the same story to the Detroit Free Press in 1990. It also was brought up on the internet the past few years as Nugent became a strong supporter of right-wing politics. Since then, being a leader in the NRA and a conservative talk show host, Nugent has retracted what he said stating that he made the whole thing up. According to his new story, he had a student deferment at the time and he thought the High Times reporter was gullible. He didn’t comment on why he told the same story 13 years later…
When Bruce Springsteen of the E Street Band had his draft number called, he went to the draft board as he was supposed to do. Once there, he was able to use a concussion that he suffered in a motorcycle accident the year prior as a means of avoiding the draft. This may not have gotten him off the hook, alone. In 1984, Springsteen told Rolling Stone magazine that “…his “crazy” behavior at induction and refusing to take the tests was enough to get him a 4F (incapable of military service on the grounds of physical, mental, or moral standards.) [Source: Rolling Stone, December 6, 1984]
Jimi Hendrix was possibly the greatest guitar player of his generation. Even still, he was a draft dodger…of sorts. Hendrix was already in the Army, signing up to avoid jail time for charges of car theft in 1961. He was a member of the 101st Airborne Division out of Ft. Campbell, Kentucky. He was discharged in 1962 because of “unsuitability”. Now, according to Hendrix, this was because of an injury he had sustained in a parachute jump. Unfortunately, the Army records don’t match up with his story. As America was gearing up for war, Hendrix was called up again in the draft. He was denied service because, Army records revealed that he “demonstrated homosexual tendencies”. It was a time that homosexuality could keep you out of the service and despite Hendrix being known as a serial womanizer, he was deferred. [Source: Room Full of Mirrors by Charles R Cross, 2005]
Beach Boy, Carl Wilson, was the younger brother of Brian and Dennis Wilson. He was a singer and guitarist for the band. However, his fame didn’t help him when, in January of 1967, he was arrested for draft evasion. He had received his draft notice a while earlier and refused to show up for the draft board. A few weeks later, he applied for “Conscientious Objector” status, but this was too late – he already had a warrant out for his arrest. He was arrested by FBI agents in New York during a performance and released on $15,000 bond. He went to court where the judge agreed to his claims of being a conscientious objector with the stipulation that Wilson serve community service time (the typical judgement for this during Vietnam), to which Wilson refused, offering the courts to allow the Beach Boys to perform for free at military installations. After an extended legal battle, the judge eventually allowed the Beach Boys to perform a set series of concerts at prisons and hospitals in lieu of Carl’s jail time…and he never went to Vietnam. [Source: Pittsburgh Press, April 27, 1967]
This famous Doors frontman, who’s father was Rear Admiral George Stephen Morrison was also a draft dodger. Morrison was called up for the draft with other Doors member John Densmore (the drummer). They both went to the draft board and passed their physicals. However, when it came time for their psychiatric evaluations, Densmore proclaimed over and over again that he was a homosexual. [Source: Riders on the Storm, by John Densmore, 1991] While he was not present for Jim Morrison’s mental evaluation, he stated that he knew Morrison had “prepared” himself for the draft by getting completely drunk and high on drugs. According to Densmore, “when Jim was not in a proper state of mind he could be extremely weird, obnoxious, mean, and very obscene.” When Morrison exited the room he stated that the military “did not want someone like that.”..and he walked. Of the Doors, only Ray Manzarek (keyboards) served prior to the Doors’ success. Robby Krieger (guitarist) had a medical letter stating that he was not mentally fit to serve.