Running for President of the United States means thinking that you’re the one person best equipped to become the leader of the free world — which could be considered a personality tic, to say the least. “You’re probably fairly weird,” is how Newt Gingrich once put it. This is why The National Memo has launched “Strange But True,” a regular feature that will present old anecdotes, little-known facts, curious quotes and amusing videos showing a side of our politicians that they probably wish the public would ignore. (Here’s the archive.)
Please email your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Twitter hashtag #strangepolitics.
The last time that Jon Huntsman ran in a presidential race, he wasn’t vying to be leader of the free world; he was running for class president of Highland High School in Salt Lake City. Huntsman lost the election and took it hard; as a result, he dropped out of school to pursue his dream of becoming a rock-and-roll star.
Huntsman grew his hair out and became the keyboardist of progressive rock band.
“In my late teens you wouldn’t have recognized me,” Huntsman told University of South Carolina graduates when he gave the commencement address there last May. “My hair was Rod Stewart shaggy. I wouldn’t wear anything but superskinny jeans. I ended up leaving high school a bit short of graduation to play with a band called Wizard. I thought it was my ticket to fame.”
Huntsman and Wizard got their start playing youth-oriented “stomps” sponsored by the Mormon Church. Playing behind the “Zion Curtain” — the term used by Salt Lake City musicians to describe the church’s strict censorship — was a challenge. Wizard could only play in bars with the permission of the police, wearing signs identifying them as under the drinking age.
Wizard’s bass player Eric Malmquist explained to NPR how “we’d play Eric Clapton’s ‘Cocaine.’ But instead of singing ‘cocaine,’ which you probably wouldn’t do in church, we’d change the word to ‘propane.'”
Perhaps because their censored lyrics made no sense, Wizard’s catalog of progressive rock songs and REO Speedwagon covers never caught on. Huntsman eventually left the group to serve his Mormon mission in Taiwan, and went on to enjoy a highly successful career as a politician and diplomat. Huntsman remains proud of his rock and roll days, however, and frequently shows off his keyboard skills on the campaign trail.
If Huntsman loses this presidential campaign and takes it as hard as he did in high school, maybe we’ll see a Wizard comeback tour in 2013.