I’m still struggling to come up with a topic for my Thursday Weekender column.
I thought I had one in the bag. I was going to do a mock musical Final Four, with famous musicians from the University of Louisville, the University of Kansas, the University of Kentucky and Ohio State University squaring off in a virtual battle of the bands. Not a great idea, but it was something. So I started scouring the web.
A couple hours later and I’m almost empty-handed. If I drew up the brackets right now, Dwight Yoakam (Ohio State) would basically win in consecutive forfeits. This blew my mind.
Those four school are HUGE. They host a combined 97,663 undergraduates–add a few ten-thousand more if you include graduate students. Granted, I’m doing internet research here, but as far as I can tell, Dwight Yoakam is the only legitimate music star that has ever attended those four schools. That’s with tens of thousands of students graduating from those four schools every year. And those schools have been around for a long time.
There are 8 Nobel Laureates between those four schools (Louisville is the only school without one). The list of famous professional athletes from each school is extensive. But when it comes to rock stars, or even semi-famous popular musicians, the output is lean. In fact, it’s almost nonexistent.
This is the best I could do:
Ohio State University — Dwight Yoakam (O.A.R. is on the bench)
University of Kentucky — Glenn Kotche (drummer for Wilco)
University of Louisville — Ben Sollee (a sort of avant-garde rock cellist)
University of Kansas — Mates of State (a semi-annoying indie husband and wife band)
And I almost forgot. Yoakam didn’t graduate from OSU. He dropped out to become a country star after about a year.
Maybe that’s the problem. You don’t need to go to college to become a pop star. There’s no equivalent NCAA sports-type requirement that forces musicians to go to college for a year or two before they sign a record contract. In fact, going to college might be a useless experience for someone with their sights set on CMT or MTV2. It could get in the way.
That doesn’t mean famous musicians don’t go to college. Some colleges seem to make more sense for rock stars, so they make more of them. As you might expect, the University of California, Los Angeles is a breeding ground for famous musicians. Jim Morrison, Jan Berry, Dido, Kim Gordon, Anthony Kiedis, John Fahey and Shakira went there, among others. New York University has had a few–Talib Kweli, Neil Diamond and Lady GaGa among them–but it’s just not in UCLA’s area code in terms of the number of stars. It’s Probably not surprising that Vanderbilt University (in Nashville) has produced country stars like Dierks Bentley and Rosanne Cash. Ditto with Nashville’s Belmont University, which has a reputation as the college of Music Row. Brad Paisely, Trisha Yearwood and Josh Turner are a few of the country stars that went there.
So location is key, and while Ohio isn’t necessarily the heart of pop music (well, maybe Cleveland is), the school should have produced a dozen rock stars based on size alone. OSU really seems to be defying the odds. I would have expected to find at least one country music star between Kentucky and Louisville, as the state is a traditional hotbed for country, bluegrass and folk talent. Nope.
So another column idea goes down. Or maybe I’m missing something.