5 Musicians Who Started as Buskers

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Whether it’s through finding fame on social media platforms or by taking to the streets, every music career has to start somewhere. Busking, the act of performing on sidewalks for passersby, has served as a launching pad for many aspiring artists. Here are five musicians who began their journey as buskers and eventually found success in the music industry.

Tracy Chapman

Tracy Chapman’s busking career originated from a simple desire for Chinese food during her college days. As she recounted in an interview with The Independent, she stumbled upon some street musicians and someone suggested she could make money doing the same. Chapman started performing on weekends when stores closed, receiving jewelry, checks, and even five-dollar bills from appreciative listeners. Her first busking experience earned her about $60, enough to treat herself and her friends to that much-desired Chinese feast.


Jewel’s path to fame was far from conventional, starting with impromptu performances in coffee houses and street corners. In her memoir, “Never Broken: Songs Are Only Half the Story,” she recounts her travels across the country, playing her songs to anyone who would listen. Jewel would yodel and sing tunes like “Who Will Save Your Soul” and “Money” until she earned enough money for bus fare to her next destination.

B.B. King

The legendary B.B. King didn’t achieve blues greatness overnight. When he first moved from Mississippi to Memphis, he started playing his guitar on the city streets. It wasn’t long before he began building a reputation for himself and transitioning from sidewalks to stages. Even with countless performances under his belt, King admitted to NPR that he still experienced nerves before every show, considering it as an audition each time. He cared deeply about his audience, likening the pre-performance jitters to meeting your in-laws for the first time.

Rod Stewart

Before his time in Faces, The Jeff Beck Group, or his successful solo career, Rod Stewart started his music journey as a street performer with a harmonica in hand. Accompanied by folk singer Wizz Jones, Stewart took their act from London’s bustling spots to Europe, as detailed in the 1991 biography “Rod Stewart: The New Biography” by Stafford Hildred and Tim Ewbank. Today, he fondly revisits his roots, occasionally joining fellow buskers for impromptu performances to the delight of unsuspecting crowds.

Ed Sheeran

Ed Sheeran’s musical pursuits began at a young age, releasing independent music as early as 13. While YouTube played a significant role in his rise to prominence, Sheeran also spent time busking on the streets. In the music video for “Photograph,” viewers catch a glimpse of a young Sheeran strumming his guitar on a bustling sidewalk, surrounded by passersby.