At Rugged Rebels, we love good music. We also love the good men of music who’ve chosen to wear beards, and so we decided we’d try to find the very best among them. Not just once, but thrice – this list will be followed by two more compilations from the ranks of alternative and country.
Picking the top 10 beards is tricky. For starters, the lines dividing different styles of music are indistinct. Something considered rock ‘n’ roll might also qualify as alternative or country – or even both. Besides, the sheer number of bearded candidates that could have been included here is just unfair. The more beards in the world the merrier, of course, but the large selection makes picking the best a bit harder. If we had our way we would’ve preferred to gather our top 100 in a room for tournaments of wit and vigor, but this was not possible for various reasons. For instance, four of the guys on this list are dead.
So at the end we just pulled 10 names out of our janitor’s greatbeard and called it a day. Here, in no particular order, are the Rugged Rebels top 10 beards of rock ‘n’ roll.
10. Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill
Let’s begin by getting these two ZZ Top Rock and Roll Hall of Famers out of the way. Every list of rock ‘n’ roll beards includes this standout band, but that’s because every list has to. Billy Gibbons and Dusty Hill have been rockin’ what are without question rock ‘n’ roll’s most legendary beards since the late ’70s, although the band was formed a good 10 years earlier.
As the beard origin story goes, each of these two Texans individually made the decision to let his beard grow out while on vacation, and when the two next met they liked the look so much they just stuck with it … forever. Drummer Frank Beard is unbearded (although he usually sports a mustache), which if you think about it is kind of legendary, too, considering the balls it takes to not grow a beard when the universe hands you the last name “Beard.” Suck it, universe – I’m gonna grow a mustache.
In 1984, Gillette offered Gibbons and Hill $1 million apiece to shave for an ad campaign, but that wasn’t even close to enough cash to convince them to dam the cascades of glory pouring out of their faces. “No dice,” they said. “We’re too ugly without ’em.”
9. Dimebag Darrell
“Dimebag” Darrell Abbott founded Pantera with his brother Vinnie Paul in 1981. As its lead guitarist, he first went by the stage name Diamond Darrell, only later adopting the Dimebag moniker. Pantera, easily one of the most influential ’90s metal bands, had to be permanently dissolved largely due to lead singer Phil Anselmo’s drug addiction, so the Abbott brothers moved on and founded Damageplan.
Damageplan surely would have gone on to make Pantera-size waves had Dimebag not been murdered during a concert in Columbus, Ohio, on Dec. 8, 2004. On that unfortunate day, a former Marine named Nathan Gale shot Dimebag three times in the head with a 9mm. In total, Gale killed four and wounded a few more before a police officer finally took him out with a single shotgun round.
Darrell had a kind, generous personality and was much-loved by both fans and the general public; the Dallas Observer called him “a man whose heart was the size of Texas.” It’s neat but not surprising that he was buried with Eddie Van Halen’s original 1979 yellow-and-black Charvel VH2 “Bumblebee” hybrid. Don’t bother trying to dig it up; Dimebag’s got it in the afterlife and he’s rockin’ with the devil.
8. Scott Ian
Next up for memorable beards in rock is the specimen found on Anthrax guitarist Scott Ian’s chin, a commanding presence during his performances. Ian used to dye it but now he lets the gray stay, which really lends distinction, we think. He wears it very well.
Ian has said there are better beards in metal, such as the ones owned by Zakk Wylde and Kerry King (both appear below). This was revealed in a metal beard showdown for Revolver TV in 2011, during which Ian told Wylde that “you and Kerry have me crushed, it’s not even close. I’ve got a chihuahua and you’ve got a rottweiler.”
But Ian’s infectious smile and charisma onstage make his chin piece twice as stellar as it would be without all that verve. And, if his 2014 Speaking Words tour is any indication, there’s a good chance it would be a serious contender for Best Beard in Spoken Word.
7. Zakk Wylde
Zakk Wylde has long sported a scruffy beard, often with a head of hair the good Lord himself would envy. It’s a fitting metal look, but it’s pretty classy as well – for example, look what happens when you pair it with a bowler hat.
Wylde got his big break as Ozzy Osbourne’s guitarist in 1988 (surprise: one of Wylde’s sons is named Sabbath) and later went on to found Black Label Society, in which he both sings lead vocals and plays his signature bull’s-eye guitar, “The Grail.”
You might not guess it, but Wylde does acoustic in addition to metal. He’s got a real sense of humor, too, as this interview with Pop-Break shows – think jokes about Viagra and steroids. And then there’s an entire song in which he’s wearing a horse mask, so yeah.
6. George Harrison
George Harrison, guitarist for a little band you’ve probably never heard of, wore a beard for a good chunk of his life. In 1966, he was the first Beatle to break away from the group’s boyish, clean-shaven look. Sure, Ringo Starr had experimented with a chinstrap, but that was before he joined the Beatles, so Harrison deserves the real credit for going full beardo before the rest of the crew. As it turned out, all four members ended up embracing their facial hairy side during the Sgt. Pepper sessions. Harrison’s wasn’t as full and mountain-manny as John Lennon’s, maybe, but he kept it going the longest. And in our humble opinion, his was simply more stylish.
If you’ve seen the film A Hard Day’s Night, you know about the shaving scene. In it, Harrison lathers up a mirror and gives a shaving tutorial, using the classic safety razor that every man who shaves should be using – instead of those multi-blade disposables we’ve been suckered into buying for years.
5. Jerry Garcia
“No band embodied the psychedelic rock era’s mind-expanding, counterculture vibe better than the Grateful Dead,” the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tells us. And of that band’s members perhaps none embodied the spirit of kindness better than Jerry Garcia.
The man known as Uncle Jerry didn’t have the luckiest of childhoods, losing most of his right middle finger at the age of 5 in a wood-chopping incident with his brother. That same year, his dad drowned in a fishing accident. But the loss of finger and father didn’t stop Jerry from becoming lead guitarist for The Grateful Dead, undeniably one of the most influential bands to spring from the ’60s hippie counterculture movement.
It’s probably no shock to hear that Uncle Jerry was also known as Captain Trips because he liked to go on trips. With LSD. And lots of other drugs. Way too many drugs, actually, which led to an intervention by the rest of the band members in 1985 and ultimately to a total breakdown in the form of a diabetic coma that completely wiped guitar-playing from his memory. Somehow, he and his beard were able to relearn the guitar in five months for a late 1986 performance return.
After Garcia passed away in 1995, no less than 25,000 gathered for his memorial at Golden Gate Park. Bob Dylan sums up public opinion concisely yet precisely, just as you’d expect a Nobel literature laureate to do: “There’s no way to measure his greatness or magnitude as a person or a player.”
Fun fact: You can still buy the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream flavor Cherry Garcia, released in 1987.
4. Kerry King
Dimebag, Zakk, and Scott’s beards are the stuff of legend, but it’s really hard to beat Slayer’s Kerry King when it comes to facial hair in the metal scene. Maybe it’s the way the guitarist braids his thick beard. Or maybe it’s all those tribal tattoos snaking down his arms and up his shaved skull.
Kerry cofounded Slayer in Los Angeles and has been with the band ever since, helping blaze a highly influential trail through metal’s darkest, hairiest places. People hated Slayer when they were first getting started. However, like true rockers they just kept rolling out the music. People hated them later when the ’90s transformed the rock scene, and metal right along with it, but they just kept rolling out music like they always had. And their dedication paid off. Today, Slayer is one of the “Big Four” in thrash, along with Metallica, Megadeath, and Anthrax.
Kerry didn’t always shave his head. When a fan asked him in an ESPN SportsNation interview if he didn’t “miss headbanging with all that hair,” Kerry responded with “Nah … I try to create movement with the beard and the chains,” referring of course to the several pounds of metal dangling from his waist during concerts.
As of right now, the other members of Slayer have kickass beards, too. Let’s hope to God they keep them.
3. Jim Morrison
Anti-establishment hero and Doors front man Jim Morrison wore a full beard for a couple years toward the end of his short, tumultuous life. A talented poet and singer, Morrison was a bit on the crazy side and had a reputation for being odd and unpredictable onstage. This is the guy who basically flipped off Ed Sullivan’s censors and sang that controversial “Light My Fire” lyric “Girl we couldn’t get much higher” on live TV, even though he and his band had agreed not to.
The king of orgasmic rock’s drug and alcohol addictions didn’t help in his frequent clashes with authority. For example, Morrison was arrested mid-concert in New Haven in 1967, and in 1969 his antics at a Miami show led to charges of lewd and lascivious behavior, profanity, drunkenness, and indecent exposure. Morrison denied he ever exposed himself, and he was actually pardoned for it posthumously in 2010.
According to his former bodyguard, Tony Funches, Morrison could “grow a full size Russian beard in two days”. However, it seems that his beard was more a sign of his slipping grip on reality than anything else. You see, after that ill-fated Miami concert he got shaggy-faced, gained some weight, and skipped town to Paris while on appeal. He died in a bathtub in 1971 under mysterious circumstances … or did he?
As fate would have it, Morrison was born on Dec. 8 – the calendar day of death for both John Lennon and Dimebag Darrell.
2. Shavo Odadjian
Like most works of art, Shavo Odadjian’s beard has its supporters and its detractors. Cracked sticks its neck out for the latter group, calling the poor thing a “chin whip” and spending a few paragraphs shredding it with words. In the same article, they tarnish the reputation of Scott Ian’s piece.
But Odadjian’s beard deserves a lot more respect than that. Although reminiscent of Kerry King’s facial hair, this braided creation takes a firm place on our list because, well, it really is unique. Thinner than Kerry’s but no less fearsome, the beard is 100% rock ‘n’ roll legend. It even has its own Urban Dictionary entry, which as we all know is a surefire indication of influence. And it’s also attached to the face of the only member of Armenian-American band System of a Down who was actually born in Armenia.
Odadjian was already wearing his signature beard before SOAD blew up in the late ’90s. In an interview with Metal Hammer in 2005, he revealed that he started growing it when he was 20 – and that his mom was originally not a fan.
“What is that? Cut it off,” she would say. Thankfully for rock, he didn’t.
1. Dave Grohl
Ex-Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl makes this list not only for having a great beard, but also for being widely considered the nicest man in rock. Grohl, who is known for talking at length with fans after concerts, once did a Reddit AMA. User Nigey_Nige asked, “HOW DO YOU GET YOUR BEARD SO LUSCIOUS”? To which Grohl responded “FISH OIL” (scream text original). So now we know.
Grohl’s beard gives him magical powers. In 2015 he fractured his leg during a concert in Gothenburg, Sweden, reportedly from a stage jump gone wrong. “I think I just broke my leg,” he said. But he made sure the crowd knew he’d still be finishing the set. “I’m gonna go to the hospital, I’m gonna fix my leg. But then I’m gonna come back, and we’re gonna play for you again”. After seeking medical treatment, he did in fact return. On a stretcher, accompanied by paramedics he proceeded to rock out for another two and a half hours.
The man behind “The Dave Grohl Effect” (“when a man looks far, far better when he has a beard”) has connections with other members of this list. Grohl wrote “Oh, George” about George Harrison for the Foo Fighters’ debut album; and Billy Gibbons, whom Grohl considers the owner of the best beard in rock.
So there you have the Rugged Rebels top 10 beards of rock ‘n’ roll. Was it a definitive list? No. A good list? We think so, and we hope you thought so, too. If you enjoyed it, check back soon to see who we pick for alternative and country. If you didn’t enjoy it, may your beard oil run dry and your facial hair wither.
Thanks for reading, and if you think we missed someone obvious, let us know in the comments!