The title is meant to read Weird Al, Dexter, and Greg Graffin; as in ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, the accordion player and parody musician, Dexter Holland, the lead singer of the band The Offspring, and Greg Graffin, lead singer of the band Bad Religion. However, when I dictated the information to my phone, the above title is what greeted me in an email subject line. At the time, I was thinking about musicians who also have doctorate degrees. I had known Greg Graffin and Dexter Holland had Ph.D.’s. I assumed ‘Weird Al’ had one, but he doesn’t. However, he did graduate as the Valedictorian of his high school at the age of sixteen and has an architecture degree. Graffin has a Ph.D. in Zoology and used to teach at U.C.L.A. In fact, Bad Religion would schedule their tours around his teaching schedule. He also co-authored a book titled Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant? A Professor and Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism & Christianity based on email correspondence and philosophical debate with Preston Jones, a historian at the Christian John Brown University. Holland has a Ph.D. in Molecular Biology. He co-authored a paper, titled “Identification of Human MicroRNA-Like Sequences Embedded within the Protein-Encoding Genes of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.” He’s also a hot sauce impresario, created “Gringo Bandito” hot sauce, and happens to be Tom Holland’s nephew. Not the Tom Holland who most recently portrayed Spiderman, but a writer/director who either wrote or directed the films Cloak and Dagger, Child’s Play, and a personal favorite, the original Fright Night.
Once I had descended this rabbit hole, I grew curious as to whether other musicians have doctorate degrees. I found this during my subsequent research: Gregg Turner, of Angry Samoans, has a Ph.D. in mathematics. Sterling Morrison, of The Velvet Underground, has a Ph.D. in Medieval Literature. He also worked as a tugboat captain. Robert A. Leonard of Sha Na Na has Ph.D. in linguistics and has consulted on cases for the FBI. Milo Aukerman, of The Descendents, has a Ph.D. in Biochemistry. One of the albums released by The Descendents is titled “Milo Goes to College.” Brian May, of the band Queen, has a Ph.D. in Astrophysics. He also built his own guitar called “Red Special” with his father when he had been sixteen. Runhild Gammelsæter, of Thorr’s Hammer and Khylst, has a PhD in Cellular Biology. Michael Bishop, of the band Gwar, has Ph.D. in music. Bill Bruford of Yes, also has a Ph.D. in music.
During one of my favorite scenes on the television show The Venture Brothers, Bruford is mentioned during a conversation in which Dr. Venture, a super scientist, introduces his son Dean to progressive rock. As Dean listens to an album from Yes, Dr. Venture says
“No air drumming this time. Bruford can change the timing up so fast you can snap your wrists.”
Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t add actor/director Peter Weller to the list. Aside from portraying Robocop and Buckaroo Banzai, he has a Ph.D. in Italian Renaissance History. His dissertation was “Alberti Before Florence: Early Sources Informing Leon Battista Alberti’s De pictura.”
The only thing I know about Leon Batista Alberti, I learned from the movie Renaissance Man with Danny DeVito, in which DeVito claims Leon Batista Alberti could execute a broad jump and clear a standing person without hitting them. I would try to work some of this trivia into my lesson plans, or it would naturally find its way into conversation. One year, during parent’s night, when I was teaching high school rather than answer questions, I made a video presentation. One of the photos listed my accomplishments, and I referred to a joke from the film A League of Her Own, in which I wrote even with all of my accolades, my mother still refers to her children as “my son Adam, a doctor, and this is my other son, Adam’s brother.” Of course, this is not true, but it played well.
Perhaps I should research if there’s a Ph.D. in film trivia?
Andrew Davie has worked in theater, finance, and education. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant and has survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. He has published short stories at various places, a chapbook with The Daily Drunk, crime fiction novellas with All Due Respect and Close to the Bone, and an upcoming memoir. His other work can be found in links on his website https://andrew-davie.com/