This week, we are exploring the Republican candidates and their relationship to music: the music they like; the music they play at their events; the music that has been written about them; the music that is unfortunately associated with them. We call it Grand Old Party Jams.


The Republican presidential candidate field is packed with men and a woman jockeying to set themselves apart. And whether they come from the crowded House or can boastfully claim that all their exes live in Texas, nearly every candidate has at one point been involved in making music, had a weird concert experience, or discussed their love of music to some degree.

Let's go to the tape:

1. John Kasich

As we touched on earlier, Kasich was once kicked off the stage at a Grateful Dead concert in 1991, back when he was a congressman. He had been invited to the concert as a guest of opener Dwight Yoakam, and tried to sidle his way onto the stage when the Dead came on. Attendees present at the concert described Kasich as “obnoxious,” “disruptive,” and “yelling.”


2. Carly Fiorina

Before heading off to UCLA law school, Carly Fiorina once toyed with the idea of becoming a concert pianist. She eventually landed at another keyboard, settling in tech and rising to become the CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Computers and printers continue to give her trouble.


3. Jim Gilmore

"All I did in high school was play music," Gilmore said. And what kind of music did Gilmore play in high school?


Apparently: The clarinet. Gilmore was a big old clarinet-head back in the 1960s. Gilmore quit music because he didn't get a solo part in the All-Student USA Band. From a 1999 Washington Post profile:

"This guy [who got the solo part] was so effortless, because he was truly gifted," Gilmore recalls. And he realized that he would never be that good, or even close. For Jim Gilmore, that was the day the music died.


4. Ben Carson

Ben Carson has made his reputation as an extremely well-educated and professionally accomplished surgeon. In his autobiography Gifted Hands, Carson reveals that as a child he took clarinet lessons and later switched to coronet. He learned to love classical music after being introduced to it by his brother. He became a self-described expert in the genre which he thought would also help him achieve his dream of appearing on the NBC quiz show College Bowl. Even though he never made it onto that show, he "was hooked." He used to listen to classical music during surgical procedures, too, apparently because life is like the movies.


5. Ted Cruz

"I stopped listening to rock music after 9/11." Cruz, who grew up on classic rock like all good Canadians,  apparently did not like the way that rock music as a whole responded to the September 11th attacks. According to Politico:

In an interview Tuesday on “CBS This Morning,” the Texas senator told his TV hosts that he “grew up listening to classic rock” but that that soon changed.

“My music taste changed on 9/11,” Cruz said.

“I actually intellectually find this very curious, but on 9/11, I didn’t like how rock music responded,” he said. “And country music, collectively, the way they responded, it resonated with me.”


Maybe Cruz started liking country because he just couldn't find the rock and roll on the radio.

6. Mike Huckabee

Huckabee's been playing guitar for years and once played "Cat Scratch Fever" with Ted Nugent.

"Well, I make the pussy purr with the stroke of my hand/
They know they gettin' it from me/
They know just where to go when they need their lovin' man/
They know I'm doin' it for free/"


Huckabee is the family values candidate and thinks that Beyonce, a married mother, is a bad influence.

7. Donald Trump

Not much is known about The Donald in this regard, except that he served on the Fall and Ring Hop committees his senior year of high school.


His duties presumably including deciding on a band or DJ to spin records for the dances at his all-boys military school that did not allow female students until 1975.


Trump also inspired Mac Miller to pen this aspirational tune in 2011.

8. Rand Paul

In a 2014 episode of Saturday Night Live, a sketch premiered skewering the GOPs attempts to relate to young people by appearing at Coachella. In the sketch, "Rand Paul" hopped on the ones and twos as DJ Rand Paul with the line "Here's something for the NSA to listen to" before dropping a sound bite that said "Not my president."


The real Rand Paul took to Twitter under the hashtag #DJRandPaul and sent out song requests that served as pump-up music and policy stances for NINE HOURS. And then he did it again a couple months later. A sampling from both instances.





9. Jeb Bush

There is only one picture of Jeb's wedding to Columba, his wife of 41 years. Earlier this year, he explained why on Facebook: His wedding-photographer-and-brother Marvin re-used film he had used to shoot a Frank Zappa concert, ruining the film and making the pictures unusable. Marvin recounted the story in sister Dorothy Bush Koch's book My Father, My President.

"Every single photo of the Bush and Garnica families had either a photo of Frank Zappa and/or  members of his band, the Mothers of Invention, superimposed onto [pictures of the wedding guests]. I remember thinking to myself that a Frank Sinatra photo may have been acceptable—not Frank Zappa."

"I submitted a picture of the bride and groom (yes, with Zappa) in an art show at school. I called the picture something clever like “Zappa’s Bride” and won third prize in the photography category."


We wish Marvin was the one running for president. He seems cool.

10. Chris Christie

Christie saw Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, he claims, in 1975 at Seton Hall University.


There's a bootleg of the show, in which Christie may or may not be heard belting out "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight") with other fans.

Christie claims to have seen over 130 Springsteen concerts.

As a special contribution to a 2012 Atlantic profile, Christie provided the magazine with his top ten tracks by The Boss. It's ok.


The left-leaning Springsteen has a long history of not acknowledging Christie's worship, though the two did hug in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which caused Christie to weep.

In July, Christie claimed that he was a bigger fan of Bon Jovi.

Christie holds out hope the two can become friends.

11. Bobby Jindal

Jindal was inspired to convert to Christianity at a gospel concert. According to The Advocate:

One night, Jindal accepted his best friend’s invitation to attend a Christian musical at LSU’s Chapel on the Campus. There, during the performance, he would write years later, he was overcome by the spiritual music and film images depicting Christ’s crucifixion. There, he wrote, “God chose that moment to reveal Himself to me.”


12. Marco Rubio

He raps. According to the Washington Post:

"Young staffers on Rubio’s 2010 Senate campaign marveled that he could “spit” lyrics of hip-hop songs. He has praised N.W.A., Tupac Shakur, Eminem and many others. In 2013, Rubio quoted Jay Z during a filibuster over the Obama administration’s drone policy: “It’s funny what seven days can change. It was all good just a week ago.”


Rubio has probably already bought his tickets to the NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton because his love for rap and hip hop seemingly knows no limits. However, he remains weak on the Wu Tang Clan issue.

13. Rick Perry

Perry can play the piano. According to his own Flickr account:


In 2005, Perry played the drums along with ZZ Top at Bush's second inaugural.


Perry is also a close personal friend to Ted "Obama can suck my machine gun" Nugent.

Kent Hernandez/Fusion


The time Eazy-E trolled a bunch of Republicans by eating lunch with them

All of the bands that have told GOP candidates to stop using their music (so far)

We asked hip-hop experts what they thought of this rap tribute to Ted Cruz

Ranked: The entrance music of the GOP candidates, from worst to best

The time John Kasich got kicked out of a Grateful Dead concert

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