Hello and welcome to our second entry of 2021 here at the “Church of Christ Celebrities” blog! In case you missed the previous entry on Clarence Darrow, you can find it here. Readers might also be interested in last month’s entry on my other blog, which dips into some territory quite similar to what you can find on this page.
At any rate, this month’s topic was suggested to me by a friend and regular reader of the blog, who mentioned having heard a rumor that Tré Cool, drummer of Green Day, had briefly attended Harding University. He noted his own skepticism of the rumor, but as a Green Day fan and the operator of this blog, I felt duty-bound to investigate. (Also, I just wanted to.)
For the uninitiated, Green Day is a long-running punk band based out of California consisting primarily of singer and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong, bassist Mike Dirnt, and drummer Tré Cool. Green Day’s early major label releases, such as Dookie and Nimrod, did much to bring punk and pop-punk music to wider audiences, and it was their 2004 rock opera American Idiot and the 2009 follow-up 21st Century Breakdown which brought them continued acclaim from a younger generation. The band is one of the best-selling acts of all time and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.
As mentioned above, the rumor we are setting out to investigate today is whether Cool (originally born Frank Edwin Wright III) attended Harding University at any point. To put it mildly, there is not a whole lot of evidence to go on regarding Cool’s early years, but we’ll see what we can come up with.
First, Ross Raihala compiled a helpful Green Day chronology in 2012 which gives us a Cliffs Notes-esque overview of how the band came together. Raihala notes that in 1987, Armstrong and Dirnt met “a young drummer who had already changed his name from Frank Edwin Wright III to Tre Cool.” Raihala also mentions that by the end of 1990, Cool had “become the band’s full-time drummer.” (1) Although this doesn’t tell us anything about the band members’ educational pursuits, it does at least help us narrow down a timeline for when they might have been in school.
Next, Ben Myers’s Green Day: American Idiots & The New Punk Explosion tells us a bit about Cool’s/Wright’s experiences in high school. Myers writes that Cool…
…was proving a popular pupil at school, an energetic practical joker and endless wise-cracker. He was intelligent too, but didn’t always find it easy to sit still long enough. He too was bored with routine and eager to play more music at all costs. There was only so much an education could teach him and frustrated by his high school’s traditional methods, he sat and passed a graduate equivalency exam at a local community college, and also left high school forever. (2)
Cool’s Wikipedia page adds that “He began taking classes at a local community college but would again drop out as the band became a more time-consuming priority.” (3) There is no citation for the claim, but it seems reasonable given Cool’s musical commitments in California. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any information about which community college it might have been, but in any event, it was likely not the Arkansas-based Harding University, meaning that the rumor does not seem to have any substance to it–which is what we expected, after all.
However, there are more connections between Green Day and Arkansas than one might initially expect. Although none of the core trio of members (Armstrong, Cool, and Dirnt) is an Arkansan, two other musicians who have been connected to the band at various times–guitarists Jason White and Jeff Matika–are natives of Little Rock. An article by Sean Clancy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette tells the story of how White and Matika became connected with the group despite the seeming geographical disparities. (4)
That brings this entry to a close, but as always, thanks for checking in with the blog, and be sure to do so again in a month’s time!
(1) Ross Raihala, “Green Day struts the Great White Way,” Pioneer Press, February 15, 2012, updated November 10, 2015, accessed December 28, 2020, https://www.twincities.com/2012/02/15/green-day-struts-the-great-white-way/ .
(2) Ben Myers, Green Day: American Idiots & The New Punk Explosion (New York: The Disinformation Company Ltd., 2006), 58.
(3) “Tré Cool,” Wikipedia, updated December 17, 2020, accessed December 28, 2020, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tr%C3%A9_Cool .
(4) Sean Clancy, “With two members who call Little Rock home, Green Day rocks and rolls into Verizon Arena,” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 7, 2017, accessed December 28, 2020, https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2017/mar/07/homegrown-and-green-20170307/ .