The untold truth of Dave Grohl

As front man of the Foo Fighters, Dave Grohl is one of the few artists in music history to enjoy sustained success and popularity for more than two decades. He's such a talented songwriter, guitarist, and singer, one could almost forget his five brief, but extremely influential years, as the drummer of Nirvana. Well, okay, nobody is ever going to forget that, but such is the awesomeness of Grohl.

And yet, despite being this famous for this long, there's still a lot about the man's past that goes under-reported. Here are some things you may not have known, or forgotten, about King Foo.

He could have been a real Heartbreaker

Widely recognized as one of the best drummer of his generation, Dave Grohl was in high demand after the sudden, tragic breakup of Nirvana, following the suicide of Kurt Cobain. He soon found himself linked with not one, but two of the biggest vacancies in music at the time.

First was obviously Nirvana, but the second was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. In 1994, Petty was in desperate need of a guy behind the kit, after the departure of original drummer Stan Lynch. Grohl auditioned and, just to up the pressure, the audition was the Heartbreakers' appearance on Saturday Night Live. Grohl, as you might expect, killed it, and Petty later offered Grohl a permanent job. He turned it down, out of a want to do his own music. You know you're awesome when you can say no to the chance to work with Tom Petty, and it was the right move.

The first Foo Fighters album was very much a solo project

After getting off the road with the Heartbreakers, Grohl booked some time at Robert Lang Studios in Seattle, to lay down demos for songs he'd written. Grohl wound up recording an entire album, and he did it about 99.9 percent by himself. He played every instrument on every song, except for a single guitar part on the song "X-Static," contributed by his friend Greg Dulli of the Afghan Whigs.

The demo was solid, but Grohl wanted to stay anonymous and keep "Foo Fighters" and anonymous thing as well. But fate had something different in mind — to help that something along the A&R guy who had signed Nirvana to Geffen, Gary Gersh, had since become president of Capitol Records. Grohl got a record deal, and the first, self-titled album by Foo Fighters (a World War II-era term for UFOs—Grohl was reading a lot of books about such things at the time) was released in the summer of 1995.

Of course, Grol isn't a ten-armed, ten-legged god, so to replicate the songs live, he had to hire a band. He recruited former Nirvana touring guitarist (and ex-member of legendary punk band The Germs) Pat Smear, along with two Seattle musicians: bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith of the just-disbanded Sunny Day Real Estate.

It's not easy being the drummer in his band

Despite being one of the best drummers in the world, Grohl primarily sings and plays guitar in Foo Fighters. That means some poor guy has to play drums in front of Dave Grohl everyday. That's a lot of pressure, and it was too much for original Foos drummer William Goldsmith to take. While recording the band's second album The Color and the Shape in early-1997, Grohl just wasn't getting the right sound from Goldsmith. He reportedly required 96 takes for just one song, and 13 hours worth of takes on another.

But hey, they finished the album! … or at least, Goldsmith thought they had. That's because Grohl went ahead and re-recorded a lot of the drum parts. In fact, he only kept Goldsmith's work on two tracks. Shortly thereafter, a frustrated Goldsmith left the band, to be replaced with Alanis Morissette's touring drummer, Taylor Hawkins, who's still around, so either he's as good as Grohl, or really good at putting up with billions of takes just to nail the snare.

He plays the guitar like a drum set

Not only did Grohl play nearly every guitar part on the first Foo Fighters album, the erstwhile drum god had to teach himself to play guitar, too. Grohl never had any sort of formal guitar training, even admitting to Rolling Stone that he still doesn't know what chords he's playing on songs like "Everlong." You know, one of their three most famous songs ever?

But it works for him, because of how he plays the guitar. Basically, he mastered the six-string by approaching it like a set of drums. As he explained to Rolling Stone, "The low E string is the kick drum. The A and D strings are snares. The G, B, and high E are the cymbals." Honestly, looking at it that way makes playing a guitar seem a lot more simple. Plus, it provides insight into just how melodic his drumming really was, and still is.

He used to be a bit of a cad in the romance department

Grohl has been married to his wife, Jordyn Blum, since 2003, and they have three daughters together. His romantic life hasn't always been so rosy, however. He was in a high-profile alternative rock royalty relationship in 1998 with Louise Post of Veruca Salt … until he dumped her via long-distance phone call, simply because he wanted to hook up with Winona Ryder. What's sadder: Post got the call right before a Veruca concert, and she got so drunk, she could barely play.

Those bad romances came in the wake of Grohl's first marriage, which ended in divorce in 1997. Grohl acknowledges that his split with his first wife, Jennifer Youngblood, was because of his own infidelities. But it also led to another, more platonic, split. Foo Fighters guitarist Pat Smear is very good friends with Youngblood. When the divorce happened, he sided with Youngblood—so much so, that he left the Foo Fighters for a few years. He later returned, because music wins out over all.

He loves reaching out to other musicians

As a member of Them Crooked Vultures, with John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin and Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age, Dave Grohl knows supergroups. But if we're talking supergroups, let's talk about one of the biggest rock assemblages of all time.

In 2015, an Italian man named Fabio Zaffagnini organized a project called the Rockin' 1000—a thousand guitarists got together and played the same song, all at once: Foo Fighters' 1999 hit "Learn to Fly." Grohl (in his best attempt at Italian) posted a thank-you video on the Foo Fighters' Facebook page … and then showed up for a concert in Zaffagnini's hometown of Cesena, Italy a few months later. What's more, he invited members of the Rockin' 1000 up on the stage for the band's performance of "Learn to Fly."

He's got a fan for life in David Letterman

Foo Fighters are one of the few bands in recent memory that transcend genre or demographics—it seems like everybody loves them, even grumpy old David Letterman. In 2015, he invited the band to be the last-ever musical guest on his last-ever Late Show. He had but one request: play their 1997 hit "Everlong."

So why the Foos, and why "Everlong"? Because, as Letterman said, "these people saved [his] life." He explained that "Everlong" was his favorite song, and it helped keep him happy and inspired while he recovered from heart surgery in 2000. Moreover, when Letterman asked the band to play his first show back after his bypass surgery, they cancelled a bunch of tour dates to honor his request.

He was exceptionally cool to a couple of trapped miners

The Beaconsfield mine collapse in Tasmania made headlines around the world in 2006, as two miners were trapped underground. Rescue teams were able to pass down food and objects of comfort through a narrow hole to the two men — one of them, Brant Webb requested an iPod loaded up with the Foo Fighters album In Your Honor.

Grohl heard about this, and actually penned a note that was read to the miners later on. It read, "My heart is with you both, and I want you to know that when you come home, there's two tickets to any Foos show, anywhere, and two cold beers waiting for you. Deal?"

This already-happy story has a very happy ending: In October 2007, the Foo Fighters capped a concert at the Sydney Opera House in Australia with backstage beers with Webb and his wife. Grohl had another gift for the miners: He wrote them an instrumental piece called "Ballad of the Beaconsfield Miners," and it appeared on the Foo Fighters album Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace.

He's got legitimate comedy chops

Grohl drums, he plays guitar, he sings … and he's pretty funny, too. Foo Fighters videos are usually comedic—the Mentos parody of "Big Me," or the accidental drugging of a flight crew by Jack Black and Kyle Gass of Tenacious D in "Learn to Fly," for example. Grohl and Black are actually friends and frequent collaborators—Grohl once spent seven hours in the makeup chair to play a gigantic, terrifying Satan called "Beelzeboss" in the Tenacious D movie The Pick of Destiny.

One other Black/Grohl joint that you probably haven't seen is the 2003 video for the Foos song "Low," because MTV banned it for content. It features Black and Grohl as a couple of good ol' country boys who check into a hotel room, get drunk, wreck the place, and then put on women's clothing and have a torrid night of passionate lovemaking, which is all caught on a night-vision camera, Paris Hilton-style. It's available online — up to you if you want to subject yourself to it.

He had a long, ugly feud with Courtney Love, but it's over now

After the death of Kurt Cobain and the end of Nirvana, there was no love lost between Grohl and Cobain's widow, Courtney Love. For 20 years, Grohl and Love took turns leveling shots at each other in public—Grohl called Love an "ugly f***ing b*tch" during a concert in 2002, and Love said Grohl has been "taking money from my child for years." Love also once claimed that Grohl tried to romance that very child, Frances Bean Cobain. Grohl didn't even dignify that one with a response.

The fighting extended to the courtroom. In 2001, Love sued Grohl over Nirvana song rights — the other surviving Nirvana member, Krist Novoselic, then countersued, remarking that Love was acting purely out of a need "to further her own career goals, not to protect Cobain's legacy as she claims." Another suit in 2002 involved Love unsuccessfully trying to block the release of an old, unfinished Nirvana track called "You Know You're Right."

Legal matters were later settled — in recent years, actually, the hostility has subsided to the point where Grohl and Love actually seem to be friends. They even embraced when Nirvana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014. What got them talking again was simply the softening and wisdom that comes with age — oh, and lady parts. During an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Love says that she and Grohl became chummy again, after a discussion of an unnamed actress who they both agreed had "the sexiest boobs in Hollywood."

That, more than anything else, might be the most rock star thing Dave Grohl has ever done.

His dad was the campaign manager for President Taft's grandson

Grohl's life wasn't all head-banging and killing it on the drums. He grew up in Virginia in a modest home. His parents weren't musicians or rock aficionados. His mom taught English, and his dad worked closely with local Republican politicians.

James Grohl ended up writing speeches and running the campaign of Senator Robert Taft Jr. The Senator came from a long line of politicians. His father, Robert Sr., was known as "Mr. Republican," and his grandfather was President of the United States. Yes, Dave Grohl's dad worked with the lineage of our nation's fattest president.

James Grohl worked for years with Taft and even wrote for the Republican National Convention. After Taft finally lost his Senate seat, Grohl was offered a position working for Bob Dole. He turned it down, which worked fine for Grohl since Dole went on to lose a vice-presidential bid and later get killed by Clinton in the 1996 Presidential election. Though Dave Grohl was always liberal and his father a staunch conservative, it didn't cause too many family quarrels.

Dave Grohl hit up Ian MacKaye for contact info in a fan letter when he was 14

Always a huge music fan, Grohl wanted to reach out to his idols at a young age. Ian MacKaye, the punk icon who fronted Minor Threat and Fugazi, was one of Grohl's favorites. So, at 14, he sent him a fan letter. But Grohl, even as a young teen, wasn't going to put out some sappy, butt-kissing fanboy letter in the mail. Grohl was too practical.

The fan letter read, "Good thrash. So I was wondering if you could give me some numbers of people to get in touch with. It would help. Thanx." Simple. To the point. All business. Grohl even left his phone number and specific hours in which to call (3-10). If MacKaye wanted to hit him up at 8am, that wasn't going to work for teenage Grohl.

Ian MacKaye kept the letter all these years. Wonder how many other future rock stars' signatures he has in his old fan mail?

He broke rocks for a living in Virginia

Though Grohl had rock aspirations from a young age, he wound up in the rock industry before getting into the music business. Literally. Grohl worked manual labor at a nursery in Virginia where he had to physically break rocks all day. Though he was playing drums at the time, he didn't think it could be a career.

Grohl told Rolling Stone, "At one point, I thought, 'I know how to play drums. I'll learn to read music, become a session drummer and from that money, I'll put myself back through school." Then he could move up to his real dream, getting a regular job in Washington DC. Thankfully, Grohl committed to music, and though he may never sit at a desk in DC, he's still done pretty well for himself.

Dave Grohl wasn't Nirvana's first drummer

Grohl was around for Nirvana's breakout success but wasn't the first drummer. He was the sixth. First was Bob McFadden, seldom spoken of in Nirvana history. Then came Aaron Burckhard, Dale Crover, and Dave Foster. For two years, Chad Channing stuck around but was replaced by Mudhoney drummer Dan Peters.

When Grohl auditioned, Peters didn't know he was potentially being replaced. But Grohl impressed the band with his maniacally energized performance with the band Scream and brought the heat again when he came to audition privately. Grohl didn't even need to finish his first song before the band knew he was the perfect fit. Cobain gave Peters a call to tell him he'd no longer be in the band. It came as a surprise since weeks earlier, they were planning their European tour. Cobain wasn't much clearer with Grohl's happy news: "I don't remember them saying 'you're in the band.' We just continued." It's worth noting that Kurt Cobain was a big fan of cocaine.

He still lived on a futon after Nirvana got huge

When Nirvana hit it big, it was insane. Though the band had been working for years, their incredible success came practically overnight. But the sudden influx of cash didn't change Grohl. He told Rolling Stone, "When Nirvana got popular, I was renting a house with a friend. I had a futon, a lamp and a dresser for my clothes. Ten million records later, I was still in that back room with the futon, lamp, and dresser."

By now, Grohl has moved on to owning an actual mattress but never went crazy with rock 'n' roll purchases. He owns quite a few guitars, a nice house, but no golden Grohl statues or a parade of fancy cars. Grohl says he doesn't like having tons of things around. "I don't know what else to do." He says. "I get lost."

Kurt Cobain almost didn't let Grohl play MTV's Unplugged

Though Grohl was the only drummer that Cobain was really happy with, it didn't mean they always got along. In rehearsals for MTV's Unplugged, Cobain didn't like Grohl's drumming. Not one to hold back, Grohl was a little loud for the intimate setting, and the lead singer almost banned Grohl from the show completely.

Instead of kicking Grohl out of the studio, producer Alex Coletti got him a pair of swizzle sticks and wire brushes. Though those both sound like some kind of candy making tools, they're drum sticks that allow the drummer to play softer without losing intensity. Grohl accepted his new tools and played the show without a hitch.

Grohl made a solo tape before Nirvana

While in Nirvana, Grohl didn't get a chance to do much songwriting or figure out what his solo musical voice could be. But before Nirvana, Grohl played around with being his own band. Grohl would record drum tracks with a friend on an old 8-track player and decided to try recording a whole song—drums, bass, guitar, and vocals—on his own.

That song led to an offer to record his own album on a small cassettes-only label called Simple Machines, run by Jenny Toomey. "When she asked me if I wanted to do it," he says, "I said, yeah, sure, but I don't want to call it the Dave Grohl Band. Let's call it something else. Oh, I called it Late!, because I'm an idiot and I thought it would be funny to say to everybody, 'Sorry, we're Late!'"

Those tracks, plus a few more recorded in 1991, made up the one and only album from Late!, Pocketwatch. It was released a year after Nevermind. The label was so small, Toomey had to copy tapes from a double decker boom box at her house whenever supplies of Pocketwatch ran low.

The album had a small following at the time, but the work was great practice for Grohl's eventual one-man recording of the first Foo Fighters album. Though it may have been hard to grab a cassette of Pocketwatch back in the day, you can hear it in its entirety on YouTube.

Foo Fighters stopped playing "Big Me" in concert because of Mentos

"Big Me" is still one of the best music videos of all time. The sweet song provides the background to a bunch of hilarious Mentos parody ads (if you don't remember Mentos ads, take a look at their corny genius).

Sadly, people took the video a little too seriously and thought it would be cool to chuck Mentos at the stage whenever the band played "Big Me" live. Grohl said, "Every time we played it, it would just start raining Mentos, and them motherf*****s hurt." After years of playing the song, the Mentos shower didn't stop. "We did a show in Canada and, in the middle of the song, someone threw a pack, and it hit me right in the face. I was so pissed, I picked it up and said, 'It's been 10 f***ing years since that video.'" So, the fervent fans ruined it for everyone and now the band refuses to play the song live. Thanks a lot, Mentos!

Zac Brown gave him a huge knife at the Grammys

If you go to the Grammys, you figure you might pick up an award or a gift basket, but probably not a huge knife from a country singer.

Around 2012, Grohl met Zac Brown for the first time. Grohl was working on a project where he recorded things all around the nation, and Brown volunteered up his Nashville studio if Grohl ever wanted to check it out. They exchanged numbers, and that night, Brown texted, "Also, if you're into tactical knives, I can hook you up." Quite a segue from two musicians talking about studio space, but nice of Brown to offer up his knowledge.

Grohl wasn't too enthused about learning more about the world of dangerous knives and texted back, "I can't wait to see you, but don't be bringing that s**t to the GRAMMYs, they'll never let you in the front door." Low and behold, the next night in the audience of the Grammys, Brown sat right in front of Grohl and handed him a great big knife. All in plain view of TV cameras and famous musicians. But neither Grohl nor Brown got arrested, so we can assume Grohl now has a pretty sweet knife is his possession.

He lives in Encino, a place he once called "where rock stars come to die"

If you came across Dave Grohl's home today, you'd probably be surprised. Though it's a fairly large home, it certainly doesn't compare to celebrity mansions in Beverly Hills. There are no guards, gates or high fences. In fact, there's a little sign out front that simply says: "The Grohls."

It's even more surprising that Grohl has such a simple family home in the Los Angeles area because he used to hate the place. "It's kind of funny for a while," he said, "then annoying, then depressing, finally it gets terrifying because you start wondering if these people are rubbing off on you. It's like one giant frenzy of aspiration and lies."

Today, Grohl doesn't technically live in Los Angeles but Encino, about 15 miles away from the city. Still, he didn't think much of the suburb either. He used to describe Encino as a town where "porn stars become grocery clerks and rock stars come to die." He clearly changed his tune because Grohl hasn't gone anywhere to die. He has a small studio in his home and owns a larger studio about ten minutes away.

He couldn't bear to watch Montage of Heck

Montage of Heck is an in-depth, family-approved documentary of Kurt Cobain's life. But Grohl was not first in line to see it. His wife turned on the film while he was lying in bed and Grohl couldn't stand to watch it.

"All the footage of him as a child, I think might make me sad, and then the dark stuff at the end I think would bum me out," he said. Though he did watch a little piece of it, he quickly rolled over and went to bed rather than watch the fall of his good friend.

His mom wrote a book about being a rock star mom

Virginia Grohl, Dave's mom, decided to talk about the life of the Grohls from a mother's perspective. Titled From the Cradle to the Stage, the book recalls memories of Dave's childhood, growing stardom, and interviewed other parents of rock star kids. You get a pretty good mix of stories in her interviews with the parents of HAIM, Michael Stipe, and Dr. Dre.

Grohl wrote a sweet message on Instagram to his mother as her book debuted. "Every Musician remembers his first lesson. … Mine? Well … there was no classroom, no conservatory. No sheet music or baton. No … It was in the front seat of a beige Ford Maverick, rolling through Springfield, Virginia, on a sweltering hot summer day in 1975. My teacher? My Mother. Ms. Virginia Hanlon Grohl."