Jon Huntsman, Governor, Ambassador, Dropout Keyboardist for a Band Called Wizard

CHANGSHA, CHINA - FEBRUARY 10: (CHINA OUT) U.S. Ambassador To China Jon Huntsman Jr. talks to the media at Hunan University on February 10, 2011 in Changsha, Hunan Province of China. Received invitation form Hunan province, U.S. Ambassador To China Jon Huntsman Jr. and his delegation, a total of 11, visit Hunan for the first time from February 9 to 10. (Photo by ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images) Photo: ChinaFotoPress/2011 Getty Images

Now we know why Jon Huntsman just happened to walk by a pro-democracy rally in Beijing sporting a black leather jacket: his rebel attitude. Before becoming governor of Utah or ambassador to China or a potential GOP presidential nominee, young Jonny was more rock and roll than Republican. According to a revelatory profile in Politico, Huntsman decided to drop out his senior year of high school to join a prog-rock band called, we kid you not, Wizard. One of two Mormons in the band, Huntsman practiced original numbers and REO Speedwagon covers for five hours a day in a converted radio station on the edge of town. Nine years later, he would go on to graduate from Wharton, work for the family plastics conglomerate, and follow the straight and narrow into government. But for those no doubt glorious lost years, Huntsman couldn't fight that feeling anymore.

Huntsman caught his bandmates' eye partly for his family wealth — he could help them buy new equipment — but also for his wardrobe:

They were taken by his chops and his striking, quiet stage presence in the era’s trademark garb: long hair, open shirt, tight pants.

Before Wizard's guitar player and bass player left the "Zion Curtain" to make it big in L.A., Huntsman straddled the very thick line between Mormon and badass:

“Jon was very good at being in between - he was faithful to his faith from everything I can see - but he also would go out and hang with guys, and maybe not partake in things,” he said, recalling that two of their bandmates were “very active in drugs.”

“I never saw him inhale,” he said, a recollection Sharp [the other Mormon in the band] seconded.

Even now, Huntsman, who refuses to rule out a presidential bid in 2012, finds himself straddling two worlds. As governor he jammed with REO Speedwagon and Styx at the Utah State Fair. He even paged Sharp, now in medicine, about a "rock and roll emergency" when the Foo Fighters came to town. If Republicans can swallow the "I didn't inhale" argument from one of their own — and overlook the Obama connection and his embrace of civil unions — then Politico might actually have made him more appealing. Unless of course Wizard's lost studio sessions resurface and the public has to hear the man who would be president play his specialty: a solo in “Roll With the Changes."

Jon Huntsman, the rock 'n' roll years [Politico]
Related: In the Hunt [NYM]