8 TV stars from the 1980s who recorded one-hit-wonder pop songs

Tracey Ullman, Bruce Willis, Max Headroom and "Bo Duke" were big singers, too.

There was a point in time in Hollywood, when stars on television were given record deals without a thought. If you were a household name thanks to some sitcom or Western, there was a studio and engineer awaiting you at your leisure. A record deal was just a perk at working for a studio, like dental. It seemed as if they left contracts stacked up by the catering table. Even Scott Baio recorded not one, but two full-lenth albums.

But there is a difference between releasing a novelty tune and genuine pop smash. It is the difference between Vicki Lawrence's "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" and Leonard Nimoy's "The Ballad Of Bilbo Baggins."

The following actors were all icons of the 1980s. These small screen stars also managed to crack the Billboard charts — all of them, save one, made the Top 40 of the pop charts. Let's take a look and listen.

1. John Schneider - "It's Now or Never"


Best known as Bo Duke on The Dukes of Hazzard, Schneider did far more than holler "Yee-haw!" on this throwback Elvis cover. There's a touch of the King in his voice as he croons over the slick country shuffle. The track glided all the way to No. 14 in 1981.

Image: CBS / Discogs

2. Jack Wagner - "All I Need"


On General Hospital, "Frisco Jones" became the singer of the fictional band Blackie and the Riff Raff. Turns out, the actor behind Frisco tried his hand at rock stardom, too. While Wagner was acting on the soap, he cut this glossy arena ballad. It soared to No. 2 in 1985. Only Madonna's "Like a Virgin" could keep it from the top.

Image: Qwest Records / Discogs

3. Tracey Ullman - "They Don't Know"


She gave the world the Simpsons on her pioneering Fox sitcom. A few years earlier, the British comic revived the girl group sounds of the 1960s with the deliciously old-school "They Don't Know."

Image: Stiff Records / Discogs

4. Bruce Willis - "Respect Yourself"


Motown — yes, really, that Motown — released the plastic blues of the then Moonlighting star. A couple years later, he was an action hero, which overshadowed the fact that "Respect Yourself" was a No. 5 smash in 1987.

Image: Motown / Discogs

5. Max Headroom - "Paranoimia"


Experimental electronic outfit Art of Noise brought in the New Coke–pushing Headroom for this slice of art-pop. Matt Frewer, the actor behind the character on the eponymous TV series and in commercial, provided the vocals on this cut, which fused the feelings of paranoia and insomnia. The track cracked the Top 40 in October 1986.

Image: China Records / Discogs

6. Don Johnson - "Heartbeat"


Miami Vice spawned a handful of genuine pop hits, right down to its neon-bright theme song. The star of the show got in on the action himself, passionately wailing in nocturnal rocker, as glossy as a new Ferarri. It peaked at No. 5 in October 1986.

Image: Epic Records / Discogs

7. Gloria Loring - "Friends & Lovers"


For five years Loring portrayed Liz Chandler on Days of Our Lives. However, the soap actress is best associated with a sitcom, The Facts of Life. She sang the catchy theme song, which she co-wrote with her husband, fellow TV star Alan Thicke. That earworm remains her most remembered song, perhaps, but don't sleep on this duet with Carl Anderson. "Friends & Lovers" made it all the way to No. 2 in 1986. If you went to the dentist around that time, you probably heard it.

Image: Carrere Records / Discogs

8. Lisa Whelchel - "All Because of You"


Speaking of The Facts of Life, its biggest (or at least blondest) young star got into the music game, too. The deeply religious actress struck a chord with the Christian music community. Her praise pop earned a nomination for Best Inspirational Performance in the 27th Annual Grammy Awards. She lost to Donna Summer, but hung around on Billboard's Christian chart for weeks.

Image: Nissi Records / Discogs



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JeffRittenour 46 months ago
Ummmm HELLO? Eddie Murphy - Party All The Time?
TCKirkham 58 months ago
I have always hated the fact that Tracy Ullman has eschewed recording since her one and only album - that woman is DYNAMITE from beginning to end, and she can do so darn many great impersonations too - she should have recorded much more. Her cover of the sometimes impossible "Life Is A Rock (But The Radio Rolled Me)" from her album is still an all time favorite cover song of mine...I also think Don Johnson gets the shaft - i found him to be more than competent as a singer, and I love his duet with then-girlfriend Barbra Streisand on "Til I Loved You" - classic late 80s super duet cheese. I also think Willis was fun because it was obvious he was having fun - he's not the best singer, but he's still enjoyable. And Jack Wagner's later albums were better than the first, particularly his third album "Don't Give Up Your Day Job", which has the awesome "Island Fever" a true hit-that-should-have-been if there ever was one...as to the comment in the lead in above..."Even Scott Baio recorded not one, but two full-lenth albums."....I have only this to say.....AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!! And I HAVE both of them too...I collect these kinds of things, so sue me...and the second album, recorded around the time "Joanie Loves Chachi" launched, is easily and obviously better than the first - it's clear he had some serious vocal training between discs. But that self titled first album....OMG....yikes....it's just BAD...and yet "What Was IN That Kiss" actually got airplay in a few places....::shudder::..but it could have been worse...it could have been Pierce Brosnan in "Mamma Mia" (who also got better by the sequel)...or even worse worse...REBECCA BLACK.....AAAAAAAAA....
BradleyOlson 59 months ago
Also, from 1984-1987, John Schneider had a string of several Top 10 country hits for MCA Records including 4 #1's which are I've Been Around Enough To Know, Country Girls, You're The Last Thing I Needed Tonight, and What's a Memory Like You (Doing In a Love Like This). His other country chart singles from this time include At The Sound of The Tone, Love You Ain't Seen The Last of Me, I'm Gonna Leave You Tomorrow and others.
BradleyOlson 59 months ago
The song that Lisa Whelchel actually charted with from this album on Christian radio is How Far, How Deep, How Wide.
Dan 67 months ago
Tracey Ullman had another great song, it was a remake of "Breakaway" originally done by Irma Thomas in 1964. The video is hilarious!
Ronnie101 67 months ago
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