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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