“Glee” is probably the most successful of the current television programs where the actors sing and have hits on the charts. Miley Cyrus, when she was in “Hannah Montana” on the Disney channel before she was naked on a wrecking ball, made the charts on a regular basis and continues too. The Monkees did it in the mid 1960’s. They were a combination of musicians (Mike Nesmith/Peter Tork) and singing actors (Mickey Dolenz/ Davy Jones).
In the late 1950’s and ‘60’s, it was commonplace for TV stars to also make records. For example, Edd Byrnes appeared as Kookie on the ‘60’s TV series “77 Sunset Strip” as a hip, swingin’ parking lot attendant who was constantly combing his hair (over a decade before The Fonz). Edd wasn’t much of a singer, but Warner Brothers Records got him to reprise his character of Kookie and teamed him with a young ingénue named Connie Stevens and in 1959, the duo took “Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb” to # 4. Shelley Fabares had her 4 charted hits, which included 1962’s “Johnny Angel”, her only # 1 while appearing as Mary Stone on “The Donna Reed Show” (1958-1966). David Soul, aka Hutch on “Starsky & Hutch” had his only # 1 hit, “Don’t Give Up On Us” in 1977, during the height of Starsky & Hutchmania (although to be fair, Soul began his show biz career as a folk singer before becoming an actor). In the 1980’s John Schneider was Bo Duke on “The Dukes of Hazzard” from 1979 until 1985. While he was much more successful on the country charts, Schneider did chart four hits on Billboards’ Hot 100. The biggest one, “It’s Now Or Never” made it to # 14 in 1981. Of course, William Shatner aka Captain James T. Kirk on the original “Star Trek” series (1966-1969) famously recorded his own ‘unique’ version of The Beatles “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”, which has to be heard to be believed. So, our quiz this time is to see how many TV stars also had hit records during their TV stardom years. Ready, set...go!
1. This former Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio newsreader followed his dream to become a successful actor. His first hit TV series in which he played the patriarch with three sons in the old west for nearly 15 years. He later starred in movies such as “Earthquake” plus an additional TV series, where he played the commander of a band of rag-tag space nomads searching for earth, aired for one season (1978-1980). His # 1 hit on Billboards’ Hot 100 happened in 1964, right in the heart of the British Invasion with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. In fact, one of The Beatles’ names (nickname actually) is the same as this TV stars # 1 hit. Who is this guy?
2. He was the most successful of TV’s Sweathogs. He played a leather jacketed ‘bad boy’ in “Grease”, a long haired killer in “Pulp Fiction” and later wore a dress in “Hairspray”. His first hit came in 1976 at the height of his TV fame. I’ve practically given this one away, so who is he already?
3. This young female actor/singer has co-starred in two TV series in the past 5 years - “Victorious” and more recently, “Sam and Cat” for Nickelodeon. Both series were geared to pre-teens and teens. She has more than 17 MILLION Twitter followers and she’s scheduled to open the 2014 MTV Video awards. She considers herself more a singer than actress. This past weekend, three of her songs were in the iTunes Top Ten. Her brother Frankie is currently one of the houseguests on the 16th annual reality summer series “Big Brother”. She’s a ‘grand’ performer with a very bright future. Who is she?
4. This comedic duo co-starred in an ensemble sketch comedy program produced in Canada. Over the course of this series, it grew from 30 minutes to 60 minutes, then when NBC picked it up in the U.S., it became 90 minutes long. For one of the sketches, these two writer/performers played a pair of stereotypical Canadians, wearing touques, drinking beer and cooking back bacon (aka Canadian bacon). These sketches were improvised to add a distinctive ‘Canadian flavour’ to the program. The duo became so popular that an album was recorded, which went to # 1 in Canada and # 8 in the U.S. in 1982. A hit single, “Take Off” came from the album and that climbed to # 16 on Billboards’ Hot 100 chart (it did much better in Canada). Do you know the names of these two ‘hosers’, eh?
5. This actor/singer grew up on television basically playing himself in a TV sitcom for over a decade. His first chart hit came in 1959 and his last in 1973. He was one of the first music ‘teen idols’ after Elvis. He shortened his name by one letter to change his image with a new musical style which was slightly country. Do you know who this ‘Travelin’ Man” is?
1. That would be Lorne Greene aka Pa Cartwright from “Bonanza” and Commander Adama in “Battlestar Galactica”. During WWII, Lorne was a CBC radio newsreader whose nickname was ‘The Voice of Doom’. Lorne left Canada for New York, then Los Angeles where he was eventually cast as Ben Cartwight on “Bonanza”. That series ran from 1959 until 1973. Lorne’s second TV series was “Griff” (he played Wade Griffin) from 1973 to 1975. He also co-starred in “Code Red” (1981-82). “Lorne Greene’s New Wilderness” was a long running nature series Lorne hosted that aired all over the world. Lorne Greene died at the age of 72 on September 11, 1987. Lorne recorded several albums, but his only # 1 single, “Ringo” hit the top of the charts for the week of December 5, 1964.
2. John Travolta was starring in the hit TV series “Welcome Back, Kotter” (1975-1979) when he first hit the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart with “Let Her In” in ‘76. That song made it to # 10. Two years later, when John co-starred with Olivia Newton-John in “Grease”, the duo had a # 1 smash with “You’re The One That I Want”. “Summer Nights”, another hit from “Grease”, climbed to # 5 the same year. “Welcome Back, Kotter” co-star Gabe Kaplan had a very minor hit (# 91) in 1977 with the novelty record “Up Your Nose”.
3. Ariana Grande is the correct answer. Arianna co-starred in the Disney Channel’s “Victorious” from 2010 to 2014, then most recently on “Sam and Cat” for the 2013-2014 season. That series ended its run earlier this year. Her first album, “Yours Truly” debuted at # 1 on Billboard Magazine’s album chart and the single, “The Way” was certified double platinum. On Monday August 25th, the day after the MTV awards, Ariana’s second album, “My Everything” will be released.
4. Comedians Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas aka Bob and Doug McKenzie saw their debut album “Great White North” go platinum. Their SCTV popularity also spawned a movie called “Strange Brew”. Dave Thomas went on to star in other TV series and movies as did Rick Moranis, who’s biggest successes were “Ghostbusters 1 & 2” and “Honey, I Shrunk The Kids” series. Moranis and Thomas most recently reprised their Bob and Doug McKenzie characters for a 2009 animated series for Global television.
5. TV star turned rock star Ricky Nelson first charted in 1959 with the double sided hit “A Teenager’s Romance” and “I’m Walking” while appearing as himself on his family’s hit TV series “The Adventures of Ozzie And Harriet” that aired from 1952 until 1966. In fact Ricky (he dropped the ‘y’ a few years later to become Rick Nelson) grew up on that TV show. In total Ricky/Rick Nelson charted over 50 songs on Billboards’ Hot 100 chart which included 18 Top Tens and two # 1’s – “Poor Little Fool” in 1958 and “Travelin’ Man” in 1961. The flip side of “Travelin’ Man” is probably Ricky Nelson’s best known song, “Hello Mary Lou”. As Rick Nelson, his most successful single was “Garden Party”, a # 6 hit in 1972. Rick Nelson died in a plane crash in 1985 and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame two years later.