Throughout music history, bands have been formed by members who were friends or perhaps created by ambitious producers looking for the next Big Sensation. On the other hand, there are also bands that were born out of cartoons, television programs, and movies. They generally only performed as musical acts on the screen yet achieved the success of a traditional group by releasing records and videos, blurring the lines between real and fiction. While they may not have received major awards or recognition, real people did lend their voices to these pieces of vinyl.
One such group is the fictional English heavy metal band Spinal Tap whose members were comedians and/or musicians Michael McKean, Christopher Guest, and Harry Shearer. Their hit mockumentary film This is Spinal Tap was released to critical acclaim in 1984.
Here’s a look at other groups whose humble beginnings did not start in a garage or recording studio.
Based on the famed Archie Comics and CBS Saturday morning favorite The Archie Show, this fictional band of the same name was inspired by the popular 1966 TV series The Monkees. In 1968, music producer Don Kirshner assembled a set of studio musicians who scored six Hot 100 hits including the infectious bubblegum pop song “Sugar Sugar,” which sold over six million copies. Other Top 40 songs recorded by the Archies include “Who’s Your Baby,” “Bang-Shang-A-Lang” and “Jingle Jangle.” Vocals for the band were originally provided by Ron Dante and Tonie Wine.
The Banana Splits
The Banana Splits was a fictional rock band composed of four costumed animal characters and featured on Hanna-Barbera’s variety show of the same name. The Saturday morning show ran from 1968 to 1970. Their single peaked at #96 on Billboard’s Top 100 in February 1969. In 2019, a feature-length comedy horror film adaptation called The Banana Splits Movie premiered at the San Diego Comic-Con.
The Blues Brothers
Saturday Night Live alums Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi took their popular musical sketch and turned it into an iconic contribution to pop culture with a smash hit film and touring act. Jake Blues (Belushi) and Elwood Blues (Akroyd) reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with their debut album and the movie featured an all-star cast.
Another band conceived from a sitcom with a connection to Don Kirshner is the Monkees. Although their series was a success, reportedly, Kirshner was not happy with the quartets’ musical abilities, so he initially relied upon professional songwriters and studio musicians. However, this did not sit well with the Monkees themselves (Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork). Eventually, the band members gained control over the recording process. Among their international hits are “I’m a Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Daydream Believer,” “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday.”
The Partridge Family
David Cassidy became a massive teen idol thanks to the 1970s sitcom The Partridge Family. His poster sales were off the charts; he performed to sold-out arenas worldwide. And it all began with a TV show in which he starred alongside his real-life stepmom, Shirley Jones. The singer led his cast of fictional siblings in songs like “C’mon Get Happy” and “I Think I Love You” with the latter spending three weeks at the number one spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 1970.
Photo: The Partridge Family (ABC TV via Wikimedia Commons)