It’s a rite of youth to believe that you have what it takes to be a rock star. Bands are formed, gigs are played, and maybe some recordings are made. But then life interrupts and those dreams of rock’n’roll stardom are pushed aside for other things. Here’s a list of celebrities who for a brief moment fancied they had a future in music.
1. Creed Bratton from The Office
Creed Bratton, the quality assurance officer at entirely fictional Dunder Mifflin, was formerly a William Charles Schneider, a musician-will-travel back in the 1960s. By the time he joined up with The Grass Roots in 1965, he’d changed his name to Creed Bratton. Over the next several years, the band had eight charting singles, with Bratton writing a number of songs for the band. He was kicked out of the band in 1969 and stumbled into acting 10 years later. After bouncing around with some small TV and movie roles (as well as releasing some solo material), he was cast in The Office in 2005 and was with the show throughout its entire run.
2. Chuck Woolery of Love Connection
The Love Connection host (and up until recently, a COVID-19 denier; he changed his tune when his son contracted the virus) had a pre-game show career in a late-1960s psych-pop group called The Avante Garde. You’d have to be a real student of the Billboard charts to know this, since their most successful of their three singles topped out at number 40. Check out this performance of Naturally Stoned on Hugh Hefner’s Playboy After Dark show.
3. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
Blair’s love of music was well-documented. While he was in power during the Britpop era, musicians such as Noel Gallagher were known to pop round 10 Downing St. Blair himself was in a band whilst studying at Oxford in the early ’70s, singing in a Jagger-like sort of way for Ugly Rumours. Bandmates included Mark Ellen, the co-founder of Q magazine (he talks about Ugly Rumours in the video below) and Adam Sharples, who now works in national government. Ugly Rumours — the name comes from the artwork of a Grateful Dead album — played a total of six gigs before they gave up.
4. Ricky Gervais
Before creating the original British version of The Office, Ricky Gervais knocked about both as a radio person and part of a New Romantic-ish duo called Seona Dancing. Working with his partner, keyboardist Bill McCrae, a fellow student at University College London, Gervais sang over synth-heavy music. Two singles were released: More to Lose (think bad new order) and Bitter Heart (very Bowie-esque). Both songs flopped everywhere except, oddly, The Philippines when in 1985 a Manila radio DJ started playing More to Loose but identifying it as Fade by a group called Medium in order to throw his radio competition off the scent. the song became a big hit and can still be hurt on radio throughout the country.
5. John Belushi
Yes, he became famous with Dan Ackroyd as one of The Blues Brothers, but Belushi was a serious fan of hardcore punk, specifically of an LA band called Fear. He eventually convinced Lorne Michaels to book them on Saturday Night Live, but when they and their fans caused $20,000 worth of damage to Studio 8H, they were banned forever. While Belushi was mostly the band’s chief cheerleader, he did co-write and sing this one song with them in 1981 that remained unreleased for years.
6. Ben Stiller
Before acting took hold, Stiller was the teenaged drummer of Capital Punishment, a noise band based in New York. While they never played a single show until that name, they did manage to record an album entitled Roadkill in 1982 that was re-released in 2018. Ben’s now quite proud of the band.
7. Fred Armisen
If you’ve followed Fred’s career as an actor and comedian, you’ll know that he’s a really good drummer. Those skills were on display back in the 80s when he was a member of a Fugazi-like sorta-math-rock punk band from Chicago called Trenchmouth, who managed to release five studio albums and one EP. That eventually led to a gig playing background drums for Blue Man Group which somehow got him into a position to join Saturday Night Live where he lived from 2003 to 2013.
Before finding stardom as the world’s most famous drag queen, RuPaul was the frontperson for the awesomely-named Atlanta band Wee Wee Pole. Inspired by Blondie, The B-52s, and Wendy O. Williams of The Plasmatics, they were kinda New Wave-y and certainly knew how to fill a dance floor. Enjoy this video made at a place called Club 688 in 1983.
9. Peter Dinklage
You thought that scar across Tyrion Lannister’s face was makeup? Nope. It’s real, a souvenir when Dinklage was in a punk/funk/rap band based in New York City called Whizzy starting in the early 90s. Sounding a bit like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dinklage was the band’s angry frontman (and, uh, cornet and trumpet player) and was fond of stage diving. One night–and it was a gig at CBGB–things got a little intense when he got kicked in the head and ended up bleeding all over the place. Sadly, no video or music exists from that era. We do, however, have this from 2015’s Red Nose Day special on NBC.
10. Beto O’Rourke
Before be started to make his name as a politician (and nearly unseating Ted Cruz in Texas), O’Rourke was in a post-hardcore band based out of El Paso, Texas, called Foss. There were tours and a couple of recordings between 1993 and 1995 before the group disbanding. After a few more bands that went nowhere, Beto eventually got deeper into politics while his old Foss bandmate Cedric Bixler-Zavala ended up with The Mars Volta and At the Drive-In.