Apr 012010

The recent New York Times story that Townsman Oats passed along regarding the pre-acting career of The Office‘s Creed Bratton as a member of The Grass Roots got me thinking of this possibly reasonably contained and challenging Last Man Standing competition. To do this right, I think we should keep a at least two ground rules and supporting points in mind:

  1. We will define “first gained at least a modicum of professional success as a musician” as having been in a professional (ie, signed, nationally distributed, touring, etc) band that released an album or toured in support of nationally distributed albums prior to said actor becoming known for his or her acting.
    • Having been in any old high school garage band does not count.
    • Having been a nude, stoned bongo player in a beach house does not count.
    • First gaining notice as an actor for playing a musician in a movie does not count, although at least one such actor who fits this description does count in this Last Man Standing exercise for his prior professional work as a musician.
  2. This has to be someone considered a real actor, someone who made their mark in acting after satisfying the first criterion. Successful professional musicians who took up acting as a side project do not count. Sorry, Jon Bon Jovi, John Doe, Lee Ving, Flea, Dwight Yoakam, Frank Sinatra, et al. You already made your name as a musician long before taking roles in movies. Creed Bratton, on the other hand, qualifies, because no one – not even Townspeople who can name 3 or more members of The Zombies – knew the name of any member of The Grass Roots.

Some of these actors have been noted in a recent thread that you may or may not recall, but not all possible entrants in this sure-to-be tightly contested battle! As always, please enter no more than one entry per comment. Go!


  72 Responses to “Last Man Standing: Actors Who First Gained at Least a Modicum of Professional Success as a Musician”

  1. Jon Bon Jovi comes to mind… why does he come to mind first? I don’t know..

  2. misterioso

    The late Merlin Olson. [I considered letting this one stand for its alexmagic-like wit. – Mr. Mod] He was in The Fearsome Foursome. They rocked.

  3. ahh.. a local boy done good..

    Harry Connick, Jr.

  4. No other place to bring this up again; Tipper Gore was a drummer for the all-girl group, The Wildcats. [Note: Until John Kerry and Mike Huckabee are best known for their acting they also do not qualify. Funny though, chick.] Meow!

  5. Mr. Moderator

    No, no, no… Not musicians who became actors. I’ve TOTALLY screwed up the parameters of this LMS. Let me revise the guidelines.

  6. Mr. Moderator

    Please see second, updated, and HIGHLY IMPORTANT second guideline. Let me know if this is still not clear. Thanks.

  7. Alright Mr. Mod. How about Michael McKean? I’ll get someone from the movie Clue in here one way or another, dammit!

  8. Mr. Moderator

    McKean counts. You are presently Last Man Standing!

  9. BigSteve

    Fred Armisen

  10. Mr. Moderator

    Armisen is a TREMENDOUS call, BigSteve, an indie-rock musician that few knew by name who established himself as an actor/comedian of some renown – much moreso than he had as a drummer for an obscure indie-rock band. Enjoy the view!

  11. meanstom

    Sam Shepard, no? He became much better known as a playwrite and actor than he ever was as drummer for Holy Modal Rounders.

  12. misterioso

    Mickey Jones. Drummer on the greatest live rock and roll ever made (as well as lots of other things, including, as you all should remember from a recent entry, in the First Edition) and actor on that tv show with whatshisname, Tim whatever. Home Improvement. Right?

  13. Mr. Moderator

    Wow, I had no idea that’s what became of Mickey Jones.

    Am I seeing a trend toward faceless drummers making their mark as actors?

  14. BigSteve

    Mickey Jones’ other claim to fame:


  15. BigSteve

    Ricky Gervais

  16. Mr. Moderator

    I need help with a ruling on evenly multi-untalented musician-actors, particularly Kris Kristoferson. I guess he made a serious mark as a songwriter/musician first before making his mark as an actor, right? In this case I will not allow him in this LMS.

  17. so,basically the person has to have been a fairly obscure musician (like Creed Bratton).. that had some professional success as a musician (being not known but in a famous or successful band) .. then became a credible actor (like his Creed Bratton character on the Office)??

    I surmise that Bratton doesn’t even count because he’s been in a bunch of movies as nothing background roles, and only has a recent cult claim to fame as Bratton (in a hilarious, but background role) on The Office

    This post is damn confusing..

  18. and.. no.. I only found out he was in the Grass Roots after I first started watching The Office

  19. hrrundivbakshi

    How did the Grass Roots avoid getting sued for lifting the marimba hook — which is even played in the same key, for crying out loud! — from “Under My Thumb”? Still, that clip from the Doris Day movie kicks ay-uss. Thanks for sharing!

  20. misterioso

    I am confident that any resemblance to Under My Thumb was purely coincidental.

  21. Mr. Moderator

    mickavory, sorry for the confusion.

    Yes, the person must first have been a professional musician to some degree – not necessarily “successful” but more successful than those of us in our spirited, long-running garage bands and whatnot. An actual record contract, national tour with an established band (eg, Michael McKean, who may have joined and toured with The Left Banke as they were on the decline).

    Yes, the person had to maintain some level of obscurity. We know who The Grass Roots were, but until yesterday I couldn’t put a name near that band other than songwriter/non-member PF Sloan. It’s clear that being the drummer in one of these bands helps.

    Bratton counts because now we know him as an actor before anything else. It doesn’t matter that it took the public 43 years to attach a name and profession to him.

  22. Mr. Moderator

    Here’s another guy who started drumming professionally before becoming known as an actor playing a musician (discovered in the course of researching a previous thread): Gary Busey.


  23. mikeydread

    So no Lyle Lovett, then?

  24. misterioso

    Billy Connolly.

  25. bostonhistorian

    Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg

  26. Mr. Moderator

    THAT’S a good one! Wahlberg is like Kristoferson in that he actually became known for his music first. However, unlike Kristoferson, Wahlberg displayed more definite talent as an underwear model and then actor.

  27. BigSteve

    Sally Kellerman

  28. Jason Schwartzman! He only got into acting because he met a casting agent at a party.

  29. alexmagic

    I’m still a little confused by the criteria here, and of course gunshy about the shameful way the last LMS finished. So are people like Cher or Will Smith, who achieved fame as musicians but are now primarily, if not entirely, considered actors viable?

  30. Mr. Moderator

    Definitely, alexmagic. I hadn’t thought of them, but they fit under the Wahlberg Rule.

    Kristoferson, Ben Vereen, Sammy Davis Jr, and other multi-untalented entertainers who never distiguished themselves in one area or another are not eligible.

    Thanks for your concern.

  31. Weren’t Cher and Will Smith a little too successful as musicians, especially the former. It seems to me that Mr. Mod is looking for faceless musicians for faceless yet successful bands, who somehow become name actors. Like if James “J.Y.” Young became a well-known actor. How can Cher count, but not Lee Ving?!

  32. I mean, Will Smith was huge just as a rapper, but not a household name yet, because he was The Fresh Prince. Cher was always Cher.

  33. Mr. Moderator

    Here’s why I’ll allow Cher and Will Smith and not Lee Ving: The former two have achieved careers as actors that have become their defining purpose in the workplace. Any music they’ve made since is an afterthought in the public eye. Lee Ving is still unknown for everything he’s ever done to all but a handful of people. He’s as “faceless” an actor as he was a musician. I’m sorry if that’s a cruel and unfair characterization of Lee Ving’s achievements, and I apologize for all confusion and discord that will follow on this thread.

  34. mockcarr

    Ugh, I’m thinking of Bette Midler for some reason.

  35. misterioso

    Comment from: mockcarr [Member] Email
    Ugh, I’m thinking of Bette Midler for some reason.

    Great. Now I am, too. Thanks for nothing, pal.

  36. Actually Cher wasn’t always Cher – she was also Bonnie Jo Mason:


  37. alexmagic

    You gotta say this about Lee Ving: his IMDb resume from 1983 through 1991 is fascinating. Friggin’ Ken Wahl ruined Ving’s acting career.

  38. BigSteve

    Michelle Phillips

  39. BigSteve

    Since geo named Richard Edson not in this thread but in the Greatest Hits vol. 2 thread, I still consider myself LMS.

  40. Richard Edson!

  41. The Diva herself, Barbara Streisand

  42. sammymaudlin

    Queen Latifah

  43. Mr. Moderator

    Latifah’s a good one. Let me say in advance that, although the Ices, T and Cube, have become established actors, their musical identies remain at the fore – barely.

  44. I’m gonna start with Chevy Chase.

  45. How about sometime Beach Boys drummer and member of the band The Signals, John Stamos?

    Henry Rollins? I’m sure he’s seeing more money & definitely getting more exposure from acting gigs than anything else he ever did.

  46. Mr. Moderator

    I figured Chevy Chase would have been among the first mentioned.

    Rollins, for all his celeb-cred, can’t overcome his roots in Black Flag. Not yet, at least, but he has moved closer to multi-untalentedness.

    Did Stamos’ work in The Signals predate his 1983 Emmy award-winning stint on General Hospital? Was the band signed? More importantly, HOW THE HELL DID YOU KNOW ABOUT JOHN STAMOS PLAYING WITH ANYONE BUT THE BEACH BOYS?:)

  47. Is someone really contending that Cher is more defined/known as an actress than as a musician?

  48. alexmagic

    I can’t believe I didn’t think of Chevy Chase, but that does remind me of another one: Joe Mantegna was a bass player in a band affiliated with The Missing Links, the band that would eventually become Chicago.

  49. misterioso

    Forgot all about the classic Stamos-era Beach Boys. Funny to think that there was a time when Mike Love wasn’t the suckiest member of the band.

  50. Katy Segal was a backup singer with a bunch of acts before she became known as an actress.

  51. Geez you guys were busy while I was gone.

    How about Johnny Depp? Wasn’t he in a successful up and coming band when he got the 21 Jump Street role? Or has that bands potential been pumped up after the fact?

  52. BigSteve

    River Phoenix?

  53. I seem to recall hearing about Joe Pesci having a recording career prior to acting.


  54. Mr. Moderator

    Pesci was a musician before getting into acting. He had an act with another favorite character actor of Scorcese. I forget his name, but he’s got a thick head of silver hair. He played Tommy, I think his name was.

  55. first off, i want to commemorate the invention of a new piece of history to me, the “stamos-era beach boys.” it’s gonna be my go-to negative comparison for at least the next couple of days.

    secondly, jason schwartzmann is talia shire’s nephew, so he had the benefit of what i would call “the clooney ladder.”

    thirdly, glenn close.

    fourthly, just kidding…tim curry.

  56. Mr. Moderator

    That’s BEAUTIFUL, eh! We’ve got to find a copy of this to share.

    Tim Curry was a good call, by the way.

  57. sammymaudlin

    I’m going to take issue with Tim Curry. I was about to mention Tim and then looked him up. RHPS came out before any of his recordings. In fact it was what led to his A&M record deal.

    He was a theater graduate and was in the London production of Hair which led to RHPS. I could find no mention of musical proclivities prior to RHPS.

    Then again I only looked for 5 minutes.

  58. BigSteve

    Russell Crowe.


  59. jeangray

    I canna believe that no has mentioned Steve Martin. What?? No Nitty Gritty Dirt Band fans on this here board???

  60. jeangray


    Well after a little research, I realize that I may have jumped the gun on my selection of Steve Martin. Another PoP myth blown up for me…

  61. jeangray

    Hoo hah! I jus’ had the wrong Martin in mind.

    I present: Mr. Martin Mull. Not that I’ve ever heard any of his albums, but I can imagine that they are interesting.

    Has anybody here heard his recorded output????

  62. bostonhistorian

    Doris Day

  63. I’ve got a Martin Mull tune on a Memphis compilation. Can’t rightly remember it, though.


  64. Mr. Moderator


    *I* am the Last Man Standing!!!

  65. bostonhistorian

    Shaun. Cassidy.

  66. hrrundivbakshi

    Ahem. By virtue of the following post, showcasing one James Darren’s efforts as an adenoidal teen “star” — long preceding his stint on Mr. Mod’s all-time fave TV show “T.J. Hooker — I hereby proclaim myself the LAST MAN STANDING!



  67. Chuck Woolery? Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I dutifully submit Mr. Wink Martindale.

  68. Mr. Moderator

    Well played, Hrrundi! Et tu, eh? (Sorry, that was too lame a pun to bypass.)

    At the moment I’ve got nothing!

  69. bostonhistorian

    James Darren? He was acting before his singing success, and, as IMDB notes, “He was originally not given the Moondoggie character in Columbia Pictures’ Gidget (1959) because the role required two songs to sing and Darren had not proven himself a capable enough singer.”

    Also, Clare Grogan.

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