11 '80s TV Stars Who Recorded Obscure Albums


When these stars weren't acting, they were singing.

1. Scott Baio

To most of us, Baio’s finest credit will always be his performance as Bob Loblaw. But he was around long before that, achieving full '80s teen heart-throb status as Charles in Charles in Charge. Helping him along the way to later sex addiction were, no doubt, the two albums he released in the early '80s, one of which was 1983’s "The Boys Are Out Tonight."

2. Bruce Willis

Remember, before Bruce Willis was chasing terrorists barefoot through glass, and before it turned out he was dead the whole time, he was David Addison, the “fast-talking, fun-loving detective running the City of Angels Detective Agency” in the 1980s ABC dramedy Moonlighting. In the midst of the show's reasonably successful run, Willis put out 1987’s Bruce Willis ‎– The Return Of Bruno.

3. Tina Yothers

Tina Yothers was the blonde daughter in Family Ties who never got to say anything funny or important after she outgrew her cute years. But she used her voice in other ways, launching a singing career with this Tiffany-style bubble pop album, Over and Overin 1987. 

4. Lisa Whelchel

When the producers of Facts of Life wanted a story arc in which one of the girls lose their virginity, their first choice was Blair, the snooty rich girl, played by Lisa Whelchel. Whelchel wouldn’t do it, as it conflicted with her Christian values. What didn’t conflict was the 1984 Contemporary Christian Album All Because of You. It received more relative success than most '80s sitcom crossover albums, reaching number No. 17 on CCM charts, and was nominated for an Inspiration Music Grammy.

5. Kim Fields

The Facts of Life was a hotspot of budding talent (George Clooney came from there!) with adorable Tootie (Kim Fields) releasing two singles in 1984. One, a cover of Michael Jackson’s "Dear Michael," and the other the disco-delic dance track "He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not."

6. Vicki Lawrence

You may remember Vicki Lawrence as the perpetually pissed-off matriarch Thelma Harper, whom she portrayed in the inexplicably creepy family sitcom Mama’s Family. But she was a woman of many talents. Her murder ballad "The Night The Lights Went Out in Georgia," off the album of the same name, reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard charts in 1973. In other news, “murder ballad” is a genre!

7. Alyssa Milano

Did you know Alyssa Milano had a huge recording contract, producing four studio albums plus a greatest hits compliation? If you did, then you’re probably much, much too interested in Japanese '80s pop culture. A Japanese record executive saw Milano’s performance in Commando (made when she was 12) and immediately offered her a record deal. Her albums were never released in America, but you can listen to a sample of her work above. 

8. Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen

This happened. But there is no need to dwell on it. 

9. John Schneider

The Dukes of Hazzard used to stand for something, before it was disgraced with the 2005 film. The General Lee used to jump hay trucks for justice. John Schneider (Bo Duke…the hot one) understood the power of Hazzard County. He used his fame to launch a country music career, producing 10 albums in the 1980s alone. None of which can ever be as awesome as the Dukes of Hazzard Theme Song.

10. Mr. T

Mr. T is against children using drugs, talking to strangers, and shunning homework. He made a rap album in 1984 to tell them this. Ice-T is listed on the album as “rap director” for tracks 2, 3, 6, and 7.

11. Phylicia (Allen) Rashad

Before she was Claire Huxtable, the best mom/hottest wife/smartest lawyer in the world, she sang disco, and had the fro to prove it! Her album, Josephine Superstar, was a tribute to Josephine Baker.

Samir Hussein, Getty Images
One of Michael Jackson's 'Billie Jean' Gloves Can Be Yours (For the Right Price)
Samir Hussein, Getty Images
Samir Hussein, Getty Images

Three things usually come to mind when people recall Michael Jackson's stratospheric fame in the 1980s: His music videos were events unto themselves; he toted around a chimp named Bubbles (who once bit Quincy Jones's daughter Rashida); and Jackson was often seen wearing a single white sequined glove.

There's no official count on how many gloves Jackson owned and wore during his career, but one performance-used mitt is now up for sale via GWS Auctions and their Legends of Hollywood & Music Auction. Used by Jackson during his 1997 HIStory tour, the Swarovski crystal-covered glove is unique in that Jackson had it made for his left hand, as he wanted to keep the wedding ring—courtesy of his marriage to nurse Debbie Rowe—visible on his right. (Though wedding rings are traditionally worn on the left hand, Jackson was known to wear his on the right.)

A white glove worn by Michael Jackson during his 1997 HIStory tour
GWS Auctions

According to Jackson associate John Kehe, Jackson allegedly got the idea for the glove in 1980, when he was touring a production company and saw a film editor at a control panel wearing a white cotton glove. Jackson himself wrote in his autobiography, Moonwalk, that he had been wearing a single glove since the 1970s. Either way, it was Jackson's performance of "Billie Jean" during a television appearance for Motown's 25th anniversary in May 1983 that cemented the accessory in the eyes of the public. That particular glove sold for $350,000 in 2009.

The HIStory glove will be up for auction March 24; pre-bids currently have it in excess of $5000. The Legends of Music and Hollywood Auction is also set to feature a prescription pill bottle once owned by Frank Sinatra and a hairbrush used by Marilyn Monroe.

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The Stories Behind 10 Johnny Cash Songs
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Getty Images

Johnny Cash, who was born on this day in 1932, once wrote, “I love songs about horses, railroads, land, judgment day, family, hard times, whiskey, courtship, marriage, adultery, separation, murder, war, prison, rambling, damnation, home, salvation, death, pride, humor, piety, rebellion, patriotism, larceny, determination, tragedy, rowdiness, heartbreak and love. And Mother And God."

That sums the Cash discography up pretty well. He covers at least 20 of those themes in the 10 songs below. Here are the backstories behind some of the Man in Black's most famous songs—and maybe a little insight into why he loved those topics so much.


In the song, Cash explains that he always wears black to performances and public appearances because of social injustices, “just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back.” It’s a great story, but it’s not 100 percent true. In 2002, he told Larry King that black was his signature color simply because he felt most comfortable in it, although he preferred light blue in summer. “You walk into my clothes closet. It’s dark in there,” he said.

Rolling Stone wrote that the inky wardrobe was also helpful when it came to hiding dirt and dust in the early touring days.


Cash didn’t always wear black. In the video above, he’s dressed in bright yellow, accessorized with a powder blue cape.

Sound a little off-brand? It was. In the early ‘80s, Cash felt that Columbia, his record label, was ignoring him and failing to promote his music properly. He decided to record a song so awful that it would force Columbia to cut his contract early. The plan worked, but it came at a price. “He was kind of mocking and dismantling his own legacy,” daughter Rosanne later said. Here’s a sampling of the lyrics, in case the video is too painful to watch: “I put your brain in a chicken last Monday, he’s singing your songs and making lots of money, and I’ve got him signed to a 10-year recording contract.”


Written in just 20 minutes, Cash’s (arguably) greatest hit  was intended as a reminder to himself to stay faithful to his first wife, Vivian, while he was on the road opening for Elvis in the mid-1950s. "It was kind of a prodding to myself to 'Play it straight, Johnny,'" he once said. According to other interviews, that wasn’t the song’s only meaning: He also meant it as an oath to God. Although Sam Phillips from Sun Records said that he wasn’t interested in gospel songs, Johnny was able to sneak “I Walk the Line” past him with the story about being true to his wife.


In 1969, Johnny and June threw a party at their house in Hendersonville. As you might imagine, it was a veritable who’s-who of music: Bob Dylan, Graham Nash, Joni Mitchell, Kris Kristofferson, and Shel Silverstein. Everyone debuted a new song at the party—Dylan sang “Lay Lady Lay,” Nash did “Marrakkesh Express,” Kristofferson played “Me and Bobby McGee,” and Mitchell sang “Both Sides Now.” Silverstein, who was a songwriter in addition to an author of children’s books, debuted “A Boy Named Sue.”

When the party was over, June encouraged Johnny to take the lyrics to “Sue” on the plane the next day. They were headed to California to record the famous live At San Quentin album. Johnny wasn’t sure he could learn the lyrics fast enough, but he did—and the inmates went crazy for it. They weren’t the only ones: "A Boy Named Sue" quickly shot to the top of the charts. And not just the country charts—it held the #2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks.

The song was originally inspired by a male friend of Silverstein’s with a somewhat feminine name—Jean Shepherd, the author of A Christmas Story.


The story behind this one depends on who you believe. The Carter-Cash family has always maintained that June and guitar player Merle Kilgore co-wrote the song about June falling in love with Johnny despite being worried about his drug and alcohol problem.

But according to Johnny’s first wife, Vivian, June had nothing to do with “Ring of Fire.” “The truth is, Johnny wrote that song, while pilled up and drunk, about a certain private female body part,” Vivian wrote in her autobiography. She claims he gave June credit for writing the song because he thought she needed the money.

Either way, June’s sister Anita originally recorded the song. After Johnny had a dream that he was singing it with mariachi horns, he recorded it that way. 


“Ring of Fire” isn’t the only time Johnny had a dream that inspired a song. In his later years, Cash had a dream that he walked into Buckingham Palace and encountered Queen Elizabeth just sitting on the floor. When she saw him, the Queen said, “Johnny Cash, you’re like a thorn tree in a whirlwind!” Two or three years later, Cash remembered the dream, decided that the reference must be a biblical one, and wrote what he called “my song of the apocalypse”—“The Man Comes Around.”


This one is another early song inspired by Vivian. From the summer of 1951 through the summer of 1954, Cash was deployed in Germany with the Air Force. At the end of three years, he turned down the option to re-enlist, feeling homesick for his girl and his home. On the journey back from Germany, he penned “Hey Porter” about the excitement and relief he felt to finally be coming home.


After seeing Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison, Cash was inspired to write a song about it. Too bad that song already existed as “Crescent City Blues,” written by Gordon Jenkins.

Jenkins sued for copyright infringement in 1969 and received $75,000. Cash later admitted that he heard the song when he was in the Air Force, but borrowing the tune and some of the lyrics was subconscious; he never meant to rip Jenkins off. Oh, but the famous “I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die” line—that was all Johnny.

9. "CRY! CRY! CRY!"

After Cash returned home from the Air Force and signed with Sun Records, he gave Sam Phillips “Hey Porter.” Phillips asked for a ballad for the B-side, so Cash went home and quickly wrote “Cry! Cry! Cry!” literally overnight. It became his first big hit—not bad for an afterthought.


Though “Get Rhythm” eventually became the B-side for “I Walk the Line,” Cash originally wrote it for Elvis. It might have been recorded by Presley, but when he went to RCA, Sam Phillips refused to let him take “Get Rhythm” with him.


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