7 Fake Bands From Film and TV That Became Real

We all remember Spinal Tap, but other fictitious groups went from soundstage to on stage


Most fake bands that perform in real movies and TV shows never endure past the closing credits. Some, however, played on. Here’s a list of seven artists that went from reel to real:

The Brady Bunch. Greg, Marcia, Peter, Jan, Bobby and Cindy sang a lot of originals over the years on The Brady Bunch, among them “It’s a Sunshine Day,” “Keep On” and the vehicle for Peter’s crackling voice “Time for Change.” They—or the actors and actresses who played them—even sang them live (we’re guessing wearing sparkly leisure suits) when the show was on summer hiatus in the mid-‘70s. Clearly, their agents couldn’t find them real work.

The Commitments. The Commitments was a 1991 film featuring the titular band assembled to sing soul covers from the likes of Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin. The irony was, of course, the dysfunctional band wasn’t at all committed to their craft, and dissolved not long after their formation. The fake band, however, was revived soon after the film’s success, and it featured many of the actors and actresses who performed on both soundtracks. The Commitments continue to gig sporadically (mostly near Ireland, where the movie-version of the band was born); in fact, almost all of the original cast reunited in 2011 for a 20th anniversary tour.

The Heights. The Heights was a FOX drama that lasted all of 12 episodes, but featured one enduring song, the #1 single “How Do You Talk to an Angel?” The song was sung (but not written) by actor/musician Jamie Walters (who played Alex O’Brien on the show), although the song was credited to The Heights on the TV soundtrack. The TV group never toured as The Heights, but Walters performs the song live (as he does his other hit “Hold On”) on the solo circuit.

The Monkees. Fifty-eight episodes of The Monkees TV show aired over a nearly two-year stretch in the late ‘60s, but it’s always of some debate how much of a band The Monkees were. At first their duties were relegated to singing but, as the popularity of the “group” grew, they actually learned their assigned instruments (Mickey Dolenz on drums, Peter Tork on keyboards/bass, Michael Nesmith on guitar and Davy Jones on lead vocals), and performed hits like “Daydream Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville” and “I’m a Believer” live for decades. The band has broken up and reunited numerous times over the years (sometimes with the full quartet, but usually not). They most recently reunited for a 50th anniversary tour, but without Jones, who died in 2012, and Nesmith, who simply declined the offer.

Otis Day and the Knights. “Wait ‘til Otis sees us; he loves us!” Boon exclaimed in the 1978 film Animal House, upon realizing Otis Day and the Knights were performing at the Dexter Lake Club. Well, the club wasn’t real, nor was Otis Day and the Knights. Otis Day was actually actor DeWayne Jessie, who now assumes the Otis Day persona when he sings “Shout” and “Shama Lama Ding Dong” with, presumably, guys that aren’t actually Knights, either.

The Rutles. Created as part of the British comedy series Rutland Weekend Television, The Rutles were a straight-up parody of The Beatles (they actually dubbed themselves the pre-Fab Four, though they “formed” four years after the real Fab Four’s dissolution). The band features Eric Idle (of Monty Python fame), though he hasn’t toured with The Rutles in years. They performed live as recently as 2015 and usually work a cover of George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” into the set.

Spinal Tap. It took several years for This Is Spinal Tap—the 1984 parody rock-umentary about a fictitious aging hair-metal troupe—to become a cult smash but, once it did, it opened the door for more Tap. Spinal Tap’s core three—Michael McKean as David St. Hubbins, Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel and Harry Shearer as Derek Smalls—could actually write and play, and that made selling the faux docudrama all the more easy. There was a soundtrack, sequel album (1991’s Break Like the Wind), NBC TV special and, yup, even live dates. The group was invited to perform at Glastonbury in 2009, a slot often reserved for the biggest “real” acts on the planet. Talk about going to 11!

1 Comment

  1. Herb Flynn

    May 3, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Refering to The Rutles as The “pre-fab” four doesn’t mean they came before the “Fab Four” (pre), it is short for “pre-fabricated” which was often also used for The Monkees.

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