10 unexpected TV stars who released disco records in the 1970s
When you think of the overlap between "TV Star" and "Disco Music," one man in a white suit comes to mind — John Travolta. But the Sweathog-turned-Saturday Night Fever sensation was not the only small-screen actor to dabble on the dancefloor.
Familiar sitcom faces from Taxi, Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley got funky. Action heroes like Wonder Woman and Kojak showed their romantic sides.
Let's dig through the dusty record bins and unearth some of the more unlikely disco albums made by television celebs.
Lynda Carter - "All Night Song"
On Wonder Woman, Diana Prince showed off an impressive array of skills, from skateboarding to scuba diving. In season three, Wonder Woman even slipped on a satin jacket and hit a music studio in the episode "Amazon Hot Wax." Diana Prince may not have been Prince, but star Lynda Carter wanted to show off her pipes. Months earlier, she had dropped her debut album, Portrait, a platter largely filled with pillowy soft rock. But "All Night Song," the lead single, did pick up the pace, drenching its dusky groove with strings.
Jeff Conaway - "City Boy"
John Travolta wasn't the only T-Bird crooning on the Grease soundtrack. Kenickie jumped on the mic for "Greased Lightnin'". The astronomical success of that musical, not to mention the premiere of Taxi in 1978, made Conaway a hot heartthrob. He cut a self-titled album for Columbia in 1979, lead by the single "City Boy." With his leather and denim wardrobe and guitar-heavy strut, he proved that rock and disco could coexist.
Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs - "Love Shot"
Another Travolta costar stepped into the spotlight, this time a fellow Sweathog. LHJ, best known as "Boom Boom" Washington on Welcome Back, Kotter, released two respectable LPs of disco-funk in the late '70s. We've talked up his debut before, so here we'll dive into the 1979 sophomore effort, which leaned a little more into the slap-bass. "Lock Me Up" locked into a groove, but we are fond of the more upbeat "Love Shot," which comes complete with pistol sound effects.
Vicki Lawrence - "Star Love"
Mama's got funk! The young Carol Burnett Show sparkplug scored a massive hit with "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," which soared to No. 1 in 1972. By the end of the decade, her music career had fallen from the spotlight, as her third album, "Newborn Woman," saw her taking a detour from Southern storytelling to New York City nightlife. With its spacey whooshes, "Star Love" tried to ride the disco train and the Star Wars hype. Her voice was as bright and sharp as a lightsaber, at least.
Meadowlark Lemon - "Po Folk's Disco"
The crowd-pleasing Harlem Globetrotter rose to fame on the basketball court, which led to popular Saturday morning cartoons. Lemon also landed a recurring role on Hello, Larry, the McLean Stevenson sitcom that spun off from Diff'rent Strokes. Around that same time, in 1979, bankrolled his charisma into a record deal, recording My Kids for Casablanca Records, an industry leader in disco. The duo Dalton & Dubarri, who also worked on Billy Joel albums, produced this pro platter of dance music.
Eddie Mekka - "Big Boss Man"
In case anyone failed to recognize the name, the pink sleeve credited the artist as Eddie "Carmine" Mekka. The Laverne & Shirley costar cut this buried treasure for the forgotten flick Mafia on the Bounty. American General Records pressed the single in 1979, but try as we might, we could not find it anywhere online. Alas. Use your imagination.
Garrett Morris - "Destiny"
The underrated original cast member of Saturday Night Live caught Saturday Night Fever on his album Saturday Night Sweet. The "Not Ready for Primetime Player" played it pretty straight on this record, aside from the title of "I Wanna Be a Cowboy (But I'm Too Short)." The opening track "Destiny" announced itself with an ample supply of thumb-popping bass.
Martin Mull - "Bernie Don't Disco"
The Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and Fernwood 2 Night star had established himself as a funnyman on seven prior comedy albums before 1979's Near Perfect / Perfect. He also played a wicked, Jetro Tull-like pied piper on Wonder Woman. But here he sang (yes, sang) of "imitation Calvin Klein clothes" on a PG-13 spoof track that was not really a spoof at all.
Telly Savalas "Who Loves Ya Baby"
Like fellow beautiful bald man Isaac Hayes, Telly stuck more to deep talking over heavy funk on his albums. It may have been proto-disco, but it could certainly play in discotheques, what with its violins and wah-wah. He turned his Kojak catchphrase into a night club come-on with this 1976 title track.
Anson Williams - "I Want to Believe in This One"
The Happy Days supporting cast dabbled in '70s music as the show reignited '50s nostalgia. Donny "Ralph Malph" Most dropped an album of bubblegum rock. Potsie only managed to only release a mere single, "Deeply," a roller ballad that could work as a fabric softener. The B-side, however, picked up the pace for some light disco.