11 Fictional Bands Who Scored Very Real Hit Songs

The Monkees, The Archies, and The Wonders are just a few of the popular bands whose pop culture impact was felt, but whose very existence was questionable at best.

Tom Hanks' 'That Thing You Do!' produced one of cinema's greatest earworms.
Tom Hanks' 'That Thing You Do!' produced one of cinema's greatest earworms. / Frank Trapper/GettyImages

Spinal Tap, The Commitments, and The Rutles are just a few of the fictional musical groups who ended up becoming very real bands—releasing records, making videos, and even hitting the road together. But despite their legendary statuses, not one of these life-imitating-art acts ever graced the Hot 100. Many others, however, have made it all the way to America’s iconic singles chart.

From soap opera spin-offs and sharp-suited bluesmen to cartoon characters and costumed creations, here’s a look at 10 of the most memorable fictional bands, alongside a new make-believe rock and roll outfit who may well soon be joining this exclusive club. 

1. The Archies

The Archies scored an impressive six Hot 100 hits between the bubblegum pop heyday of 1968 and 1970, including the impossibly infectious “Sugar Sugar,” a No. 1 hit on both sides of the Atlantic. The animated quintet first appeared in the comic book Life with Archie, then moved to the small screen in the CBS Saturday morning favorite The Archie Show under the guidance of music impresario Don Kirshner.

Kirshner, who was reportedly frustrated by the demands of former proteges The Monkees, once famously declared that he wanted to work with “a band that won’t talk back.” The Archies have since graduated to live-action in a 1990 TV movie and The CW’s Riverdale, and there’s an Indian film adaptation in the works, too. 

2. The Wonders

Written by the late great Adam Schlesinger, the Fountains of Wayne founder who also penned songs for Josie and the Pussycats and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, “That Thing You Do!” is a pitch-perfect recreation of the Merseybeat pop that conquered the early 1960s. This 1996 same-named film centered on a fictional combo blatantly modeled on the early oeuvre of The Beatles. While The Wonders—a.k.a. actors Steve Zahn, Ethan Embry, Tom Everett Scott, and Jonathan Schaech—reached No. 2 in the hit musical film, they could only make No. 41 in the real world. The song, however, was recognized at both the Oscars and Golden Globes. 

3. The Blues Brothers

The Blues Brothers, one of Saturday Night Live’s biggest contributions to pop culture, evolved from a one-off musical sketch to a fully-fledged recording and touring act who even spawned a full-length feature film (not to mention a terrible 2000 sequel). John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd—as Jake and Elwood Blues, respectively—reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with their nostalgic debut album. The sharp-suited duo also scored four Top 40 hits including “Soul Man” and “Gimme Some Lovin’” as they continued to build their mythology. Belushi tragically died in 1982, but his brother Jim and John Goodman have both since helped Aykroyd continue to sing the blues. 

4. Eddie and the Cruisers

There were some Milli Vanilli-esque shenanigans going on in 1983’s adaptation of P.F. Kluge novel Eddie and the Cruisers. While Michael Paré fronted the eponymous band on screen, his voice actually belonged to Rhode Island rocker John Cafferty—and it’s Cafferty’s Beaver Brown Band you can hear providing the Bruce Springsteen-esque instrumentation, too. The first single, 1983’s “On the Dark Side,” only reached No. 64 during the film’s theatrical run, but it went 57 places better a year later once the rock ‘n’ roll drama became a VHS and cable TV staple.

5. The Heights

How’s this for bittersweet? In 1992, The Heights became the first fictional band since The Archies to top the Hot 100 with the melodic pop/rock ballad “How Do You Talk to an Angel.“ But just a week after it fell from pole position, Fox decided to cancel the series they came from. Frontman Jamie Walters, who played Alex O’Brien in the short-lived musical drama, would later score a Top 20 hit under his own name. But The Heights, both the group and same-named TV show, have since been consigned to history. 

6. The Partridge Family

Inspired by the happy-clappy clan known as the Cowsills, The Partridge Family were so convincing as a real-life outfit that they even picked up a Best New Artist nod at the Grammys. During their eponymous ABC sitcom’s four-year run in the early 1970s, the Californians also racked up nine Hot 100 hits including the chart-topping “I Think I Love You.” On-screen mother and son Shirley Jones and reluctant teenybopper pin-up David Cassidy were the only members to actually appear on the record, while the likes of a tween Danny Bonaduce was replaced by members of the Wrecking Crew—a legendary group of session musicians who played with everyone from Simon & Garfunkel to the Beach Boys—making this surely the biggest upgrade in musical history. 

7. The Banana Splits

The anthropomorphic animals known as Fleegle, Bingo, Drooper, and Snorky made the leap from Saturday morning TV to the Hot 100 in early 1969, albeit only by a whisker. Reportedly penned by Snap, Crackle and Pop jingle writer N.B. Winkless Jr.—which no doubt explains its earworm quality— “The Tra La La Song (One Banana, Two Banana)” peaked at No. 96 after a season of madcap variety. The Banana Splits failed to reach such dizzying heights with their subsequent releases, although the aforementioned theme tune was bizarrely taken into the UK Top 10 a decade later by Los Angeles punks The Dickies. 

8. 4*Town

Boy band super fan Billie Eilish co-penned several pitch-perfect homages to the likes of Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees, and *NSYNC for 2022 animation Turning Red. 4*Town, which featured the voice of her collaborator sibling Finneas alongside multi-talents Topher Ngo, Grayson Villaneuva, Josh Levi, and Jordan Fisher, reached No. 49 with the Total Request Live-friendly “Nobody Like U.” Remarkably, the Grammy Award-nominated banger was Pixar Studios’ first ever entry on the Hot 100.  

9. Cheetah Girls

Boasting the likes of The Cosby Show alum Raven-Symoné and 3LW bandmates Adrienne Bailon and Kiely Williams, Cheetah Girls were formed solely for the 2003 adaptation of Deborah Gregory’s same-named book series. But the demand from viewers for an official soundtrack prompted Disney to launch the girl group in the real world, too. The PG-friendly answer to the Pussycat Dolls went on to score two Hot 100 hits in 2006, reaching No. 85 with “The Party’s Just Begun” and No. 53 with “Strut,” before the High School Musical franchise began to steal their thunder. 

10. The Monkees

With 75 million album sales and 21 Hot 100 entries to their name, the granddaddy of all fictional band will likely always be The Monkees. Manufactured for the same-named NBC show, the band featured frontman Davy Jones, guitarist Michael Nesmith, bassist Peter Tork, and drummer Micky Dolenz. They were initially sidelined in the studio, with chart-toppers “Last Train to Clarkesville” and “I’m A Believer” largely performed by session musicians. But they eventually managed to wrestle more creative control, subsequently scoring a third number one with “Daydream Believer” before splitting in 1970. The proto-boy band would also add to their arsenal of hits during a mid-’80s revival which introduced their monkeying around to a whole new generation.

11. Daisy Jones and the Six

Daisy Jones and the Six, featuring Riley Keough, Sam Claflin and Suki Waterhouse, is the latest musical act blurring the boundaries between fantasy and reality. The Fleetwood Mac-esque ‘70s outfit, of course, comes from the imagination of Taylor Jenkins Reid, whose same-named novel has now been adapted into a six-part TV mockumentary. But just to make things even more meta, the entirely made-up group has also released an album in the real world, and one boasting input from Jackson Browne, Phoebe Bridgers and Marcus Mumford, too. While the album has been hugely popular, none of the songs has made the Hot 100 yet, but give it time—and possibly a second season?