Which ‘Vinyl’ Characters Are Real? The HBO Series Mixes Famous Faces With Fictional Creations

HBO's series Vinyl delves into what makes truly great music at a time when that meant a great many things — the 1970s. There are a few fictional bands and artists along for the journey, but that era's musical history can not be ignored and there are several faces who should seem familiar. Let's go over which characters on Vinyl were actually real people, because this show pretty seamlessly mixes fiction with fact.

While major characters like Richie Finestra, Zak Yankovich, Lester Grimes, and Kip Stevens are not real people and American Century is not a real record label, many of the musicians we meet or see in flashback are meant to be real people — even if they aren't always referenced by name. Some that we see portrayed briefly or just mentioned include ABBA, Donny Osmond, Tito Puente, Karen Carpenter, David Crosby, Bo Diddley, Otis Redding, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bobby Blue Bland, Gerald Malanda, and Lou Reed. It's an incredible range of artists and styles. There are also some record executives depicted at a dinner event Richie attends. Here are even more of the real life artists who have been featured (played by other actors) on Vinyl so far.

Alice Cooper

ShoutFactoryMusic on YouTube

Most prominently, in the third episode, is Alice Cooper (and later his bandmates Mike Bruce, Glen Buxton, Neal Smith, and Dennis Dunaway). He takes Clark on a wild ride.

Andy Warhol

Hidden Below on YouTube

The artist is played by Broadway actor John Cameron Mitchell. We got a glimpse into his famous Factory parties and screen tests.

Joey Ramone

Sundaybop on YouTube

This one is a little confusing. Actor James Boland was initially credited as "Jeff Starship," which was not a real person (though Jefferson Starship/Jefferson Airplane were real bands). However, by Episode 3 he is credited officially as Joey Ramone. In real life, Ramone (who got discovered in the early 70s when Vinyl takes place) was born Jeffery Ross Hyman, so it appears this was a bit of an Easter Egg.

New York Dolls

gimmeaslice on YouTube

This band, which includes Johnny Thunders, is instrumental to Richie's character in the pilot episode of Vinyl. They're the ones who bring down a building with their rock.

Led Zepplin

ledzeppelin on YouTube

Another classic group whose members Robert Plant, John Bonham, and Jimmy Page are all featured as well as one of their songwriters John Paul Jones.

Chris Kenner

MANNY MORA on YouTube

This hit single in particular features into one of the pilot's many flashbacks.

Ruth Brown

BIRDY KITTEN on YouTube

We also see this song performed in a flashback.

The Velvet Underground

Tolentino Ferraz on YouTube

Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker, and John Cale are playing at Andy Warhol's party at the show.

Brigid Berlin

Revolver Gallery - Your Andy Warhol Specialists on YouTube

Andy Warhol's friend and fellow artist can also be spied at the party.

England Dan & John Ford Coley

m1cperry on YouTube

This duo can also be spotted in a studio recording session, this time with Clark.

DJ Kool Herc

Rupert Till on YouTube

One thing I'm particularly excited about Vinyl exploring is the early rise of Hip Hop. This artist, one of the genre''s founders, has already appeared in a scene. Got a wish list for who you'd like to see next on Vinyl? There are plenty of musicians from plenty of genres to choose from so the possibilities are almost endless.

Image: Macall B. Polay/HBO