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.
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.
The artist is played by Broadway actor John Cameron Mitchell. We got a glimpse into his famous Factory parties and screen tests.
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
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.
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.
This hit single in particular features into one of the pilot's many flashbacks.
We also see this song performed in a flashback.
The Velvet Underground
Sterling Morrison, Maureen Tucker, and John Cale are playing at Andy Warhol's party at the show.
Andy Warhol's friend and fellow artist can also be spied at the party.
England Dan & John Ford Coley
This duo can also be spotted in a studio recording session, this time with Clark.
DJ Kool Herc
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