Television’s Cute Kids Grow Up And Rock Out

“Former child star.” It’s almost impossible not to start thinking of words like “troubled,” “wayward” and “busted” when you hear that phrase, isn’t it? The roads out of Hollywood’s childhoods are littered with stories sad and tragic, of lives fractured or destroyed. But a number of once-young TV and movie darlings have gone on, in adolescence or soon afterward, to form bands that at least helped them transition out of their child-star perceptions, and at most gave them a chance to rub those perceptions in the dirt. Some of their careers have been short and some definitely hit the rough-and-tumble world of rock harder than others. Take a trip up the Child Star Rock-O-Meter (You remember that from Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, don’t you?) and see what happened when those cute little ones plugged in and turned up.

How Good ARE They?

We wanted to know that, too. Really, the results are varied, but not always as bad as you might think.
Musically, just about all have at least some merit. But take the tour and judge for yourself. You just might discover your new favorite band!

Brandon Cruz (The Courtship of Eddie’s Father)

Not only did Cruz punk out — he stayed that way. Celebrated as the singer for Oxnard, Calif., hardcore band Dr. Know, Cruz even toured as the ersatz Jello Biafra in the re-formed Dead Kennedys a few years back. (Eddie, if your father were here, we think he’d have a few words for you …)

Danny Cooksey (Diff’rent Strokes, Salute Your Shorts)

“Hey, Mr. D!” Yep, cute, freckle-faced Sam from Diff’rent Strokes grew up — the metal way. In his late teens, Cooksey’s band Bad 4 Good threw a hair-metal fit on an album produced by none other than legendary guitarist Steve Vai. We just wish Gary Coleman had been available to sing backup.

Corky Pigeon (Silver Spoons)

We bet you can barely even remember geeky little Freddy from Silver Spoons. That’s OK — Pigeon probably would prefer it that way. He spent much of the ’90s tearing through live sets and recording sessions with punky power poppers The Gain. Snappy, catchy and featuring Freddy … they could have been their slogan, don’t you think?

Jenny Lewis (Mr. Belvedere, Brooklyn Bridge) & Blake Sennett (Salute Your Shorts, Boy Meets World)

We lump ’em together because they’re both members of “alternative” band Rilo Kiley. They may be younger than the others in this list, but they have a contemporary sound that has earned them a lot of attention … well, as has the fact that two former child stars are part of the lineup.

River Phoenix (Stand by Me)

More than any of the others here, Phoenix grew up in front of our eyes. The tragedy is that he didn’t get to grow up all the way. His work with his band, Aleka’s Attic, was just one of many things he left unfinished when he died.

Butch Patrick (The Munsters)

Patrick may have had fangs as a kid, but his band in the early ’80s, Eddie and the Monsters, didn’t have much bite. Still, they managed to sink their teeth in far enough with their novelty song, “Whatever Happened to Eddie?” to make it onto MTV.

Tina Yothers (Family Ties)

After Yothers’ long-running stint on Family Ties, it could have gone so much worse than the band, Jaded, for which she sang lead. Which isn’t to say that it couldn’t have gone a lot better … but we’re not making quality judgments.

Then There Were The Groupies …

Because some people like to be in bands, while others like to like people that are, like, in bands.

Drew Barrymore — One of the quintessential “troubled” child actors, Barrymore has matured considerably over the years and seems to have a fondness for musicians, as her longtime relationship with and engagement to The Strokes’ drummer, Fabrizio Moretti, suggests.

Winona Ryder — At press time, she’s currently the sweetheart of the above-mentioned Rilo Kiley’s Mr. Sennett. But Ryder seems to cultivate an interest in the band guys, having previously been linked to Soul Asylum’s Dave Pirner and, most famously, Johnny Depp. (Remember? Depp actually had an interesting music career for a while, performing alongside luminaries such as Iggy Pop, Chrissie Hynde and with Butthole Surfers front man Gibby Haynes in the band P.)