From Hee Haw to Nashville, country music and television are old pals.
There’s a common misconception that an artist must choose between music and film, and to switch teams is entertainment blasphemy. But to paraphrase Taylor Swift, “artists gonna art art art art art.” Here are some of the best boob tube cameos made by country stars.
8. Rhett Miller on 30 Rock
The major story arc at the end of 30 Rock‘s third season was Jack Donaghy finally meeting his biological father Milton Green, who needed a kidney. Jack assembled a crack team of famous musicians to record “Kidney Now!”, a fundraising song in the style of “We Are the World.” The best part of this joke is that the song wasn’t meant to encourage widespread kidney donations; it was recorded only for Milton. Old 97s frontman Rhett Miller makes a brief appearance in the song, alongside the likes of Mary J. Blige and Elvis Costello.
7. Brad Paisley on Nashville
With Nashville filming in its namesake city, there were bound to be real country stars making guest appearances. Biz junkies love this southern soap opera because it gives a behind-the-scenes look at country music, albeit sometimes slightly dramatized. Paisley was a natural pick for a cameo since his wife Kimberly acts on the show. He was hesitant at first: “They’ve asked [me to do the show], but it’s a little odd, having Kim on there playing somebody else. I can’t watch it. It is really good, but it’s disturbing to me, too close to what I do. It’s like if I was in the CIA, I don’t know if I’d watch ‘Homeland.’ But I’m not, so I do.”
6. Charlie Worsham on Bones
Crime procedurals occasionally need some star power to amp up a storyline – remember that time itty bitty Justin Bieber played a stiff on CSI? So it was a real treat when Bones tapped then unknown Charlie Worsham, bluegrassy singer of songs like “Could It Be”, to play a murdered country star on the show. Worsham announced the news by posting a still of the episode on his Facebook page wherein his remains lie on an examining table. Worsham had a great time filming, and we hope to see him return to the small screen again soon.
5. Dolly Parton on Reba
Though Reba McEntire herself doesn’t exactly qualify for this list since the boss lady had her very own show, she was sure to bring some fellow country women with her. In one episode of Reba, the reigning queen of country Dolly Parton plays a quirky real estate agent from whom McEntire needs a job. But when Dolly shows up a couple days before the interview is set to take place, hijinks of the utmost silliness ensue. This wasn’t Parton’s first acting gig either – if you’ve never seen Unlikely Angel, YOU ARE MISSING OUT.
4. The Dixie Chicks in The Simpsons
In the episode “Papa Don’t Leech”, the Dixie Chicks make a hilarious appearance as themselves. The basic gist of the episode involves Homer’s former profession as a country superstar manager, a past that comes back to haunt him when former client Lurleen tries to break up his marriage. Despite her homewrecking ways, she’s still got the gift of songwriting and pens a mournful tune about her father’s abandonment. As fate would have it, the song gets plagiarized by Lurleen’s father, who gets the Dixie Chicks to record it. He then attempts to turn it into a payday jingle, causing Natalie Maines to exclaim “I’m gonna buy me a clock radio!”
3. Taylor Swift in New Girl
It was only a matter of time until Taylor Swift and Zooey Deschanel worked together. The “Shake It Off” singer played a guest at the wedding of Cece and Shivrane, the latter of which is still madly in love with her character Elaine. The season two finale contains a classic sitcom altar switcheroo, with Swift and Shvirane running away together (“You’re not too short for me, I don’t care what your mother says!”).
2. Carrie Underwood in How I Met Your Mother
Once How I Met Your Mother gained notoriety, they started reaching out to famous folks who were interested in guesting on the show. Carrie Underwood, being a fan, jumped at the chance to play one of Ted’s myriad love interests, who happens to be a pharmaceutical rep. According to Barney, this profession is the new flight attendant, which in its time was the new nurse. Underwood is game to be harassed by NPH’s character though, and she turns out to have some secrets of her own.
1. Steve Earle in The Wire and Treme
Americana legend Steve Earle, plays a recovering addict and counselor in David Simon’s magnum opus The Wire. His character, Walon, pulls show favorite Bubbles off the street a few times, until sobriety sticks. Earle also contributed his hit “I Feel Alright” for the season two ending montage and his version of “Way Down In The Hole” for season five’s opening credits.
Simon liked Earle so much that he cast him again in his next show Treme, which examined the bureaucratic and cultural ruination of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In Treme, Earle plays a French Quarter street musician named Harley Wyatt, who guides other street musicians toward the fame and fortune their talent deserves.