Last night, Buffalo Nichols—the solo project of Milwaukee native and current Austin, Texas resident Carl Nichols—performed on Late Show With Stephen Colbert. It was great!

And the career-defining TV appearance came less than a week after longtime Milwaukee (and now Nashville-based) project SistaStrings made their late night debut when they performed alongside Allison Russell on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Feel free to be all pedantic and say these musicians who got their musical start in Milwaukee and spent the majority of their lives here don’t technically “count” as local musicians anymore. That’s fine. We’re just super happy for them. And this recent run of musicians with strong local music ties performing on late night television got us thinking about other times Milwaukee bands played on national talk shows.

While other projects with tangential Milwaukee connections via specific members—such as Sylvan Esso on The Tonight Show (and pretty much every other late night show, too!), Angie Swan performing on countless programs with David Byrne, Speech making the late night rounds as part of Arrested Development, and Jerry Harrison playing a ton of TV shows as a member of Talking Heads—have earned this impressive honor, we wanted to focus on some more direct instances of Milwaukee projects playing in front of national audiences on the small screen.

We’re sure we’re missing more than a few, but here are some videos of Milwaukee bands performing on late night television through the years. Feel free to let us know if we left anyone out…or don’t do that and just move on with your life after watching some videos in this harmless article. Your call!

Al Jarreau — The Arsenio Hall Show

Al Jarreau — Night Music

(Jarreau also performed on Saturday Night Live twice, but we can’t find any clips of those appearances.)

BoDeans — Late Night With David Letterman

Citizen King — Late Night With Conan O’Brien

The Promise Ring — Late Night With Conan O’Brien

Violent Femmes — The Dennis Miller Show

Violent Femmes — The Late Late Show

Violent Femmes — Late Show With Stephen Colbert

Bonus Entries

• In 2014, Direct Hit! was interviewed (but did not perform) on Last Call With Carson Daly in a segment called “Snapshot.” The video is no longer available on NBC’s website, but we wrote about it HERE.

• It’s not “late night” TV, but Field Report performed on a national morning show called CBS This Morning back in 2018.

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.