David Letterman Three-Way: Three of the Best Musical Guests

David Letterman classics are available at CBS.

David Letterman

by Walter Price


Back in 1982, late night talk shows were okay, but let’s admit, they were a bit old school. In that year, the best of the best Johnny Carson was still king on The Tonight Show. Overshadowing any all other names doing their best at variety chat. Enter an ex-weatherman from Indiana, David Letterman. A man previously known for stirring up convention on local Indianapolis television now took what we thought we knew about talk shows and turned it on its head.

Paul Shaffer and The World’s Most Dangerous Band, stupid pet tricks, Larry “Bud” Melman, behind the scenes goings ons, Chris Elliot and more helped cement the eccentric nature Letterman would become famous for. And characteristics that would influence subsequent generations of talk show hosts.

But Letterman’s love of music and lending his platform to a wide variety of acts would also further his popularity with the younger crowds. Although he was slow on adding musical guests, the 1990’s saw an explosion in talent hitting the air. Mixing legends like Johnny Cash with newer artists like Stone Temple Pilots. It was a cavalcade of what and who was hip.

Listing all the artists who appeared on this fabled and groundbreaking program would be way too mundane. So I dug deep into my memory banks and picked three of my favorite musical appearances. Not in any particular order.



worldwide pants / netflix


Beastie Boys – Sabotage (1994)


Cyndi Lauper – True Colors (1986)


Warren Zevon – Roland The Headless Thompson Gunner (2002)


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One thought on “David Letterman Three-Way: Three of the Best Musical Guests

  1. Zevon’s a given when you start with the premise you did, but I would have included Foo Fighters (appeared at Dave’s special request after his emergency quintuple bypass).

    Artists I found out about through their appearances on the show and subsequently spent some time tracking down their work: Tift Merritt, Nellie McKay, and Die Antvoord.

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