An acronym for the first names of the band members: Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Anderson and Anni-Frid (Frida) Lyngstad.
A band member saw AC/DC on a sewing machine. It stood for ‘Alternating Current / Direct Current’. The band didn’t realize it was also slang for bi-sexual, which caused a few misunderstandings in their early days.
Drummer, Joey Kramer used to write “aerosmith” on his high school notebooks because he thought it sounded cool. When he proposed the name to the group, the rest of them said “What? Like that book they make you read in high school?” (the 1925 book, ‘Arrowsmith’ by Sinclair Lewis) Kramer responded “No. A-e-r-o smith…”
Although it has been rumored for years that the band took its name after consulting a Ouija board, vocalist Vincent Furnier said in an interview with the VH1 TV series Behind The Music “I remember we were sitting around talking about band names. I was eating Doritos and just said the first name that came to mind. Which was Alice Cooper.”
Guitarist, Ted Nugent took the name from a Detroit group who had just broken up and started using it for his new Chicago band. ‘The Amboy Dukes’ was actually the name of a novel about gang members and their lifestyle. In later interviews, Nugent said that although many people have given him a copy of the book, he has never actually read it.
Bassist and vocalist Joe Puerta said in a 1980 interview that he got the name from a World Book Encyclopedia. Ambrosia was the Nectar of the Gods from Greek mythology.
After breaking away from a thirteen member band called “The Men”, someone suggested a name for their new group, “The Aristocrats”. Singer-songwriter Terry Kirkman’s wife went to the dictionary to look up the word for them and found a better name on the very same page…The Association.
AVERAGE WHITE BAND
Although this Scottish group’s first four Billboard hits were credited to AWB, the group acknowledged that the letters stood for what they felt they were, an average, white band.
A combination of band members’ last names and the trucker’s magazine Overdrive. The band was originally called Brave Belt, then Bachman-Turner, then the final name.
Taken from a 1972 movie starring Jeff Bridges.
The working title of the Beatles song “A Little Help From My Friends”.
THE BAY CITY ROLLERS
While searching for a name, they blindly stuck a pin on a map. It landed on Bay City, Michigan.
THE BEACH BOYS
A California band called The Pendletones recorded a song for Hite Morgan’s Candix Records called “Surfin'”. After the records were pressed, it was discovered that a young promotions worker named Russ Regan had changed the band’s name to more obviously tie the group in with other surf bands. Although the group was furious, the limited budget meant the labels could not be reprinted and the name stuck.
Original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe came up with the Beetles in 1960, which was a play on Buddy Holly’s Crickets. John Lennon later altered the spelling to Beatals before meeting 19-year-old poet Royston Ellis who suggested B-E-A-T-L-E-S as a double play on both beat poetry and beat music.
The San Francisco area group took the name Beau Brummels in deference to their love of British beat music. Beau (George Bryan) Brummel was a dashing young Englishman who lived from 1778-1840 and was known for his wit and fancy clothes. He once claimed that it took him five hours to dress.
Although the press often refers to them as the ‘Brothers Gibb’, the band said that they took their name from two friends that helped them out in their early days… Bill Goode and a disc jockey named Bill Gates.
Named after a 1963 horror movie starring Boris Karloff.
British singer Cilla Black, best remembered for her number one U.K hit “Anyone Who Had a Heart”, had her stage name changed by accident. A reporter for the local paper remembered the wrong color as her surname while writing a favorable review. Her real name is Cilla White.
The story goes that photographer Bob Seidemann was hired to take a photo for the cover of a recently formed rock band’s first album. Seidemann had the idea of using a young girl for the picture but did not have any particular model in mind. While riding the London subway, he saw a girl who would be perfect and asked her if she’d like to be on an album cover. He went to her house to ask her parents’ permission for her to pose topless. They agreed, but the girl backed out. The girl’s younger sister then spoke up and begged her parents to let her pose instead. They agreed and the younger sister ended up sitting for the photo which Seidemann dubbed “Blind Faith”. Eric Clapton liked the title so much, he chose it for the name of the group.
BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS
Founder, Al Kooper came up with the name when he was on the phone with a promoter, while gazing at a Johnny Cash album cover. The album was called, “Blood Sweat & Tears”. The inspiration for the band name did not come from Winston Churchill’s quote, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat”, as was widely reported when the band first started to gain attention in 1967.
Blue Cheer was a 60’s nickname for high-quality LSD.
BLUE OYSTER CULT
A combination of a recipe that the band’s manager read in a book and the band’s fascination with the occult.
Deborah Harry and Chris Stein, both former members of The Stillettos, named their new band after a comment that a motorist called out to Deborah.
GARY U.S. BONDS
For his first hit, “New Orleans”, attention was brought to the record by having promotional copies sent to radio stations in sleeves inscribed “Buy U.S. Bonds” – hence at age 19, Gary Anderson became Gary U.S. Bonds.
U2’s lead singer, Paul Hewson was inspired by a hearing aid store in Dublin, Ireland called ‘Bono Vox’.
BOOKER T. & THE M.G.’S
Keyboard player Booker T. Jones led the band. M.G. stands for Memphis Group.
THE BOOMTOWN RATS
The Nightlife Thugs adapted the name of a gang in Woody Guthrie’s 1943 autobiography, Bound For Glory.
THE BIG BOPPER
Disc Jockey, Jiles Perry Richardson took the name ‘The Big Bopper’ in reference to his 240 pound frame. In the 1950s, a bopper was someone who was really into rock and roll.
David took his last name from the Bowie knife (“that big old bear killin’ knife”). His given name is ‘David Jones’, but he didn’t want to be confused with Davy Jones of the Monkees.
THE BOX TOPS
After recording a song called “The Letter”, a Memphis, Tennessee group called The DeVilles were in need of a name change. One band member suggested, “Let’s have a contest and everybody can send in 50 cents and a box top.”
THE BROOKLYN BRIDGE
When Johnny Maestro (former lead singer of the Crests) put together an 11-piece band, his managers complained that it would be easier to sell the Brooklyn Bridge than to promote such a large ensemble. The name stuck and the band went on to reach #3 in 1969 with “The Worst That Could Happen”.
After The Pulsations won an audition for a variety show called All Time Hits, Chicago radio station WGN decided that they wanted a more British sounding name for the band. A security guard for the show, John Opager, came up with a few name suggestions, including the one that was liked best, The Buckinghams.
The band took their name from a brand of heavy asphalt roller that they saw parked on the street.
A band called the Beefeaters was having Thanksgiving dinner when they tried coming up with a new name. Singer, Gene Clark offered “The Birdsies.” Nobody liked that name and producer Jim Dickson said, “How about the Birds”? “Birds” was slang in England for girls and the band didn’t want to be called “the Girls”. Guitarist, Roger McGuinn came up with the B-Y-R-D-S spelling, and it stuck.
According to original Canned Heat drummer Fito de la Parra, the band got the inspiration for the name while sitting around Bob Hite’s house, listening to an old Tommy Johnson record called “Canned Heat Mama”.
His real name is Ray Charles Robinson, but he did not want to be confused with boxer Sugar Ray Robinson.
CANNIBAL AND THE HEADHUNTERS
Around 1964, a Los Angeles group called Bobby and the Classics brought in a new lead singer named Frankie Garcia who had earned the nickname “Cannibal” after he had bitten someone during a street fight in his younger days. After changing their name to Cannibal and the Headhunters, the group would go on to score a US Top 30 hit with “Land Of 1000 Dances”.
They claim they asked a Ouija board what they should call their band.
During a recording session, the wife of producer Dick Clark asked Ernest Evans what his name was. “Well”, he replied, “my friends call me Chubby”. As he had just completed a Fats Domino impression, she smiled and said, “As in Checker?” That little play on words got an instant laugh and from then on, Ernest Evans would use the name “Chubby Checker”.
Their first album was released as ‘Chicago Transit Authority’, but after the city of Chicago threatened to sue them, the name was shortened.
Taken from a newspaper headline describing ‘A Clash With Police’
COMMANDER CODY AND HIS LOST PLANET AIRMEN
George Frayne, who called himself Commander Cody, lead the group who gave us the 1972 Billboard Top Ten hit, “Hot Rod Lincoln”. The band took its name from a 1952 movie about a scientist who wore a jet pack to battle a madman.
In 1967, at Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute, six students decided to merge two local bands, “the Mystics” and “the Jays”. Legend has it, that one of the group members tossed a dictionary into the air, and when it landed, pointed to a random word on the page it opened to. The word was “Commodores”.
A combination of Elvis Presley and Dekland Mcmanus’ (lead vocals, guitar) Mother’s maiden name, Costello
Neil Young’s long-time backup band took their name in homage to the Oglala Lakota Indian chief who fought to keep Europeans from settling in what would become the Western United States.
CREEDANCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL
Originally called The Golliwogs, unconfirmed reports say the band took their new name from Norvel Creedence, a friend of band leader John Fogerty. John’s favorite beer was called Clearwater, which, after it disappeared from the market for a time, was re-introduced by another brewery. The result: Creedence Clearwater Revival.
This vocal group, who are most often remembered for their 1955 hit, “Earth Angel”, named themselves after noticing their similar hair cuts.
After learning that he was unable to re-record “That’ll Be The Day” because of earlier contract obligations with Decca Records, producer Norman Petty wanted Bubby Holly to come up with a name for his three piece group. They hoped that Decca wouldn’t recognize the singer’s voice as one that they once had under contract. Inspired by one of Buddy’s favorite groups, The Spiders, Holly, Jerry Allison and Niki Sullivan got out an encyclopedia and started looking at insects. Grasshopper was dismissed immediately, but they did give some consideration to beetles. Finally, it was Allison who suggested crickets, noting that “they make music by rubbing their legs together.”
CROSBY, STILLS AND NASH
While still trying to decide on a name for the new group, the trio considered calling themselves The Frozen Noses as a vague reference to their growing cocaine habit. They also came close to including their drummer, Dallas Taylor, but decided that drummers were expendable.
According to original Crystals member Dee Dee Kennibrew, The Crystals were named after the daughter of Leroy Bates, the co-writer of their first hit “There’s No Other Like My Baby”.
In 1963, a band called the Rhondells was brought to the attention of Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein. Rumor has it that it was John Lennon who suggested the new name and attention getting spelling of “The Cyrkle”.
The group lead by Tony Orlando was named after the daughter of Bell Records’ founder, Wes Farrell. Record producer Hank Medress attached the name when Tony said that he did not want his name on a demo called “Candida”, which was later released as a single and rose to #3 in the US and #9 in the UK.
Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore’s grandmother liked the Bing Crosby song “Deep Purple”.
Inspired by a drawing Joe Elliot made of a leopard with no ears, a ‘Deaf Leopard’.
John Henry Deutschendorf adopted the stage surname “Denver” in tribute to the Rocky Mountain area he so cherished.
A Techno-Pop group from Basildon, Essex, England, they took their name from a French fashion magazine.
DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS
This Birmingham, England band, who scored a UK and US #1 hit in 1983 with “Come On Eileen”, took their name from the amphetamine Dexedrine, commonly known as Dexys. The group’s name is improperly spelled when a hyphen is used between the Y and the S. Despite their moniker, the group says that they dedicated themselves to making good music and stayed away from drugs and alcohol.
DION AND THE BELMONTS –
Dion DiMucci and his friends named their group The Belmonts after a street in their Bronx, New York neighborhood, where they would hang out and sing street corner harmonies.
Their name describes the financial situation they were in when forming the band.
Antoine “Fats” Domino came by his nickname because he stood 5 feet, 2 inches tall and weighed 225 lb.
Tom Johnston says that the band, originally known as Pud, were sitting around a breakfast table when a friend who was not part of the band said “why don’t you call yourselves the doobie brothers”. The guy was just kidding, but later on someone said “hey, that’s not such a bad idea” and the name stuck.
The band took their name from the title of a book by Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception, which was in turn borrowed from a line in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, a poem by the 18th century artist and poet William Blake: “If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite”.
In December, 1960, a vocal group called The Brooktones signed with Cameo / Parkway Records, who suggested they change their name to the Deauvilles (after the Deuville Hotel in Miami Beach). The boys didn’t object to the new name, but thought it was too hard to spell and changed it to the Dovells.
Robert Zimmerman was a big fan of poet Dylan Thomas.
Their name was inspired by the Byrds, who were a big influence on the Eagles. They started out as the Teen Kings and later, the Emergencies. Don Henley recalled “we wanted something simple and we wanted something American and we wanted something that was easy to remember and something with a little spiritual value. (Eagles) sounded very American football teams and street gangs.”
EARTH, WIND and FIRE
Originally called the Salty Peppers, the group recorded for Capitol for a couple of years without drawing much notice. In 1971 they signed with Warner Brothers and renamed themselves Earth, Wind and Fire after the elements in the astrological chart.
The UK Pop group most often remembered for their 1970 hit “Love Grows Where My Rosemary Goes” was named after the Eddystone Lighthouse, a lighthouse off the coast of Cornwall, England.
This Toronto, Canada band, who reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1973 with “Last Song”, started out as The Edward Bear Review, before adapting the proper name of A.A. Milne’s character, Winnie The Pooh.
Reginald Dwight took his stage name from two other British musicians, Elton Dean and Long John Baldry.
ENGLAND DAN and JOHN FORD COLEY
John Colley and Dan Seals originally billed themselves as “Colley and Wayland”, (Seals’ middle name). That didn’t quite work, and it was Dan’s brother, Jim Seals, who suggested they incorporate Dan’s childhood nickname, “England Dan”. It was a reference to the fact that, as a youngster, Dan had fixated on the Beatles and briefly affected an English accent.
EVERYTHING BUT THE GIRL
This band took their name from a secondhand furniture store in Kingston upon Hull, England.
THE FIFTH ESTATE
The band who reached Billboard’s #11 spot in 1967 with “Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead”, first formed in 1963 as The Decadents and later became known as The D-Men. They changed their name to The Fifth Estate after an underground magazine they discovered while in Chicago on a blues club tour. The magazine preached anarchy in the USA and what basically amounted to free sex for the masses
FINE YOUNG CANNIBALS
A Birmingham, England trio who scored two Billboard number one hits in 1989 with “She Drives Me Crazy” and “Good Thing”, they took their name from All The Fine Young Cannibals, a 1960 film loosely based on the life of trumpeter Chet Baker.
With the onslaught of the “British Invasion” by bands with strange sounding names, the group decided that they were not bugs or beasts of any kind, they were simply, Five Americans.
FIVE MAN ELECTRICAL BAND
Originally called The Staccatos, the band changed their name to the title of their third album. They would go on to reach #3 on the Billboard chart with “Signs” and #26 with “Absolutely Right”.
FLEETWOOD MAC drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie.
When interviewer Gary James asked drummer Roger Earl: “Is there a significance to the band’s name?” Earl had this to say: “No real significance. Lonesome Dave (Peverett) threw out the name when he was like twelve or thirteen. He was playing like kind of a scrabble game with his brother and Dave came up with a name and insisted it was a name. Dave eventually was right. We were on our way into the studio to do the artwork for the first album and we didn’t have a title for the band. So, we had to decide. ©
British guitarist Mick Jones started the band in New York. Since he was a foreigner, he chose that for the name.
Before they brought us “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” and “Build Me Up Buttercup”, the band selected the name The Foundations based on their surroundings, a rehearsal space in the basement of a coffee shop in Bayswater, England.
A band called the Varietones auditioned to appear at a local bowling alley, but were turned down flat. Instead of just walking away, they adopted the name of the place and became The Four Seasons.
THE GAP BAND
Brothers Charlie, Ronnie and Robert Wilson named their group The Greenwood, Archer and Pine Streets Band in their hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma before shortening that lengthy title to the Gap Band in 1973.
The first book in the Bible. The name was part of their first album title ‘From Genesis to Revelation’, which was suggested by their original manager, Jonathan King.
Born Roberta Lee Streeter, the singer who brought us “Ode To Billy Joe” in 1967 started using her stage name after seeing a 1952 movie called Ruby Gentry, starring Charlton Heston and Jennifer Jones.
Refers to a series of Old English folk tales with the same basic theme. A traveler enters a village and finds the villagers desecrating, or refusing to bury the body of a dead man because he died owing creditors money. The traveler pays the dead man’s debts and sees to a decent burial. Later in his travels, the man is saved by a mysterious event, which is credited to the dead man’s grateful spirit. Hence, the Grateful Dead. The band was originally the Warlocks, and picked Grateful Dead out of a dictionary after realizing there was another band called the Warlocks.
GRAND FUNK RAILROAD
The band named themselves “Grand Funk Railroad” after a Michigan landmark, The Grand Trunk Railroad.
When George Struth of Quality Records heard the band’s version of “Shakin’ All Over”, he feared that the effort would be lost in the flood of British records and came up with a plan to garner some interest by radio program directors. A number of promotional copies were pressed with just a plain white label, the song tile and the words ‘Guess Who?’, implying that the disc may have been the product of someone more famous.
In 1963, Peter Noone joined a Manchester beat group called The Heartbeats, after their vocalist failed to show for a gig. On stage, Peter used the name Peter Kovak. The change to Herman came after the band remarked on his resemblance to the character Sherman in the TV cartoon ‘The Bullwinkle Show’, although he misheard the name as Herman. Soon after, the band changed their name to Herman and The Hermits, although it soon became abbreviated to Herman’s Hermits.
According to those close to the band, they chose the name from some Christmas holly decorating Graham Nash’s house – not in homage to Buddy Holly, as a long time rumor has it.
HOOTIE AND THE BLOWFISH
Although many think that vocalist Darius Rucker is Hootie and the band is called The Blowfish, neither is correct. Rucker had two college friends, one with a round, owl-like face he called Hootie and another who had puffy cheeks he nicknamed Blowfish.
THE HUES CORPORATION
According to group member Bernard St. Clair Lee, the band wanted a name that would make people think of money and when you think of Howard Hughes, you think of money. When their manager Wally Holmes went to a lawyer, he said ‘you can’t spell it that way. You have to come up with a different spelling.’ So Holmes came up with “Hues”, which means the color hue.
When Peter Frampton, formerly of The Herd and ex-Small Faces member Steve Marriott got together, they chose the name Humble Pie because they did not want the press to call them a Supergroup.
Gordon Mills was a clever manager and promoter who knew that a performer had to call attention to himself in any way possible. His idea for singer Gerry Dorsey, was to change his name to something that people would remember. He convinced Gerry that an audience would never forget the name “Englebert Humperdinck”, the name of the Austrian composer who wrote Hansel and Gretel.
Rather than using her real name, Janis Eddy Fink, she uses her brother’s middle name, Ian.
Named after a medieval torture device. It was a box big enough to admit a man, with folding-doors which were studded with sharp iron spikes. When the doors were closed, these spikes were forced into the body of the victim, who was left there to die in horrible torture.
The band that gave us “The Rapper” in 1970 did not take their name from The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, as some have reported. The band thought up their name while on location for a photo shoot in the woods. They noticed that little briars were sticking to their clothing and in the Pittsburgh area, these little burrs are known as “jaggerz”. After someone suggested the name, they wrote it out a couple of times and agreed to use it as their new moniker.
JAY AND THE AMERICANS
The group auditioned for songwriters Leiber and Stoller, who wanted to call them Binky Jones and the Americans, but lead singer John Traynor didn’t want to be known as Binky Jones his whole career. He instead suggested “Jay”, his family nickname, and everyone agreed.
Inspired by the blues player Blind Lemon Jefferson and the name of a friend’s dog, jefferson airplane is also slang for a used paper match, split open to hold a marijuana joint that has been smoked too short to hold without burning the hands, an improvised roach clip.
In December, 1967, flautist / guitarist Ian Anderson, bassist Glenn Cornick, guitarist / singer Mick Abrahams and drummer Clive Bunker formed a new band. They began playing two shows a week, trying out different names, including Navy Blue and Bag of Blues. Their manager suggested Jethro Tull, the name of a British barrister and farmer who, in the mid-1700s, invented a device called the seed drill, which could sew three rows of seeds simultaneously. Ian Anderson strongly disliked the name, but it became popular and memorable, and it stuck.
After Gordon Mills became Thomas Jones Woodward’s manager, he took advantage of the free publicity generated by a hit movie that was in theatres at the time, and changed his stage name to “Tom Jones”.
Taken from the Bob Dylan tune “The ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest”.
KC AND THE SUNSHINE BAND
These Disco kings took their name from lead vocalist Harry Wayne Casey’s last name (“KC”) and the “Sunshine Band” from KC’s home state of Florida (‘The Sunshine State’). They were originally called KC and The Sunshine Junkanoo Band, as some of the members came from a band called the Miami Junkanoo Band.
Their original lyricist, Peter Sinfield, thought of it as a synonym for Beelzebub, which is Hebrew for ‘Lord of the Flies’. Beelzebub was Satan’s chief lieutenant among the fallen angels.
THE KINGSTON TRIO
The band started out as a Calypso group and since Kingston, Jamaica was a hot spot for Calypso music, they took the name. In an interesting side-bar, in a 2007 interview, band member Bob Shane revealed that even after all these years, not one of them had ever been to Jamaica.
According to Paul Stanley, Kiss was a momentary inspiration that sounded dangerous and sexy at the same time. Band members deny the rumor that the name stands for ‘Knights In Satan’s Service’.
GARY LEWIS AND THE PLAYBOYS
Two of the members of the band where late for a rehearsal one day and when they finally showed up, Gary Lewis said “Where have you Playboys been?” The others said “Hey, that’s a good name.”
The Yardbirds were just wrapping up their final US tour before splitting up. Guitarist Jimmy Page was determined to keep the act going, renaming a new line-up The New Yardbirds. Keith Moon of The Who is rumored to have said “…it’ll probably go over like a led zeppelin”, thus inspiring the final name change. The ‘Led’ spelling was to make sure people pronounced the name right.
Eva Boyd, who gave us “The Loco-Motion” in 1962, explained how she got her stage name:
“I had an aunt called Eva, so she was Big Eva and I was Little Eva”.
When Richard Penniman was asked how he came by his stage name, he said that in his childhood neighbourhood, there were only two nicknames used, ‘lil and bro. That’s when he became Little Richard.
Roland Kent LaVoie recorded a song called “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” in 1971. Sensing the song’s hit potential, but also wary of succumbing to one-hit-wonder novelty status, Lavoie adopted the name “Lobo”, which means Wolf in Spanish.
From the lyrics of John Hurt’s “Coffee Blues”. It’s also slang for sperm.
Marie McDonald McLaughlin was about to enroll in hairdressing school when she met and joined a six-piece band called The Gleneagles. As their spunky lead singer, she quickly became the focal point of the group. Their manager took to referring to her as “a lulu of a kid”, and eventually that stuck as a more distinctive stage name.
Named after Robert E. Lee High school gym coach, Leonard Skinner, who punished founding members Gary Rossington and Bob Burns several times for breaking the school’s strict dress code, which did not allow boys to have long hair touching the collar or sideburns below the ears. Earlier band names were ‘Noble Five’ and ‘One Percent’.
THE MAMAS AND PAPAS
After trying unsuccessfully to agree on a name for their new vocal group, Cass Elliot, Michelle Phillips, Denny Doherty and John Phillips were watching a TV documentary about The Hell’s Angels, where a biker referred to his girlfriend as his Mama. “We want to be Mamas too!” said Cass and Michelle. The guys agreed that they would be the Papas.
An acronym for the Detroit band, ‘Motor City Five’.
The man with one of the most colorful stage names in show business was born Marvin Lee Aday. Over the years, he has given several different stories on how he got his nickname. The most common one is that he stepped on the foot of his high school football coach, who, instead of cursing, shouted ‘Get off my foot you hunk of meatloaf!’.
MEN WITHOUT HATS
This Montreal based quartet started out playing in bars and clubs as Men With Hats. At the end of each show, they would throw their hats into the audience, eventually inspiring the name change.
Drummer, Lars Ulrich was helping a friend think of a name for a metal fan magazine. The publication chose ‘Metal Mania’ and Lars kept Metallica, which was one of the suggestions.
WAYNE FONTANA & THE MINDBENDERS
Glyn Geoffrey Ellis rechristened himself Wayne Fontana after Elvis Presley’s drummer, DJ Fontana. The band took its name from Dirk Boarded’s 1962 British horror movie, The Mindbenders.
When Albert George Cernik was signed to Columbia records, label boss Mitch Miller supposedly told him “my name is ‘Mitchell’ and you seem like a nice ‘guy’, so we’ll call you Guy Mitchell.” The young singer would go on to achieve record sales in excess of 44 million units and topped the Billboard chart with “Singing the Blues” in 1956 and “Heartaches By the Number” in 1959.
Although they never had a Top 40 single, this California group gained a large following on the strength of their 1966 debut album. The band name was chosen by bassist Bob Mosley and drummer Skip Spence from the punch line of the joke “What’s big and purple and lives in the ocean?”
This American Southern Rock band, who are most often remembered for their 1979 hit “Flirtin’ with Disaster”, took their unusual name from from a prostitute who allegedly murdered and decapitated her clients.
The made-for-TV band was given an animal name to sound like so many other mid-60s groups. The moniker was supposed to reflect the group’s mischievous on-screen behavior.
The band originally called themselves the M&B 5, because they wanted to perform in a Birmingham brewery called ‘Mitchell’s Bottlery.’ The building had a big ‘MB’. When that didn’t work, they changed names, using one member’s favorite song, Duke Ellington’s ‘Mood Indigo’.
MOTHERS OF INVENTION
Originally just called the Mothers (short for Motherfuckers). Their record label persuaded them to add ‘of Invention’.
The band took their name after a friend remarked, “What a motley looking crew.” The inspiration to add the two sets of umlauts supposedly came from the German beer the members were drinking at the time. (Mötley Crüe)
Popular rumor says that the name is an allusion to guitarist Lesley West’s large size.
Lead singer Ray Dorset told ClassicBands.com – “we couldn’t agree on a name. (Producer) Barry (Murray) pulled a name out of a hat, that happened to be Mungo Jerrie, which comes from T.S. Elliot’s book, Old Possums Book Of Practical Cats. The spelling that we have is incorrect, because in the book, the Jerry part is spelled Jerrie. And that was it.”
1910 FRUITGUM COMPANY
Original guitarist Frank Jeckell says the name of the group came from an old gum wrapper that he found in a jacket pocket while he was looking for some retro clothes to wear. He tried a suit on and found a gum wrapper in the pocket and that inspired the name.
The group who gave us “Love Hurts” in 1976 took their name from the first line of The Band’s classic song “The Weight” (“I pulled into Nazareth / Was feelin’ ’bout half past dead.”)
THE NEW CHRISTY MINSTRELS
The New Christy Minstrels took their name from Christy’s Minstrels, a performing group founded by Edwin Pearce Christy (1815 – 1862). In the 1840s, Christy, a Philadelphia-born showman, organized an ensemble of white performers in blackface that sang Negro spirituals and contemporary popular songs with great success all over the United States and England.
Kurt Cobain wanted a name that was kind of beautiful or nice and pretty, instead of a mean, raunchy, punk-rock name. The band chose Nirvana, meaning a state of perfect inner stillness and peace.
Named after the Cleveland disc jockey Eddie O’Jay, who helped the band out in their early days. They were originally called the Mascots.
Just as he had done for Tom Jones and Englebert Humperdinck, manager Gordon Mills saw the need for a clever name for his newfound talent. Playing off Ray O’Sullivan’s last name and the playwriting team of Gilbert and Sullivan, the name Gilbert O’Sullivan seemed a natural choice. Ray hated it, but agreed that, when it came to marketing, Mills knew best.
After auditioning a song called “Time Won’t Let Me”, a Cleveland area group called The Starfires was signed by Capitol Records, but the label insisted that the band take a new name. Guitarist Tom King had been forced to abandon Pama Records, the label for which the Starfires had cut a dozen tunes and was owned by his uncle, who then accused his nephew of being an “outsider” to the family.
OZARK MOUNTAIN DAREDEVILS
This band’s unusual name was derived from “Cosmic Corn Cob and His Amazing Ozark Mountain Daredevils”, a name that guitarist John Dillon came up with at a naming party. There were known as Family Tree until finding out that another band was already using that name. They shortened Dillon’s suggestion because they didn’t want to be called “Cosmic Corn Cob” and did not want their name to sound similar to The Amazing Rhythm Aces.
The Nottingham, England group who reached the top of the Billboard Pop chart in 1974 with “The Night Chicago Died” took their name from lace products created from a special grade of high quality paper manufactured in their hometown.
COLONEL TOM PARKER
Andreas Cornelius van Kujik changed his name to Thomas Andrew Parker after he came to the United States from Holland in 1927. In the late 1940s, he began a successful career as a music promoter and persuaded an aide to Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis to have him made an honorary Louisiana Colonel.
According to lead singer, Eddie Vedder, “The name is in reference to the pearl itself… and the natural process from which a pearl comes from. Basically, taking excrement or waste and turning it into something beautiful.”
PET SHOP BOYS
Having friends who worked in a pet shop, the duo of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe thought the name sounded like a polite English Rap group.
This British band used various names, including “The Meggadeaths”, “the T-Set” and “the Screaming Abdabs”, before settling on “The Pink Floyd Sound”, inspired by American blues artists, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. The name was later shortened to just Pink Floyd.
It was at a family birthday party that Gladys Knight, her brother Merald, their sister Brenda, and two cousins – William and Elenor Guest – first sang together as a quintet. Another cousin present, James ‘Pip’ Woods, suggested they sing together professionally. Taking his advice, they hired him as their manager and called themselves The Pips in his honor. (later on, it was said to stand for “Perfection In Performance”).
The group began as an all male quartet in 1953, calling themselves “The Platters” after the nickname used in those days for vinyl records.
In his biography, Gimme Danger, Iggy says the name came from one of his early bands, the Iguanas. When he formed The Stooges, their management billed him as Iggy Stooge, but Iggy wasn’t too keen on it and changed it to Iggy Pop, reasoning that Pop has a kind of energy to it.
After building up an local following as “Pogo”, (with a “g”) they were forced to change their moniker, which they had openly pilfered from Walt Kelly’s comic strip of the same name, when Kelly filed suit. They settled on “Poco” because it sounded like the original name that fans had come to know.
Drummer Stewart Copeland, whose father worked for the CIA, named his band before Gordon “Sting” Sumner and Andy Summers joined.
Originally called The Paramounts, their manager wanted a name change and came up with ‘Procul Harun’, which was the Pedigree name of a cat of a friend of his. In Latin, it means ‘beyond these things’. The band mis-heard the name over the phone and spelled it ‘Procol Harum’.
Freddie Mercury liked the name for the transvestite connotation and the glamorous image of Queens in royalty.
QUESTION MARK AND THE MYSTERIANS
Bassist Larry Borjas came up with the name after watching a Japanese sci-fi movie on television. The film, “The Mysterians” is about invaders who try to take over Earth after their own planet has been destroyed.
QUICKSILVER MESSENGER SERVICE
Gary Duncan of Quicksilver Messenger Service explained: “We had a bunch of different names and finally settled on Quicksilver Messenger Service because we’re all the same birth sign. We’re all Virgo, which is ruled by Mercury. Me and the drummer had the same birthdate. David Freiberg and John Cipollina had the same birthdate. So, between the four of us, there were only two birthdays. Virgo is ruled by Mercury, which is Quicksilver. Quicksilver is the winged messenger and Virgo is the sign of the selfless servant. So, that’s where the name Quicksilver Messenger Service name came from. It’s astrological.”
PAUL REVERE AND THE RAIDERS
In late 1960, a keyboard player named Revere Dick took his band to a small recording studio where they cut a half dozen tracks and began shopping them around. In early 1961, he landed at the Gardena Records pressing plant of John Guss, who not only agreed to cut a record from Revere’s tape, but suggested a name change to Paul Revere and the Nightriders. Revere rejected the name, but later settled on Paul Revere and the Raiders.
In honor of Paul McCartney, who, early in his career, used to call himself Paul Ramone. The members of the band all used the last name Ramone, even though it’s not their given name.
After years of playing in local clubs and releasing unspectacular records on MGM, Hercules, Golden World and Verve, a band called the Sunliners caught the ear of session-man Dennis Coffey, who recommended them to his bosses at Motown Records. The group signed with the label in 1969 and in a brilliant marketing move by Motown executives, it was decided to match the band’s name with their new record label: “Rare Earth”.
According to Eric Carmen, the band took the name from an expression used by the Little Rascals character Froggy, who, when frustrated would often say “Aw raspberries.”
‘Rapid Eye Movement’ is a state of sleep.
Reo Speedwagon was a model name for a line of trucks built by REO Motors Corporation of Lansing Michigan. REO is derived from the initials of Ransom Ely Olds, who left Oldsmobile, the company he founded, to form REO in 1905.
While still known as the Paramours, Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield were trying to come up with a new name for their act when they remembered the night they sang in front of a group of U.S. Marines. After their set, one of the Marines shouted out, “that’s righteous brothers!” and the name stuck.
From the Muddy Waters song “Rolling Stone”. The name was suggested by guitarist, Brian Jones.
The lead singer for Guns N’ Roses was born William Bruce Rose Jr. to William and Sharon Rose. William Sr. left the family when his son was two years old. His mother eventually remarried and changed her son’s name to William Bailey, using the last name of her new husband, L. Stephen Bailey. At age seventeen, the boy learned of his biological father’s existence and readopted his birth name, William Rose, but referred to himself as “W. Rose” as he did not want to share a name with his biological father. He eventually adopted the name W. Axl Rose, with ‘Axl’ coming from a band in which he once played.
When asked how the group came by their name, guitarist Barry Winslow had this to say: “Bill Balough and John Burdette were kind of like the founding members of a group called Posmen. The rest of us kind of auditioned for it within a couple weeks period. When I came into the band, I had bought a Vox amp and auditioned as a singer / rhythm guitar player and I guess they liked it. They wanted to keep me. Then they said we need an English name. And so they look over to my amp and I said “Vox?” They said “no idiot, Royal Guardsmen”. I had the Royal Guardsmen amp that Vox made. I said “Boy, that’s a mouthful guys.” They said “well, we like it.”
They were rushing to think up a name before their first gig, and John Rustey’s older brother yelled, “Why don’t you call your band Rush?”.
Bobby Rydell got his stage name from Philadelphia TV show host, Paul Whiteman, who wanted to have Bobby on his show, but had trouble pronouncing his real name, Robert Ridarelli.
William Levise Jr. was using the stage name, Billy Lee, with a band called the Rivieras. As they started to play bigger and better venues, the group realized their name was in conflict with The Rivieras who recorded “California Sun”. While the band became The Detroit Wheels, Levise flipped through the Manhattan phone directory and came across the name Mitch Ryder, and took the name that he has used ever since.
SAM THE SHAM AND THE PHARAOHS
In the early sixties, Domingo Samudio was playing in a band called “Andy and the Night Riders”. When leader Andy Anderson left the group a short time later, Domingo took control of the band, and decided to re-name it. “By that time, everyone was calling me ‘Sam’, short for Samudio,” said Domingo, “and what I was doing, fronting the band and cutting up was called ‘shamming’. We got the rest of the name from the movie ‘The Ten Commandments’. Old Ramses, the King of Egypt, looked pretty cool, so we decided to become The Pharaohs.”
While attending St. Mark’s academy in Dallas, William Royce Scaggs picked up the nickname “Bosley” by someone who kept addressing him that way. As time passed, William became known simply as Boz.
This popular English band was the second group from Liverpool after the Beatles to have a hit in America when “Needles And Pins” charted during the first week of March, 1964. They took their name from the classic 1956 John Wayne western, The Searchers.
Manager, Malcolm Mclaren came up with the name. It was inspired by his punk clothing shop called ‘Sex’.
SHADOWS OF KNIGHT
A rock band called The Shadows, whose members attended Chicago’s Prospect High School, had just made their first recordings when record company executives advised them that they would need to change their name, to avoid being confused with Cliff Richards’ back-up band. The company suggested The Tyme, which the band hated and refused to use because they had already built up a large local following as The Shadows. Just before the record label was printed, singer Jimy Sohns suggested The Shadows of Knight, because it sounded British. He would later say that it never dawned on him that the Prospect High School teams were called The Knights.
While working a day job as a carpet salesman, Charles Westover managed to join a country-rock band at the Hi-Lo Club in Battle Creek, Michigan. A club regular had dreams of becoming a famous wrestler as Mark Shannon. Liking the name Shannon, Westover borrowed the surname and derived Del from his favourite make of car, the Cadillac Coupe DeVille. “DeVille, Del, that’s where I got it from,” Shannon explained to Dick Clark, “Could you imagine myself walking on stage and being introduced: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, Charles Westover!’ It had no ammunition.”
After meeting a singer named Troy Shondell, twelve year old Tommy James named his very first band The Shondells. When asked about it years later, he said “It just sounded like the right name. I found out later it meant some kind of airplane maneuver or something.”
After signing with Tiara Records, a vocal quartet known as the ‘Poquellos’ realized they needed a name that was easier to pronounce. At first they chose ‘the Honeytones’, then in a vague reference to their lead singer, Shirley Owens, settled on ‘the Shirelles’.
SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE
According to his official web site, Sylvester Stewart came by the nickname Sly around the time he was in the fifth grade. During a school spelling bee, one of his classmates accidentally inverted the “y” and the “l” and Syl became Sly. The kids teased and the name stuck. The “Family Stone” came from the fact that Sly, his sister Rosie and brother Freddie all adopted the stage name “Stone” when they formed their new band.
Born Phoebe Ann Laub, she chose her stage name after a freight train that ran through her hometown of Teaneck, New Jersey, the Phoebe Snow.
THE S.O.S. BAND
The Atlanta, Georgia based group who had the best selling tune in America in August, 1980, with “Take Your Time (Do It Right)”, used an acronym which stood for Sounds of Success.
Originally called ‘The Makers’, the band changed their name after a visit to Berlin where one of their roadies saw some graffiti referring to Spandau Prison. Supposedly, there were many hangings there, in which the victims would twitch and jump at the end of a rope…hence, doing the “Spandau Ballet.”
The Gary, Indiana sextet who took “Goodnite Sweetheart, Goodnite” to #2 on the Billboard R&B chart in 1954, took their name after the wife of one of the band members said that their singing sounded like “a pack of dogs”.
SPANKY AND OUR GANG
Lead singer Elaine McFarlane came by the nickname “Spanky” because band members noticed her resemblance to George “Spanky” McFarland of the Little Rascals / Our Gang comedy series. They originally took the name as a joke, but as their popularity grew, it stuck.
Although some fans wondered if spinning dance steps were the inspiration for the group’s name, vocalist Bobbie Smith says he came up with the name when they wanted a change from their old moniker, The Domingoes. Spinners was hot rod talk in the 1950s for big, chrome, Cadillac hubcaps.
This L.A. based band, who scored a mid-sixties hit with “Dirty Water”, say their name was derived from standing around agents’ offices, pleading for work.
Named after a dildo in the William Burroughs novel ‘Naked Lunch’. According to Burroughs, the Steely Dan was a metal dildo that an evil German bulldyke prostitute crushed using her nether regions.
The band was originally called ‘Sparrow’, until lead singer John Kay came up the new name after being inspired by a novel by cult author Herman Hesse.
STONE TEMPLE PILOTS
They began as Mighty Joe Young, until they learned a Blues musician was already using that name. Fascinated by the logo for the motor oil additive STP, they started calling themselves Shirley Temple’s Pussy, until they found they couldn’t get gigs using that name. More acronyms followed, like Stereo Temple Pirates, until they finally settled on Stone Temple Pilots.
STRAWBERRY ALARM CLOCK
According to bassist George Bunnell, this most unusual name came about when the band was sitting around trying to think of a new name. They wanted to include the word Strawberry, which was inspired by the Beatle’s tune, “Strawberry Fields Forever”. The band was rehearsing in the guest house that belonged to the parents of keyboard player Mark Weitz. When everything was real quiet, after they thought of a bunch of names and they were all thrown out, everybody was kind of silently thinking. “The only thing you could hear was that alarm clock making some kind of whacky noise ’cause it was semi-broken. And they all looked at it at the same time really, and that’s where it came about.”
Starting out in 1961 as The Tradewinds, they finally outgrew that name and chose Styx after the mythical river that people cross over to go into Hell.
Named after a book called ‘Autobiography Of A Supertramp’, written by R.E. Davies in 1910.
For years, a story has circulated that the band chose the name because the average man ejaculates 9cc of sperm, making 10cc even better. But it was actually the group’s manager, Jonathan King, who came up with the unusual name after he dreamed that a band he managed called 10cc had the number one album and single simultaneously in America. For the record, the average man ejaculates 3cc of sperm.
Originally named Chubby and the Turnpikes, the group started using the last name of the band members, Ralph, Arthur, Antone, Feliciano and Perry Tavares as The Tavares Brothers before shorting the name.
THE TEDDY BEARS
Bass vocalist, Harvey Goldstein suggested the name because Elvis Presley’s “Teddy Bear” was a big hit at the time the L.A. teens were forming. Unfortunately for him, Goldstein was away with the US Army reserve when the band recorded their only hit, “To Know Him Is To Love Him” and was later eased out of the group. He wisely contacted an attorney, claiming a 25% ownership of the name and was granted royalties for “To Know Him…” for the next ten years.
THREE DOG NIGHT
While trying to think of a name that would show that the band had three lead singers, they nearly settled on ‘Tricycle’, until singer Danny Hutton’s girlfriend came up with a suggestion. She had read a magazine article about the Australian aborigines, who on cold nights, would sleep beside their dogs for warmth. The very coldest weather was called a “three dog night”.
Formed by Van Morrison, the group had the original hit version of “Gloria”, later covered by The Shadows Of Knight. The band took their name from a 1954 horror film, Them.
There are at least three versions of the origin of the name Thin Lizzy. Since no interviews with members of the band confirm any of them, they will remain as speculation. The most obvious yet least likely is that the band’s name was taken from the nickname of a Ford Model T. (Tin Lizzy) Another story comes from Jim Fitzpatrick, who as a producer of artwork for the band and a friend of Phil Lynott, suggests that Lynott was inspired to name the band after a girl he met, whose name was Liz Igoe, and that he added the Tin because it “scanned better”. The most popular story describes how the band’s original lead guitarist, Eric Bell, who was a fan of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, bought a copy of a Dandy comic after seeing Eric Clapton depicted reading a copy of its sister publication The Beano on the cover of the 1966 album “Bluesbreakers with Eric Clapton”. Bell suggested Tin Lizzie, the name of a robot character from the comic, which evolved into Thin Lizzy, a sly nod to the Dublin accent in which “Thin” is pronounced “Tin”.
The band who gave us “867-5309 / Jenny” took its name from the nickname of lead singer, Tommy Heath. They were originally known as Tommy and the Two-Tones.
Drummer Jim Capaldi is said to have thought up the name after watching cars go by.
Drummer Dave Munden of The Tremeloes explains: “We got our name actually from; you plugged into one of the amplifiers and it gave you the vibrato sound on the guitars. It was what we called a tremelo unit. And that’s where we got the name of the band from.”
According to the band’s lead singer, Reg Presley, they wanted an “earthy name” like The Stones. Troggs is an abbreviation of the word troglodyte, a mythical cave dweller.
In 1965, a Los Angeles group called the Crossfires changed their name to the Tyrtles as an unveiled homage to the Byrds, but soon amended the spelling.
Although the U2 is a type of spy plane that was used by the United States, Bono explained that U2 grew out of thoughts of interactivity with the audience…. as in ‘you too.’
The band got their name from the British Unemployment Benefit Form UB40 that you fill out to go “on the dole.”
After using several names during their developing years, manager Gerry Bron suggested “Uriah Heep”, based on the ‘horrible little character from Charles Dickens’ novel, “David Copperfield”.
The name of an S&M magazine that a band member found on a sidewalk in New York.
As all of the group members had been recruited from Greenwich Village, their manager, Jacques Morali, decided to call them “Village People”. He also noted that they are never to be referred to as The Village People.
After a small town Pennsylvania group called The Val-Airs recorded some demo tracks for the tiny Co & Ce label, they returned to lay down a Petula Clark album tune called “You’re The One”. To their surprise, one day they heard the song on the radio, credited to The Vogues. It seems the record company had released the single without telling them and their manager changed their name, taking the moniker from a supper club he used to own, The Vogue Terrace.
After meeting in a band called “Executive”, George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley said they named their duo Wham! because wanted to make a loud impact in the music business.
While taking suggestions for a new name, someone noticed that the band members were already so hard of hearing that they kept saying, “The who?”
This Ohio band, who scored a Billboard #1 hit in 1976 with “Play That Funky Music”, took their name from a box of cough drops used by vocalist / guitarist Rob Parissi while he was recuperating from a brief hospital stay.
Paul McCartney thought of the name while waiting in a hospital wing for Linda to give birth to one of their children.
From a list of names proposed by vocalist Keith Relf, the band chose the one that was slang for railyard hobos. In a 2010 interview with Classicbands.com, Yardbirds’ guitarist Chris Dreja said: “We thought that was not only a very original sort of sounding name for a sort of Beat group as you like, but it kind of matched what we were doing. I’m glad we chose it.”
While the group members searched for an appropriate name, guitarist Peter Banks suggested they called the group Yes, a very short and positive word. The others agreed that the name was not meant to be permanent, but just a temporary solution.
Jesse Colin Young got his start as a solo act on the folk circuits of Boston and New York, and had already cut a couple of unsuccessful albums before deciding to form a band with guitarist Jerry Corbitt. As they evolved into a quartet, they took the name ‘Youngbloods’ from Young’s second solo album.
THE YOUNG RASCALS
The group’s name was inspired by the 1920’s “Our Gang” films – known later on television as The Little Rascals.
According to guitarist Billy Gibbons, their odd name came from one or more of the following – two brands of cigarette rolling paper, Zig-Zag and Top, – a tribute to blues legend Z.Z. Hill – or Gibbons seeing the two words running together on a dilapidated billboard.