Being in a band is not always what it is cracked up to be. It requires total commitment to creating music and continuously improving your artistic nature, playing parties and weddings while others try their luck seeking fame and fortune in the music business is a unique industry in its own right as well. There have been several artists who made billions of dollars with a single song and on the other hand, there are also several singers and bands who have made multiple albums but still failed to earn even a single dime. The difference does not lie in luck. It is sheer talent and connecting with the fans that determine success. Leaving that aside, let’s take a look at the very first step of forming a band: coming up with a name that will forever signify the representation of the musical contents. The following list chronicles 16 famous music bands and how they get their names:
16. The Rolling Stones
The English blues-rock band is one of the most critically acclaimed music acts on an international level. Formed in 1962 with only vocalist Mick Jagger, guitarist Keith Richards and drummer Charlie Watts serving as the original members today, the band has released twenty-four albums.
Considering the fact that three out of four of its members have crossed the age of seventy, it is amazing to see Rolling Stones continuing to make their presence known in the music industry.
Coming up with a name for the band was an act of quick decision-making without methodical thought. When original member, guitarist Brian Jones was asked for his band’s name during a phone call with Jazz News, he saw a Muddy Waters LP on the floor and quickly noticed the song Rollin’ Stone written in the tracklist. The name was adopted since both shared a fondness for blues but later modified it to The Rolling Stones.
15. Mötley Crüe
Calling the glam metal band Mötley Crüe a group of normal musicians would certainly be an understatement to say the very least. The band is not a stranger to creating controversies as the band’s notorious image has been subjected to numerous run-ins with the law, several arrests, heavy alcohol consumption, countless escapades with women, and cocaine and heroin addiction. Despite all that, the band is one of the best-selling artists of all time and has kept the spirit of glam metal alive since 1981.
While thinking of a name that suits their hedonistic lifestyles, guitarist Mick Mars recalled an incident that occurred while he was part of the band White Horse.
One of the band members called them “a motley-looking crew”. Narrating the moment, the band gave a thought and decided upon Mottley Cru but later modified it to MötleyCrüe. The addition of the two metal umlauts was inspired by the German beer Löwenbräu, which the members were drinking during that time.
14. System of a Down
Formed in 1994 and consisting of four Armenian-American musicians who dared to dream, System of a Down has contributed a lot to alternative metal and progressive rock music. Selling more than 40 million albums worldwide, the band is iconic for their unconventional vocalist Serj Tankian due to his uncanny delivery of an immensely large vocal range in live performances.
The band took its name from a poem written by guitarist Daron Malakian titled “Victims of a Down”. Under the suggestion of bassist ShavoOdajian, the word ‘victims’ was replaced with ‘system’ as an attempt to charm a much larger audience and as an alphabetical homage to their musical icons, thrash metal band Slayer.
13. Lynyrd Skynyrd
If you are not familiar with the band, you surely will have a hard time pronouncing the name for the first time. Believe it or not, the band is very well aware of that and in order to avoid confusion, named its debut album (Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd).
Best known for their songs “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird”, the band was at the peak of its success when three of its members tragically died in an airplane crash in 1977. Even after a ten-year hiatus and recruitment of new members, the band was never able to achieve the glory it once had.
Coming to the origins of its name, vocalist Ronnie Van Zant and guitarists Gary Rossington and Allen Collins were students at Robert E. Lee High School where the gym teacher by the name of Leonard Skinner strongly backed the policy against long hair for boys.
Van Zant came up with the mocking tribute name Leonard Skinner which was soon changed to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Rossington even dropped out of school after being continuously told by Skinner to cut his hair short. However, the relations between the strict gym teacher and the three members became better once the band became a success, and even invited him to one of their concerts at Jacksonville Memorial Coliseum.
Winning two Grammy Awards and two MTV Video Music Awards is just another day for the nu-metal band comprising vocalist Johnathan Davis, bassist Reginald “Fieldy” Arvizu, drummer Ray Luzier and guitarists James “Munky” Shaffer, and Brian “Head” Welch.
Often associated with creepy music videos, extreme vulgarity in lyrics, and disturbing songs, it is amazing that the band still manages to make an impact with their huge fan following.
While thinking of a band name, the word “corn” came to mind along with a variety of suggestions but was met with rejection. Shaffer, still having faith in the name, wrote the word as if a young child would by replacing the “C” with “K” and a backward capital “R”.
The name was accepted and Davis designed the official logo. Original drummer David Silvera explains:
“The music makes the name because Korn’s a dumb name. But once we get established, it makes the name cool.”
11. Green Day
The punk rock band Green Day was not always the famed group it is nowadays. While much is known about the breakthrough success of their 2004 hit album American Idiot, it is a surprising fact that the band was around since 1986 with original members vocalist and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist Mike Dirnt.
Even after the stabilization of Tré Cool in 1990, the band desperately struggled to make it big. Now, Green Day is one of the most loved musical acts in the world.
Known as Sweet Children in their first year, the band was irregularly doing small performances in front of limited audiences. While recording an extended play from Lookout! Records, the band had to change the name in order to avoid confusion with the local band Sweet Baby. While thinking of a new name, Armstrong recalled writing a song called “Green Day” – a slang for marijuana – when he first had the drug and decided to take it as the band’s name.
10. Pink Floyd
Even in their formation year of 1965, Pink Floyd was destined for greatness and continued to do so for the next twenty-nine years until its breakup. With fifteen albums, their contribution to progressive rock music is considered legendary and an incredible masterpiece in music and is one of the most commercially successful music bands of all time; selling more than 250 million albums worldwide.
Initially called “Tea Set”, the band thought about other names when they were booked on a bill with another band having the same name. Vocalist and songwriter Syd Barrett came up with the name The Pink Floyd Sound as an homage to the blues musicians Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. “Sound” was soon dropped as the band began to gain success and the name Pink Floyd – and sometimes just Pink Floyd – was
Formed by brothers Angus and Malcolm Young in 1973, the band is significantly and undoubtedly one of the most recognizable and greatest music groups in the history of hard rock music. For over forty years, the brothers still continue to rock with their stabilized lineup and have sold more than 200 million albums worldwide. Not only that, their sixth studio album Back in Black is the fifth most-selling album of all time.
When their sister Margaret Young saw the initials AC/DC – a symbol for alternating current/direct current – written on a sewing machine, the brothers thought that it was the perfect name for the band as it perfectly represented their energy-driven performances. The name stuck and the slash symbol was replaced by a lightning bolt in the middle of “AC” and “DC” as the band’s official logo.
There was a time in America when thrash metal was not at all mainstream. That soon changed when guitarist and vocalist Dave Mustaine and bassist David Ellefson, after a series of changes in lead guitarists and drummers, formed the band Megadeth. With six of its fourteen albums earning platinum certifications and selling more than 50 million albums worldwide, the band is a pioneer of thrash metal music.
After being fired from Metallica due to his violent behavior before recording sessions and excessive drug and alcohol usage, Mustaine was riding a bus home and writing lyrics at the back of a handbill on which was quoted:
“The arsenal of megadeath can’t be rid no matter what the peace treaties come to.”
Mustaine later formed his own band with the name but soon dropped an ‘a’ once he found out that “The Megadeaths” was one of the initial names for Pink Floyd.
7. Limp Bizkit
The American nu-metal band is one of the most controversial acts in the music industry. Consisting of rapper Fred Durst, guitarist Wes Borland, bass guitarist Sam Rivers, and drummer John Otto, Limp Bizkit has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide despite being immensely criticized by the media of their country. Now, even though the lineup has not changed, their level of success has as the band is just a shadow of its former self.
As far as the name of the band was concerned, Durst came up with the insanely peculiar name as he stated:
“The name is there to turn people’s heads away. A lot of people pick up the disc and go, ‘Limp Bizkit. Oh, they must suck.’ Those are the people that we don’t even want listening to our music.”
Durst was dead serious about that because before the name was finalized, he had come up with some of the most ridiculous names imaginable such as Split Dickslit, Gimp Disco, and Bitch Piglet.
With hardly six years of activeness and three albums, Nirvana established itself as the greatest grunge rock band of all time. With distorted guitaring, bombastic drumming, and grunt vocals which were difficult to understand, the band was bound to doom as per the predictions of many critics but proved everyone wrong by selling over 75 million albums worldwide and even being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the very first year of its eligibility.
For a loud grunge rock band, Nirvana has a very decent name but that was not always the case as among the names initially considered were Ted Ed Fred and Pen Cap Chew. Things could have been different but lead vocalist and guitarist Kurt Cobain settled on the name Nirvana since:
“I wanted a name that was kind of beautiful or nice and pretty instead of a mean, raunchy punk name like the Angry Samoans”.
KISS might be the most unique rock and roll band of all time. Each member has his own larger-than-life persona and that has played extremely well for the band when it comes to grabbing the attention of their audience. The involvement of fire breathing, guitar showmanship, blood spitting, smoking guitars, levitating drum kits, theatrics, and pyrotechnics have often been the main reason behind their successful live performances.
When the original members were driving in New York and were just another group aiming to make a name for themselves, they had to come up with a name for the band first.
While suggesting different names, guitarist Paul Stanley remembered that he was previously in a band called LIPS so he blurted out:
“How about Kiss?”
The name stuck as Stanley thought that the name:
“just sounded dangerous and sexy at the same time.”
Often stylized as KISS, the name has been accused of standing for Knights in Satan’s Service but that has been denied time and again by the members.
The greatness of Nickelback as a music group can be determined by the fact that they are the second best-selling foreign act in the United States of America in the 2000s behind none other than the Beatles. Having sold more than 50 million albums across the globe, Nickelback is one of the most impactful Canadian musicians of their time along with Avril Lavigne and Justin Bieber.
The brother of lead vocalist and guitarist Chad Kroeger used to work at Starbucks and sold coffee for $1.95. Being a frequent customer, whenever Kroeger bought a cup, he gave $2, and every single time he paid for it, he would receive a nickel back. It struck him like a bolt of lightning and the name Nickelback was allotted to his band.
3. Linkin Park
The band was formed in 1996 and is one of the very few groups of musicians who have never lost a single step when it comes to excelling in music. In fact, the United Kingdom-based magazine Kerrang! claimed them as the Biggest Rock Band in the World Right Now. Originally known as Xero and Hybrid Theory, the band has released six albums and topped billboard charts on numerous occasions.
When their lead vocalist Chester Bennington drove past Santa Monica’s Lincoln Park after a practice session, he suggested the name as the band’s new name but due to copyright issues, the internet domain “lincolnpark.com” proved to be really expensive for their budget. After much reconsideration, the band thought about changing the spelling to Linkin and the name became permanent.
2. Guns N’ Roses
The original lineup of vocalist Axl Rose, lead guitarist Slash, rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin, bassist Duff McKagan, and drummer Steven Adler pioneered hard rock music and their image as a band was the absolute embodiment of their music.
Drug use, alcohol consumption, and frequent adult activities were a part of their music as well as their lifestyles and despite all the negativity, the mentioned lineup of Guns N’ Roses successfully sold their albums worldwide and outperformed every other major band at that time; dubbing them as the world’s most dangerous band.
When Hollywood Rose members Axl and Izzy decided to team up with L.A. Guns members Tracii Guns, Ole Beich, and Rob Gardner, the name Guns N’ Roses was coined by combining both bands’ names. However, the members of L.A. Guns were soon replaced by Slash, McKagan, and Adler following a few disputes regarding rehearsals and live shows.
1. Led Zeppelin
If there is one band that defines the very essence of the art of rock and roll, it is undoubtedly Led Zeppelin. Consisting of vocalist Robert Plant, lead guitarist Jimmy Page, bassist John Paul Jones, and drummer John Bonham, the group was the most dominant band in the 1970s and is the most influential English rock band of all time.
By revolutionizing the genre of blues-rock and hard rock, the status of the band still remains one of the best even after more than thirty years after the breakup.
Back when Page and fellow guitarist Jeff Back wanted to form a band of their own, members of rock band The Who Keith Moon and John Entwistle joked that if they did, their group will go down like a “lead balloon” – a British idiom for catastrophic results.
Page recalled the incident and decided to adopt the name but replaced the word ‘balloon’ with ‘zeppelin’ and dropped the ‘a’ in ‘lead’ as per the suggestion of their manager Peter Grant so the people unfamiliar with the idiom would not pronounce it as ‘leed’.
Did we miss any story about how famous music bands got their names on this list? Feel free to leave a comment below!
“The greatness of Nickelback as a music group…”
I stopped reading right there…