Introduced to music in the 1960s, I still search for albums by bands from that golden era of British music, I have always been intrigued by the names chosen by bands. Some are obvious, such as the Dave Clark Five, a five-piece outfit put together by Dave Clark, others have clearly taken some thought. My interest in etymology and music resulted in the following, although it is not restricted to the Sixties but simply those I found the most interesting.
A-HA – was a prospective title for a song written by one of this band hailing from Norway, but when Morten Harket saw it he liked it as the name for the band. A little research showed this expression means the same virtually the world over and made an excellent choice.
BEATLES – Buddy Holly’s band were the Crickets. Either John Lennon or Stuart Sutcliffe suggested Beetles as a tribute to Crickets, with the former suggesting a change in spelling to Beatles which also suggested ‘beat’. Initially they were the Silver Beatles (or Beetles), although how he came up with this has had several suggestions.
CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL – two suggestions for the origins here, both agree that Clear Water was a favourite of John Fogerty’s and he was delighted when, having been discontinued, was revived by another brewery after a break of four years. Both also agree that Creedence was a friend of John’s but some say this was one Norvel Creedence, while others attribute it to Creedence Newball.
DOOBIE BROTHERS – came from the Sixties slang for a joint.
EAGLES – influenced by the Byrds and a much better name than their original Teen King and the Emergencies.
FAIRPORT CONVENTION – where the band met (or convened) for the house was called Fairport.
GOLDEN EARRING – took the name of a film, well almost. It was inspired by the film Golden Earrings, a 1947 release starring Ray Milland and Marlene Dietrich set on the eve of the Second World War.
HOLLIES – as with the Beatles inspired and influenced by Buddy Holly and the Crickets, although some sources suggest it was a Christmas decoration at the home of Graham Nash.
IGGY POPP and the STOOGES – apparently Iggy, from ‘Iguana’, had been his nickname since childhood while the surname was taken from local junkie Jim Popp. One of the band’s favourite pastimes was to watch the Three Stooges.
JETHRO TULL – named after an eighteenth century chap who invented the seed-drill.
KIRBYS – if an origin fails to be creative, let it be silly. This band were the Panthers until they appeared on Radio Luxembourg, where the presenter (who shall be nameless) introduced them as the Kirbys, when he should have said they were from Kirby.
LOVIN’ SPOONFUL – was inspired by a line from Coffee Blues: “Well, please ma’am, just a lovin’ spoon, just a lovin’ spoonful, I declare, I got to have my lovin’ spoonful”. It is said to be slang for sperm but I could find no evidence of its use in this context before the band achieved success.
MARCELS – named after a hairstyle, one worn at the time by band member Fred Johnson’s sister Priscilla. I had never heard of a marcel wave and, having researched the image, don’t think it would suit me.
NAZARETH – a line from the Band’s track entitled The Weight: “I pulled into Nazareth, was feeling about half past dead”.
OASIS – named after the Oasis Leisure Centre in Swindon.
POGUES – owing to complaints received by the BBC the band amended their name from what was originally the Gaelic for ‘kiss my arse’ (genius!)
QUEEN – said to have been chosen as a regal name and easily remembered, Freddie Mercury recognised the gay connection but never confirmed or denied it was a factor.
RAMONES – upon joining every member of the band adopts the stage name Ramone. This began with Douglas Colvin calling himself Dee Dee Ramone, a tribute to an early alias of Paul McCartney who took the name of Paul Ramon or Ramone.
SMALL FACES – taken from the Who song “I’m the Face”, where ‘face’ was used by Mods to mean “one with style” and ‘small’ because of the stature of the band members.
THREE DOG NIGHT – suggested by a former girlfriend of band member Danny Hutton. June Fairchild had been reading a magazine article about the people indigenous to Australia often, mistakenly, referred to as Aborigines. Desert nights can be cold, feeling particularly so when contrasting with the heat of the day, so they dig a hole as a bed and cuddle up to a dingo for warmth. Colder nights would require two dogs and the coldest known as a Three Dog Night.
ULTRAVOX – is Latin for ‘the greatest amount of voice”
VILLAGE PEOPLE – all the members of the band came from Greenwich Village.
WAYNE FONTANA and the MINDBENDERS – Glyn Ellis took the name ‘Wayne’ to add to the surname of D J Fontana, the drummer during Elvis Presley’s early years. The band took their name from a horror film, The Mindbenders being released in 1962.
ZZ TOP – inspired by their hero, blues legend B B King and wanted to call themselves Z Z King (the US pronunciation being ‘zee zee’ not ‘zed zed’ as in the UK). This similarity made them change ‘King’ to ‘Top’ as both could be used as synonyms for ‘best’ or ‘ultimate’.
Finally to answer the question set in the title. Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, and Keith Moon were originally the Detours but with Johnny Devlin and the Detours also around at that time decided to opt for a change. Townshend favoured a joke announcement, throwing out suggestions such as “No One” or “The Group” but ended up with The Who. There are also suggestions this was first heard from Townshend’s grandmother, whose hearing problems and lack of knowledge of modern music saw her respond to a mention of a band with “The who?”