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What’s in a name?

While playing on the Internet this weekend I came across an article about where musicians got their stage names. I decided to share this with some of you because it is part trivia and part music history, so why not. I haven’t listed them all but I did put the well-known artists.
Born: Paul David Hewson
Supposedly named after a Dublin hearing-aid shop called Bono Vox – Latin for “good voice.” His U2 bandmate the Edge got his own nickname from either his sharp facial features or his fearlessness of heights, depending on which version you believe.
Snoop Dogg
Born: Cordozar Calvin Broadus Jr.
Dogg was nicknamed “Snoopy” by his mom for his love of the “Peanuts” comic strip. If the original Snoopy was, in fact, a little bit gangsta, “Doggystyle,” we presume, was not quite what Charles Schulz had in mind.
Marilyn Manson
Born: Brian Hugh Warner
Marilyn Manson combined Marilyn Monroe with Charles Manson, of course. His bandmate Twiggy Ramirez (Jeordie White) combined the names of the slender ‘60s fashion icon and the serial killer Richard Ramirez. Most of the various band members have taken similarly titillating monikers – Daisy Berkowitz, Madonna Wayne Gacy, Gidget Gein…
Tina Turner
Born: Annie Mae Bullock
Tina Turner got the last name, of course, by marrying her bandleader, Ike Turner. But he also changed the soul queen’s given name as well, appropriately yet obliquely inspired by his fandom of comic-book wildwoman Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.
Billy Idol
Born: William Michael Albert Broad
A teacher once marked a report card for young Bill with the comment, “William is idle.” After his career went multi-platinum in the 1980s, this textbook bad boy fell off the map, going 12 album-less years before a 2005 comeback. Once again, Billy was, in fact, idle.
Elton John
Born: Reginald Kenneth Dwight
Sir Reg’s early band was Bluesology, featuring saxophonist Elton Dean and frontman Long John Baldry. In 1972, he legally changed his name to Elton Hercules John, despite never having shared a band with any Hercules.
Macy Gray
Born: Natalie Renee McIntyre
There’s Macy Gray, and then there’s Macy Gray the neo-soul singer. The latter pinched her stage name wholesale from a man who lived in her Canton, Ohio, neighborhood. No word on whether Mr. Gray ever mistakenly received any of his namesake neighbor’s royalty checks in the mail.
Born: Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner
Playing in a jazz band, the young Gordo once wore a black-and-yellow striped shirt that made him look like a bumblebee. “My children call me Sting, my mother calls me Sting,” he once joked, after being addressed by his given name. “Who is this Gordon character?”
Born: Richard Melville Hall
Childhood nickname bestowed by his parents; Richie’s great-great-grand-uncle was ‘Moby-Dick’ author Herman Melville. Sadly, this connection to the great whale tale had nothing to do with Moby’s brief stint in the band Flipper.
Iggy Pop
Born: James Newell Osterberg Jr.
His first high school band was called the Iguanas, earning Iggy Pop another colorful nickname – the Rock Iguana. Unhappily credited as Iggy Stooge on the Stooge’s first few records.
Dusty Springfield
Born: Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien
Let’s say you start a group with your brother called the Springfields, he adopts the moniker Tom Springfield – and you’re Mary Isobel Catherine Bernadette O’Brien. Suffice to say it didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting for Dusty – a childhood nickname – to change her surname as well.
Bo Diddley
Born: Ellas Otha Bates
Bo Diddley might’ve swiped his lyrical stage name from a variety of sources. A diddley bow is a homemade, one-stringed instrument often used by sharecroppers. Maybe more to the point for this master of the good-natured put-down is the old-timey insult: “That ain’t bo diddley.”
Freddie Mercury
Born: Farrokh Bulsara
Born in Zanzibar to a Zoroastrian family of Indian descent, the man who would be Queen began calling himself Freddie while at boarding school near Bombay, where he started a band called the Hectics.

Johnny Rotten
Born: John Joseph Lydon
The head Sex Pistol is said to have earned his nickname through the dubious distinction of his prematurely decaying teeth. Rotten’s nickname for his pal John Simon Ritchie was dentally inspired, too – “Sid Vicious” was borrowed from a particularly nippy pet hamster.
Born: Michael Peter Balzary
Like Sting, another product of the Flying Pest school of rock nicknames. The Red Hot Chili Pepper’s stage name was bestowed for his high-strung nature by high school buddy Anthony Kiedis on a ski trip.
Elvis Costello
Born: Declan Patrick McManus
Originally performed as D.P. Costello, using his great-grandmother’s surname (not inspired by the American comedian Lou Costello). Costello later took his manager’s advice and adopted the first name Elvis. Further confusing the matter, he legally added Aloysius to his given name in the ‘80s.
Alice Cooper
Born: Vincent Furnier
Original band the Spiders switched their name to Alice Cooper, conjured, according to the record company, through a Ouija board encounter with a medieval witch of the same name. In 1974, Furnier legally adopted the name, keeping it for his solo career.
Meat Loaf
Born: Marvin Lee Aday
The “Bat Out of Hell” blockbuster’s first band was called Meat Loaf Soul; he debuted, oddly, with Motown, as half of a duet called Stoney and Meat Loaf. Recently changed his given first name, which no one knew anyway, to Michael.

Matt Cook is a staff writer at the Ennis Daily News and can be reached at matt@ennisdailynews.com

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Posted by on Apr 24 2008. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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