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25 Worst Original Names of Famous Bands

From the Salty Peppers to Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem

Earth, Wind & Fire and Red Hot Chili Peppers

Earth, Wind & Fire and Red Hot Chili Peppers

GAB/Redfern/Getty; JA Barratt/Photoshot/Getty

It's one of the biggest decisions any band will face: what to call themselves. And yet, so many get it so wrong. Fortunately, for every group that comes up with a terrible name and sticks with it, there's a band that comes up with a terrible name, plays a few shows under it, maybe releases a demo or even an album or two but then finally comes to its senses. Many well-known and successful groups – from Creedence Clearwater Revival to Green Day – have been through the latter growing pains, starting out life cursed with a misguided moniker before landing on a name destined to adorn the T-shirts of millions of devoted fans. The name makes the band, as they say; here are 25 bands that almost didn't get made.

Blue Oyster Cult

Blue Oyster Cult, group portrait, USA, 1977. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Michael Putland/Getty

10

Soft White Underbelly

Final name: Blue Öyster Cult

While Blue Öyster Cult may not be the world's greatest band name, it's still a damn sight better than Soft White Underbelly, the moniker that founding BÖC members Buck Dharma, Albert Bouchard and Allen Lanier performed and recorded under during the late Sixties. It took the exit of original lead singer Les Braunstein – who was replaced by Eric Bloom – and a particularly scathing review of one of their shows at the Fillmore East to convince band manager Sandy Pearlman that Soft White Underbelly needed a new name. After initially recasting them as Oaxaca and then the Stalk-Forrest Group, Pearlman came up with Blue Öyster Cult. . . and the rest is cowbell-clanking history.

Earth, Wind & Fire

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: (AUSTRALIA OUT) STUDIO Photo of EARTH WIND & FIRE, (Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns)

GAB Archive/Redferns/Getty

9

The Salty Peppers

Final name: Earth, Wind and Fire

EW&F leader Maurice White cut his teeth as a session drummer in Chicago during the Sixties, for everyone from Betty Everett ("You're No Good") to Etta James to the Ramsey Lewis Trio ("Wade in the Water"). In 1969 he formed his own trio, and its name was pure Sixties cheese: the Salty Peppers. "I was still in a jazz state at that time," White told Vibe in 1999. A move to L.A. and seven more bandmates later, White turned to astrology for a bigger, better name: as a Sagittarius, his elements were earth, air and fire.

Doobie Brothers

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Photo of DOOBIE BROTHERS; Posed group portrait of the Doobie Brothers (Photo by RB/Redferns)

RB/Redferns

8

Pud

Final name: Doobie Brothers

Introduced to each other by psych-rock icon Skip Spence, guitarist Tom Johnston and drummer John Hartman formed Pud in San Jose. They slowly picked up the other two Doobs and changed their name from a childish weiner reference to a slightly-less-childish pot reference. They pulled Pud and released their Doobie debut in 1971.

lamb of god

UNSPECIFIED - JANUARY 01: Photo of Randy BLYTHE and LAMB OF GOD and Willie ADLER and John CAMPBELL and Mark MORTON and Chris ADLER; L-R: Randy Blythe, Willie Adler, John Campbell, Chris Adler, Mark Morton - posed, group shot (Photo by Mick Hutson/Redferns)

Mick Hutson/Redferns/Getty

7

Burn the Priest

Final name: Lamb of God

"You're automatically stamped with 'Evil' on your forehead with a name like Burn the Priest," Lamb of God singer Randy Blythe said in 2000 of why his band changed its moniker the year before. The Virginian neo-thrash outfit had slogged it out for five years with that inflammatory moniker and even released an album, 1999's self-titled full-length, under the name; needless to say, the over-the-top handle, which at first helped garner the group attention, soon began to get in the way, especially as the five-piece found people increasingly assuming that they played satanic black metal. When a 1999 lineup change gave them the perfect excuse to rechristen themselves, they took on Lamb of God, which Blythe described as "a little less of a sledgehammer in the face," and since have become one of the leading metal bands in the world – though, ironically, they've been banned from playing numerous venues because of their current name.

Finger Eleven

(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) Finger Eleven (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/WireImage)

Ray Mickshaw/WireImage/Getty

6

Rainbow Butt Monkeys

Final name: Finger Eleven

Before they were the post-grunge hitmakers behind 2003's "One Thing," the members of Finger Eleven were students at Lester B. Pearson High School – mature enough to know that there's only so far a band with the profoundly stupid, Wayne's World–friendly name Rainbow Butt Monkeys can get. Back then they were a hard-groovin' Chili Peps–style thrash-funk clone that eventually got signed to Mercury and released one album under that moniker, Letters From Chutney. Their cryptic new name came with a moody new sound in 1997 and we were, sadly, denied the chance to hear Jay Leno have to say "Rainbow Butt Monkeys" on national TV.

Sugar Ray

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 20: Jesse Bivona, Mark McGrath, Justin Bivona and Rodney Sheppard of Sugar Ray attend the Audi Best Buddies Challenge: Washington, D.C. on October 20, 2012 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Best Buddies)

Stephen Lovekin/Getty

5

The Shrinky Dinks

Final name: Sugar Ray

SoCal party animals Sugar Ray originally called themselves the Shrinky Dinks (and later Shrinky Dinx), after the oven-heated children's arts and crafts kit of the same name, allegedly because it was the most useless toy they could think of. But once the group got hot themselves – landing a deal with Atlantic Records in 1994 – their impressively un-badass band name aroused the ire of Shrinky Dinks manufacturer Milton Bradley, who threatened to sue. Mark McGrath and Co. then renamed themselves for boxer Sugar Ray Robinson, who by that point was too dead to give a shit.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Portrait of the Red Hot Chili Peppers photographed in the early 1990's.; (Photo by JA Barratt/Photoshot/Getty Images)

JA Barratt/Photoshot/Getty

4

Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem

Final name: Red Hot Chili Peppers

"That's was how we wanted to play, majestic and chaotic" explained Anthony Kiedis of a name somehow more unwieldy than the six-syllable Red Hot Chili Peppers. In 1983, a friend suggested that bassist Flea, guitarist Hillel Slovak and local character Anthony Kiedis play a song before his band's gig at the Rhythm Room in Los Angeles. Soon, Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem appeared for two shows in February 1983. "I was wearing a paisley corduroy three-quarter-length robe and a fluorescent orange hunting cap," remembered Kiedis about the first night. "Oddly enough, I was totally sober."

Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath, 1970s: Geezer Butler, Tony Iommi, Bill Ward and Ozzy Osbourne (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage)

Chris Walter/WireImage

3

The Polka Tulk Blues Band

Final name: Black Sabbath

Black Sabbath is pretty much the most perfect name for the world's first heavy-metal band, but it didn't come to them immediately. When Ozzy Osbourne, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward first came together in 1968 they were doing blues rock numbers under the name the Polka Tulk Blues Band, though one day early on Iommi told Osbourne it was terrible. "Every time I hear it, all I can picture is you, with your trousers around your ankles, taking a fucking dump," he said. "It's crap." His big idea was to rebrand themselves as Earth, though they soon discovered they weren't the only English band with that name. Butler eventually saved the day when he saw a crowd of people lined up to see the Boris Karloff film Black Sabbath and convinced his bandmates to try it out. 

Creedence Clearwater Revival

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970: Photo of Creedence Clearwater Revival Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

2

The Golliwogs

Final name: Creedence Clearwater Revival

The hirsute white boys in Creedence Clearwater Revival turned their passion for black music and Southern culture into a distinctive California-soaked choogle that had Tina Turner covering their songs and Bruce Springsteen inducting them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. However, they would probably be remembered as the Vanilla Ice of the Vanilla Fudge era had they stuck with the racist path they started as the Golliwogs — a band in frizzy white afro wigs, a whiteface reversal of the minstrel-like caricature of their namesake. Though they were working as the Visions, Fantasy Records owner Max Weiss changed the name of the embryonic band for its first single, 1964's "Don't Tell Me No Lies." "I think, at least to Max anyway, 'Golliwogs' sounded sort of British," said rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty. "We always hated the name – still do – but Max owned the label and we were new and wanted very much to make records, so we went along with things." The same corporate meddling that got them into that mess, also got them out: When Saul Zaentz bought the company in 1967, he made them find a new handle.

Creed

Portrait of the American rock group Creed, 1990s. L-R: Scott Phillips, Scott Stapp and Mark Tremonti, 1990s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Hulton Archive/Getty

1

Naked Toddler

Final name: Creed

Perhaps through some act of fan mercy, the words "Naked Toddler" do not currently appear anywhere on Creed's Wikipedia page. But the fact is, when the group first came together in the mid Nineties, guitarist Mark Tremonti presented his bandmates with a newspaper clipping he kept in his wallet containing a story about an abducted "naked toddler" and convinced them it would a good moniker. "The name didn't go over well," singer Scott Stapp wrote in his autobiography. "Girls hated it and said it made them think of pedophilia." The band eventually adopted Creed as a shortened form of the name of bassist Brian Marshall's previous outfit Mattox Creed. And yet, the group apparently aren't totally ashamed of their NAMBLA-esque original name. In 2012, they posted a piece of "Creed Trivia" to their Facebook page asking fans if they knew the band's original name. About 600 fans have replied so far, all confident in typing "Naked Toddler."

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