From AC/DC to ZZ Top an A-Z of band Etymologies

‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ – William Shakespeare

I’ve also been a bit of a geek when it comes to band names, and i love a good story on how a band or artist got their stage name – the quirkier the better! And i love a good pub debate about what you would call your own band (mine would be ‘Casteau Hope’ in case you were wondering – the housing estate i grew up on in Belgium and my mum’s maiden name).
Below is a brief A-Z of some of my favourite band name stories and how they came about. Hope you enjoy and feel free to leave a comment on what you would call your band….


AC/DC – Malcolm and Angus Young developed the idea for the band’s name after their sister, Margaret Young, saw the initials “AC/DC” on a sewing machine. AC/DC is an abbreviation meaning ‘alternating current/direct current’ electricity. The brothers felt that this name symbolised the band’s raw energy, power-driven performances of their music

B-52s – The band’s name comes from a particular beehive hairdo resembling the nose cone of the aircraft of the same name. Keith Strickland suggested the name after a dream he had had one night, of a band performing in a hotel lounge. In the dream he heard someone whisper in his ear that the name of the band was ‘the B-52s’

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Childish Gambino –  Donald Glover used a Wu-Tang Clan name generator in his sophomore year of college at NYU; inputting his real name and coming up with Childish Gambino.

Deep Blue Something – The band was sitting around trying to think of a name, and one of them said “we should name it Deep Blue something” (like Deep Blue Sea, Deep Blue Lake, etc) but couldn’t come up with anything and instead they just kept that.

Eels – The name ‘Eels’ was chosen so that the band’s records would be close to lead singer Mark Everett (also known as E)’s solo records in an alphabetical ordering, although realised too late; numerous Eagles and Earth, Wind and Fire releases would be filed in between

ive for Fighting – The name was adopted from an ice hockey term that means a five minute major penalty for participating in a fight. John Ondrasik is a lifelong fan of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings.


Garbage — Either lead singer Shirley Manson’s father yelled down to the band at one of their basement practice sessions, ‘Play more quietly – you sound like garbage’

Hootie and the Blowfish — Lead singer Darius Rucker derived the name from two friends from college. One had an owlish face and was nicknamed ‘Hootie’, while the other had puffy cheeks and was called ‘the Blowfish’

Iggy Azalea – Amethyst Amelia Kelly took her stage name from the name of her childhood dog, Iggy, and the street she grew up on, Azalea Street, where her family lives to this day.

Jimmy Eat World – Contrary to popular belief, the band name acronym (JEW) is not a reference to the band’s religious beliefs. The band’s name came from a crayon drawing made after an incident between Linton’s younger brothers, Jim and Ed Linton, who fought frequently. Jim usually won, but Ed sought revenge by drawing a picture of Jim shoving the Earth into his mouth; the picture was captioned ‘Jimmy eat world’


Kasabian – Originally called Saracuse, the band was soon spotted and changed their name to Kasabian, after Linda Kasabian, a member of the Charles Manson cult. Former guitarist Chris Karloff picked the name after reading up on the Manson murders and the name stuck with him.

Less Than Jake – The band’s name comes from drummer Vinnie Fiorello’s dog, Jake, who was treated better than the rest of the household, so everything was ‘less than Jake’

Matchbox Twenty – the band took its name from a softball jersey with a ’20’ on it and a patch that had ‘Matchbox’ written on it.

Nickelback – The band’s name originates from the nickel in change that band member Mike Kroeger gave customers at his job at Starbucks; he would frequently say; ‘Here’s your coffee and here’s your nickel back’

OK Go – The band name comes from their art teacher saying, ‘OK… Go!’ while they were drawing.


Peaches – The Peaches moniker was taken from the Nina Simone song “Four Women” where Simone screams at the end, ‘My name is Peaches!’

Queens of the Stoneage – Queens of the Stoneage was chosen because they thought Kings of the Stone age sounded too macho and that rock music should be heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls – they didn’t want to alienate anyone

Roxette – Originally called Heartland, after the record company insisted on a name change they chose Roxette – the name of a Dr Feelgood song.

Savage Garden – The new duo was renamed from Red Edge to Savage Garden after a phrase from The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice, “Beauty was a Savage Garden”.

Toto – At the first recording sessions, in order to distinguish their own demo tapes from other bands’ in the studio.  After viewing the name on the demo tapes, it was explained to the group that the word ‘Toto’ in Latin translated to ‘all-encompassing’ Because the band members played on so many different records and many different musical genres, they adopted the name ‘Toto’ as their own.

Uriah Heep – Originally recording under the name Spice  the name was changed to the character from David Copperfield, Uriah Heep the reason being attributed to the fact Dickens’ name being everywhere around Christmas 1969 due to it being the hundredth anniversary of his death

Velvet Underground – named after a popular novel by Michael Leigh about the secret sexual subculture of the early 1960, the group liked the name, considering it evocative of ‘underground cinema’.


Weezer — Lead vocalist Rivers Cuomo quickly nominated Weezer as a possible name, a nickname given to him when he was a kid by other children who were teasing him about his asthma. Afterwards, the band had a long meeting and kicked around many more names, but nobody could come up with anything better.

XTC – were named when founder Andy Partridge saw a Jimmy Durante film in which the comic exclaimed ‘I’m in ecstasy!’ and converted the word into letters: XTC.

Yazoo – According to Alison Moyet the name Yazoo was taken from the specialist blues record label, Yazoo Records. This decision led to a £3.5 million lawsuit threat by the label over the band’s name and coupled with the fact that the name Yazoo was already in use by a small American rock band, the group was renamed Yaz for the North American market

ZZ Top – As an homage to BB King they originally wanted to call themselves ZZ King but thought that might cause too much confusion, so changed it to ZZ Top and King was ‘top’ in their eyes

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