Way back in the first year of this column I did a series on band management, pretending that I knew something about it. The first installment dealt with the subject of naming bands, since it’s something every band has to do before they go about getting work, building web sites, playing gigs, and eventually going on hiatus to focus on self-care.
I discussed various tried and sometimes-true methods for coming up with a name for a bluegrass band, a very common and traditional one being the “something somethings.” This is how we got “The Lonesome Ramblers,” “The Shenandoah Cut-Ups,” and of course the “Blue Grass Boys” (or with that original spelling, is it really the “something something somethings”?).
Also heavily in use since the 1970s is what I called the “modern bluegrass band name kit.” That’s the system that entails picking an adjective, geographical place name (e.g. “Carolina”) or time of day (which usually ends up being “midnight”) from column A, and combining it with a noun like “Train,” “Town” (or “Towne”), “HIghway,” or “Octopus” (that one is rarer) from column B. This is how we got band names like “Carolina Road,” “Blue Highway,” “East Nash Grass,” “Kentucky Grass,” “Appalachian Road (Show),” etc.
I have to admit that some band names don’t quite fit these naming protocols, and I still find it interesting to know why bands chose the words they did, in any case. That’s why I decided to do some “research” into how some of our best-loved or even least-loved band names came into being. As a bonus I also endeavored to find out if there were alternative band names they rejected after they settled on “The One.” This is how I discovered there are a lot more than four or five band-naming methods; there are countless ones, and many of them are unique.
Here are several of them:
Method: choose the label on the knob of a stereo system or mixer and combine it with a number.
Rejected alternative names: Midrange 14, Loudness 31
Method: Use the Modern Bluegrass Band Name Kit, but reject words from the second column and just pick two adjectives from the first column.
Rejected alternative names: Lonesome Foggy, Blue Green
Method: Name the band after a leavening ingredient.
Rejected alternative names: Yeast, Sodium Bicarbonate
Method: Combine a family title with the name of a murder ballad victim.
Rejected alternative names: Niece Polly, Stepmother Rose Conley
Method: name the band after whatever old food was served at the time of the band meeting.
Rejected alternative names: Stale Donuts, Expired Hummus
Method: name the band after a poorly maintained room in the bandleader’s house
Rejected alternative names: Musty Basement, Cluttered Bedroom
Method: combine a sticky substance from a tree with a kitchen appliance.
Rejected alternative names: Sap Microwave, Pine Tar Dishwasher
Method: Combine a geographical feature with an organ of the body
Rejected alternative names: Valley Pancreas, Hillside Spleen, and my personal favorite: River Liver
We haven’t even discussed how some bands from other genres got their names, but a few of them are interesting:
Method: combine a color with a character from the Andy Griffith Show.
Rejected alternatives: Orange Barney, Puce Opie
Method: name the band after whatever you just put in your coffee
Rejected alternatives: Non-dairy Creamer, Bourbon, Cyclamate (it was the ’60s, after all)