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How Your Favorite Rock Bands Got Their Names

By June 1, 2021 June 8th, 2021 No Comments

Rock has been a defining genre of music for many decades. From the 60, 70s, 80s, 90s, each decade has had their own group of rock bands that stood out. The names of these bands are one of the most recognizable in music history.

So how do these bands end up picking these names that people go on to talk about it for years? The popular strategies used to name bands stretch from using your own name to pulling words out of a hat. If you are looking to name a band something as cool as Led Zeppelin, it might not be as intricate as you think. Here is how three famous rock bands got their names:


AC/DC is one of the most recognized rock bands till this day. Starting in 1973 the Young brothers, Marcus and Angus formed the band in Sydney, Australia. Along with their growing popularity the band also attracted a lot of negative themes. After they released the album Highway to Hell, religious critics claimed that the named AC/DC meant “Anti-Christ /Devil’s Child”. This was also because the cover of the album pictures Agnus Young with devil horns. Since then there has been a lot of associating AC/DC with satanic images. The real reason the band choose this name is completely different.

The Young brothers choose AC/DC for the name after their sister saw it written on the side of a sewing machine. The letters actually mean alternating current/direct current. No satanic themes inspired the name, they simply thought it would be cool. However, the name AC/DC actually also was another term for bisexual. This caused a lot of controversy on what the band really meant, but the truth is, its not that deep.

Since then, one of the biggest rules of thumb when choosing a band name is looking it up and make sure it does not mean anything negative. 

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Lynyrd Skynyrd is a southern rock band that started in Northern Florida by a group of high school students. In the early 60s of the band, they called themselves the “Noble Five”. However, a year later two more members joined the band and so they changed their name to My Backyard. It was not until 1970 they officially changed their band name to Lynyrd Skynyrd. 

The meaning behind this name in honor of their high school gym teacher and basketball coach, Leonard Skinner. He would always get two band members in trouble for having their hair to long. Those two members eventually dropped out of school but did not forget about their gym teacher. Playing a local gig, the band announced to the crowd that their name was Lynyrd Skynyrd and since most people in the audience knew or had heard the coach, they loved it and so the band kept it. 

However, it wasn’t until the eighties when purposely misspelling names became popular. Lynyrd Skynyrd changed their original spelling to be unique to them. To minimize confusion on the different spelling and pronunciation of the name, their first album was called “Pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Skin-‘nérd.” It no surprised that this distinctive name helped the band stand out and easily be remembered.

Grateful Dead

The name Grateful Dead sounds like a group that plays hard metal rock but that is far from the truth. They started out as “The Warlocks” but had to change this when another band with the same name released an album before them.  When the band was quickly think of a different name, Jerry Garcia picked up a dictionary and randomly opened it and saw “The Grateful Dead.” It stuck with him and became their official name.

The odds of Garcia finding this name are insane and other deadheads could not find the entry in anywhere. So, what does the Grateful Dead mean and why was it in the dictionary? The term was put in a Funk and Wagnalls dictionary by a woman named Maria Leach. Maria Leach worked for Funk and Wagnalls and was a contributor to the Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend which is where she put the entry. The Grateful Dead is defined as:

“The motif of a cycle of folk tales which begin with the hero coming upon a group of people ill-treating or refusing to bury the corpse of a man who had died without paying his debts. He gives his last penny, either to pay the man’s debts or to give him a decent burial. Within a few hours he meets with a travelling companion who aids him in some impossible task, gets him a fortune or saves his life. The story ends with the companion disclosing himself as the man whose corpse the hero had befriended.” (Funk & Wagnall’s Dictionary)

Some say it was Gracia’s obsession with Frankenstein that made him choose this names, others say it was just fate. No matter how the name came to be, the Grateful Dead went on to have one of the biggest followings in rock history.

         It always fun to think band names come from some moving story but the truth is that’s not always true. These names are just pick by thinking something sounds cool, inside jokes, or just be chance. No name was picked with the thought that it will be talked about for decades later or have a cultural impact. In this decade there is no need to wait for some magical moment to name anything. On will offer the opportunity to get the best names or slogans out there.