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How to Name Your Musical Group

Updated on May 14, 2016
Super Name = Super Star? by rlz
Super Name = Super Star? by rlz

Is your totally awesome musical group saddled with a totally forgettable name? Are you tired of struggling in obscurity while lame groups with catchy names get all the gigs and all the press? Looking for something that’ll look great on an arena marquee? Well, look no further; I’ve got just the tips you’ll need to come up with that monstrous moniker!

The simplest and most direct way to arrive at a winning musical group name is to merely hijack a common everyday word and then imbue it with your own personality. Just make sure it’s the right word; how many CDs do you think Yes would have sold if their name was No? Would the Doors have made it as big as they did if they had been named the Windows? It’s even better if the word you choose conveys an attitude, a fitting attribute or a skewed view of the world. Some real-world examples such names are Oasis, Hole, Warrant, Kiss, Rush, Free, Wings, Chic, Sissy, Badlands, Chairlift, Moist, Sausage, Keel, Soho, Accept, Placebo, Outlaws, Scatterbrain, Firehose and Undercover. If yours is a headbanger or heavy metal group, be sure to pick a suitable dark or sinister word, as in Anthrax, Carcass, Prong, Drown, Pavement, Styx, Mastodon, Blitzen, Judas Priest, Slayer, Poison, and Overkill.

A second tried-and-true method is to name your group after an animal or a collection of animals. (To lend an extra air of distinction, you might use a quirky unconventional spelling.) Some successful examples are The Beatles, The Byrds, The Turtles, Jellyfish, The Eagles, The Monkees, T. Rex, The Crickets, Skinny Puppy, The Hawks, Flock of Seagulls, Riverdogs, Three Dog Night, The Bird and the Bee, The Creatures, Whitesnake, Stray Cats, Spiderfoot, Jackal, Crazy Horse, Shark Island, The Scorpions, Rhino Bucket, Seal, The Crows, and The Black Crowes, You can even go anti-animal, as with Chickenfoot or Deerhunter.

Perhaps your hometown or your favorite location will suggest a name, as it obviously has for Disneyland After Dark, Chicago, Alabama, Kansas, New York Dolls, Tangier, Pirates of the Mississippi, The Kentucky Headhunters, The Georgia Satellites, Utah Saints, Pacific Gas & Electric, The Left Bank, Shenandoah, Baton Rouge, The Ohio Players, The Detroit Wheels, Iowa Beef Experience, Berlin, Londonbeat, Boston, Bogota, Manassas, Havana 3 A.M., Dixie Dregs, Manhattan Transfer, Paris, and The Liverpools.

An always-popular alternative is suggestive wording, as with The Dickies, Flogging Molly, The Feelies, Slammin’ Gladys, Queen, The Unstoppable Sex Machine, Deep Banana Blackout, Meat Puppets, Jamsicle, Golden Sex Ensemble, The Dirt Merchants, The Hooters, Nudeswirl, Subtle Tease, Dollars and Sex, Meat Beat Manifesto, Porno for Pyros, Sleaze City and Shakin Snakes.

And, of course, technology and visions of the future always have their appeal: Machines of Living Grace, Technotronic, The Cars, King Missile, Survivor, Information Society, Starship, Electric Mayhem, Venus Beads, Electronica, Motorhead, Eleventh Dream Day, The Comets, Eternal, Power Generation, Kingdom Come, Electric Light Orchestra, and Luna.

Sometimes a good name requires the counterpoint of two seemingly unrelated words or concepts, whether whimsical, humorous, or just strange. Often-puzzling examples include Led Zeppelin, Velvet Underground, Guns & Roses, Love and Rockets, Iron Butterfly, The Candy Skins, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Coyote Syndrome, The Builders and The Butchers, Drive-By Truckers, Blonde Redhead, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Soft Machine, Railroad Earth, Concrete Blonde, Fine Young Cannibals, Steel Pulse, Steel Jeans, The Psychedelic Furs, Beatnik Termites, Psychotic Kindergarten, That Petrol Emotion, Cat Free Air, and Killer Dwarfs.

Alliteration, rhyming and euphony can also work quite well, as they tend to make a group name roll mellifluously off the tongue, and can also make them easier to remember. Some of the best of the past are Frampton’s Camel, Danger Danger, Right Said Fred, The Bee Gees, Tears for Fears, Double Trouble, Screaming Trees, Bang Tango, Herman’s Hermits, Tom Tom Club, Eddie & the Edsels, Hurricane Wayne, Quiet Riot, Spooky Tooth, The Hucklebuckers, Ace of Base, Spyro Gyra, Slick Rick, The Hoodoo Gurus, and Twisted Sister.

It seems that whether fans happen to be Goths or not, irony, fatalism and dystopia always have their appeal. Take note of War, Madness, Airborne Toxic Event, Jane’s Addiction, Max Panic, Was Not Was, Morphine, Alice in Chains, Decrepit, Hiroshima, Fates Warning, Angst Café, Suicidal Tendencies, Cop Shoot Cop, The Grateful Dead, Nuclear Assault, and Total Devastation.

Perhaps you’ll find the perfect name for your musical group only through misspellings, wordplay, jokiness and gibberish. Ingestion of large amounts of illicit substances may help you coin something like Time No Reason, Queens of Noize, funkdoobiest, Camper Van Beethoven, Giant Panda Gorilla Dub Squad, Thenewno2, Wreckx-N-Effects, Faster Pussycat, Adam Bomb, Ekoostik Hooka, Del the Funkee Homosapien, Puddle of Mud, Fu-schnickens, Jehova Waitresses, Wormfood the Unknown, River Runt Spook Floaters, Nick Cave and The Bad Seed, Good Rockin’ Dopsie and the Twisters, Divinyls, or II De Extreme.

Not yet able to get everyone to agree on a suitable name? Then maybe just a string of letters or numbers will do the trick, as it has for U2, R.E.M., UB40, Y & T, N.E.R.D., AC/DC, TRQ, E.P.M.D., MSG, INXS, NOFX, A.K.A., XTC, TKA, U.F.O., N.R.B.Q., OMD, TLB, T.R.I.B.E., X, GTO, W.A.S.P., US3, and U.G.K.

Still searching? Head for the kitchen and all those things we love to eat! Perhaps something as tasty as Meat Loaf, Cream, Raspberries, Humble Pie, The Electric Prunes, The Sugarcubes, Jam Sandwich, Bread, Blue Lunch, Fishbone, Moldy Peaches, Jellybean, The Lovin’ Spoonful, Vanilla Fudge, April Wine, Big Hunk O’ Cheese, Green Jello, Gumball, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Hot Tuna, or Red Hot Chili Peppers.

One more reliable method is to create a name that follows the common structure of adjective-name-plus-noun. Some of the better-known examples of this construction are Country Joe & The Fish, DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, Redhead Kingpin and The F.B.I., Question Mark and The Mysterians, Sleazy Jesus and The Splatter Pigs, and Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes.

Next, try putting a new twist on a common or clichéd phrase, like Simple Minds, Type O Negative, Crash & Burn, Cheap Trick, Blue Cheer, Shudder to Think, Hue and Cry, Wishful Thinking, Moodswings, The Wallflowers, Blind Faith, Talking Heads, White Trash, or the Cryan Shames.

If you still can’t come up with a group name, maybe you have too many or too few group members. Apparently, four is the ideal number, as evidenced by The Four Lads, The Four Seasons, Four Finger Five, Four Sure, The Four Aces, What Four, The Four Horsemen, Fourplay, Gang of Four, and The Four Freshmen.

And should else fail, why not simply throw up your hands and admit defeat? Examples of groups that said — well — whatever . . are The The, Zeros, Incognito, The Band, The Who, The Guess Who, People Under the Stairs, and For Want of a Better Name.

Given up, yet? Head to rickzworld for more inspiration.


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    • Michael Shane profile image

      Michael Shane 8 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama

      This is a good one! I get all kinda of thoughts for names for bands all the time....