Before They Were Big: The Pre-Fame Names of Rock’s Most Famous Bands
William Shakespeare's famous line about how a rose by any other name would smell as sweet sure is poetic, but it doesn't necessarily apply to bands. Below, we've compiled the stories of how many of rock's greatest bands arrived at the names we now know and love.
Some bands (the Rolling Stones, for example) latched onto their name instantly and stuck with it. Many others, however, needed an attempt or two to get it right – including acts formerly known as Mammoth, Hadrian and the Pendletones. After all, could Creedence Clearwater Revival been so effectively evocative of Southern bayous if they had been the Blue Velvets? Would Ozzy Osbourne have become the Prince of Darkness if Black Sabbath had a less eerie name, like Earth? These are the questions we're looking to answer.
Sometimes, name changes were precipitated by the addition or subtraction of members. (See bands that started out as Smile, the Jam Band and two bands called the Warlocks.) On a bunch of occasions, these acts had already embarked on recording careers before deciding on the name that would later bring them international fame. Wait, you don't remember Fuse, Milkwood and Tom and Jerry?
Read all about those and more below.
Led Zeppelin/New Yardbirds
After the Yardbirds broke up in the summer of 1968, guitarist Jimmy Page recruited his childhood friend John Bonham and session man John Paul Jones for his next project. Terry Reid, Page's initial choice for singer, was unable to join due to contractual disputes and recommended Robert Plant for the role. Plant, Bonham, Jones and Page toured Scandinavia that fall as the New Yardbirds before Who drummer Keith Moon inspired the group to change their name, saying they "would go down like a 'lead zeppelin.'"
Teenage brothers Alex and Eddie Van Halen began their musical career in 1972 with bassist Mark Stone as a band named Genesis. Luckily, they soon averted any potential back alley fights with Phil Collins by changing their name to Mammoth. But then they found out somebody was already using that name, too. Eddie wanted to name the group Rat Salad, because they “played just about every Black Sabbath song.” Luckily, new singer David Lee Roth convinced them to instead use their family name.
Guns N' Roses/L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose
Guns N' Roses formed in 1985 from the remnants of two Los Angeles metal bands, L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose. Lead singer Axl Rose, drummer Steven Adler and guitarists Izzy Stradlin and Slash were members of Hollywood Rose. L.A. Guns, in which Rose also sang at one point, included guitarist Tracii Guns, bassist Ole Beich and drummer Rob Gardner. These members (minus Slash and Adler) merged, and their first show was promoted as "L.A. Guns and Hollywood Rose presents Guns N' Roses." Beich was fired after the show and replaced by Duff McKagan. Soon after, Slash and Adler took over for Tracii Guns and Rob Gardner.
Aerosmith/The Jam Band
Steven Tyler sang and played drums for several New Hampshire groups in the '60s. A vacation in 1969 led him to Joe Perry, who spent his time washing dishes and playing in a group called the Jam Band with Tom Hamilton. Perry and Hamilton soon moved to Boston, where they met Berklee College of Music student Joey Kramer, who dropped out to join the two in their band. Kramer also knew Tyler, and in late 1970, Tyler agreed to join their band on the condition that he would be their singer, not their drummer. Still performing as the Jam Band, the four moved into a house together in Boston and began writing music. The group had considered calling themselves the Hookers and Spike Jones, but eventually decided on Aerosmith after the 1968 Harry Nilsson album Aerial Ballet. The band added Tyler's childhood friend Ray Tabano on guitar, but he was soon replaced by fellow Berklee student Brad Whitford.
The Beatles/The Quarrymen/Johnny and the Moondogs/The Silver Beetles
The genesis of the Fab Four started in 1956 with the Quarrymen. John Lennon initially created the band with his classmates, taking their name from the Quarry Bank High School. Original member Pete Shotton is believed to have named the band. In late 1957, Paul McCartney joined, and 14-year-old George Harrison (by McCartney's recommendation) followed the next year. Originally formed as a skiffle group, the three future Beatles found themselves increasingly inspired by American rock music, causing the other members to leave. The trio, which also tried out Johnny and the Moondogs and the Silver Beetles, recruited Stuart Sutcliffe on bass and Pete Best in 1960, and Sutcliffe renamed the group the Beatles.
Journey/Golden Gate Rhythm Section
Journey formed in 1973 as Golden Gate Rhythm Section to serve as a backing band for Bay Area acts. Many of the members were already established in the Bay Area: Gregg Rolie and Neal Schon had played in Santana, and Ross Valory and George Tickner played with psychedelic group Frumious Bandersnatch. Drummer Prairie Prince was the group's original pick, but he went back to the Tubes and Aynsley Dunbar (of Frank Zappa fame) took over. The band held a radio contest to decide on a name, but ultimately went with a roadie's simple suggestion of Journey.
Pink Floyd/The Tea Set/The Abdabs/The Spectrum 5/Sigma 6
The Tea Set had undergone several name changes in their early years as a blues band in London and Cambridge before frontman Syd Barrett renamed them after bluesmen Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. From 1963-65, they also performed as the Abdabs, the Spectrum 5 and Sigma 6. Barrett, Roger Waters, Nick Mason, Richard Wright and original guitarist Bob Klose recorded a demo as the Tea Set in early 1965, featuring the first compositions by the band. The first Pink Floyd record wasn't released until early 1967. The following year, David Gilmour from fellow Cambridge band Joker's Wild, was hired as Barrett's eventual replacement.
Before the makeup, Kiss were a folk-rock band. Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley (as Gene Klein and Stanley Eisen) formed a band in 1970 called Rainbow, but changed to Wicked Lester because another band (not Ritchie Blackmore’s) was using that name. Wicked Lester had almost no commercial success, and the two future Kiss members felt a new direction was needed. Inspired by the stage outfits of glam groups like Slade, the members began to wear makeup for their shows. Simmons and Stanley hired Peter Criss, who was also looking to start a band, and finally found Ace Frehley in 1973. Criss had been in a band called Lips, so the four named themselves Kiss.
The Who/The Detours/The High Numbers
Ealing Art School student Pete Townshend recruited childhood schoolmates Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle to join his skiffle group the Detours in 1962. Two years later, Keith Moon completed the lineup by replacing drummer Doug Sandom. The band soon changed its name to the Who, but their publicist renamed them to the High Numbers to fit the group's mod image. Their first single “I'm the Face” was released under this name. That fall, the High Numbers changed their name back to the Who and recorded their second single, “I Can't Explain.”
Heart/Hocus Pocus/White Heart
Steve Fossen and Roger Fisher played in a band called the Army in 1967. They went through many personnel changes and changed their name to Whiteheart (after a science-fiction collection called Tales From the White Hart by Arthur C. Clarke), although they also went as White Heart. A few years later, Ann Wilson joined. The group renamed themselves Hocus Pocus and moved to Canada, where they met Brian Johnstone and John Hannah. For a while, they reverted to the name Whiteheart, then shortened it to Heart. Ann's sister Nancy didn't join until late 1974.
The members of Foreigner were already experienced musicians by 1976 when the group formed. Englishman Mick Jones, who was stuck in New York City after the Leslie West Band broke up, was encouraged by West's manager to start a band. While there, he met keyboardist Al Greenwood. The two played as session musicians together, and in doing so discovered Ian McDonald (from King Crimson) and Dennis Elliot. The four auditioned over 50 singers before deciding on Lou Gramm, who had given Jones his band's album at a Spooky Tooth concert. With the addition of Ed Gagliardi on bass, the lineup was complete. The sextet recorded a demo album under the name Trigger. After finding that the name was already taken, they renamed themselves Foreigner because of the diversity of the members.
Bassist Geezer Butler hired factory worker Ozzy Osbourne for the role of singer in Rare Breed (not to be confused with their contemporaries in America) in 1967. After playing two shows and breaking up, the two joined Mythology members Tony Iommi and Bill Ward to form a blues rock band called Earth Blues Company. The band shortened their name to Earth before settling on Black Sabbath, which they took from a horror film. They recorded a self-titled debut album later in 1969.
Canadian teenagers Alex Lifeson, Jeff Jones and John Rutsey formed Hadrian in 1968. Jones was soon replaced by schoolmate Geddy Lee on bass. Three years later, the band changed their name to Rush. Still playing at high schools and local bars, they didn't release any music until 1973's cover of Buddy Holly's “Not Fade Away.” After their first album in 1974, Rutsey grew tired of touring and quit. Rush, now without a drummer, held auditions to fill the role, which Neil Peart answered.
Lynyrd Skynyrd/One Percent
Ronnie Van Zant along with his friends Gary Rossington, Allen Collins, Larry Junstrom and Bob Burns began playing music together as teenagers in 1964. They started out as My Backyard, but changed their name to the Noble Five, and then One Percent in 1968. The name Lynyrd Skynyrd came to be in 1969, when the group's P.E. teacher Leonard Skinner gave them inspiration to change their name: Skinner strictly enforced the school's “no-long-hair policy,” which caused problems for the shaggy band members.
Eagles/Teen King and the Emergencies
When Linda Ronstadt needed musicians to tour behind 1970's Silk Purse, she pulled a few members of the Los Angeles country-rock scene: veterans Randy Meisner (Poco) and Bernie Leadon (Flying Burrito Brothers) along with newcomers Glenn Frey and Don Henley. The chemistry was so good that Henley and Frey decided to form a band; the pair got Ronstadt's blessing, and soon convinced the other two. They left for Colorado after being signed to the newly formed Asylum Records in 1971. While in Aspen, the group were billed as Teen King and the Emergencies. It was not until their return to California that a peyote-induced vision in the Mojave Desert inspired the group to change their name to Eagles.
Alice Cooper, then going by his real name Vincent Furnier, formed a garage band in 1964 called the Spiders. The band, which also included future Alice Cooper members Dennis Dunaway and Glen Buxton, moved from Phoenix to Los Angeles. While there, they renamed themselves Nazz, but stopped performing under this name when they discovered Todd Rundgren was already using it for his group in Philadelphia. The band is rumored to have changed their name based on a Ouija Board, but its members have denied this.
Def Leppard/Atomic Mass
Founding Def Leppard members Rick Savage and Tony Kenning formed Atomic Mass with some friends while in school, and Pete Willis joined soon after. The group performed mostly covers, and had only one public performance. Joe Elliott was in attendance and auditioned as a guitarist after meeting Willis at a bus stop. In 1977, the band changed their name to Def Leppard after an imaginary group thought up by Elliott. Steve Clark completed the original lineup by playing the entirety of Lynyrd Skynyrd's “Free Bird” during his audition. Kenning left to form the band Cairo and Rick Allen, only 15 at the time, filled his place.
London guitarist Brian May formed Smile in 1968. Drummer Roger Taylor was the first to join, and Tim Staffell (a classmate of Freddie Mercury) completed the lineup. The three played at the Royal Albert Hall and landed a contract with Mercury Records. Staffell left to join folk-rock band Humpy Bong, and Mercury (a fan of the group) took over in his absence. Mercury renamed the group Queen, and bassist John Deacon joined not long after, in 1971.
Allman Brothers Band/Allman Joys/The Hour Glass
The Allman Joys were birthed in the mid-'60s as both of the Allman brothers, Gregg and Duane, played some of their first music together. This group later evolved into the Hour Glass, who released two albums during 1967 and 1968. Then, Duane moved to Alabama, where he became a session musician at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals and Gregg stayed in Hollywood (where Hour Glass recorded) before the pair reunited in Miami. While there, they participated in sessions with a local group called the 31st of February which included drummer Butch Trucks. Setting out to put together a band, Duane recruited Gregg, Trucks and another drummer, Jai Johanny Johanson. Dickey Betts and Berry Oakley both came from the Second Coming, and jammed with the new group. The six named themselves the Allman Brothers Band, and moved to Georgia in 1969.
The Doors/The Psychedelic Rangers/Rick and the Ravens
Although known for his keyboard playing, Ray Manzarek was the singer in his first band, Rick & the Ravens. Manzarek, along with brothers Jim and namesake Rick, formed the blues-rock group in 1961. They performed for four years before Jim Morrison and John Densmore joined. By this time, only the three future Doors members remained, and they recorded a demo containing several songs in 1965. With the addition of guitarist Robby Krieger (who had played in the Psychedelic Rangers with Densmore), the final lineup was set.
The Beach Boys/The Pendletones
Brothers Carl, Dennis and Brian Wilson, along with cousin Mike Love and schoolmate Al Jardine, formed a vocal group in 1961. They performed at local high schools as the Pendletones, Carl and the Passions (later referenced in the title of their 1972 album) and Kenny and the Cadets. Principal songwriter Brian Wilson wrote their first single “Surfin'” at the suggestion of his brother Dennis, who was the only surfer in the band. Although recorded when the group was still the Pendletones, the label's management changed the name on the release to the more apt Beach Boys, and the name stuck.
In 1961, twin brothers Chuck and John Panozzo, along with neighbor Dennis DeYoung, formed a band called the Tradewinds. Still only in their early teens, they expanded to a quartet with the inclusion of Tom Nardin in 1964. Two years later, they changed their name to TW4 because another band called the Trade Winds had success nationally. While attending Chicago State University, Nardin left and was replaced by John Curulewski. In 1970, James “J.Y." Young joined and TW4 became a five-piece. After being signed to Wooden Nickel Records in 1972, they changed their name to Styx.
Creedence Clearwater Revival/The Golliwogs/The Blue Velvets
John Fogerty, Doug Clifford and Stu Cook formed the Blue Velvets when they were in junior high school in 1959. The group released several independent singles before being joined by Fogerty's older brother, Tom. In 1964, the band changed their name to the Golliwogs and continued to play more original songs while its members worked their day jobs and cared for their families. By 1967, they had already achieved local success (their original composition “Brown-Eyed Girl” had sold 10,000 copies) but the band was still struggling financially. Later that year, they decided to make a change, hiring new management and adopting a new name: Creedence Clearwater Revival. “Creedence” was from a mutual friend; “Clearwater” a beer that also had ecological overtones and the all-important “Revival” a sign of optimism about what was to come.
Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band/Child/Steel Mill/Earth
Bruce Springsteen started out playing in New Jersey clubs as a teenager in the mid-'60s in the Castiles and moved on to front a blues-rock power trio called Earth in 1969. His next band, Child, featured future E Street members Vini Lopez, Danny Federici and Steve Van Zandt. Before breaking up in 1971, the band had renamed themselves to Steel Mill and had local success. The next year saw Springsteen form several short-lived groups while also playing as a solo acoustic act in New York's folk clubs. Upon getting signed to Columbia Records, he brought in Lopez and three other musicians from the Jersey Shore scene that he knew – Garry Tallent, David Sancious and, Clarence Clemons – to back him on the album and on its tour, at which point Federici joined. They were named the E Street Band, after the location of the Belmar, N.J., house where Sancious lived and they often rehearsed.
Yes/Mabel Greer's Toyshop
Chris Squire formed Mabel Greer's Toyshop in 1967 after leaving the Syn. Peter Banks was the first to join, and they frequented the Marquee Club in Soho, whose owner introduced the band to Jon Anderson. Bill Bruford joined not long after, when he saw an ad they had placed in Melody Maker asking for a drummer. Tony Kaye followed, completing the lineup. Still performing as Mabel Greer's Toyshop, Banks suggested the band change their name to Yes! and the group kept the name without the exclamation mark.
The Cars/Cap'n Swing/Milkwood
Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr had known each other since the '60s when they played in Cleveland bands. In the '70s, they moved to Boston and formed a folk-rock band called Milkwood that released one commercially unsuccessful album, How's the Weather, in 1973. Their next group was called Richard and the Rabbits, and this included Greg Hawkes. Another band, Cap’n Swing, was the first collaboration with Elliot Easton. The group’s demo tape, although popular on local radio stations, was rejected by labels. Ocasek fired their bassist and drummer and recruited David Robinson for drums. Hawkes, who had played with Ocasek and Orr before, was rehired. In 1976, they renamed themselves the Cars, and played their first show on New Year's Eve.
Cheap Trick/Sick Man of Europe/Fuse
Future Cheap Trick members Rick Nielsen and Tom Petersson came from Fuse, a psychedelic/hard rock band formed in 1967. They recorded one album and added members of Todd Rundgren's former band the Nazz while on tour. Nazz drummer Thom Mooney was replaced by Bun E. Carlos (who had played with them in their hometown of Rockford, Ill., in the early '60s). Nielsen and Petersson moved to Philadelphia in 1971, renamed themselves Sick Man of Europe – a phrase used to refer to a European country going through hard economic times – and reunited with Carlos two years later in Rockford. The group's original singer, Randy “Xeno” Hogan left before they recorded anything, and was replaced by Robin Zander.
The Kinks/The Ravens
The Davies brothers, Ray and Dave, played music together from a young age. While attending grammar school, Ray invited his friend Pete Quaife to join their group, the Ray Davies Quartet. The three future Kinks members continued to play music under various names throughout the rest of their school years, and eventually settled on the Ravens as their new name. By 1963, the Ravens were signed to Pye, but then their drummer Mickey Willet quit. They placed an ad for a replacement in Melody Maker, and Mick Avory answered. Manager Larry Page suggested they rename themselves the Kinks because of their fashionable clothes. Ray later said, “I've never really liked the name.”
Cream/Sweet and Sour Rock 'n' Roll
Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker were already veteran musicians by 1966 when Cream formed. Baker and Bruce had played together in the Graham Bond Organisation, and Baker had met with Clapton after a John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers gig in 1966. Clapton told Baker he was interested in forming a new band, and Baker was ready to quit the Graham Bond Organisation because of Bond's drug use. Clapton had also met with Bruce when the two played together in Powerhouse (along with Steve Winwood). Although Bruce and Baker did not always get along, the two agreed to play together with Clapton in their new band. The trio briefly called themselves Sweet and Sour Rock 'n' Roll before deciding upon the Cream, because the three were the “cream of the crop” of English blues musicians.
Boarding school students Peter Gabriel, Tony Banks and Chris Stewart formed Garden Wall in 1965, while schoolmates Anthony Philips and Mike Rutherford were in the band Anon. By early 1967, both bands had broken up, but Rutherford and Philips continued to write. The two invited Banks, Stewart and Gabriel to record with them at a friend's home studio. The next year, they recorded their first single (“The Silent Sun”), crediting the release to Genesis. The band won over their producer, Jonathan King, by writing the song in the style of the Bee Gees, his favorite band.
Faces/Quiet Melon/Small Faces
When Steve Marriott left the Small Faces for Humble Pie in 1968, Ian McLagan, Ronnie Lane and Kenney Jones were suddenly without a singer. They formed Quiet Melon with Ronnie Wood's older brother Art (who was already an established musician by 1969) and Kim Gardner. They were joined by Ronnie Wood and Rod Stewart from the Jeff Beck Group while they had a break from recording and performing obligations. Art and Gardner left, but the ex-Beck members stuck around. The band dropped the “small” from their former band name and became the Faces because Stewart and Wood were taller than the ex-Small Faces.
Steely Dan/The Bad Rock Group/Leather Canary
Walter Becker and Donald Fagen met while students at Bard College in upstate New York, after Fagen heard Becker playing guitar. The duo became the foundation for several groups with their fellow students, which included future actor Chevy Chase on drums. Among the names they chose were the Don Fagen Jazz trio, the Bad Rock Group and Leather Canary. After college, they moved to New York City to try their hand at professional songwriting and toured as part of the backing band for Jay and the Americans. From there, they were hired as staff songwriters for ABC Records but eventually decided that their talents would be better suited to a band, which they named Steely Dan after a sex toy in William Burroughs' Naked Lunch.
The Clash/Weak Heartdrops/Psychotic Negatives
In 1973, Joe Strummer (then going by his given name of John Mellor) was the singer for pub rock band the 101'ers. A year later, guitarist Mick Jones formed a punk group called London SS. They never played a show before breaking up the following year. Jones contacted Paul Simonon (who had failed an audition for London SS) and Terry Chimes (who also didn't make the cut for London SS) to form a new band. Kieth Levene also joined around then, but left before they released any records. Jones kept his manager Bernard Rhodes, who brought in Strummer to audition. This new group was called the Weak Heartdrops and the Psychotic Negatives, but eventually settled on the Clash.
Larry Mullen Jr. sowed the seeds for U2 when he posted an advertisement for a band in 1976 as a then-14-year-old Irish schoolboy. Bono (Paul Hewson), the Edge (David Evans), his brother Dik Evans, Adam Clayton, Ivan McCormick and Peter Martin answered the call. Martin had no experience with guitar, so he was fired; McCormick followed him out the door soon after, leaving the band as a five-piece. Initially, they were called Feedback and played mostly covers. The next year, the group began to play paying gigs, and changed their name to the Hype. Dik Evans, who was older than the other members, was ousted by 1978. The four renamed themselves U2 at the suggestion of the Radiators member Steve Averill.
The Byrds/The Beefeaters/The Jet Set
Folk musicians Gene Clark, Jim McGuinn (later Roger) and David Crosby came together in early 1964, bonding over their love of the Beatles and harmony singing. They called themselves the Jet Set after McGuinn's penchant for aeronautics, a common theme in later Byrds releases. There was a lot of experience among the three; McGuinn was a songwriter in the Brill Building, Clark had been with the New Christy Minstrels and Crosby played with Les Baxter's Balladeers. They hired drummer Michael Clarke based on his good looks, despite his lack of experience. The four were renamed the Beefeaters (which sounded British) to try to capitalize on the British Invasion. Inspired by the Beatles, they outfitted themselves with the same gear and changed their name to the Byrds, after the misspelling of “beetles.” Bluegrass musician Chris Hillman joined later that year, and the lineup was complete.
The Animals/The Alan Price Rhythm and Blues Combo
Organist Alan Price formed a rhythm and blues band in 1962 with Hilton Valentine, John Steel and Chas Chandler, and were soon joined by singer Eric Burdon. Originally named for Price, they eventually changed their name to the Animals after Burdon's friend “Animal” Hogg. Price left the band in 1965 to form the Alan Price Set, and Burdon took over the following year, renaming the group Eric Burdon and the Animals.
Dire Straits/Café Racers
The Knopfler brothers, Mark and David, got together with their friends John Illsley and Pick Withers in 1977 to form a band. Withers had musical experience already from working as a session drummer, and had played in Brewers Droop with Mark in 1973. The band were initially performing as Café Racers before becoming Dire Straits at the suggestion of Lindisfarne guitarist Simon Cowe.
Bob Seger/The Bob Seger System/Bob Seger and the Last Heard
Bob Seger started his long musical career in 1961 playing with local Detroit groups. His first real success came with the Last Heard, who released a Seger composition called “East Side Story” that sold 50,000 copies. Members of the Last Heard originally consisted of members from the Omens and the Town Criers (Seger's previous bands) before evolving into the Bob Seger System. In 1968, the Last Heard signed to Capitol and changed their name. Now called the Bob Seger System, they released “2 + 2 = ?” and three albums before Seger went solo in 1970.
Chris Curtis, drummer for the Searchers, wanted to create a supergroup called Roundabout in 1967. The first recruit was keyboardist Jon Lord, Curtis' flatmate. Lord, who was playing in the backing band for the Flower Pot Men, told his bandmates he was leaving to join Roundabout. His bandmates suggested guitarist Ritchie Blackmore join him. Nick Simper, also from the Flower Pot Men, followed Blackmore and Lord into Curtis' project. By 1968, Curtis (who was unreliable in part because of his heavy LSD use) abandoned the project, but their manager Tony Edwards encouraged the others to continue. The three members, along with new drummer Bobby Woodman, moved into a country house in Hertfordshire and began auditions for a singer. Rod Evans was selected to be the group's singer, and Evans’ former bandmate Ian Paice replaced Woodman (who was unhappy with the direction of the band) on drums. After a tour of Denmark and Sweden, the band became Deep Purple.
The Band/Levon and the Hawks/Canadian Squires
Originally known for being the backing band for singers like Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan, its members came together in the early '60s while playing for Hawkins, an American rockabilly singer who had moved to Canada. They played as the Hawks under Hawkins, then renamed themselves the Canadian Squires after leaving Hawkins in 1963. Their most important early performances happened with Bob Dylan in 1965 during his infamous “electric” tour. At this time, they were billed as Bob Dylan and the Band. Soon after, they would record in the studio and in Big Pink (the band's home in Saugerties, N.Y.), famously documented on The Basement Tapes. In 1968, the group decided to record an album of music without Dylan under the simple name the Band.
The Moody Blues/The MB5
Before the symphonic concept albums that secured their fame, the Moody Blues were a British rhythm and blues group. Ray Thomas, John Lodge and Mike Pinder played together in local bands before parting for college or military duties in 1964. Later, when Thomas and Pinder reunited, they recruited future Wings member Denny Laine as lead singer. Graeme Edge, then a manager, was hired as their drummer. Thomas and Pinder had hoped to get Lodge back on bass, but Clive Warwick had to fill the role while Lodge was still in college. Lodge didn't join them again until 1966, after their first album had already been released and Warwick left. The five-piece named themselves the Moody Blues because they played blues music and music changes people's mood. Earlier, they were performing as the MB5 after the M&B Brewing Company, from whom they hoped to receive a sponsorship.
Jethro Tull/Navy Blue/Bag of Blues/Candy Coloured Rain
Blackpool grammar-school students Ian Anderson, Jeffrey Hammond and John Evans formed a band in the early '60s after being inspired by the Beatles' first single “Love Me Do.” With the addition of three more members (who did not stay for Jethro Tull), the group performed variously as Candy Coloured Rain, Bag of Blues and Navy Blue. These names were often chosen by booking agents. Another name, inspired by the agriculturalist Jethro Tull, was eventually adopted by the band.
Pearl Jam/Mookie Blaylock
Seattle musicians Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament stayed involved with the local scene after splitting from their band Green River in 1987. They formed Mother Love Bone with Andrew Wood, Bruce Fairweather and Greg Gilmore, but Wood's death by an overdose on the eve of their debut album's release ended the band. Gossard started playing with Mike McCready, and the two reconvened with Ament, and sent a demo tape to former Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Jack Irons, hoping he would join them. Irons initially declined (although he would join them in 1995), leaving the three without a drummer. Irons gave the tape to his friend Eddie Vedder, who added lyrics and vocals to the unfinished songs. Soon after, Vedder joined the band, followed by drummer Dave Krusen, and they named themselves Mookie Blaylock after the basketball player. In 1991, they changed their name to Pearl Jam.
The Police/Strontium 90
Curved Air touring drummer Stewart Copeland met Sting, who was playing with jazz-rock band Last Exit, in late 1976. After Curved Air broke up, the two met again and talked about forming a punk-inspired band. The duo recruited Henry Padovani on guitar and recorded their debut single “Fall Out” in 1977 as the Police. Padovani did not last long, however. Later that year, Sting was invited to join ex-Gong member Mike Howell's band Strontium 90. Sting invited Copeland along, and the two met veteran musician Andy Summers. Summers was deemed a more competent guitarist than Padovani, so the three left Strontium 90 to reform the Police without him – though Sting and Copeland were opposed at first.
Chicago/Chicago Transit Authority/The Big Thing
In 1967, Chicago residents Walter Parazaider, Terry Kath, Danny Seraphine, James Pankow, Lee Loughnane and Robert Lamm met together to form a band. Most of the members were students of DePaul University, and had played in bands with each other. Peter Cetera was recruited on bass later that year, and the lineup was complete. The seven called themselves the Big Thing before being signed to Columbia and moving to Los Angeles. They then switched names to the Chicago Transit Authority (to which their debut album was credited) before truncating it to simply Chicago to avoid a conflict with the city's mass transportation agency.
Future Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain formed a punk band in 1985 with members of fellow Washington band the Melvins. Cobain and Dale Crover recorded a demo album in 1986 under the name Fecal Matter. They disbanded later that year, leaving Cobain without a band. Krist Novoselic (a high school friend of Cobain) listened to the Fecal Matter demo tape and suggested to Cobain that they form a band. Aaron Burckhard was hired as the drummer, and Nirvana was formed. Initially, the band were still calling themselves Fecal Matter, but changed to Nirvana because it sounded pretty. After some moving around, the band lost contact with Burckhard, and Chad Channing became his eventual replacement until Dave Grohl arrived in 1990.
The Grateful Dead/The Warlocks
In late 1964, the members of Mother McCree's Uptown Jug Champions followed many other folk bands in going electric. This was mostly keyboardist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan's decision but the others, Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir, agreed. The three, now calling themselves the Warlocks, added bassist Dana Morgan Jr. (who was replaced by Phil Lesh a year later) and drummer Bill Kreutzemann. The Warlocks discovered that another band was using the same name, so Garcia renamed the group the Grateful Dead after looking through a Britannica World Language Dictionary. Incidentally, although the group that became the Velvet Underground had also been called the Warlocks, they weren't the band that caused the Dead to change their name.
Simon and Garfunkel/Tom and Jerry/The Peptones
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel met in elementary school in Forest Hills, N.Y., when they acted in a school play of Alice in Wonderland. Soon after, the two started performing. Their first collaboration was a doo-wop group called the Peptones. At age 15 they recorded their first song, the Everly Brothers-inspired “Hey Schoolgirl,” which was heard by a promoter who signed them to his independent label Big Records. Calling themselves Tom & Jerry (Garfunkel was "Tom Graph" and Simon was "Jerry Landis"), the two had moderate success, releasing three more singles and appearing on American Bandstand with Jerry Lee Lewis. Once they graduated from high school, the two went to college and released music on their own. By 1963, they had reunited and worked the New York folk scene, eventually meeting producer Tom Wilson. He brought the pair to Columbia Records, where they recorded using their last names.
The Velvet Underground/The Primitives/The Warlocks/The Falling Spikes
Not to be confused with the West Coast Warlocks who became the Grateful Dead, this group began in 1964 in New York City after Lou Reed, who was working for Pickwick Records as a songwriter, met Welsh classical music student John Cale. The two bonded over their mutual interest in experimental music and formed a group called the Primitives; Sterling Morrison, Reed's classmate from college, joined after Walter De Maria left. With the addition of percussionist Angus MacLise, the four renamed themselves the Warlocks, and Reed began writing material that would appear on the band's first album around this time. They changed their name to the Falling Spikes for a while before renaming themselves the Velvet Underground (taken from a '60s paperback about paraphilia) at MacLise's suggestion. MacLise left after charging the others with "selling out" by accepting a paying gig, and Maureen Tucker became his permanent replacement.
Sex Pistols/The Strand/Swankers
Steve Jones and Paul Cook started playing together when they were teenagers in 1972. Their band was called the Strand, but occasionally went by the Swankers. Glen Matlock joined two years later and, by 1975, they were rehearsing more regularly; they also changed their name to the Sex Pistols. While in manager Malcom McLaren’s punk boutique SEX, Jones met John Lydon. He was found later wearing an “I Hate Pink Floyd” t-shirt, and McLaren invited him to audition for the band in his shop. After a wild rendition of Alice Cooper’s “Eighteen,” he was accepted into the lineup.
Blue Oyster Cult/Soft White Underbelly/Oaxaca/Stalk-Forrest Group/Santos Sisters
Blue Oyster Cult were born in 1967 as the American equivalent of Black Sabbath. Initially calling themselves Soft White Underbelly, the group consisted of Buck Dharma, Albert Bouchard, Allen Lanier, Les Braunstein and Andrew Winters. Sandy Pearlman, the band's manager and occasional producer, was instrumental in their early years; he wrote many of the lyrics to their early songs and got them signed to Elektra and Columbia. The band played as Soft White Underbelly long enough to record an album's worth of material which went unreleased until 2001. By the end of 1970, Braunstein and Winters had been replaced by Eric Bloom and Albert's brother Joe Bouchard, respectively, and the band had changed their name. Prompted by a bad concert review, they first switched to Oaxaca and then Stalk-Forrest Group. In 1971, they finally settled on Blue Oyster Cult, the name of an alien race in Pearlman's poems.
Blondie/The Stilettos/Angel and the Snake
Ex-Playboy bunny and folk musician Debbie Harry teamed up with musical and romantic partner Chris Stein in 1973. Stein joined Harry’s band, the Stilettos, before leaving the following year. Stein and Harry then formed a new band along with other ex-Stilettos. As Harry told the New York Post, “Chris and I tried out a few names. One was Angel and the Snake, but I wasn’t sure it was easy to remember. One day, I was walking across Houston Street and someone yelled ‘Blondie’ at me. I thought, 'Jeez, that’s quite easy to remember.'"
The Mothers of Invention/Soul Giants
Although they would become known for being Frank Zappa's backing band, the Mothers of Invention formed without him. Ray Collins, David Coronado, Ray Hunt Roy Estrada and Jimmy Carl Black were initially in an R&B cover band called the Soul Giants. Coronado, the only non-Mother, was fired and replaced by Zappa. Soon after his arrival, they began to exclusively play Zappa's original songs, and adopted his sense of humor and penchant for experimentation. The group renamed itself the Mothers on Mother's Day in 1964; they were later forced to amend their name because record companies thought “mother” would offend listeners. They became the Mothers of Invention. Tensions between Zappa and the others eventually transformed the lineup completely. By the mid-'70s, Zappa was be the only member left from their days as the Soul Giants.
Bee Gees/The Rattlesnakes/Wee Johnny Hayes and the Blue Cats/The B.G.'s
The Gibb brothers, Barry, Robin and Maurice, had success in several different genres over their long career. In 1955, they formed the skiffle group the Rattlesnakes with their neighbors while living in Manchester, England, and changed their name to Wee Johnny Hayes and the Bluecats when it was reduced to just the brothers. Upon moving to Australia in 1958, they began singing at a racetrack in Redcliffe, Queensland, and driver Bill Goode introduced them to local DJ Bill Gates. Because Goode, Gates and Barry all had the same initials, they became known as the B.G.'s, and it was eventually changed to the Bee Gees to stand for the Brothers Gibb.
Radiohead/On a Friday
The members of Radiohead came together in 1985 while in school. Their original band name was On a Friday because that was when they rehearsed. As the members graduated, On a Friday was held together by regular live performances and rehearsals. While performing, they met their future managers, who recorded a demo tape which got them signed. The band renamed themselves after the 1986 Talking Heads song “Radio Head.”
Hawkwind was briefly without a name, and settled on Group X for a few performances during its early days. They came together from the remnants of several smaller psychedelic groups in 1969. Their first concert was at All Saints Hall, where they improvised a 20-minute cover of the Byrds' “Eight Miles High.” John Peel was in attendance, and helped get the band signed to Liberty Records. Their first album, which featured a slightly different lineup, was released in 1970.
Steppenwolf/Jack London and the Sparrows
Canadian rockers John Kay and Jerry Edmonton (later Mars Bonfire) were members of a blues-rock band called Jack London and the Sparrows starting in 1964. By 1965, Kay had taken over the role of London, who had left. Now calling themselves the Sparrows, the band recruited future Steppenwolf members Goldy McJohn, and Michael Monarch and Rushton Moreve after relocating to Los Angeles.
The members of Slade began performing together as the N’ Betweens in 1966, performing mostly rhythm and blues. They released a few singles in 1966, but did not put out anything else until 1969. That year, they were signed to Fontana on the condition that they change their name. They decided on Ambrose Slade, releasing an album in 1969 which consisted mostly of covers. By the arrival of their second album, 1970's Play It Loud, they had dropped the Ambrose from their name to become, simply, Slade.
Procol Harum/The Paramounts
Like many English rock groups at the time, Procol Harum started out playing beat music. The Paramounts had a moderate hit in 1965 with a cover of the Coasters' “Poison Ivy,” but broke up the next year. Ex-Paramounts member Gary Brooker met up with David Knights, Matthew Fisher, Ray Royer and Keith Reid. Royer was replaced by fellow Paramounts member Robin Trower. The new group named themselves after their manager's Burmese cat Procul Harun, and, in 1967, scored a major hit with their debut single “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”
Status Quo/Traffic Jam/The Spectres
Status Quo's long, varied career began in 1962 when they were known as the Scorpions. Francis Rossi and Alan Lancaster formed this group in school with some of their classmates. They recruited John Coughlan and became the Spectres. Roy Lynes joined after keyboardist Jess Jaworski left upon graduation. The band recorded a few singles, all covers, and went psychedelic by 1967. They renamed themselves Traffic, but became Traffic Jam because of Steve Winwood's group, which also formed in 1967. In 1968, they changed their name again, this time to Status Quo, and began to write their own material. They recruited Rick Parfitt (who was already a friend of Rossi's) and had their only Top 40 U.S. hit, “Pictures of Matchstick Men.”