If I told you that Mookie Blaylock, The Tea Set, and Pud are a few of my favorite bands of all time, I can assume you’ll look at me like a crazy person or a hipster, but they’re actually just the names of bands that changed their name for one reason or another. Mookie Blaylock was Pearl Jam, The Tea Set was Pink Floyd, and Pud was The Doobie Brothers.
This is the comprehensive list in alphabetical order, complete with the full story.
Previous: Avey Tare and Panda Bear
In the beginning, there was Dave Portner (Avey Tare) and Noah Lennox (Panda Bear). Avey asked Panda to play on what was originally supposed to be a solo album and released it under the name Avey Tare and Panda Bear. While not truly official, many regard it as the first Animal Collective album. The new moniker became official in 2003.
Previous: Free Beer
What better way to get people to come to your show than free beer? I honestly can’t think of anything. After that genius name, you can guess what they thought might be better than free adult beverages.
Previous: The Pendeltons
When these game-changers started up they weren’t surfers, so they didn’t want anything that pushed too hard that they were. They named themselves after the plaid shirts surfers liked, pendeltons. Then, without their consent, their label changed their name to Beach Boys to release their debut song, “Surfin’.”
Previous: Young Aborigines
To be fair, they came up with their first name when they were teenagers, and they wanted something primitive, so we can forgive them for their first try. But then, trying to come up with the dumbest name they could, they ran with Beastie Boys and haven’t slept since Brooklyn.
Previous: Polka Tulk Blues Band
The original name was then shortened to Polka Tulk. After that they changed from Polka Tulk to Earth after a lineup switch. Then, after being mistaken by another UK band, they changed their name again from Earth to their final name, the one we all know. Black Sabbath comes from the 1963 Mario Bava film of the same name, which happened to be playing across the street from their practice space.
Previous: Duck Tape
The year was 1992 and somewhere in California Tom was introduced to Mark, who then paired up with a drummer, Scott Raynor, forming the band Duck Tape. Then, they changed the name to Blink, but got some flack from an Irish band that already had that name and added on the 182 in 1993. Why 182 you ask? That’s how many times Pacino says, “fuck” in Scarface. Fun fact: Travis didn’t join the band until midway through their Sno-Core tour in 1998.
Blue Öyster Cult
Previous: Soft White Underbelly
More cowbell and less soft white underbellies! Their manager wanted the band to be the United States’ Black Sabbath, so the name they took on in 1967 wasn’t cutting it. Blue Öyster Cult was taken from a poem of their manager, Sandy Pearlman, and they haven’t feared the reaper since.
Previous: The Band Aid Boys
Can you imagine if that was still their name? Would they have blown up like they did? The story goes, Krayzie Bone came to school after crashing his moped, and his boys all put bandages on in solidarity. The crew later changed to Bone Enterprise, then after a song called Thugs-n-Harmony, Eazy E thought they should put the two together, which they did.
Boyz II Men
Previous: Unique Attraction
Originally formed in high school, they were big fans of New Edition and relied heavily on their songs as a guiding light. Around 1990, Michael Bivins, their manager and former member of New Edition, and Bel Biv Devoe suggested they change their name. Their updated moniker was a New Edition song, changing the “to” to “II.”
Cage the Elephant
Previous: Perfect Confusion
A few members of the band were previously in the band Perfect Confusion in high school. The new name came in 2006 when a man came up to them after the show and hugged the singer, Matthew Shultz, while repeating, “You have to cage the elephant.”
Previous: Chicago Transit Authority
You can only assume that the CTA is kicking themselves now that Chicago have been one of the biggest bands of a generation. Then again, how many people have been angry with the CTA but couldn’t possibly be angry with Chicago? Anyway, with the threat of legal action, they shortened it up.
The first inkling of the band was during college as Pectoralz. When Guy Berryman joined the band, they changed the name for the first time, to Starfish. And then finally they landed on Coldplay after Will Champion joined. The new name came from another local artist at their school, who suggested taking his old band’s name since he was no longer using it. That’s right, Coldplay is a secondhand band name.
Previous: Naked Toddler
Thankfully the fans hated their first name as much as you do reading it later. It was based off of a newspaper story, but, as a tip of the hat to their bassist Brian Marshall’s previous band Mattox Creed, they took their final moniker that cemented their spot in ’90s history.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Previous: The Golliwogs
The Golliwogs actually started in ’59 as a band called The Blue Velvets (an instrumental trio). Five years later, Max Weiss, one of the founders of the Fantasy Records music label, wanted to rename them. It wasn’t until 1968, when John Fogerty agreed to the suggested Creedence Clearwater Revival, a mix of Tom’s friend, Credence Newball, a commercial for Olympia beer (“clear water”), and the band’s renewed commitment to themselves.
You can’t say the band wasn’t cocky at the beginning (for good reason). DVX stood for Devastating Vocal Excellence. After one of DVX’s members, Mellow Man Ace, left to go solo, they named the band after a street in South Gate, California.
Death From Above 1979 (2004-2017)
Previous: Death From Above
In 2004, Death From Above got a cease-and-desist letter from DFA Records (James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem’s record label). They added on the 1979 to comply, but they changed it back to the original name in 2017 with no repercussions… yet.
Previous: Atomic Mass
The approximate equivalent of the number of protons and neutrons is atomic mass, but thankfully, it was never a name that stuck. Their singer told the band about a school project he did, in which he came up with names of imaginary rock bands. One of the names was Deaf Leopard, and with a few edits, they took off.
Previous: Composition of Sound
In March 1980, Vince Clarke, Martin Gore, and Andy Fletcher formed a band called Composition of Sound. When Alan Wilder joined, they renamed to Depeche Mode. Gore said, “It means hurried fashion or fashion dispatch. I like the sound of that.” They later found out it doesn’t really mean that. Gore was also in a band called the French Look.
Previous: Girl’s Tyme
When they originally started up, they were a six-piece group named Girl’s Tyme. After years of little success, they signed to Columbia Records in 1996 as a smaller group under their new name, Destiny’s Child, taken from the Book of Isaiah. They were also briefly named Something Fresh, Cliché, the Dolls, and Destiny.
When Patrick Simmons and Tom Johnston were first introduced, they were in the band Pud. After adding more members, they renamed to the Doobie Brothers after one of their housemates made the suggestion; noting their appreciation of marijuana.
Earth, Wind & Fire
Previous: The Salty Peppers
Maurice White was the founding member of the Salty Peppers as a drummer and after a few member changes, they switched to Earth, Wind & Fire. It’s said White got this name from his three astrological elements.
Previous: Rainbow Butt Monkeys
That’s right, their first album was under the old moniker. Deciding to change the name to something a little more professional after their sound changed. The new name is pulled from an early version of “Thin Spirits.” Scott Anderson explains, “When everything is pushing you in one direction and your instinct drives you in another, that’s finger eleven. I couldn’t get it out of my head.”
Goo Goo Dolls
Previous: The Sex Maggots
According to Forbes, “The band was forced to find a new moniker when a club owner refused to put the old name on his marquee. So the boys flipped through a copy of True Detective magazine and settled on a change after finding an advertisement for a ‘Goo Goo Doll.'”
Previous: Sweet Children
Did you know they started back in 1986? When they started playing, and even after getting signed, they were known as Sweet Children, but before their first album dropped they switched it to Green Day, so they weren’t confused with another band at the time, Sweet Baby.
Guns N Roses
Previous: LA Guns and Hollywood Rose
Two bands came together to create these legends. Tracii Guns of LA Guns and Axl Rose of Hollywood Rose joined forces to create Guns N Roses. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on who you are, Tracii Guns was replaced later by the one and only Slash.
Insane Clown Posse
Previous: JJ Boyz
The first view of ICP came from a group that Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler put together, aka the JJ Boyz. As they started taking things more seriously, they moved to support their hometown, Detroit, by calling themselves Inner City Posse. Finally, as the music evolved, Bruce took the helm and updated the name based on a dream he had with a clown running around Delray.
Previous: Wicked Lester
Before these legends got dressed up in black and makeup, they were just some New York rockers called Wicked Lester. Then Gene and Paul left the band to start something new and got together with Peter Criss. Criss mentioned that he was in a band called Lips. Stanley suggested the name KISS and people have been catching them ever since.
Previous: The New Yardbirds
After Jimmy Page left The Yardbirds he wanted his new band to be, obviously, The New Yardbirds, but a cease-and-desist letter from his old band changed the plan. The name Led Zeppelin came about two years earlier when Keith Moon of The Who (or John Entwistle, depending on who you believe) made a comment about a new band they were all contemplating forming going over like a “lead balloon.”
If you dig deep enough on YouTube, you can find the demo sampler from Xero, from before they changed to Hybrid Theory, when Chester joined and created such chemistry with Mike Shinoda. Eventually, they landed on their final name, Linkin Park, as a homage to Lincoln Park in Santa Monica, CA. Fun fact: They wanted it to be Lincoln Park, but to get the domain name they had to change it a bit.
Previous: Kara’s Flowers
Back in the nineties, these guys had a groupie with a crush on them, her name happened to be Kara, and they were her flowers. Or something like that. After a few albums and not a ton of success, they changed their name, released Songs About Jane, and the five of them bloomed.
Naughty by Nature
Previous: New Style
The guys released an album back in 1989, as New Style, called Independent Leaders, but after some mentoring by another New Jersey native, Queen Latifah, they changed their name to what we all know and love, Naughty by Nature.
New Kids on the Block
Their original name was given to them by the man who discovered them, Maurice Starr. Nynuk was from Nanook of the North… that’s right, New Kids on the Block could have been known as Nynuk. But thankfully, their debut album came out with their new name based on a rap song from Donnie.
Previous: Fecal Matter
They were always the shit, but the first premonitions of Nirvana were around 1987, with Cobain making a demo tape under the name Fecal Matter. Before putting out their first single at the end of 1988 as Nirvana, they went through multiple names, Skid Row, Fecal Matter, and Ted Ed Fred, to name a few. Fun fact: Dave Grohl didn’t meet the band until 1990.
Previous: The Rain
The Gallagher brothers joined a band called The Rain, formed by Paul McGuigan, Paul Arthurs, Tony McCarroll, and Chriss Hutton. According to Stereogum, Liam wanted to change the name to Oasis because he “liked the word on a tour poster that hung in his room.”
Previous: Two Shades Deep
When the guys were only 16 years old, they wanted to name themselves either Two Shades Deep or The Misfits, but since both of those names were already being used, they went to the dictionary to find a synonym for misfit. The rest is history, past, old news.
Previous: Mookie Blaylock
The original name of Pearl Jam was taken from NBA player, Mookie Blaylock. They didn’t have a band name and picked the point guard as a temporary name from a card that they bought using a per diem from their label . When things started heating up, they renamed to Pearl Jam. Fun fact: Their album Ten was named after Mookie’s number.
Previous: Blackwood Convention
Their first show was on December 2nd, 1983 under the name, Blackwood Convention. It wasn’t long before the four members of Phish were narrowed down to Trey Anastasio, Mike Gordon, Page McConnell, and Jon Fishman, taking the name from Jon, or Fish, with a little edit.
Previous: Screaming Abdabs
These guys went through a few names, The Tea Set, Jokers Wild, The Pink Floyd Sound, and finally Pink Floyd. Screaming Abdabs (or Screaming Habdabs) was a British term with the same thought as heebie jeebies. After heading to a gig with another band called Tea Set, they changed their name on the spot after two blues musicians, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.
Before Freddie Mercury, the band was named after something that came out of a college project of their first singer and bassist, Tim Staffell. Then, as Freddie did, he came in and changed everything. Once the band was Queen, nothing was ever the same, but they kept smiling.
Queens of the Stone Age
Previous: Gamma Ray
If they weren’t threatened with a lawsuit, QOTSA would most likely still be called Gamma Ray. A German metal band wasn’t going to let them get away with using their name. Instead, they went with a nickname given to Kyuss (Josh Homme’s previous band) by their producer.
Previous: On A Friday
The guys in Radiohead, or as they were previously known, On A Friday, started jamming together in high school and their practice time was on Fridays after school let out. But after they started playing out, they weren’t getting as many gigs as they wanted; thinking it possibly had to do with their name. So they took an obscure song from Talking Heads and here we are.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Previous: Tony Flow and the Miraculously Majestic Masters of Mayhem
Possibly the coolest previous name of all time, they changed it to Red Hot Chili Peppers after two shows in 1983. Red Hot Chili Peppers was based around so many bands, but having a focus on something like Tom and the Red Hots or Chris and the Chilis, they just put them together. An oddly normal name compared to their original.
Simon and Garfunkel
Previous: Tom and Jerry
That’s right, they were named after the beloved cat and mouse cartoon, even scoring a minor hit, “Hey Schoolgirl.” But after they went to college and got back together, they started using their real names and were forever known as Simon and Garfunkel.
Previous: Polar Bear
Who would’ve though that the band name Polar Bear had already been taken? Well it was, by the ex-bassist from Jane’s Addiction, Eric Avery, so the guys changed their name to Snow Patrol and people’ve been chasing cars ever since.
Stone Temple Pilots
Previous: Mighty Joe Young
There was a demo recorded by STP under the name Mighty Joe Young, but unfortunately, the name was already being used by a blues musician, so they switched the name to Shirley Temple’s Pussy. Would they have been as big as they were with that name? Once they signed with Atlantic in 1989, they were asked to change the name and kept the STP from their previous name.
Previous: The Shrinky Dinks
These guys have a sense of humor and a half after naming themselves after what they believed was one of the most useless toys they could think of. Then, around 1994, they got a record deal from Atlantic Records and Milton Bradley wasn’t having it. They settled on a boxer’s name, Sugar Ray Robinson.
When Sum 41 went from a NOFX cover band, Kaspir, to an original band for their Supernova show, they changed their name. When was that you ask? It was September 28th, 1996… the 41st day of their summer break.
Previous: The Artistics
David Byrne and Chris Frantz started a band in 1973 called The Artistics, with Tina Wymouth (Chris’ girlfriend) being nice enough to give them rides to their shows. The three moved to NYC and the guys asked Tina to learn bass, which she did. In 1975, they opened for the Ramones at CBGB. The new moniker came from TV Guide describing the head-and-shoulder shot of someone as “all content, no action.” It fit.
Previous: The Hawks
Can you imagine The Band as a rockabilly group? Their first starts were in 1958 as Ronnie Hawkin’s backing band. Then they split from Ronnie in ’64 and since they were always just “the band” for whoever they opened for. In 1968, that’s the name they recorded under, and continued to record under, for ten records.
Previous: The Quarrymen
John Lennon formed The Quarrymen In 1960. McCartney joined the group in ’57 and Harrison in ’58. Their name evolved around 1960, when they took the name Beatals, as a tribute to Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Then to the Silver Beetles, the Silver Beatles, and finally settling with the Beatles. Fun fact: Ringo Starr didn’t join until ’62, replacing the original drummer Pete Best.
The Bee Gees
Barry Gibb kicked off the Rattlesnakes in 1955 with brothers Robin and Maurice, and Paul Frost and Kenny Horrocks. In 1958, the group broke up after Kenny and Paul left and the brothers continued forward as Wee Johnny Hayes and the Blue Cats. Finally, after moving to Australia, the brothers would perform for pocket money at Redcliffe Speedway. They were named the BG’s, by DJ Bill Gates after himself, and Bill Goode (a driver at the track) and finally, The Bee Gees.
The Black Crowes
Previous: Mr. Crowe’s Garden
The original band was named after Leonard Leslie Brooke’s children’s book, published in 1984, but after the group changed their sound from their earlier garage-y alt-country sound to what we’ve all come to know and love, they changed the name too.
The Chemical Brothers
Previous: Dust Brothers
These guys literally named themselves after a band in America that was gaining big notoriety with the Beastie Boys. After running out of tracks to play, they started making their own, doing remixes, and more. Around ’95, the actual Dust Brothers started objecting, and they changed their name to The Chemical Brothers based off of their song “Chemical Beats.”
Previous: The Weak Heartdrops
Before landing on The Clash, the group also tried out The Weak Heartdrops and the Psychotic Negatives. Their final name came after bassist Paul Simonon kept reading it in the newspaper and the rest is punk rock history.
Previous: The Obelisk
The fact that the band named themselves The Obelisk in MIDDLE SCHOOL is incredible, but after a few lineup changes, and Robert Smith moving to the front of the action, he changed the name to Malice, then Easy Cure, and finally settled on The Cure.
Previous: Tranzlator Crew
Before they were three, they were six. Tranzlator Crew was Pras, Lauryn, Marcy, Wyclef, T Boss, and Leon. When Pras, Lauryn, and Wyclef signed to Columbia Records, they changed the name to The Fugees, referring to refugees (specifically Haitian refugees, including Wyclef).
The Grateful Dead
Previous: The Warlocks
As any good Deadhead knows, the group first started in 1965 as The Warlocks, gigging around as a bar band. The name we’re all familiar with was said to be suggested by Jerry Garcia after picking up an old copy of Britannica World Language Dictionary and reading the definition. Then again, there are a ton of interesting stories on where it came from…
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Previous: The Blue Flames
Before he was Hendrix, he went by Jimmy James and his band was named as a nod to blues singer Junior Parker’s backup band. It also rhymed. Jimmy’s name slowly morphed into Jimi James, and eventually, his business manager, Michael Jeffery, named the group The Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1966.
Previous: The Primettes
In 1958, there was another band, The Primes, and their manager Milton Jenkins wanted to create a sister group called The Primettes. This group was made up of Florence Ballard, Mary Wilson, Betty McGlown, and Diana Ross. After McGlown left, they replaced her with Barbara Martin. When Martin left, they renamed to The Supremes and stuck as a trio.
Long story short, Verve got a lawsuit thrown at ’em when Verve, a big jazz label with artists like Ella Fitzgerald and Jamie Cullum, came for them. So they went crazy and added “The” to the beginning… fixing everything. You could call this a “Bittersweet Symphony.”
Roger Daltrey started up the Detours in 1959 with John Entwistle, Harry Wilson, Colin Dawson, and Pete Townshend. In 1964, the Detours were made aware of another band, Johnny Devlin and the Detours, and immediately set out to change their name. Pete and his roommate Richard Barnes spent the night thinking about it and almost as a joke came up with “No One,” “the Group,” and “the Hair,” finally having Daltrey choose the name, The Who.
Three 6 Mafia
Previous: Backyard Posse
In 1991, the group kicked off with DJ Paul, Juicy J, and Lord Infamous as Backyard Posse, then moved to Triple Six Mafia, and finally landed on Three 6 Mafia, in reference to 666 in the Bible. Them being a horrorcore group and all, it made sense.
Previous: 2nd Nature
The first showing of TLC was with Crystal Jones, Tionne Watkins, and Lisa Lopes. Jones was replaced by Rozonda Thomas in 1991 and the group’s name reflected the three members, TLC (T-Boz, Left Eye, and Chilli), after that, it was all waterfalls and no scrubs.
Previous: The Hype
The first name of the band was actually The Larry Mullen Band until Bono arrived and they all knew he was in charge. After a friend told them that The Hype was a lame name, they went with U2, which was vague and meant multiple things from U-2 bomber, to you too, to you two.
Previous: Rat Salad
Before David Lee Roth was in the band, it was Genesis and then Mammoth. After they realized there was an American band called Genesis, they changed it to Mammoth. Finally they landed on Van Halen after Roth joined and thought the brothers’ last name “sounded cool.” But before all that, they were a cover band and used the name Rat Salad from a Black Sabbath song.
Young the Giant
Previous: The Jakes
The first name of the band was an acronym for the members in the group. The Jakes were, Jacob, Addam, Kevin, Ehson, and Sameer when they started in 2004. After a few lineup changes, they finally landed on Young the Giant around 2009/2010. The guitarist Jacob Tilley said, “It means nothing, it’s not pretentious, it’s not because we think we’re huge, Sameer just blurted it out.”
So, there we go… 66 bands you know and love that could have been something completely different.
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