10 Stories Behind Famous Band Names

How legendary names came to be.

Ultimate Guitar

As all the musicians frequenting these pages probably know, naming a band can be tricky business. Finding a perfect word or two to encompass what your music is all about ain't easy, but worry not, as even some of the all-time greats had this struggle.

Essentially, as long as you can make music that resonates among the crowd, the band name is almost irrelevant. Anyhow, check out 10 stories behind the names of famous rock and metal bands below.

Rush were named in a rush

Back in the day, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and the band's original drummer John Rutsey booked a gig, but had no name. Basically, they were in a rush to find a band name. Rutsey's brother then cleverly asked: "Why don't you call your band Rush?"

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Queens of the Stone Age wanted to appeal to both genders

Producer Chris Goss was the one who named the band, looking for a name that would be "heavy enough for the boys and sweet enough for the girls." Kings of the Stone Age option on the other hand, was discarded as being "too macho."

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Megadeth was inspired by a random flyer

Freshly fired from Metallica, Dave Mustaine found himself on a bus back to Bay Area, and was scribbling lyrics on a flyer to pass the time. On the flyer, he saw these words: "The arsenal of megadeath can't be rid no matter what the peace treaties come to."

After finding out that The Megadeaths was an early name of Pink Floyd, Dave settled for Megadeth.

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Steely Dan is a giant steam-powered dildo

In William Burrough's book called "Naked Lunch," a wild giant steam-powered dildo appears. The dildo goes by the name of Steely Dan. Naming the band after it is a no-brainer, now isn't it?

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Animals as Leaders remind us how we've gone against our natural calling

Band leader Tosin Abasi said how the name of Animals as Leaders serves to remind us how "we're all essentially animals."

He said: "A lot of what we do is completely removed from the fact that we're all essentially animals. We have a niche on the planet and we have a role in sustainable sort of ecology.

"But we've gone against our natural calling. The name is acknowledging that we do have more of a natural role on the planet. It's also like, who would follow an animal to do anything? I think of the name as being both nonsensical and really literal."

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Avenged Sevenfold comes from a Bible passage

This one comes straight from the Bible, the Book of Genesis 4:24: "If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold."

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Green Day means smoking weed all day

A pretty straightforward name, "green day" is a slang term for spending a whole day doing nothing but smoking weed.

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Lynyrd Skynyrd poked fun at gym teacher who didn't like boys with long hair

Lynyrd Skynyrd is an homage to boys' gym teacher Leonard Skinner, a man who did not like boys with long hair, and aimed to strictly enforce the Robert E. Lee High School's policy against long-haired lads.

Black Veil Brides are married to rock 'n' roll

Bassist Ashley Purdy explained about the band's name: "Black Veil Brides is a Roman Catholic term used for when a woman marries into the church and gives up all the pleasures of life to devote her life to God. She is then deemed a Black Veil Bride. Sorta similar to a rock band where you have to give up many things in pursuit of what you're passionate about or believe in.

"It also has the dichotomy of the positive and negative. The happiest time in one's life, could be getting married. And the opposite of that in one's life would be at a funeral of a loved one. It all tends to fit really well for a dark and heavy rock band."

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Pink Floyd is a tribute to two bluesmen

Pink Floyd is simple tribute to two blues musicians - Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. The boys took their names, mashed 'em up, and voila!

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50 comments sorted by best / new / date

    Metallica: Ron Quintana, a friend of Lars Ulrich, was forming a metalzine and asked Lars to choose a name for it. He had "Metal Mania" and "Metallica". Lars was looking for a name for his band, and was really into "Metallica". So he told Ron to choose Metal Mania, keeping Metallica for himself.
    Pearl Jam: Eddie Vedder said that the name was a reference to his great-grandmother Pearl, who was married to a Native American and had a special recipe for peyote-laced jam.
    Sadly Vedder admitted that that story was a joke. They already had the name 'Pearl', to which they added the 'Jam' after, I believe, watching a jam of the musical variety.
    I know, it would've just been surprising if such an epic name would have, well, this story.
    Guns N' Roses was formed by combining the two bands from which it was formed, LA Guns & Hollywood Rose.
    Dream Theater is one of the cooler ones, I think - apparently taken from a cinema that had been closed down some time earlier, suggested by Mike Portnoy's father, and they thought it was cool and also had that "classic rock/metal band feel" to it (you know, Iron Maiden, Deep Purple and such - makes sense). The original name of the band was Majesty, but apparently they had to change it as there was already a band with that name.
    Coincidentally, Deep Purple was named after Ritchie Blackmore's grandmother's favourite song
    Godspeed You! Black Emperor is a Japanese biker movie. But I think anyone who's looked up GY!BE found that out.
    Lemmy's first choice for a name for his new band was "Bastard". The band's manager convinced them it would be difficult to get stores to stock records with that name, so he decided to use the title of the last song he wrote in his previous band, which also happened to be a slang term for one who uses amphetamines - Motorhead.
    la dispute is the argument in french, which is the last fugazi album. fucked up is named that because the band was supposed to never get along as friends. drive like jehu is from a biblical passage (2 Kings 9:20). husker du was named after a botched cover of psycho killer; during the french section, the band just yelled any foreign language they could.
    Pretty sure the Hüsker dü version is a bit off - Iirc, they got it from a boardgame called "Husker du", which is danish for "do you remember?". The anecdote with "psycho holiday" is true, but it's because they couldn't do the "qu'est-ce que c'est?" part that they fired off other foreign language terms which they could pronounce, amongst which were "Husker du". Picture of said boardgame:
    yeah i was just paraphrasing a bit, it comes from both i would presume. most band names i've chosen were somehow chosen from broken street signs.
    Aren't these suppose to be guest articles? They're always UG team.....just wondering.
    Way Cool JR.
    It's just like how UG puts a lot of Featured Lessons by famous musicians in the Music News section. So when people are looking for lessons on here, all the ones that are misplaced in the Music News are pretty much lost and do no one any good.
    Uriah Heep were named that by the producer Gerry Bron in February 1970 because it was the 100th or 150th anniversary of Dickens' death.
    Wednesday question; Ten of the most stupid and irrelevant columns UG posted this year.
    Those columns are much more interesting and entertaining than majority of articles on main
    The poop award and gold award bouncing off the same post. What are the odds?
    Pretty good, because this kind of thing happens a lot. Not the poop award because that's new, but people getting golded for commenting on the lowest rated comment on a post.
    So I am not special? :'( Mom lied to me again
    Of course you're special and unique. It's just that nobody in the real world cares. Good luck.
    Rebel Scum
    "After finding out that The Megadeaths was an early name of Pink Floyd, Dave settled for Megadeth." That never happened or at least Pink Floyd never went by that name in their early days.
    Guns N' Chains
    The Goo Goo Dolls and how their name came to be taken from Wikipedia: The trio picked their name from a True Detective ad for a toy called a Goo Goo Doll. "We were young and we were a garage band not trying to get a deal. We had a gig that night and needed a name. It's the best we came up with, and for some reason it stuck. If I had five more minutes, I definitely would have picked a better name," John Rzeznik stated.
    Pantera!! Thanks to De Tomaso Pantera wich Dime tought was a Ford..
    Way Cool JR.
    I can see why he may of thought they were Ford's. He was young for 1, plus Ford/Lincoln/Mercury sold them in the US and they sported Ford V8 engines. Anyways, I always assumed they got their name from that car.
    Here's one I'm surprised no one mentioned yet: Jethro Tull, named after an 18th century agriculturist by their manager, who was a history buff.