The Rock Bands That Were Named From Real People and Their Origin

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Choosing a band name can be a challenging task for many new bands. It is often one of the first decisions a band makes and can set the tone for its identity and image. Some bands choose to name themselves after real people, such as the examples listed below.

These names can pay homage to musicians or other cultural figures that have influenced the band, or they may simply reflect the band’s personal interests or tastes. Other bands may choose to name themselves after fictional characters or create a name that is entirely original. Ultimately, the name is a reflection of the band’s identity and can play an essential role in building its brand and connecting with its audience.

But there are also many bands that choose to name themselves after someone who is not a member of the group. This can be a way for bands to pay homage to a musician, artist, or other cultural figures that have influenced them, or a way to reflect their personal interests or tastes.


Pink Floyd

In the early days, the band that would become Pink Floyd went through several name changes including Sigma 6, Meggadeaths, the Abdabs, Leonard’s Lodgers, and the Spectrum Five. They eventually settled on the name “The Tea Set,” but had to change it when they arrived at a gig to find another band using the same name. Original frontman Syd Barrett suggested they change their name to “The Pink Floyd Sound,” which was taken from classic blues artists Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. Eventually, they shortened the name to Pink Floyd.


Creedence Clearwater Revival

In 1967, the band consisting of John and Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook, and Doug Clifford chose to name themselves Creedence Clearwater Revival after previously being known as the Blue Velvets and the Golliwogs. The name was inspired by a friend of Tom’s named Credence Nuball and the Clearwater beer brand, as well as the band’s desire to stay true to their rock n’ roll roots with the word “revival.”


Jethro Tull

The band Jethro Tull was named after an 18th-century agricultural innovator who introduced the horse-drawn seed drill and hoe. Despite the fact that Jethro Tull’s methods were not related to rock n’ roll, the name was chosen by a jazz-rock fusion band, led by Ian Anderson, when they were searching for a name, suggested by the booking agent’s staff who was familiar with Jethro Tull’s agricultural history. The band has been using this name ever since.


Mookie Blaylock (Pearl Jam)

A band called Mookie Blaylock, named after a basketball player opened shows for Alice in Chains in Seattle’s grunge scene in 1990. The band, consisting of Jeff Ament, Stone Gossard, Mike McCready, Dave Krusen, and Eddie Vedder, had to change their name after signing a record deal and chose Pearl Jam, which was said to be an ode to Vedder’s great-grandmother’s jarred preserves, but was actually thought up by the band after seeing Neil Young’s extended jam session in concert.


ZZ Top

According to Billy Gibbons, the lead singer and guitarist of ZZ Top, the band’s name was inspired by the initials of blues artists he saw listed on posters in a hangout room where he was staying. He noticed that many of the names on the posters had initials, such as O.V. Wright, D.C. Bender, and B.B. King. He initially thought of naming the band ZZ King but decided it was too similar to B.B. King and instead chose ZZ Top.


Jane’s Addiction

The band, which included Farrell, Dave Navarro, Eric Avery and Stephen Perkins, took notice of Bainter’s addiction and named the band Jane’s Addiction as a nod to her struggles and the destructive nature of drug addiction. The name also served as a reminder to the band to stay away from drugs and to keep focused on their music. The band’s name is a reference to Jane Bainter, an Ivy League-educated woman who was a heroin addict and lived in the commune with Perry Farrell and his bandmates. The band members chose the name as a reminder to stay away from drugs and to stay focused on their music.


The Hollies

The band, originally called the Deltas, consisting of Allan Clarke and Graham Nash, renamed themselves the Hollies in 1962 as a tribute to rock musician Buddy Holly, who passed away three years prior. The band members believed that Holly was a part of their group and thus decided to honor him by renaming the band after him.



The band City Kidd, formed in Sacramento in the early 1980s, changed its name to Tesla to better reflect their glam-metal sound. The new name was suggested by the band’s management and was inspired by the famous Austrian inventor Nikola Tesla.


Dead Kennedys

The band Dead Kennedys was named by Mark Bliesener, a punk veteran who came up with the moniker while discussing band names with Eric Boucher (Jello Biafra). The name was inspired by the famous political family known for tragic, unexpected deaths, and Bliesener had thought of it while looking at his girlfriend’s teddy bear named Ted Kennedy. Jello Biafra ended up using the name for his band, which he fronted until 1986.


Van Der Graaf Generator

American physicist Robert Jemison Van de Graaff, who died in 1967, inspired the name of the progressive rock group Van der Graaf Generator. The band’s founder, Chris Judge Smith, compiled a list of potential band names in a notebook, which included other ideas like Zeiss Manifold and the Shrieking Plasma. Smith met future bandmate Peter Hammill at the University of Manchester and together they decided to use the name Van Der Graaf Generator, which is named after the particle accelerator used in atomic research that was created by Robert Jemison Van de Graaff.


Marshall Tucker Band

The Marshall Tucker Band was named after a piano tuner from South Carolina, whose name was found on a keychain in a warehouse where the band was rehearsing in the early days. The band initially believed that Marshall Tucker was a company name and didn’t find out until later that it was a real person. The real Marshall Tucker was unaware of the band’s name until a friend told him he saw that the band was playing that night.


Kings of Leon

The band Kings of Leon named themselves after their grandfather, Leon Followill. He was a blue-collar worker, who was known for his friendly and outgoing personality. The band was inspired by his character rather than his musical sense.


Molly Hatchet

Molly Hatchet is an American southern rock band formed in Jacksonville, Florida, in 1975. The band was named after a legendary woman from the American Civil War era who was known as “Hatchet Molly” and was said to have decapitated at least 15 of her clients. The band’s founder, Dave Hlubek, came up with the name by randomly picking it from a list of potential names that he and his bandmates had written down on a piece of paper. The band became famous for its southern rock style and energetic live performances. They were influenced by bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers Band.


Greta Van Fleet

Greta Van Fleet’s band name was inspired by a resident of their hometown, Gretna VanFleet, who was friends with the grandfather of their original drummer. Their modern take on classic blues-rock sound similar to that of Led Zeppelin in the 60s and 70s has made them popular. The band checked out Gretna’s background before naming themselves after her and she later said that the band’s popularity helped expand her social circle as more people wanted to be friends with her because of her association with the band.


Marilyn Manson

The musician Brian Warner, who is better known as shock-rocker Marilyn Manson, chose his stage name by combining the names of Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe and notorious cult leader Charles Manson. He believed that actors and killers were the two types of people who were often featured on magazine covers. The band he formed was originally called Marilyn Manson and the Spooky Kids, but the name was eventually shortened to just Marilyn Manson.