Author: Lange, David

The Scientific Formula for Naming Bands (Not!)
Have you ever wonder how bands get their names? For me, what they call themselves seldom determines whether or not I choose to listen. If I like the music, I don’t tend to think too hard about the band name, which somehow always seems to fit perfectly.

So do bands sit around hours and hours, trying to come up with that perfect name? Or perhaps they are paying a consultant to come up with the name for them… I don’t know about the use of a consultant, but I have spoken to bands that have started off with over a hundred candidates for the band name, and then over a period of “months”, gradually, and sometimes painstakingly, narrowed down the list and finally selected a name.

Then there are bands that have picked a name spontaneously; a matter of happenstance. Take the rock band “Bay City Rollers”, who allegedly blindly stuck a pin in a map, which landed near Bay City Michigan. Then there was “Buffalo Springfield”, who got their name off the brand of an asphalt roller that was parked on the street in front of the home of a couple of the band members...

I researched how some of our bluegrass bands got their names. I discovered some great stories, and would like to share just a few of them…..

Once, when being interviewed, Terry Eldredge of the Grascals explained that the band was sitting around the table one night, trying to figure out a new name for the band. They got to talking about old TV shows, starting with Andy Griffith. Then….. The Little Rascals…. I’ll let you figure out the rest!!

“The Compost Mountain Boys”, a traditional bluegrass band, providing “loads” of music and fun up Arcata way, was one band name I was quite curious about….. As I suspected, arriving at this name was not an intense and unpleasant process. In fact, the band members had a truck load of laughs on the way to naming their band. The discussion about naming the band got started by a former band member. He shared that he used to play in a band called “The Stink Band." That band name spun off in different directions, among them……compost. The name “Compost” on its own did not stick as a good band name, and was almost removed from the list of perspective band names. Then, they connected compost through the word play to “Mountain Boys”. Bingo! As you can imagine, many metaphors and innuendos evolved about their name, including, shall we say….the cultivation and harvest of bluegrass music. The father of one of the band members summed up this band’s name best when he said "It's like delivering flowers in a garbage truck!"

“Sawmill Road”, another California band, and poised to quickly become a West Coast favorite, came about their name as a result of recognizing the first place the band members collectively played music together. It was at Fred and Melinda Stanley’s annual Camp and Pick in Copperopolis CA. The band members asked Melinda what name she would suggest for this band and she mentioned “Sawmill Road”, because that was the name of the street where they first picked together. The group liked the name, and added to their list of prospective band names. Eventually, through the process of elimination, it was settled; the band name would be “Sawmill Road”.

From another corner of this great State of bluegrass are the “The Salt Martians”, who entertain the masses in and around the beautiful Southern California coastal city of Santa Barbara. This clever band name was conceived by one of the band members as a reference to the nearby Carpinteria Salt Marsh, one of the last remaining coastal estuaries in California. Consensus for the band name went rather smoothly, as another band member is from Port Arthur, Texas, which is also on a salt marsh. The band name often gets a smile where they play in Santa Barbara, as the people there know what a salt marsh is. However, if they go on tour, they should probably be prepared to provide an explanation….

My most memorable experience as far as “naming the band” was in 1995. I had been playing regularly with a group of musicians. While inching towards defining ourselves as a band, we had not yet entered into a serious discussion about a band name. One evening when we met to play, we started off with the usual chit-chat and updates on each other’s daily lives. When it came around to me, I talked about my wife, who was pregnant with my daughter, and having labor pains. I tried to explain to the group that she was having…uh….you know…..they’re called… Braxton Hicks! Hmmm…. Hey, a name for our band! The Braxton Hicks!!! And so it was.

Perhaps something to take away from today’s Welcome column is if you are forming a band; don’t sweat what the name of your band will be……you’ll find one….or maybe it will find you….

Posted:  9/3/2007

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