• Who drummer Keith Moon did not think that the music of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant, John Paul Jones, and John Bonham would be successful; in fact, he told them that their music would be as successful as a lead balloon. Page, Plant, Jones, and Bonham decided to name their band after Mr. Moon’s comment. A zeppelin was the biggest balloon they could think of, and after removing the A from “lead” to facilitate accurate pronunciation, they called themselves Led Zeppelin. It was their music that led music reporter Lester Bangs to coin the term “heavy metal” music.
• Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish make up the Chicago rap duo known as the Cool Kids. Actually, “Mikey Rocks” is a pseudonym. His real name is Antoine Reed, but he chose his stage name because of his youthful hero-worship of NBA star Michael Jordan. When Mr. Reed had to choose a stage name, he regarded it as an opportunity: “As a little kid, I would try to change my name to Mike, like write it on papers and I would tell my mom to call me that but she wouldn’t do it, so I just saw this as my opportunity to have the best name that I could possibly have.”
• Late in his life, blues musician Howlin’ Wolf is said to have not liked his name; however, it was preferable to other names he had acquired earlier. Born Chester Arthur Burnett, Howlin’ Wolf wore size-16 shoes. That led to him being called first “Foots” and later “Big Foot Chester.” Another blues musician named John T. Smith, who in 1930 had recorded a song called “The Howling Wolf” and had thereafter taken that name, was no longer famous when Big Foot was looking for a new name, so Mr. Burnett borrowed the name and kept it for himself.
• Scottish singer Amy Macdonald regarded Pete Doherty as an early idol, and she wrote the song “Poison Prince” about his drug problems. Mr. Doherty has heard about the song, although he may have misheard its title. On television, an interviewer asked him, “So you’ve met Amy; she’s a big fan. And you’ve heard the song?” Mr. Doherty asked, “What song?” The interviewer replied, “The song she wrote about you, ‘Poison Prince.’” Mr. Doherty was not amused, saying, “Why would I want to listen to a song about me that is called ‘Poison Prick?’”
• Stanley Kirk Burrell is better known as rapper M.C. Hammer. “M.C.” is a slang way of saying “Rapper,” and “Hammer” is a nickname he was given when he became the Oakland Athletics batboy after Charley Finley, the owner of the Athletics, saw young Stanley singing and dancing in the Athletics parking lot. Stanley resembled home-run hitter Hammerin’ Hank Aaron, and so he was called Little Hammer.
• One story about how “break” dancing got its name concerns Afrika Mambaataa, an African-American man in the Bronx in New York City who led a gang called the Zulu Kings that was more interested in dancing than in fighting. Another gang challenged the Zulu Kings to a fight, but Mr. Mambaataa suggested that they take a break from beating people up and instead compete in dancing.
• At one time, people with foreign or Jewish names would sometimes change their names because they thought that it would help them fit in better or more comfortably in the United States. Composer/conductor Leonard Bernstein was advised to do this early in his career, but he replied, “I’ll do it as Bernstein, or not at all.”
• The Yugoslav conductor Berislav Klobucar once substituted for Herbert von Karajan at the Metropolitan Opera. Members of the orchestra showed their affection for Mr. Klobucar by calling him “Clubcar” and by calling his wife “Loungecar.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
The Funniest People in Music, Volume 3 — Buy: