25 of the Strangest Band Names and Where They Came From

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Back in the old days, band names were simple. Some were christened for their leaders, like Stan Kenton and His Orchestra or Bill Haley and the Comets, while others meant to be stylish or at least memorable, like The Harmonicats or The Fleetwoods.

While both naming conventions have persisted to this day, the 1960s saw the beginnings of more imaginative names, too. The Grateful Dead, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and slightly later the Flying Burrito Brothers were all musical staples of the era. (That’s hardly the only band with a culinary moniker, by the way. Here are 25 bands with food names.)

The Rolling Stones, meanwhile, named themselves after a classic Muddy Waters blues song, “Rollin’ Stone” — which, incidentally, also inspired the name of a notable music and pop culture publication and a Bob Dylan song. Speaking of strange names, The Beatles (originally The Quarrymen) were considering calling themselves some variation on “Beetles” — to parallel rock pioneer Buddy Holly’s famous band, The Crickets. But John Lennon apparently had the inspiration of changing the spelling of the insect slightly to give it a musical touch. See also little-known fascinating facts about The Beatles.

Late in the 20th century and into more recent times, band names have gotten increasingly, well, unusual. Some are nonsensical (Hoobastank), some are wordy (When People Were Shorter and Lived Near the Water), and some are more or less impenetrable (30 Odd Foot of Grunts).

Drawing on music business publications and blogs such as Rolling Stone, Spin, Pitchfork, Stereogum, Bandcamp, and Clash Music, as well as a wide range of local and regional arts and culture sites, 24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of what might well be the strangest 25 band names you’ve ever heard, along with explanations — in some cases admittedly vague and/or fanciful — of where those names came from.