1. Pearl Jam
Pearl Jam was briefly known as "Mookie Blaylock," and it even toured under that name until someone sensibly pointed out that it might be confusing for a Seattle rock band to share a name with the number 12 pick in the 1989 NBA draft. The solution: Change the name to Pearl Jam. Why? Vocalist-guitarist Eddie Vedder once suggested that it had something to do with his grandmother's recipe for peyote jelly, but the most plausible explanation is much more prosaic. It couldn't have anything to do with semen, could it? Remember: When you name your band, you're stuck with your pick. The members of Beastie Boys frequently complain that they wish they'd chosen a better name, but it fit them at the time of their debut, and now it's taken on a life of its own. Pearl Jam, on the other hand, has gotten by mostly because listeners never thought too hard about what "Pearl Jam" means.
2. Jethro Tull
This is why if you must name your band after someone else, you should make sure the band name won't be confused with the name of someone in the band. Pearl Jam might have succeeded as Mookie Blaylock simply because no one would have mistaken Eddie Vedder for a 6'1" point guard from Texas. But Ian Anderson and the gang have spent four decades explaining that, no, no one in the band is named Jethro Tull. He was, sigh, an Enlightenment-era agriculturalist who invented the seed drill, an invention that allowed farmers to increase their crop yield by up to eight times. Incidentally, on the band's first single, it was misnamed "Jethro Toe." Now that's a name!
"Wasp" isn't a terrible name for a metal band. (Wasps are kind of badass.) But "W.A.S.P."? Why the acronym? Leader Blackie Lawless plays coy when asked what it stands for, although the inscription of "We Are Sexual Perverts" on vinyl copies of W.A.S.P.'s eponymous debut seems to put the issue to rest. (Note to younger readers: This kind of stuff was once considered dangerous, and it made W.A.S.P. a favorite target of another four-letter group: the P.M.R.C.) W.A.S.P.'s penchant for acronyms extended to the 1985 single "L.O.V.E. Machine." To this date, nobody has determined what the individual letters of "L.O.V.E." stand for.
4. Chubby Checker
Ernest Evans was a south-Philadelphia poultry-shop employee who brought a natural sense of showmanship to the job. His routine included an uncanny impression of New Orleans legend Fats Domino, prompting Dick Clark's first wife Barbara Mallery to dub him "Chubby Checker." The name stuck, leading to decades of confusion. Which one was which? Oh yeah, Chubby Checker's the guy who did "The Twist" and all its sequels. Fats Domino had a bunch of great songs. The worst part of all: Checker may not be as talented as Domino, but he's a livelier entertainer and more charismatic singer than either his derivative name or his one-trick-pony reputation would suggest.
Would anyone buy a hip-hop group called the "The Rappers"? If Metallica hadn't set the gold standard for metal, the name would make them a joke.
6. The Dandy Warhols
Principal Skinner in the Simpsons episode "Homer's Barbershop Quartet": "We need a name that's witty at first, but that seems less funny each time you hear it."
7. The The
Trivia: Did you know that Matt Johnson took the band's name from the last line of Wallace Stevens' poem "The Man On The Dump"? More trivia: Did you know it's still a pretty stupid name for a band?
8. Hootie And The Blowfish
No explanation needed.
10. The Guess Who
The Guess Who is an interesting case of a band whose early success is due to its terrible name. And make no mistake: The name is terrible. Even if it weren't awfully close to that of another '60s band, it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Originally Chad Allan And The Expressions (not exactly a great Name Hall Of Fame contender, either), the Winnipeg group scored a major hit in Canada and a minor hit in the U.S. with a cover of "Shakin' All Over" by Johnny Kidd & The Pirates. Depending on who's telling the story, the band's label packaged its first album in a sleeve bearing the words "Guess Who?" either to overcome American radio's anti-Canada prejudice, or to trick shoppers into believing they were another, more famous band in disguise. Either way, it worked, and a more-or-less fondly remembered mid-tier classic rock band was born.