The Stories Behind Famous Band Names

We all have our favorite bands to listen to that always seem to brighten our day and put us in a better mood. Whether you are a fan of classic rock, country or pop, chances are you have a favorite group or two that has a strange name that no one seems to know the origins of, but they just go with it anyway. Here are a few stories behind famous band names that will give you a little more insight into your favorite artist’s creativity and craziness.

Lynyrd Skynyrd

Long before they were the inspiration behind every drunken guy at the back of the bar yelling out “Freebird”, Lynyrd Skynyrd was a humble band from Jacksonville who had long hair and a cranky gym teacher. As the story goes, Leonard Skinner, was a basketball coach at Robert E. Lee High School. He thought that a group of students’ hair was too long, so he sent the students to the principal’s office where they were suspended until they agreed to cut their hair. The students decided to honor Mr. Skinner, who died in 2010, by naming their band after him, while aligning the spelling the spelling with its intended, Southern pronunciation.

Run the Jewels

The Atlanta duo Run the Jewels are two of the greatest rap artists to hit the scene lately. Killer Mike and EL-P decided on the name of their group after they started collaborating and agreed on Run the Jewels as their moniker because it was from a LL Cool J song “Cheesy Rat Blues”. The two decided the phrase embodied their ethos as well as originated from the era they both fell in love with music, so the name stuck.

Steely Dan

While they are known as the leading nerds in rock, Steely Dan only became a band after Donald Fagen and Walter Becker decided they were wasting their songwriting on other artists at their day job at ABC Records in Los Angeles. The pair, who both read a lot of “Beat” literature, decided to name their band after a sex toy featured in William Burroughs “Naked Lunch.”


Like many other bands, Metallica was formed through an ad in the local newspaper. Lars Ulrich was looking for musicians to jam with and found James Hetfield and others through an alt-weekly. Ulrich found the band’s name through another friend, who was deciding what to call his magazine dedicated to the L.A. scene. MetalMania or Metallica. Ulrich’s pal went with MetalMania at Ulrich’s persistent urging and Ulrich took Metallica for himself and his group.

Led Zeppelin

Oddly enough, Led Zeppelin wasn’t named by any members of the group. Instead, the band’s name was inspired by a crack made by Keith Moon, the drummer of The Who. In a recording studio, Moon and several other musicians who went on to great things like Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, laid down a new song. Moon remarked “Yew, we’ll call it Lead Zeppelin, because it will go over like a f****ing Lead Baloon.” Two years later, when naming the new band, Jimmy Page remembered that story and spiced it up a little bit, changing the spelling to Led so people wouldn’t be confused and pronounce it as Leed Zeppelin.

Duran Duran

The members of the group took a cue from film history and named themselves after Dr. Durand Durand, who was a character in the cult science-fiction film “Barbarella” of which many of the band members were a fan.


The band that became KISS had already been performing as Wicked Lester, but after Ace Frehley joined the band, Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons and Peter Criss were driving around New York City when Criss mentioned he used to be in a band called Lips. Stanley suggested KISS as the new name, Frehley drew their now iconic logo, crossed Wicked Lester out of some promotional materials and the rest was history.


The band that formed in the late 1980s in Omaha, Nebraska 311 saw some success in the mid-90s and early 2000s with their combination of alternative, reggae and funk. The band’s name. which has a crazy story behind it, comes from the Omaha police department code for indecent exposure.

Pink Floyd

There are plenty of bands that name themselves after other bands in some way or another and Pink Floyd is no different. The band got their name after two musicians that they had always looked up to, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council, who were early American bluesmen. Sadly, the two passed away within a year of each other and within a year of the release of the band’s 1975 album, “Wish You Were Here.”