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Les Marcott
Those Wonderfully Weird Band Names
Scene4 Magazine-inView

August 2012

You can't judge a book by its cover.  Well, we all learn that at some point in our lives.  But haven't we all been enticed to take a peek now and then due to a book's provocative visual imagery.  And the same goes for music.  There has been many a provocative album cover (and if you haven't heard, vinyl's making a comeback) that has gotten my attention and occasionally lured me into giving a listen to its contents.  Country crooner Porter Wagoner was probably the best at tempting potential listeners with an interesting and odd cover.  Just look at the covers of Confessions of a Broken Man, and Bottom of the Bottle to see what I mean.  And believe me; the music lived up to its cover.

A band has to do what it has to do to gain an edge in a very competitive environment.  With that in mind, sometimes the band's name itself is a means to distinguish it from the pack and to pick up potential fans and listeners.  But you have to have more than a wonderfully weird band name to get my seal of approval – you got to have talent.

Some bands from yesteryear that meet my definition of weird name/talented include:

    Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers - a 1920's era string band influential in the development of country music.

    The Electric Prunes - 1960's psychedelic band best remembered for their hit I Had Too Much To Dream Last Night.

    The 13th Floor Elevators – Another psychedelic band that hailed from Texas and featured Roky Ericson who has an interesting life story of weirdness and madness. 

    The Velvet Underground -  the Andy Warhol managed group that gave us Lou Reed, John Cale, and Nico.

    Canned Heat  - They appeared at Woodstock and produced the hits Going Up the Country and On the Road Again.

    Steely Dan - This band's name originates from a sex toy mentioned in William S. Burroughs Naked Lunch.

    Dr. Hook and The Medicine Show – a 70's band that made a career out of singing songwriter/children's author/Playboy cartoonist Shel Silverstein penned tunes.  I miss the guy with the cowboy hat and eye patch.

    The Crash Test Dummies -  This '90's sensation gave us the hit Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm.  Whatever happened to these guys?

    Three Dog Night - Supposedly the band's name originated from an Aborigine custom of sleeping with three dogs on freezing nights.  They gave us the songs, Joy to the World, One, and the Randy Newman penned hit Mama Told Me Not to Come.

It seems these days that every actor that you've ever heard of has a band.  There's the Bacon Brothers consisting of Kevin Bacon and his brother Michael.  There's Gary Sinese and the Lt. Dan Band, Kevin Costner and Modern West, Billy Bob Thornton and his Boxmasters just to name a few.  But the winners for weirdest band name has to go to Jack Black and his partner Kyle Gass (Tenacious D), and Russell Crowe and his band mates 30 Odd Foot of Grunt.

Some hard working bands performing day in and day out that meet my definition of weird name/talented include:

    The Dropkick Murphys – A raucous Celtic rock band out of Massachusetts who like to do things their own way.

    Flogging Molly – A raucous Celtic rock band from Los Angeles who likes to do things their own way.

    Dead Winter Carpenters – This is a band I'm listening to a lot these days.  Hailing from Northern California, this band's music can be described as alt. country, roots based music.  They are an up and coming group with a growing fan base.

    The Dazzling Weasel Faces – Composed of duo Marty Floyd and partner Dave Barnes, they traverse the Central Texas area.  They are solid, polished performers specializing in folk and acoustic rock. One of my faves.

    The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash -  Described by Rolling Stone as "pure Americana heart and soul", the band got permission from the great one himself to use his name.

    The Heartless Bastards – Well, they're not heartless and they're not bastards.  In fact they play with a lot of heart and soul.  They are the backing band of Austin singer/songwriter James McMurtry (yep that's Larry's boy).

    The Sons of Warren Oates – I suggested in a piece I wrote several years ago, that a band should name themselves after that great 60's and 70's character actor Warren Oates.  Well some guys from Seattle got together and did just that and they sound terrific.

Bands from the South playing southern rock and alternative country music that fit the bill are: Southern Culture on the Skids, Drive By Truckers, and Jocephus and the George Jonestown Massacre.


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©2012 Les Marcott
©2012 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Les Marcott is a songwriter, musician, performer and a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4. His latest book of monologues, stories and short plays, Character Flaws, is published by AviarPress.
For more of his commentary and articles, check the Archives
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August 2012

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