What’s in a name?
When it comes to rock ’n’ roll, pretty much everything.
Rock stardom is all about reinventing yourself, becoming a larger-than-life figure that stands apart from the crowd.
And if you want the girls or guys, or both, to scream your name, it had better be an awesome, sexy, memorable one.
Or at least pronounceable. Here we spotlight a few of the guitar heroes who played the name game and won. Sorta.
For an American guitar hero, “Slash” is the best stage name ever. It suggests a violent guitar style and a certain swashbuckling attitude—perfect for a guitarist from Guns N’ Roses. Perfect, that is, unless you’re from Britain, where the former Saul Hudson was born. Across the pond, “Slash” is slang for making wee-wee. Not exactly the stuff of rock legend.
09. The Edge
As your mother once told you, if they’re really your friends, they won’t make fun of the way you look. Unless, of course, your friend is a mullet-headed blabbermouth named Paul Hewson. Hewson took one look at Dave Evans’ prominent beak and dubbed him “The Edge.” At least Evans wasn’t stuck with “Bono Vox,” the nickname Hewson earned because his voice suggested the need for a popular hearing aid.
08. John Denver
The former Mr. Deutschendorf renamed himself after his favorite city, and then wrote a bunch of classic tunes about the area, most notably “Rocky Mountain High.” Or was he actually singing about himself? Dude was kinda conceited, I guess. Or maybe just stoned. Or both?
07. Alex Lifeson
Zivojinovich. Say it backwards, and you might find yourself in the Bizarro World. That’s certainly where Rush guitarist Alex Lifeson found himself New Year’s Eve 2003, when he tangled with police at the Naples Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Florida. The brawl had several repercussions for Lifeson: a broken nose, a lawsuit, and the publication of his real name, Zivojinovich. It’s Serbian, reportedly, for “Lifeson.”
06. C.C. DeVille
Bruce Johannsen’s chosen stage name—C.C. DeVille—suggests a classic luxury automobile designed to impress the ladies. Unlike the Cadillac Coupe de Ville, however, C.C.’s look and style would not transcend the decades. D. Neon might have been a more appropriate moniker.
05. Zakk Wylde
For a rebel like Zakk Wylde—formerly known as Jeff Wielandt, back in his hometown in New Jersey—the rules do not apply. Especially trivial rules such as proper spelling. Spellcheck this, MF’er!
04. Mick Mars
More truth-in-advertising than a stage name, Mick Mars, by all accounts, suits the Crüe guitarist all too well. The dude is an alien. For real. A friend told me, and he’s a big Crüe fan. I also read it on the Internet.
Tough to say how Brian Carroll arrived at his stage name. I’m really not sure, not sure at all. Any idea, readers?
02. Joe Strummer
The Clash’s Joe Strummer was a songwriter of stunning brilliance. Unfortunately, that trait was far from evident in his choice of stage name. When it came time to reinvent himself, as so many did in the early days of punk, the former John Mellor made this astonishing breakthrough: Guitars have strings. I strum them. I think I will call myself … Joe Strummer!
01. Yngwie Malmsteen
Like so many guitar heroes before him, Lars Johann Yngwie Lannerback realized that an unwieldy, tough-to-pronounce name could work against him in show biz. So he changed his name to … Yngwie Malmsteen?! What, was “Englebert Humperdinck” already taken?