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10 Name Origins of Famous Bands from the 1990s

by Jeffrey Morris
fact checked by Darci Heikkinen

Every decade and every generation has its own fair share of musicians and bands. The 1990s were not left out, from grunge to industrial to hip-hop and more. Every band also had the freedom to name itself, and most found inspiration in one thing or another. That inspiration then led the musicians to choose their new identity as a band. While you may be familiar with the names of all the bands in this list, you might not know the origin of those names. These are ten name origins of famous music bands in the 1990s.

Related: 10 Bands That Truly Lived a Punk Lifestyle

10 Pearl Jam

Pearl Jam – Alive (Official Video)

Pearl Jam is an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington in the 1990s. The band’s line-up consists of founding members Jeff Ament (bass guitar), Stone Gossard (rhythm guitar), Mike McCready (lead guitar), and Eddie Vedder (lead vocals, guitar), as well as Matt Cameron (drums), who joined in 1998. Keyboardist Boom Gaspar has also been a touring/session member with the band since 2002. One of the key bands in the grunge movement of the early 1990s, Pearl Jam’s members often shunned popular music industry practices such as making music videos or participating in interviews.

The name of the band was chosen at a Seattle restaurant. All the band members settled on the name “Pearl,” which denoted something unique and precious. The word “Jam” was added to it when Eddie attended a Neil Young concert not long after and felt that all the music played during the performance sounded like “Jams.”[1]

9 Limp Bizkit

Limp Bizkit – Break Stuff (Official Music Video)

Limp Bizkit is an American nu-metal band from Jacksonville, Florida. Its line-up consists of lead vocalist Fred Durst, drummer John Otto, guitarist Wes Borland, turntablist DJ Lethal, and bassist Sam Rivers. The band’s music is marked by Durst’s angry vocal delivery and Borland’s sonic experimentation. Formed in 1994, Limp Bizkit became popular when playing in the Jacksonville underground music scene in the late 1990s. They were signed with Flip Records, who released the band’s debut album Three Dollar Bill, Y’all (1997).

There are conflicting stories as to how the band got their name. Some believed that the name was inspired by Durst’s dog, “Bizkit.” The dog also limped at that time. However, Durst himself said that this was not the case but that the name was chosen at random. Moreover, the name was intended to polarize and turn people’s heads away from the band so that only their genuine fans would listen to their songs.[2]

8 Weezer

Weezer – Say It Ain’t So (Official Video)

Weezer is an American rock band formed in Los Angeles, California, in 1992. Since 2001, the band has consisted of Rivers Cuomo (lead vocals, guitar, keyboards), Patrick Wilson (drums, backing vocals), Brian Bell (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals), and Scott Shriner (bass guitar, keyboards, backing vocals). They have sold 10 million albums in the U.S. and more than 35 million worldwide.

The name of the band was chosen by Rivers Cuomo. It was a nickname that his father had given to him as a child. Cuomo’s dad got the inspiration for the name from a character on The Little Rascals.[3]

7 Radiohead

Radiohead – Creep

Radiohead is an English rock band formed in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. The band comprised Thom Yorke (vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards), brothers Jonny Greenwood (guitar, keyboards, other instruments) and Colin Greenwood (bass), Ed O’Brien (guitar, backing vocals), and Philip Selway (drums, percussion). Radiohead is a highly successful rock band, which by 2011 had sold more than 30 million albums worldwide. They have several singles that have reached the top ten on the UK Singles Chart. The band has also won six Grammy awards.

When the band was formed, they were known as On a Friday. The group chose this moniker because the first time they rehearsed together as a band was a Friday. When they got close to signing a record deal, they were told by a record label to ditch the name or risk not getting signed. While struggling to choose a name, they came upon a brilliant idea. It was a song titled “Radiohead” by New York icon Talking Heads. The band decided to adopt the name Radiohead, which is now a household name all over the world.[4]

6 Nirvana

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit (Official Music Video)

Nirvana was an American rock band formed in Aberdeen, Washington, in 1987. Nirvana’s success popularized alternative rock, and they were often referenced as the figurehead band of Generation X. Although Nirvana as a band had a short mainstream career spanning only three years, their music has maintained a popular following and continues to influence modern rock culture.

The band is on this list because of its remarkable and unforgettable experience with its choice of names. Despite having a short career, the band went through several names, including Skid Row, Pen Cap Chew, and Ted Ed Fred, before settling on the name Nirvana, which represents the final goal of Buddhism.[5]

5 Goo Goo Dolls

Goo Goo Dolls – Iris [Official Music Video] [4K Remaster]

The Goo Goo Dolls is an American rock band formed in 1986 in Buffalo, New York, by guitarist/vocalist John Rzeznik, bassist/vocalist,, Robby Takac, and drummer George Tutuska. Takac and Tutuska were long-time friends in school, and they met Rzeznik while he was playing in the band The Beaumonts. The name of the band was not always Goo Goo Dolls. The band was originally known as The Sex Maggots, but the name was tough to sell.

In fact, the band almost had a show canceled in Connecticut because the club they were supposed to perform at refused to put that name on its marquee. The band members decided that they had to have their name changed on that day. Unfortunately, the only source of inspiration they had at hand was a copy of the “True Detective Magazine.” It was in this magazine that the band found an advertisement for a “Goo Goo Doll.” The band members decided the name was cool enough and pluralized it to Goo Goo Dolls. The rest is history.[5]

4 Green Day

Green Day – Boulevard Of Broken Dreams [Official Music Video]

Green Day is an American rock band formed in the East Bay of California in 1987 by lead vocalist and guitarist Billie Joe Armstrong and bassist and backing vocalist Mike Dirnt, with drummer Tré Cool joining in 1990. Green Day is one of those bands that went through multiple names before settling on a permanent name.

Before taking on its current name in 1989, the band was known as Blood Rage. The band later became known as Sweet Children. The band later dropped the name Sweet Children since another band named Sweet Baby was also in demand in local venues in the Bay Area of California, where Green Day also happened to be very popular. However, what influenced their choice of the name Green Day is what many of their fans might not find difficult to believe. The name was influenced by the band members’ love for marijuana.[7]

3 Backstreet Boys

Backstreet Boys – I Want It That Way (Official HD Video)

Backstreet Boys is an American vocal group consisting of Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, AJ McLean, and cousins Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson. They were formed in 1993 in Orlando, Florida, and the group rose to fame with their international debut album Backstreet Boys (1996). In the following year, they released their second international album Backstreet’s Back (1997), which continued the group’s success worldwide.

The origin of the band is widely known. The band’s original manager, Lou Pearlman, wanted to create a group similar to the wildly popular New Kids on the Block. When his five-man team was complete, the last task was to name them. Since Orlando, Florida, resonated with some of the members of the newly formed band, Pearlman decided to name them after the area’s Backstreet Market.[8]

2 Westlife

Westlife – My Love (Official Video)

Westlife is an Irish pop group formed in Dublin in 1998. The group consists of members Shane Filan, Mark Feehily, Kian Egan, and Nicky Byrne. Brian McFadden was a member before leaving in 2004. The group disbanded in 2012 after 14 years and later reunited in 2018. In Ireland, the group has 11 number-one albums, 16 number-one singles, and 34 top fifty singles. They have sold over 55 million records and are holders of four Guinness World Records. Westlife has received numerous accolades, including one World Music Award, two Brit Awards, four MTV Awards, and four Record of the Year Awards.

The band’s first name was 6 as 1 before the name was changed to I.O.YOU. The band later changed their name to Westside because three band members at that time were from the west side of Ireland. The band continued to bear the name Westside until they realized there was another music band with the same name, so they changed their name to Westlife. On March 9, 2004, just three weeks before embarking on their fourth world tour, McFadden left the group because he wanted to spend more time with his family. Westlife is still active as a four-member band.[9]

1 Red Hot Chili Peppers

Red Hot Chili Peppers – Under The Bridge [Official Music Video]

The Red Hot Chili Peppers is an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1982 by singer Anthony Kiedis, guitarist Hillel Slovak, bassist Flea, and drummer Jack Irons, who were classmates at Fairfax High School. Their first performance was on December 16, 1982, at the Grandia Room on Hollywood Boulevard to a crowd of approximately 30. Gary Allen, a friend of the band, was hosting a release party for his new EP and asked Kiedis and Flea to put together an opening act.

Over the decades, the members of the bands have changed several times, but the band has continued to find success. Their music incorporates elements of alternative rock, funk, punk rock, hard rock, hip hop, and psychedelic rock. Their eclectic range has influenced genres such as funk metal, rap metal, rap rock, and nu metal. The band has sold over 120 million records worldwide, making them one of the top-selling bands of all time.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers is one of the more peculiar bands that gained mainstream popularity. According to a biography of the band, the name Red Hot Chili Peppers was taken from the nickname for Louis Armstrong’s 1920s jazz quintet. Many of their fans believe the name is ideal for the band due to their energetic performance. The name comprises four perfect words for a four-member band.[10]

fact checked by Darci Heikkinen