20 Bands & Musicians With Food Names (And How They Got Them)
They say that a name can make or break a band. While there might not be any science to support that, band naming is famous for being, well, a contentious and creative issue among musicians. Some artists have taken the role incredibly seriously, giving significant personal or cultural meaning to the identity that the public will know them as for years to come. Others find it less important, choosing silly names or throwing random ideas at a wall until something sticks. Either way, some of the most interesting band names have often been associated with food, or at least we think they are. Here are the origins of 20 musicians and musical groups whose names feature things we eat.
Black Eyed Peas
Your best guess as to why this self-described group of lovable misfits chose their name is probably spot on. The band responsible for Billboard hits like “Boom Boom Pow” and “Where Is The Love?” are named after a legume commonly associated with soul food. However, they didn’t always go by such direct metaphor for musical production and consumption. Born out of the remnants of Los Angeles’ hip-hop collective Atban Klann, the Peas were forced to make some musical and member adjustments (including the addition of Fergie) following the death of their first record label’s founder. During that period, they renamed themselves the Black Eyed Pods before transforming into the Black Eyed Peas, which rapper and member Taboo said was “a name that we felt was soulful, like our music.”
Bowling for Soup
This pop-punk band burst onto the charts in the mid-2000s with “1985,” their fun and colorful tribute to ‘80s pop culture. Their 1994 formation was one entirely of timing, as the then college students saw all of their bands dissolve around the same time, opening the door for what BFS lead singer Jaret Reddick calls the “punk-rock Beatles.”
“We all got together over a beer and worked it out,” he once revealed about the band’s creation. Those beers would lead to the band’s genesis, and their unmistakable name inspired by a comedy icon: Steve Martin. For hardcore Martin fans, the band’s name probably sounds familiar. That’s because it’s a spin on the comedian’s “bowling for shit” routine from his 1979 comedy album Wild and Crazy Guy.
Cake is probably one of the sweetest band names out there. However, its origins are anything but. In a 1996 interview with the Chicago Sun-Times, Cake vocalist and guitarist John McCrea revealed that the band famous for referencing a sugary noun were actually using the word as a verb. “It’s like when something insidiously becomes a part of your life,” said McCrea, who was the one who decided on the name. “We mean it more as something that cakes onto your shoe and is just sort of there until you get rid of it.”
This Bronx rapper’s name might remind you of something you can’t quite put your finger on—and it should. The female artist, who recently became the first rapper to have her first three Hot 100 hits charting in the U.S. Top 10 at the same time, got her name from a “spirit” brand that sounds phonetically similar. During an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon last December, Cardi B revealed that her sister’s liquor-inspired name led to her own.
“My sister’s name is Hennessy, right?” Cardi B told Fallon. “So everyone used to call me Bacardi.” But how did Bacardi get to Cardi B? It was all thanks to Instagram, who kept deactivating her “Bacardi” username. “For some reason, I think it was Bacardi that had somethin’ to do with it,” Cardi B said. “So I just turned it to Cardi B.”
This 1960s British rock group known for hits like “Sunshine of Your Love” and “I Feel Free” got their name from a common play on words, as well as the trio’s notoriety for having talent and putting on a show. Often considered the first supergroup, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees weren’t referring to what you put in your coffee when they named themselves.
Instead, Cream is a reference to being the best of the crop, as members Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker were considered the “cream of the crop” by some critics, fans and fellow musicians in the expanding British music scene. Unfortunately, their success lasted only a few years as some of the members enjoyed making music... just not together. For that reason, it seems one of the band’s other potential name’s—Sweet ‘n’ Sour Rock ‘n’ Roll—would have been more fitting.
Eminem is a man of many names. The 45-year-old rapper and Grammy-winning recording artist was born Marshall Bruce Mathers III but is also known as simply Marshall Mathers, “Slim Shady,” and his early stage name M&M, which was a play on his initials. Due to trademark laws, Mathers wouldn’t have been able to take “M&M” with him as he made his way into the rap spotlight. So while recording tracks for his Infinite album in 1995, the rapper changed his stage name to its phonetic counterpart: Eminem.
Fiona Apple’s alluring melodies, best captured in her hit “Criminal,” are a refreshing, and sometimes biting, alternative to mainstream pop music. But the New York City-born musician didn’t take on her last name because her music is reminiscent indulging in the juicy and sweet fruit associated with her home city. Instead, Fiona got her last name from her middle name, which, she revealed during the press tour for debut album Tidal, was the last name of a distant family member. Her actual last name is a double-barrelled surname (McAfee-Maggart). Hence she took on Apple to avoid her stage name being too clunky.
Born O'Shea Jackson, this prolific rapper and cinematic crossover artist actually got his stage name in his youth. A founding member of Los Angeles gangsta rap group N.W.A, Ice Cube told Wired that his moniker came from his brother as they two were fighting over women. “My brother, he’s about nine years older than me, he used to have all kind of women calling the house and I would try to get at them,” the rapper and Barbershop star revealed. “He got mad at that and said he was going to slam me in the freezer one day, and turn me into an ice cube. I said, ‘You know what? That’s a badge of honor.’”
Iron & Wine
Whether you’re a fan of Twilight or just of indie folk in general, you’ve probably heard the hypnotic and stirring music of Austin-born singer and songwriter Sam Beam. Known as Iron & Wine, the one-man show found inspiration for his stage name back in the late ‘90s while he was still a film school student. Working on the lighting for a movie shooting at a gas station “out in the middle of nowhere” Georgia, Beam happened to see a section of home remedies.
It included things like castor oil and the beef protein supplement Beef, Iron & Wine. “I recognized that a lot in my writing I’m trying to show both sides of the coin—the sour and sweet,” Beam told Spin Magazine. “Iron & Wine seemed to fit with that duality and I thought it would be more interesting to call the project that rather than use Sam Beam.”
Jelly Roll Morton
With so many foods like oysters and chocolate being popular aphrodisiacs, along with the more suggestive things we associate with the mouth, both food and the act of eating have been made into something quite… sensual. That’s especially true for pop culture, where films like The Shape of Water and Call Me By Your Name explore foods role in romance. While no particular (or fantastical) relationship inspired American ragtime and early jazz pianist Jelly Roll Morton’s “sweet” professional name, that connection between that which simmers in the body and in the kitchen did. Born Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe, this pivotal New Orleans musician spent his early career playing piano in a sporting house (otherwise known as a brothel). While the term Jelly has quite a few connotations in African-American slang, Jelly Roll often referred to a prominent part of a man’s anatomy and was a common utterance in Morton’s place of work.
The well-known American metal band rose to stardom in the 1990s and has built up such fascination around its food-adjacent name that someone created an animated historical parody (featuring singing corn) of its origins. Unfortunately, the band’s lead vocalist Jonathan Davis didn’t choose the name because he was fascinated with the vegetable.
Instead, when the newly-formed band of five were in need of a name, Korn frontman Davis just happened to think of it. Despite the members’ enthusiastic support, it seems like a weird name to be thrilled about, and Davis has acknowledged that. “The music makes the name, because Korn’s a dumb name,” Davis explained while talking about the band’s “Who Then Now?” video. “But once a band gets established, it makes the name cool.”
Power ballad rocker Meat Loaf (Michael Lee Aday) is known for spinning tales about the origins of his stage name, claiming in a Guardian interview that “Names and ages piss me off. So I just continually lie.” However, in a 2016 Oprah: Where Are They Now? segment, the now 70-year-old singer finally (maybe) set the record straight. “I got it when I was four days old―not the ‘Loaf’ part, just the ‘Meat,’” he revealed.
Apparently, his skin was bright red when he was born. Meat Loaf’s father turned the experience into a joke, stating, “I want you to name my son there―because he looks like nine-and-a-half pounds of ground chuck―I want you to put a name tag on the front of that plastic crib and it say ‘Meat’ on it.’” The rocker also supposedly clarified where he got the second half of his name: from a football coach. “I stepped on a coach’s foot and he screamed, ‘Get off my foot, you hunk of meat loaf!’” Of course, like some meatloaf ingredients, the true origins may remain a mystery.
If you ever attended any of Phish’s early gigs, you probably knew them by a different name. While the college-enrolled group was getting their sea legs in the mid-1980s, they went by Blackwood Convention, a nod to the contract bridge bidding strategy. It’s unclear when or how the name came to be, but according to Parke Puterbaugh’s Phish: The Biography, a source close to the band says they considered calling themselves Phshhhh with no vowel at one point.
It alluded to the sound of brushes on a snare drum but the group ultimately felt like it would be hard for people to nail down spellingwise. So they settled on Phish the afternoon before playing a 1984 Halloween party. It was both a tribute to band drummer and songwriter John Fishman and mimicked the minor animal name alterations of other famous rock bands such as The Beatles and Byrds.
Red Hot Chili Peppers
This funk-meets-punk band is familiar with evolution. Not only have they seen numerous member changes, but an image and sound development that transformed them from musical firebrands to respected rock veterans. Even their name, which started out as the somewhat long-winded Tony Flow And The Miraculously Majestic Masters Of Mayhem, changed.
In Anthony Kiedis’ autobiography Scar Tissue, the Peppers’ lead vocalist explains they chose their now-famous name―which would epitomize their stage performance and sound―because no one else had. “There was Louis Armstrong with his Hot Five, and also other bands that had ‘Red Hot’ this or ‘Chili’ that,” Kiedis wrote. “There was even an English band that was called Chilli Willi and the Red Hot Peppers, who later thought we had stolen their name. But no one had ever been the Red Hot Chili Peppers.”
Like many other bands, this groundbreaking and spicy ‘90s rap group—known best for their pump-up single “Push It”—changed their name before becoming the first female rappers to go platinum worldwide. The Queens and Brooklyn-based artists were originally called Supernature but changed their name after realizing that they worked in tandem making music like the two popular spices make a dish. “Because we were polar opposites, we fascinated each other,” Cheryl James (a.k.a. ‘Salt’) told The Guardian last year. “...When we sang, ‘We go together like salt and pepper,’ the name felt perfect for us.”
Despite seeming like a food-inspired artistic play on words, Soundgarden got their name from an architectural garden. Often called one of the forefathers of the grunge genre (along with bands like Nirvana), these Seattle musicians used their name to pay tribute to one of six outdoor public art structures on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) campus. Built between 1982 and 1983 the multi-part sculpture is composed of 12 steel tower structures, all featuring an organ pipe attached to a weather vane. The “garden” grows sounds when its various parts are rotated or when wind passes through the tubes.
According to band member Geri Halliwell (also known as Ginger Spice), when the girl group was first put together, management toyed with the idea of calling them “Touch.” But after Halliwell had a workout epiphany, they found the first half of their band name. “We were so different and our name had to feel like us, so we asked ourselves: What could fit all of us and show that diversity?” Halliwell wrote for Marie Claire. “I was in an aerobics class, and as I was stepping from side to side, “Spice" popped into my head.”
She would immediately go back to the house the girls’ shared to propose the idea. While it earned their approval, there was unfortunately already an American artist who had claim to the single word. So “Girls” was added on “as whenever we showed up somewhere, people would refer to us as the Spice girls,” Halliwell said.
This ‘90s band is known mostly for two things: the attractiveness of its lead singer and their hits “Fly” and “Every Morning,” which were instant songs of the summer. But don’t let their catchy pop-reggae sound fool you. Like their light and frothy hit singles, the history behind their band name is less sweet and more punchy than you’d think.
Originally known as Shrinky Dinx, the Newport Beach musicians found themselves in the shadow of a potential lawsuit by Milton Bradley, the makers of those tiny plastic toy pieces you bake in the oven to create charms, ornaments, and figurines. To avoid going to court the band put their heads and sports-loving hearts together to come up with a new name. Now and forever known as Sugar Ray, the band took its famed moniker in honor of the American boxer Sugar Ray Leonard.
This Irish band offers yet another tale of a name change, but with a slight twist. The alternative rock group, which garnered household recognition in the early 1990s for songs like “Linger” and their haunting anti-war ballad “Zombie,” always featured the bright and tangy fruit in their moniker. Formally called The Cranberries Saw Us, the Smiths-inspired band’s name could be a tribute to a turkey dinner staple if you said it fast enough.
There are rumors that the band got this name from the last two lines uttered by John Lennon in The Beatles “Strawberry Fields.” While that isn’t confirmed, we do know that only a year after its lead vocalist and songwriter Dolores O’Riordan joined, the group had shortened their name to The Cranberries.
Rob Van Winkle, known to most as Vanilla Ice, got his entertainment start as a teenage break dancer. Practicing his moves in front of the mirror before taking them out into the street, Van Winkle was apparently the only white kid in his neighborhood breaking dancing at the time. "I used to break dance at 14 years old, and at first I was just called Vanilla, because of my complexion,” Winkle told Yahoo! Entertainment in 2013.
As for the ice part? No, it wasn’t because everyone thought he was cool. Ice came from a move he created and became famous for. “The ice came from a dance move I had that looked like I was sliding on ice,” he said. “It was a very painful move because I would have to be on kind of my head, the side of my ear, and shoulder… Everybody loved this move that I invented… and everybody kept saying ‘Yo Vanilla, do the Ice!’”