Band names tend to come in two flavors: evocative and meaningful, and just plain random. For every 10 Metallicas, Guided By Voices, and Run The Jewels there are just as many Limp Bizkits, Toad The Wet Sprockets, and Spoons. But there’s also a subtle, guilty pleasure flavor of bad band names: band names inspired by famous people. Often pun-tastic and groan-inducing, these are your Dead Kennedys, your Dandy Warhols, and your (former) Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jrs., to name just a few. Here are 17 examples of Milwaukee name-dropping band and artist names, past and present
Even though singer of long-deduct band Bosio, Jeff Meilander, assures us he has no idea who Chris Bosio is, it’s impossible to believe that guitarist-slash-Milwaukee Day co-creator Andy Silverman was blissfully unaware of the former Brewers hurler. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, the Brewers’ Bosio managed a 67-62 record and a 3.76 ERA. In the early 2000s, the band bearing his surname managed some good era-specific pop-punk. One threw a no-hitter. The other was a no-hitter. Both are still beloved by small but devoted groups of Milwaukeeans to this day.
2. Calamity Janes And The Fratney Street Band
You’d be hard pressed to find a tougher and more compassionate namesake for your band than Calamity Jane. Wisely, the Riverwest folk project saw fit to extend the frontierswoman’s good name with excellent music rife with delicate harmonies.
3. Dana Coppafeel
Longtime Milwaukee rapper Dana Coppafeel may go by the less grope-y Dana Coppa these days, but his original moniker is just a few letters removed from that of uber-illusionist David Copperfield. Toss in Coppafeel’s real name (Dana Reeder), Copperfield’s real name (David Kotkin), and the titular Dickens novel behind them both, and you have a heady mix of references.
4. E=MC Hammer
The “combo” famous-name band name is an elusive beast, but when it shows itself (hello, Brian Jonestown Massacre!) it’s usually nothing short of delightful. Noisy Milwaukee bass-and-drums duo E=MC Hammer banged around town in the mid ’00s, referencing the once-ubiquitous hip-hop star and a genius thinker’s most recognizable achievement. Speaking of the latter…
5. Einstein’s Riceboys
While Violent Femmes were making a name for themselves in the early ’80s, another punk-indebted Milwaukee group was picking up steam: Einstein’s Riceboys. Fitting for a group with a jokey name, the Riceboys released two albums with similarly jokey titles, Milk Of Amnesia and Civil Rice.
6. Fever Marlene
Things have been quiet in the Fever Marlene camp lately, partly due to its members being spread across the country. Still, it’s worth remembering that the Milwaukee alt-rock act’s name is an homage to classic film icon Marlene Dietrich. Whether the band is closer to Lili Von Shtupp than Dietrich is for listeners to decide.
7. Kate Moths
There’s not much to report on Kate Moths—the band is brand new, has no recorded output, and has played all of one show (that we know of). But let’s be honest: saying “Kate Moths” sounds like you’re saying “Kate Moss” with a lisp, which is kind of funny.
8. King Solomon
Including a Biblical figure in a list of “real-life” people may or may not work for you, but there’s no denying the enduring popularity of Milwaukee reggae royals King Solomon. The band celebrated their 15-year anniversary in 2013, approximately 3,000 years after the reign of their namesake.
Not unlike Elway, a Colorado punk band who perhaps coincidentally decided to identify itself with one of their state’s most celebrated athletes (prompting the threat of a lawsuit from the Broncos quarterback a few years back), Milwaukee emo act Molitor opted to employ the surname of one of Wisconsin’s all-time top athletes in hopes of getting people out to shows. Unfortunately, around the time Paul was getting recognized as a Hall Of Fame player, the band was close to calling it quits.
10. Mortgage Freeman
According to a 2013 interview with Tap Milwaukee, the members of classic-rock-channeling Mortgage Freeman were once considering naming their group “Bruce Billis.” Though Bruce Willis is awesome in his own right, it’s safe to say that Morgan Freeman makes for a better jokey reference. Get busy naming your band after one of the greatest actors of all time, or get busy dying. That’s goddamn right.
The historical Moses was a busy fellow (see #8 for the Biblical disclaimer), what with receiving the Ten Commandments, parting the Red Sea, and living into his hundreds and all. The Milwaukee producer and DJ of the same name may not be leading anyone to freedom just yet, but he has been keeping himself busy with playing a slew of shows and producing Siren’s latest single, “Queen Medusa.”
Futbol/soccer legend Pele hung up his shin guards in 1977, and is widely regarded as the greatest player of all time. Milwaukee instrumental three-piece Pele disbanded in 2004, and are widely regarded as one of the most influential post-rock groups of all time. Happily, Jon Mueller, Chris Rosenau, Matt Tennessen reformed the Milwaukee Pele for a few shows earlier this year; no word yet on the return of the 74-year-old Brazilian great.
13. The Rashita Joneses
Parks And Recreation star Rashida Jones has it all: she’s a gifted and hilarious actress and her parents are Quincy Jones and Peggy Lipton. Perhaps hoping some of that awesomeness would rub off, up-and-coming Milwaukee psych-rock band The Rashita Joneses decided to borrow Jones’ name when christening their band. The slight change in spelling may keep the lawyers away, but here’s hoping it doesn’t ward off success.
14. Ruth B8r Ginsburg
Composed of seven women, the young project named after Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg played its first show last Thursday to a packed Riverwest Public House. While it employs the abbreviation befitting of a novelty license plate, B8r member Johanna Rose assures the name was selected with the utmost respect for the groundbreaking judge.
“We are seven women and we have discovered our empowerment. We reject the traditional roles of women in music. We do what we goddamn please. We play music that is original and fearless, which reflects our life experiences and it resonates with people because women are silenced and controlled in so many ways. So many women struggle on the daily with domestic abuse, rape culture, limited career options, the basic burdens of purely being.
“Historically in music, women are trained to support. They are taught to be in the background, to be seen but not heard, to compliment but not dominate, to be agreeable, non-confrontational, at the beck and call of man’s guitar. We don’t vibe with that and I mean, Jesus, Scott Walker is running for President and his politics disagree with women’s fundamental freedoms. With that said, Ruth B8r Ginsberg was an obvious choice. She gets it. She’s the most badass. She spent most of her career as a lawyer helping to incorporate women’s rights into the constitution, so we do what we can in her name.”
15. The Shemps
The popularity of early-’80s Milwaukee group The Shemps (authors of the timeless “The Pack Will Be Back”) is inversely proportional to the popularity of their namesake, Shemp Howard. Okay, maybe that’s not fair to Howard—he was one of the original Three Stooges after all, before being replaced by the more lovable and iconic Curly. At least the Milwaukee version of The Shemps didn’t name themselves “The Joe Bessers” or “The Curly Joes.”
16. Sin Bad
In 2014, ’90s emo revival band Sin Bad announced its presence with a great untitled demo. Title or not, the trio was already a household name before the first note—twice. First, there was the literary hero; then, there came the unforgettable comedian. Drummer Joe Kirschling suggests the name came as the result of desperation. “Audrey [Pennings] thought it was hilarious,” Kirschling says, “Ben [Woyak] and I had given up on agreeing on anything so we were just like ‘Sure, whatever.’” So which Sin Bad are they named after? “It is related 100% to the comedian,” Kirschling says.
17. Vincent VanGREAT
Yeah, it’s a little strained—dare we say abstract—as a hip-hop moniker, but we won’t be forgetting the SAFS Crew producer’s name that’s loosely based on the incomparable and insane artist’s identification. One lopped off his own ear, the other will make you glad you have ears. The rapper/producer, who formerly just went by “GREAT” on stage, found his original moniker was tough for listeners to remember. Eventually, he added his real first name and the “Van” that hearkened back to the famed painter. “I thought for a while and I wanted people to know that without listening to my work to kind of get the idea that I’m not just a producer. I rap, I sing, I write, so I’m an artist,” VanGREAT says. “I feel I’m painting the whole picture through my music, not just a piece, because I’m making the beats, I’m rapping on them, singing hooks, and putting a mix of certain artists over the records as well.”