When you're in a band, coming up with a cool and unique name for the group can tax the brain as much as writing original songs or figuring out how to land a label deal.

Unless you get some assistance from a helpful pimp.

That's how Vineland's Charles Stahl came up with the name Cheezy and the Crackers for his band.

Stahl has gone by the nickname Cheezy since middle school. About five years ago, he and a couple of friends made a trip to Chicago.

The trio stood on the street and saw a fleet of vintage Cadillacs pass them on the way to a club.

Stahl and friends stopped by the venue and hung out at the back door, where cocktail waitresses came out to smoke. Suddenly, Chicago pimp and hip-hop artist Archbishop Don "Da Magic" Juan walked out of the club with a mink coat draped over his shoulders.

Stahl walked up to him and said, "Hey, I'm Cheezy, what's going on?"

After hearing Stahl's name, Juan looked at him and his two friends, grinned and said, "Who are these two, the crackers?"

The group was in the formative stages. Stahl thought Cheezy and the Crackers beat the other ideas they thought of for a band name, including Doctor Dirty and the Toxic Shocks and Rathole.

"That's a crazy name," said Stahl of Cheezy and the Crackers. "If you see it up (somewhere), it will stay with you."

In the Internet age, it is easier to know if a group accomplished the goal of coming up with an original name. Previously, bands with the same name on the East and West coasts could exist without one knowing about the other. Now, an Internet search will turn up Web sites, MySpace pages and other indications that a name has been taken. That leads the newer act to try to come up with something else.

With the explosion of musical acts working on an independent level, New York-based entertainment attorney Renata D. Lowenbraun advises groups to do a search to see if another entity has claimed the name they want.

It can help a group defend against a claim of intentional trademark infringement easier, Lowenbraun said.

"At least do a regular search on the Internet. If you have a budget, do a trademark search of your band's name across federal and state trademarks and common-law searches. This is cost prohibitive for the average band," said Lowenbraun, who added bands should print out and keep the Google searches they did to help confirm their name was original.

When the Atlantic City indie and classic rock trio Qatsi adopted its name, the members didn't know there was a band from Brooklyn with the same moniker, said Brian Z. London, Qatsi's drummer.

"We went to their (MySpace) site. Their last update was back in 2008," said London, who added his band has existed for the last 18 months.

Qatsi is the first and only name of the group. Bassist and vocalist Kristine Holt were talking about the nature documentary "Koyaanisqatsi" and its accompanying soundtrack by American composer Philip Glass. All three members shared a love of his music.

"We had been playing together for about six weeks when we were asked to play a gig ... so we needed a name. We threw out some ideas, including ‘Koyaanisqatsi,' but thought it was too long and too hard to spell. After some discussion, including considering squatsi, we shortened it to Qatsi, the root word," London said. "From the language of the Hopi people, the word ‘qatsi' means ‘life.' We liked the meaning."

Fuzzy Bunny Slippers struggled to come up with a name for their group, and this was before widespread use of the Internet.

The band formed in late 1992 in Wildwood. The group had been choosing names for months only to find that when they would all agree on a particular name, it was already taken. The group had it first gig lined up and still didn't have a name. The promoter of the show wanted to advertise the gig and told the band they needed to have a name by the end of the day.

Founding member and guitarist Joe Furey, now retired, said, "Why don't we just pick something real stupid like Fuzzy Bunny Slippers. We can change it later."

Even though there have been lineup and style changes during the last 18 years, the name is eternal, said bassist Ignatious "Iggy" Schiavo, 35.

"We get folks that haven't seen us in 10 years (who still remember the group)," said Schiavo, of Philadelphia, who added there are no original members left in the group. "There is no reason to change. A name change hasn't come up."

Kickin' Bear, five 2005 Ocean City High School graduates, who now live together in West Philadelphia, almost faced a conflict with their name.

A band named Kicking Bear existed during the 1970s, but they failed to produce an album. Only a photo of them can be found on MySpace, said Rob Swift, 24.

Swift, lead guitar and co-lead vocalist of Kickin' Bear, suggested the name of the group to his other band members.

"Kicking Bear was part of the Lakota tribe. He was an Indian warrior, who fought at the Battle of Little Big Horn, and later became a holy man," said Swift, who added the band's name was a huge deal because they didn't want anything lame or stupid.

A band's name turns into a big issue when a label wants to sign the group to a deal.

If negotiations are taking place with an act for a deal and another ensemble exists with the same name, the problem may be solved by buying out the second band for use of the name, litigating or making the group, who wants the deal, change its name, said J. Rush Hicks, assistant professor, Curb College of Entertainment and Music Business, Belmont University, Nashville, Tenn.

Registering a name and doing nothing else isn't enough, Hicks said.

"If you use a name, you can claim a name over someone who registered," said Hicks, who added a band with no money should file an application to register its name in its state and keep advertisements showing the group is using its name and is working.

Even if two bands have the same name, they can co-exist peacefully if neither act wants the name exclusively for itself.

Danny "DanSlamme" Haines, of Egg Harbor City, came up with the name Who Dat Band off the top of his head. Haines, 48, used it for high school and college jam sessions during the 1970s and formed a group with the name in 2006.

A member of the Who Dat Blues band from Michigan contacted Haines.

"He said he had a copyright on the name," said Haines, who added he Googled "Who Dat Band" and didn't see any superstars attached to it. "I said, ‘if I do a show in Michigan, I will open for you.'"

The group Stella Mojo, based out of Cape May County, existed in one form or another for the past two years, but the band in its current format has only been together since the start of the year, said vocalist and guitarist Jon Katity, of Ocean City. John King, the co-lead vocalist and guitarist, always had the name.

Katity hasn't thought about whether another group has the same name.

"We believe in being positive. Life is what you make it," said Katity, 24. The comment they most regularly hear about their name is "That's really different."

"When they come to see us live, people say, ‘Wow, that makes sense,'" Katity said.

Contact Vincent Jackson:




Famous bands, famous names

The struggle to come up with a unique band name doesn't just happen to local groups. Some famous acts solved the problem as follows:

The Beatles

Band members were big fans of Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Stuart Sutcliffe, the original bassist of the Beatles, and the late John Lennon are credited with coming up with the name. It was Lennon who suggested the change from Beetles to Beatles.


"Our friend's mom - her maiden name was Paramore. We thought it sounded really cool. After juggling around 15 names, we said, ‘Let's check out what "paramour" means.' We knew it was spelled differently. The real spelling means a lot of things - real love, secret love - it felt like it was something cool that we could stand for, and we liked the way it sounded," said lead singer Hayley Williams to At The Shore's Robert DiGiacomo.

Led Zeppelin

Lead guitarist Jimmy Page was drinking with Keith Moon and John Entwistle, who were complaining about their fellow members in The Who, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. Moon and Entwistle joked about the two of them starting a band with Page, and one of them said, "Yeah, that will go over like a lead balloon." Page remembered this when he formed his own band.

Lynyrd Skynyrd

The names One Percent and The Noble Five were considered before the group decided on Leonard Skinnerd. It was the name given to teacher Leonard Skinner, who was known for strictly enforcing the school's policy against long hair. The band took on the more distinctive spelling before its first album was released.

The Rolling Stones

They named themselves after a song from 1948 by the late blues legend Muddy Waters titled, "Rollin' Stone." The same tune also influenced Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone."

Vincent Jackson


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