AC/DC - ClassicBands.com
A band member saw AC/DC on a sewing machine. It stood for 'Alternating Current / Direct Current'. The band didn't realize it was also slang for bi-sexual, which caused a few misunderstandings in their early days.
AEROSMITH - ClassicBands.com
Drummer, Joey Kramer used to write "aerosmith" on his high school notebooks because he thought it sounded cool. When he proposed the name to the group, the rest of them said "What? Like that book they make you read in high school?" (the 1925 book, 'Arrowsmith' by Sinclair Lewis) Kramer responded "No. A-e-r-o smith..."
BAD COMPANY - ClassicBands.com
Taken from a 1972 movie starring Jeff Bridges.
BADFINGER - ClassicBands.com
The working title of the Beatles song "A Little Help From My Friends".
BEATLES - ClassicBands.com
Original bassist Stuart Sutcliffe came up with the Beetles in 1960, which was a play on Buddy Holly's Crickets. John Lennon is generally credited with combining Beetles and Beat to come up with the Beatles spelling.
BLACK SABBATH - ClassicBands.com
Named after a 1963 horror movie starring Boris Karloff.
BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS - ClassicBands.com
Founder, Al Kooper came up with the name when he was on the phone with a promoter, while gazing at a Johnny Cash album cover. The album was called, "Blood Sweat & Tears". The inspiration for the band name did not come from Winston Churchill's quote, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat", as was widely reported when the band first started to gain attention in 1967.
BLUE OYSTER CULT - ClassicBands.com
A combination of a recipe that the band's manager read in a book and the band's fascination with the occult.
DAVID BOWIE - ClassicBands.com
David took his last name from the Bowie knife ("that big old bear killin' knife"). His given name is 'David Jones', but he didn't want to be confused with Davy Jones of the Monkees.
BUFFALO SPRINGFIELD - ClassicBands.com
The band took their name from a brand of heavy asphalt roller they saw while stuck in Los Angeles traffic.
THE BYRDS - ClassicBands.com
A band called the Beefeaters was having Thanksgiving dinner when they tried coming up with a new name. Singer, Gene Clark offered "The Birdsies." Nobody liked that name and producer Jim Dickson said, "How about the Birds"? "Birds" was slang in England for girls and the band didn't want to be called "the Girls". Guitarist, Roger McGuinn came up with the B-Y-R-D-S spelling, and it stuck.
CHEAP TRICK - ClassicBands.com
They claim they asked a Ouija board what they should call their band.
CHICAGO - ClassicBands.com
Their first album was released as 'Chicago Transit Authority', but after the city of Chicago threatened to sue them, the name was shortened.
CLASH - ClassicBands.com
Taken from a newspaper headline describing 'A Clash With Police'
ALICE COOPER - ClassicBands.com
The band say the name was spelled out by their Ouija Board. After they split up, lead singer Vincent Furnier started using it as a solo act.
ELVIS COSTELLO - ClassicBands.com
A combination of Elvis Presley and Dekland Mcmanus' (lead vocals, guitar) Mother's maiden name, Costello
CREEDANCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL - ClassicBands.com
Originally called The Golliwogs, unconfirmed reports say the band took their new name from Norvel Creedence, a friend of band leader John Fogerty. John's favorite beer was called Clearwater, which, after it disappeared from the market for a time, was re-introduced by another brewery. The result: Creedence Clearwater Revival.
CROSBY, STILLS AND NASH - ClassicBands.com
While still trying to decide on a name for the new group, the trio considered calling themselves The Frozen Noses as a vague reference to their growing cocaine habit. They also came close to including their drummer, Dallas Taylor, but decided that drummers were expendable.
DEEP PURPLE - ClassicBands.com
Guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's grandmother liked the Bing Crosby song "Deep Purple".
DEF LEPPARD - ClassicBands.com
Inspired by a drawing Joe Elliot made of a leopard with no ears, a 'Deaf Leopard'.
DIRE STRAITS - ClassicBands.com
Their name describes the financial situation they were in when forming the band.
DOOBIE BROTHERS - ClassicBands.com
Tom Johnston says that the band, originally known as Pud, were sitting around a breakfast table when a friend who was not part of the band said "why don’t you call yourselves the doobie brothers". The guy was just kidding and that they all took it that way, but later on someone said "hey, that’s not such a bad idea" and the name stuck.
DOORS - ClassicBands.com
The band took their name from the title of a book by Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception, which was in turn borrowed from a line in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, a poem by the 18th century artist and poet William Blake: "If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite".
BOB DYLAN - ClassicBands.com
Robert Zimmerman was a big fan of poet Dylan Thomas.
EAGLES - ClassicBands.com
Inspired by the Byrds, who were a big influence on the Eagles. They started out as the Teen Kings and later, the Emergencies.
FLEETWOOD MAC - ClassicBands.com
A combination of the last names of drummer Mick Fleetwood and bassist John McVie.
FOGHAT - ClassicBands.com
When interviewer Gary James asked drummer Roger Earl: "Is there a significance to the band's name?" Earl had this to say: "No real significance. Lonesome Dave (Peverett) threw out the name when he was like twelve or thirteen. He was playing like kind of a scrabble game with his brother and Dave came up with a name and insisted it was a name. Dave eventually was right. We were on our way into the studio to do the artwork for the first album and we didn't have a title for the band. So, we had to decide. ©
FOREIGNER - ClassicBands.com
British guitarist Mick Jones started the band in New York. Since he was a foreigner, he chose that for the name.
GENESIS - ClassicBands.com
The first book in the Bible. The name was part of their first album title 'From Genesis to Revelation', which was suggested by their original manager, Jonathan King.
GRATEFUL DEAD - ClassicBands.com
Refers to a series of Old English folk tales with the same basic theme. A traveler enters a village and finds the villagers desecrating, or refusing to bury the body of a dead man because he died owing creditors money. The traveler pays the dead man's debts and sees to a decent burial. Later in his travels, the man is saved by a mysterious event, which is credited to the dead man's grateful spirit. Hence, the Grateful Dead. The band was originally the Warlocks, and picked Grateful Dead out of a dictionary after realizing there was another band called the Warlocks.
GRAND FUNK RAILROAD - ClassicBands.com
The band named themselves "Grand Funk Railroad" after a Michigan landmark, The Grand Trunk Railroad.
GUESS WHO - ClassicBands.com
When George Struth of Quality Records heard the band's version of "Shakin' All Over", he feared that the effort would be lost in the flood of British records and came up with a plan to garner some interest by radio program directors. A number of promotional copies were pressed with just a plain white label, the song tile and the words 'Guess Who?', implying that the disc may have been the product of someone more famous.
IRON MAIDEN - ClassicBands.com
Named after a medieval torture device. It was a box big enough to admit a man, with folding-doors which were studded with sharp iron spikes. When the doors were closed, these spikes were forced into the body of the victim, who was left there to die in horrible torture.
JEFFERSON AIRPLANE - ClassicBands.com
Inspired by the blues player Blind Lemon Jefferson and the name of a friend's dog, jefferson airplane is also slang for a used paper match, split open to hold a marijuana joint that has been smoked too short to hold without burning the hands, an improvised roach clip.
JETHRO TULL - ClassicBands.com
In December, 1967, flautist / guitarist Ian Anderson, bassist Glenn Cornick, guitarist / singer Mick Abrahams and drummer Clive Bunker formed a new band. They began playing two shows a week, trying out different names, including Navy Blue and Bag of Blues. Their manager suggested Jethro Tull, the name of a British barrister and farmer who, in the mid-1700s, invented a device called the seed drill, which could sew three rows of seeds simultaneously. Ian Anderson strongly disliked the name, but it became popular and memorable, and it stuck.
JUDAS PRIEST - ClassicBands.com
Taken from the Bob Dylan tune "The ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest".
KING CRIMSON - ClassicBands.com
Their original lyricist, Peter Sinfield, thought of it as a synonym for Beelzebub, which is Hebrew for 'Lord of the Flies'. Beelzebub was Satan's chief lieutenant among the fallen angels.
KISS - ClassicBands.com
According to Paul Stanley, Kiss was a momentary inspiration that sounded dangerous and sexy at the same time. Band members deny the rumor that the name stands for 'Knights In Satan's Service'.
LED ZEPPELIN - ClassicBands.com
The Yardbirds were just wrapping up their final US tour before splitting up. Guitarist Jimmy Page was determined to keep the act going, renaming a new line-up The New Yardbirds. Keith Moon of The Who is rumored to have said "...it'll probably go over like a led zeppelin", thus inspiring the final name change. The 'Led' spelling was to make sure people pronounced the name right.
LYNYRD SKYNYRD - ClassicBands.com
Named after Robert E. Lee High school gym coach, Leonard Skinner, who punished founding members Gary Rossington and Bob Burns several times for breaking the school's strict dress code, which did not allow boys to have long hair touching the collar or sideburns below the ears. Earlier band names were 'Noble Five' and 'One Percent'.
METALLICA - ClassicBands.com
Drummer, Lars Ulrich was helping a friend think of a name for a metal fan magazine. The publication chose 'Metal Mania' and Lars kept Metallica, which was one of the suggestions.
MOODY BLUES - ClassicBands.com
The band originally called themselves the M&B 5, because they wanted to perform in a Birmingham brewery called 'Mitchell's Bottlery.' The building had a big 'MB'. When that didn't work, they changed names, using one member's favorite song, Duke Ellington's 'Mood Indigo'.
MOTHERS OF INVENTION - ClassicBands.com
Originally just called the Mothers (short for Motherfuckers). Their record label persuaded them to add 'of Invention'.
MOTLEY CRUE - ClassicBands.com
The band took their name after a friend remarked, "What a motley looking crew."
PEARL JAM - ClassicBands.com
According to lead singer, Eddie Vedder, "The name is in reference to the pearl itself... and the natural process from which a pearl comes from. Basically, taking excrement or waste and turning it into something beautiful."
PINK FLOYD - ClassicBands.com
This British band used various names, including "The Meggadeaths", "the T-Set" and "the Screaming Abdabs", before settling on "The Pink Floyd Sound", inspired by American blues artists, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council. The name was later shortened to just Pink Floyd.
QUEEN - ClassicBands.com
Freddie Mercury liked the name for the transvestite connotation and the glamorous image of Queens in royalty.
RAMONES - ClassicBands.com
In honor of Paul McCartney, who, early in his career, used to call himself Paul Ramone. The members of the band all used the last name Ramone, even though it's not their given name.
R.E.M - ClassicBands.com
'Rapid Eye Movement' is a state of sleep.
REO SPEEDWAGON - ClassicBands.com
Reo Speedwagon was a model name for a line of trucks built by REO Motors Corporation of Lansing Michigan. REO is derived from the initials of Ransom Ely Olds, who left Oldsmobile, the company he founded, to form REO in 1905.
ROLLING STONES - ClassicBands.com
From the Muddy Waters song "Rolling Stone". The name was suggested by guitarist, Brian Jones.
AXL ROSE - ClassicBands.com
The lead singer for Guns N' Roses was born William Bruce Rose Jr. to William and Sharon Rose. William Sr. left the family when his son was two years old. His mother eventually remarried and changed her son's name to William Bailey, using the last name of her new husband, L. Stephen Bailey. At age seventeen, the boy learned of his biological father's existence and readopted his birth name, William Rose, but referred to himself as "W. Rose" as he did not want to share a name with his biological father. He eventually adopted the name W. Axl Rose, with 'Axl' coming from a band in which he once played.
RUSH - ClassicBands.com
They were rushing to think up a name before their first gig, and John Rustey's older brother yelled, "Why don't you call your band Rush?".
SEX PISTOLS - ClassicBands.com
Manager, Malcolm Mclaren came up with the name. It was inspired by his punk clothing shop called 'Sex'.
STEELY DAN - ClassicBands.com
Named after a dildo in the William Burroughs novel 'Naked Lunch'. According to Burroughs, the Steely Dan was a metal dildo that an evil German bulldyke prostitute crushed using her nether regions.
STEPPENWOLF - ClassicBands.com
The band was originally called 'Sparrow', until lead singer John Kay came up the new name after being inspired by a novel by cult author Herman Hesse.
STYX - ClassicBands.com
After the mythical river, Styx, that people crossed over to go into Hell.
SUPERTRAMP - ClassicBands.com
Named after a book called 'Autobiography Of A Supertramp', written by R.E. Davies in 1910.
10cc - ClassicBands.com
For years, a story has circulated that the band chose the name because the average man ejaculates 9cc of sperm, making 10cc even better. But it was actually the group's manager, Jonathan King, who came up with the unusual name after he dreamed that a band he managed called 10cc had the number one album and single simultaneously in America. For the record, the average man ejaculates 3cc of sperm.
THREE DOG NIGHT - ClassicBands.com
While trying to think of a name that would show that the band had three lead singers, they nearly settled on 'Tricycle', until singer Danny Hutton's girlfriend came up with a suggestion. She had read a magazine article about the Australian aborigines, who on cold nights, would sleep beside their dogs for warmth. The very coldest weather was called a "three dog night".
THE TURTLES - ClassicBands.com
In 1965, a Los Angeles group called the Crossfires changed their name to the Tyrtles as an unveiled homage to the Byrds, but soon amended the spelling.
U2 - ClassicBands.com
Although the U2 is a type of spy plane that was used by the United States, Bono explained that U2 grew out of thoughts of interactivity with the audience.... as in 'you too.'
WHO - ClassicBands.com
While taking suggestions for a new name, someone noticed that the band members were already so hard of hearing that they kept saying, "The who?"
WINGS - ClassicBands.com
Paul McCartney thought of the name while waiting in a hospital wing for Linda to give birth to one of their children.
YES - ClassicBands.com
While the group members searched for an appropriate name, guitarist Peter Banks suggested they called the group Yes, a very short and positive word. The others agreed that the name was not meant to be permanent, but just a temporary solution.
ZZ TOP - ClassicBands.com
According to guitarist Billy Gibbons, their odd name came from one or more of the following - two brands of cigarette rolling paper, Zig-Zag and Top, - a tribute to blues legend Z.Z. Hill - or Gibbons seeing the two words running together on a dilapidated billboard.
(I got all this info from ClassicBands.com)