How 4 Huge Rock Bands Picked Their Band Names

Led Zeppelin 1973
Led Zeppelin. Hulton Archive-Getty Images.

Naming a rock band can be tricky. A band name needs to represent the band but it also needs to be unique and identifiable. If a band gets huge, their band name becomes their international brand name. Here are the stories of how some of rock's biggest bands decided on their band names.

Foo Fighters

When Dave Grohl decided to write his first album after Nirvana's demise he played all the instruments himself—except for one guitar solo by Afghan Whigs' Greg Dulli. Grohl's 1995 self-titled Foo Fighters album was a solo album—but Grohl wanted to form a band to play his songs. Grohl is quoted by Clash Music as saying: 

"Around the time that I recorded the first Foo Fighters tape, I was reading a lot of books on UFO’s. … So, since I had recorded the first record by myself, playing all the instruments, but I wanted people to think that it was a group, I figured that FOO FIGHTERS - WW2 term for UFO’s - might lead people to believe that it was more than just one guy. Silly, huh? Had I actually considered this to be a career, I probably would have called it something else, because it’s the stupidest f**king band name in the world."

After recording his album and naming his band, Grohl assembled Foo Fighters in late October 1994 with ex-Germs and Nirvana live guitarist Pat Smear and then-former Sunny Day Real Estate bassist Nate Mendel and drummer William Goldsmith. Goldsmith was replaced by drummer Taylor Hawkins in 1997. Smear left Foo Fighters in 1997 but returned to the band in 2006. Chris Shifflett has been the band's lead guitarist since 1999. Foo Fighters have sold over 12 million albums in the U.S. alone and sold out arenas worldwide with what Grohl considers the stupidest band name ever.

Led Zeppelin

In 1966 guitarist Jimmy Page's band, The Yardbirds, began to fall apart. Guitarist Jeff Beck left the group in October 1966 and the rest of the group left after a final show in July 1968. The Yardbirds were still contracted to play dates in Scandinavia. Page was given use of The Yardbirds name to fulfill the dates. Page put together a new group with bassist/keyboardist John Paul Jones, singer Robert Plant, and on Plant's recommendation drummer John Bonham. The new lineup played the Scandinavian dates as The New Yardbirds.

Prior to formation of The New Yardbirds, in 1966 Page had considered forming a supergroup with Jeff Beck and The Who's drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwhistle. Vocalists DonovanSteve Winwood, and Steve Marriott were considered for the project which never came together. Entwhistle reported said the group would go down like a lead zeppelin, which was his term for a bad gig.

Although that supergroup never happened, Page decided to rename The New Yardbirds as Led Zeppelin—eliminating the "a" in lead to avoid mispronunciation of lead (as in lead guitar). Led Zeppelin made their live debut at the University of Surrey on October 15, 1968, in Guildford, England. In November 1968 manager Peter Grant secured the band a $200,000 advance (then the biggest deal for a new band) and a record deal with Atlantic Records. Led Zeppelin went on to sell over 250 albums worldwide.

Stone Temple Pilots

In 1985, Scott Weiland and Robert DeLeo supposedly met at a Black Flag concert in Long Beach, California, only to discover that they were dating the same woman. In Weiland's autobiography he describes recruiting DeLeo to play with his band after seeing Robert play at parties. Weiland and DeLeo formed the band Swing and later recruited drummer Eric Kretz. In 1989, Swing's original guitarist left and Robert persuaded his brother Dean DeLeo to join the band on guitar. Dean reportedly refused to play using the name Swing and the band changed their name to Mighty Joe Young.

Mighty Joe Young recorded a demo which was heavily influenced by the Red Hot Chili Peppers funk-rock style and built a solid fanbase in the San Diego area. In 1992, the band began recording their debut album Core with producer Brendan O'Brien after signing with Atlantic Records. While in the studio the band received a phone call telling them that a Chicago blues guitarist already claimed the name Mighty Joe Young.

The band decided to pick a new name based on the STP oil stickers of their youth. After considering the names Shirley Temple's Pussy and Stereo Temple Pirates, the band finally agreed on the name Stone Temple Pilots. STP's 1992 debut album Core went on to sell over 8 million copies in the U.S. alone.

Linkin Park

High school friends singer/rapper/multi-instrumentalist Mike Shinoda, drummer Rob Bourdon, and guitarist Brad Delson recruited turntablist Joe Hahn, bassist Dave "Phoenix" Farrell, and singer Mark Wakefield to form the band Xero. Shinoda recorded the band's first 4-track demo tape in his bedroom studio in 1996. The band failed to secure a record deal causing Wakefield and Phoenix to leave Xero for other projects. After an extensive search for a new singer, Arizona native Chester Bennington flew to Los Angeles and successfully auditioned for the band in March 1999. Bennington not only blew away the band with his vocal range and power, but he also intimidated another singer who heard him sing into leaving without auditioning. Xero then changed their name to Hybrid Theory and began work on new material.

After finding that the name Hybrid Theory was taken by another band, they considered naming themselves after Santa Monica's "Lincoln Park" but found that name was also taken. The band changed Lincoln to "Linkin" and secured the website "". Jeff Blue—then vice president at Warner Bros. Records and the same person who recommended Bennington as vocalist—secured Linkin Park a record deal in 1999. On October 24th, 2000, Linkin Park released their debut album Hybrid Theory with Brad Delson providing both lead and bass guitar for the recording. After the band's "One Step Closer" video was filmed with another bassist, Phoenix returned as Linkin Park's touring bassist and has been a permanent band member ever since. Hybrid Theory went on to sell over 27 million copies worldwide and became the best selling album of the 2000s.