It seems no one would have gone gaga over Harold Jenkins' music, but he had 55 No. 1 hits and a career that spanned rock & roll, country music and pop. Let's face it. Harold is not a sexy name, nor is it uniquely memorable. So in the early days of his success those guiding his career asked him what stage name he wanted to use. With his eyes closed and a map spread out before him, his finger first landed on Conway, Arkansas and next on Twitty, Texas. Its a good thing he didn't point to Normal, Illinois or Nowhere, Arizona. The story wouldn't have so much appeal if he had to try over and over again to come up with something marketable.
Would people not have loved 'Annie's Song' if the country singer's name was Henry Deutschendorf, Jr.? Even he didn't think so, and maybe it was the right decision or we might never have had the pleasure of hearing John Denver's, 'Thank God I'm A Country Boy'.
Well, aren't we a prejudiced society, judging the future career of someone by their name? Taking on a stage name today makes a great deal of sense. It preserves a person's privacy and protects them from starstruck fans. Back in the 1950s and 1960s though, there weren't a lot of sickos stalking stars of the radio and silver screen. This practice of taking on a name different than the one you were born with harkens back to times of antiquity for actors, and perhaps musicians too, though it was only those who tread the stage impersonating a character who were looked down upon by elite society. In this century, its all about wooing the fans instead.
Who would name their baby, Shania Twain? Now that she's a country star of worldwide fame, probably any number of new mothers would decide to call their daughter, Shania. In truth, Eilleen is a beautiful name and certainly not unsexy or ethnic.
Not all country music star's stage names were chosen to make them more marketable. For some, the nickname has been with them for many years. Kix has been Leon Brooks' nickname since before he was born, being one who kicked up a storm while still in the womb. Or Jason Aldean whose stage name is simply a respelling of his middle name, but was named at birth to be Jason Aldine Williams.
Is it really only guys like The King, who can rise to stardom with the name their mama gave them intact? It seems so, as a large number of country music stars do not use their real names. Here's a few more examples:
- Virginia Patterson Hensley = Patsy Cline
- Gary Vernon, Jr. = Gary LeVox of Rascal Flats
- Randy Traywick = Randy Ray a.k.a. Randy Travis
- Christina Claire Ciminella = Wynonna Judd
- Samuel Timothy Smith = Tim McGraw
- Hiram King Williams = Hank Williams
It is pretty common for some country music's big names to simply drop their legal first name. Troyal is definitely a strange nomer, making it easy to understand why he is known globally as Garth Brooks. The same with Margret LeAnn Rimes, Ernest Clayton Walker, Jr. and many more Nashville power players.