Friday, February 11, 2011

To get on, get a name

click photo to enlarge
It's well known that if you want to be a successful popular beat combo or even a solo artiste then you need to perform under a good name. Would The Beatles have made it as The Quarrymen? Could Cliff Richard have assaulted our ears for as long as he did as plain old Harry Rodger Webb? And would Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta have achieved popular success without her transmogrification into Lady Gaga? Or would the costumes alone have assured her superstardom? Memo to self: I must listen to one of her recordings sometime or other.

Of course, catchy names have been embraced by popular (and not so popular) music for more than a century. In the blues they are almost compulsory. My favourite blues guitarist is T-Bone Walker (Aaron Thibadeaux Walker), though I also have a liking for Lightnin' Hopkins (Sam John Hopkins). The self-styled father of Chicago blues, Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield, and the early bluesman Huddie William Leadbetter found greater fame when he styled himself Lead Belly.

All this is well known and documented. It is less appreciated, however, that to get on in the world of church organ playing you also need a distinctive, indeed a memorable name. Or so it seems from my extremely exhaustive survey of the memorials to two organists that I came across recently. The first was in Peterborough Cathedral and recorded one Haydn Keeton who tickled the ivories, kicked the pedals and pulled out all the stops there for 51 years. A good innings, I thought. My next thought was, "What are the chances that his parents weren't music lovers?" With a Christian name like that it's a near certainty. Then, a couple of weeks later, at the church in Helpston, just to the north of Peterborough, the place where the poet John Clare was born and is buried, I came upon a more recent memorial to the wonderfully named Albert Snowball. Albert's time as a church organist eclipses the half century plus of Haydn, and amounted to a staggering seventy years! A truly remarkable period of service to his community.

Of course, both Haydn Keeton and Albert Snowball were fortunate to receive their wonderful names from their parents. Had they not been so blessed, and were they both budding musicians today they could do worse than use one of the Band Name Generators or advice pages on the internet. My favourite proposed band name from the link that I cite is "Squishy Fabulous"!

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1
Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 40mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/13
ISO: 3200
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: N/A