161 voters

How Famous Rock Stars Actually Got Their Nicknames

March 17, 2021 867 votes 161 voters 8.2k views14 items

List RulesVote up the best rock star nickname origin stories.

The rock 'n' roll genre is incredibly fascinating, with a rich history that spans decades; included in this history are many rock legends with unusual rock star nicknames. Let’s face facts: The genre would not exist if there were no talented rock stars to keep it alive.

Famous stars keep the genre rocking with their musical talent and the many theories and stories that surround their interesting lives. Numerous rockers have sported cool musician names throughout rock history, but there has always been uncertainty surrounding how they received these monikers.

You will likely be shocked to learn of the strange, outlandish, and downright weird theories about how these cherished rock stars received their nicknames. Fortunately, alongside the theories, we will also delve into how some of the most famous stars actually got their nicknames. 

  • Interestingly, Eric Clapton is the only rock star to have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame three times. He achieved this once as a solo artist and twice as a member of the bands Cream and the Yardbirds. With his undeniable guitar skills, Clapton is often referred to as one of the most influential guitarists the world has likely ever seen, with many budding artists hoping to achieve the level of success he has.

    During his music career, Clapton has had many nicknames, such as “God” and “The Greatest,” but the one that stuck is “Slowhand.” A few theories exist surrounding how this British rocker received his nickname. According to Clapton’s former bandmate Chris Dreja, “Slowhand” came about due to the way Clapton would replace a guitar string slowly and methodically onstage - in front of an audience - if it broke during a show.

    Dreja remarked that British audiences would watch Clapton replace the string and give him what was known as the “slow handclap,” which in British slang is known as being given the "slowhand.” Clapton said this theory is indeed true, but that there was more to it, when he was interviewed for his 2007 biography.

    According to Clapton, the nickname also came about when Giorgio Gomelsky decided that a pun for a nickname would be hilarious yet memorable. All Clapton’s fans knew him as an incredibly fast guitar player, so Gomelsky thought the nickname “Slowhand” would be a fun play on words that people would remember. 

    Great origin story?

    All the Drugs, Murder, Adultery, and Disaster Around Eric Clapton's Layla#4 of 100 Rolling Stone's Top 100 Guitarists of All Time#29 of 1,891 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time

  • There is perhaps no other rock star who personifies his nickname quite as Ozzy Osbourne does. Osbourne rose to fame in the 1970s as the lead vocalist of the famed heavy metal band Black Sabbath. After a few incredibly successful years, Osbourne was forced to leave the band due to alcohol problems. The singer was down but he wasn’t out; he launched a successful solo career that arguably gained him even more fans than before. Osbourne has had a few nicknames during his career, but the spookiest of them all became the nickname many now associate him with. Known to the world as “The Prince of Darkness,” Osbourne has continuously embodied this persona and given the world what they hope to see.

    Many theories surround why Osbourne received the nickname. Some believe it's due to his appearance and stage presence, wearing black outfits with gothic makeup. Others believe his alleged involvement in satanic cults led to his nickname. Fairly recently, new fans associate his nickname with the obscene and strange acts he has reportedly done, such as biting the head off a bat, painting a room with shark blood, and talking to his wife as if possessed. However, Osbourne has spoken out about how he received the name, and the truth is as far removed from the theories as possible. Osbourne stated his nickname arose after the release of the song “Black Sabbath.” He reportedly said that the song was one of the scariest ever written, and that his performance during the song led to his bandmates jokingly calling him “The Prince of Darkness.” The joke eventually became a reality, as people still continue to refer to him using that dark nickname.

    Great origin story?

    Inside Ozzy Osbourne's Rough-And-Tumble Youth#2 of 131 English Heavy Metal Bands List#116 of 297 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years

  • The rock genre has many famous guitarists remembered for their talent; Saul Hudson is undoubtedly among them. Hudson has been named to best solo guitarist lists throughout his career, and has even made numerous renowned lists for being one of the greatest guitarists in the world. However, many might not know Hudson by his given name, but by his nickname: “Slash.” Although many people theorize that Hudson received his nickname for always being in motion, there is more to the story.

    According to an interview that Hudson gave, he stated his nickname was bestowed upon him by his best friend’s father, Seymour Cassel, a famous actor. Hudson further said that the nickname took time to stick, but eventually, as he continued to gain success as a leading member of the band Guns N' Roses, the nickname became more popular. During the interview, Hudson was asked why Cassel decided to call him “Slash,” and Hudson revealed that he never knew why until years later, when he asked Cassell about it. Reportedly, Cassel said he had nicknamed Hudson “Slash" because he was incredibly energetic, always moving and in a rush. Additionally, Hudson hardly ever stopped to concentrate on a specific event, but instead continued moving and going with the flow of things. 

    Great origin story?

    The Best Slash Guitar Solos Of All Time#1349 of 1,355 The Greatest Minds of All Time#31 of 542 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time

  • Photo: Elektra Records / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    In rock history, there might not be another frontman as influential as Jim Morrison. He was a lead singer for the popular band the Doors, but he was often referred to as erratic, controversial, and unpredictable. However, his free spirit, wild personality, and distinctive vocals have ensured his memory lives on in his music.

    Morrison’s rebellious nature earned him many nicknames throughout his career, but the one that managed to firmly attach itself to his persona was “The Lizard King.” Numerous fan theories surround Morrison calling himself this, and some are more outrageous than others. One theory states that Morrison titled himself “The Lizard King” because he firmly believed he could communicate with the creatures.

    This strange theory is almost entirely based on the belief that after years of drug use and drinking, Morrison’s sanity became questionable, as he would frequently profess that he could control lizards with his mind. A more popular theory states that Morrison invented the nickname to act as an alter ego when he needed to perform on stage.

    Reportedly during the early years of his music career, he was excessively shy and would hide his face during shows with the band. “The Lizard King” alter ego was presumably invented to help him battle his shyness and overcome his fears.

    The truth behind why Morrison was known as “The Lizard King” is simple - the famous poem he wrote where he referred to himself as such. This poem gained immense popularity, with the band even putting music to it, which eventually had fans deciding to call Morrison “The Lizard King.” When asked about his nickname in a Rolling Stone interview with Ben Fong-Torres, Morrison said, "I meant it ironically…half tongue-in-cheek... It was an easy thing to pick up on.... I just thought everyone knew it was ironic, but apparently they thought I'm mad."

    Great origin story?

    #22 of 488 The Best Rock Vocalists#143 of 753 People We Wish Were Still Alive#4 of 298 The Best Frontmen in Rock