Real Names of Famous Blues Guitarists & Singers

While you may know the beloved musicians below by names like Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, and Etta James, these musicians were actually born under entirely different names. These and other blues musicians with pseudonyms took on new monikers for a wide variety of reasons. From simply going by a nickname to adopting a name to solidify a particular persona, below you'll find a definitive list of the real names of all major blues artists (including some who crossed over into soul, R&B, and rock). 

Blues musicians with nicknames from childhood often opted to use these on the stage. Etta James, born Jamesetta Hawkins, used a shortened version of her birth name and Muddy Waters, born McKinley Morganfield, was nicknamed Muddy as a kid due to his tendency to play in the mud. However, other famous blues musicians opted for a stage name for artistic reasons. Billie Holiday, born Eleanor Fagan, wanted to honor actress Billie Dove. Ray Charles dropped his last name, Robinson, both out of respect to boxer Sugar Ray Robinson and to carve out his own unique identity. 

If you're curious about the original name of other blues guitarists and singers, browse the list below! If you're interested in stage names in general, you can also check out this list of the real names of country stars