“The beginning of wisdom,” according to an old Chinese proverb, “is to call things by their right names.”
Bob Dylan, on the other hand, once said that “My name it means nothing.”
Which line do you think R.A. (Bob Dylan) Zimmerman would go along with?
A popular entertainer is more likely to change a flat-sounding or hard-to-pronounce name than to live with it. Apply that Chinese proverb to entertainment and it comes out: “The beginning of success is to have the right kind of name.”
The handle a performer goes by usually has two choices: one - roll easily off the tongue and down the ear’s cavity; or two - be so gargly as to be that person’s — and that person’s only.
In the music business, for example, R.A. Zimmerman didn’t have a monopoly on moniker maneuvers. A guy with the innocent name of Vincent Furnier slithered into Alice Cooper. A screechy Eileen Edwards mythed into Shania Twain.
McKinley Morganfield rolled into Muddy Waters. Gary Anderson cashed in as Gary U.S. Bonds. Delores Williams opened shop as Lavern Baker. Steven Tallarico tied his wagon to a star as Steven Tyler.
You see, the thinking in this part of town is that a tag of Jascha Heifetz or Yehudi Menuhin gets you a good orchestra seat as a concert violinist, but you might have a hard time making it in a popular field with those names.
Now, it’s not that I’m trying to do what the West Virginia town of Mole Hill did in 1949 when it renamed the town “Mountain,” but consider: since both Heifetz and Menuhin have 13 letters in their names, this has given rise to a superstition among violinists that you can’t become a virtuoso unless you have 13 letters in your name.
Jascha Heifetz. Yehudi Menuhin. David Oistrakh. Fritz Kreisler. All have 13 letters. This is actually why an American violinist named Eric Friedman, a Heifetz protégé, changed his name to Erick.
R.A. Zimmerman has 11 letters in his name. So do Alice Cooper, Shania Twain, Muddy Waters, Gary U.S. Bonds, Lavern Baker and Steven Tyler.