The Power of the Name (II of II)

Perhaps it’s worth saying that group names don’t have to be bad. Greater Vision, Gold City, and the Talley Trio, among many others, have proven that a group name can be simple, creative, original, and pleasant (not to mention downright powerful). This is not just happenstance; there are a basic set of conventions at work in every name, at least there are in the best names, which can be broken down into three main categories:

1. Family names or marquee stars whose names can carry all or most of the group name: The Talley Trio, The Hoppers, The Mark Trammell Trio.

2. Imagistic names, or names that suggest an idea, a concept or an image having to do with themes and values from Christian life: Gold City, Greater Vision, Mercy’s Mark. (MM, incidentally, is the best new name I’m aware of, though an obvious adaptation of the contemporary Christian group Mercy Me, which makes me giggle with its brilliance). Integrity and Signature Sound come closest to fitting in here but ultimately don’t, because quality of singing and steadfast adherence to a moral code are not exclusively southern gospel or Christian notions. 2a. Punned names: Masters V is the best by far. But punned names are mostly big stinkers, and names that pun on heir/air (Heirline, Joyaires, etc) may stink the worst. (Full disclosure: in the mid-90s I was the pianist for a hugely unpopular group whose name [gulp] involved an “heir” pun … the shame, the shame.)

3. Regional names: Downeast, Dixie Echoes, Florida Boys.

Some group names combine two of these categories to great effect: The Happy Goodmans (1&2), Brian Free and Assurance (1&2), Southern Brothers (1&3) – I’m especially smitten with this last name because it manages both sibilance and internal rhyme, which is a pretty fine rhetorical trick to pull of in four syllables. In any event, and here’s my point in all this: a good name complements, rather than gets in the way of, the artists and performers themselves.

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