Mitch Kenitzer is changing his name

No, that’s not my sister-in-law’s cousin who lives in Paducah. It’s 1/3 of what Three Bridges used to be until … well … whatever. He’s going solo. And apparently decided, what better way to launch a solo career than to change his name. So now he’s Mitchel Jon.

I emailed a friend about this earlier today and her reply was simply: “Mitchel, Joni.” I laughed. But no matter, this seems like a tremendously bad idea. I can understand changing your name at the beginning of your career, but whatever his name is, this guy is solidly in the middle of a professional life that, at least right now, is beholden to an industry in which more than a few fans remain skeptical about changing from cassettes to CDs. And this makes changing your name a good idea, why, exactly? According to Not Mitch Kenitzer:

For as long as I can remember, pronouncing and spelling my last name, Kenitzer, has been a problem for anyone outside of my home turf of North Dakota. [snip] I simply decided that I didn’t want promoters, pastors, music ministers and most of all fans, to be embarrassed when they tried to pronounce, or should I say, mispronounce my name. You can’t believe how many ways people have tried to pronounce “Kenitzer”. There are at least a dozen ways to phrase it.

I’ll take his word for it, but in trying to fix one problem, he’s created two much bigger ones. First, for the next 20 years he’ll be either be “Jon Mitchel” (which is a risk you take when you rechristen yourself with two first names) or “Mitchel Jon … formerly Mitch Ken… uh… snitzer who used to be with those Three Bridges.” And of course we can expect a tiresome set of lame name jokes to go along with all this.

But more urgently, he’s just erased every bit of name recognition that he built up as the best vocal part of 3B and could have otherwise used as the basis for his solo career (and of course I’m leaving aside the question of whether the world needs another Christian-music soloist right now). How does he expect fans to jump on board with this new name thing when even his record company used his OLD name in the headline of the press release they send out about it?

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  1. Tyler wrote:

    I’m changing my name to Tim Riley. haha

  2. Trent wrote:

    I agree. Bad move.

  3. KB wrote:

    Jonathan Pierce went by Jonathan Hildreth until 1994 when he joined the Gaither Vocal Band. Even as a member of the Imperials, he used “Hildreth.” When asked one time why the name change, he said that people often spelled or pronounced his name wrong, so he just used his first and middle name.

    Now, my last name is strange enough, but I have been using it “professionally” as a local singer for the last 8 years, simply because my family has a long history in the area and it has recognition, no matter how strange it is! Otherwise, I’d just use my middle name, Ray.

  4. quartet-man wrote:

    If he really wanted to succeed, he should have changed it to Mitch Gaither. ;)

  5. Phil wrote:

    In the SN press release Mitch says, “In realizing the difficultly with correctly spelling and pronouncing my last name…” Uh, had he already read the SN release which at midnight EST has his name misspelled in the first sentence of the second paragraph…? “Crossroads and BSA are also announcing a major change that as of August 6, 2007, Mitch Kentizer will undergo a name change to Mitchel Jon.”

  6. Charles Brady wrote:

    I live about 15 miles or so from a small town whose leaders had a problem agreeing on a name for the town. One person said Why not call it XXXX and another chimed in with why not call it XXXX. After several hours of this someone jokingly said why not call it Why Not? And that’s what they named the town! Whynot, NC

    Need Proof?

    I think we need a Whynot in Southern Gospel! I mean… Whynot???

  7. Videoguy wrote:

    The Artist Formerly Known As Mitch

  8. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    My stage name is David Bruce. :o)

  9. David Bruce Murray wrote:

    Seriously, I don’t think this is such a bad idea for a solo career. It isn’t going to stop people from spelling his name wrong, but at least they should be able to pronounce it.

    I can see the first promoter’s poster:
    Mitchell John, formerly with Three Britches

    You’d be surprised at the number of soloists who have altered the spelling of their names. Even when they keep their last name, they’ll sometimes simplify the spelling (Scott Krippayne). Some more obviously only use their first name (Dino).

    Some invent a name for various reasons. (He isn’t known for being a soloist, but Tom Fettke used a pseudonym when he arranged Southern Gospel music for Lillenas for a number of years. He and Lillenas did this because SG had a stigma among some of the “high churches” who bought his arrangements. I was at a music conference when he “confessed” to loving Southern Gospel and released a SG collection under his real name.)

  10. Tim wrote:

    Someone should “Kenitzer” the names in the Bible. Chronicles would be much easier to read.

  11. KB wrote:


  12. Lottie Squires wrote:

    I understand his reasoning, but he’ll always be Mitch Kenitzer to me! Really, it’s no harder to spell than anyone else’s name. And shouldn’t “Mitchel” have two L’s?!

  13. gc wrote:

    Great singer-good guy-terrible choice for a new name..He will still be a great singer and a good guy with a bad old name and a bad new name…

    What was wrong with Mitch? my choice would have been Mitch Bridges… or better yet…Three Mitches….

  14. quartet-man wrote:

    #6, Charles, we do have a why not in SG? Bill Gaither uses it all of the time. :)

    David, what name did Fettke use for SG?

  15. Tony Maranelli wrote:

    Just support him and give it a chance and then in a couple years, talk about it and see if it worked…I would say that this is one of the most marketable voices in gospel music to come around in a long time.

  16. cdguy wrote:

    Will we alphabetize him in the M’s or the J’s?

  17. Tony Watson wrote:

    Yawn . . . now another artist who was already going to have a tough time transitioning to being a solo artist after the first two months wear off will have a REALLY tough time because of those who recognized him with Three Bridges - many of them have no idea what his name was and those that did will be really confused. The only ones that will “get it” will be those who followed Three Bridges closely and read articles on the internet. Sounds like something REALLY tough to overcome.

  18. gc wrote:

    I agree with Tony..Tough to work through a name change and group to soloist change. He is an incredible singer but in my experience, a soloist must have a tremendous personality and stage presence that makes people attach themselves to them personally. Grade “A” vocals help but there are way to many variables to a solo ministry to predict success or failure. I greatly admire his vocal work!

  19. Shaun wrote:

    DBM, I know that Fettke has been *attempting* Southern Gospel for at least a decade. Our choir sang his arrangement of The Martins’ “Out Of His Great Love” in 1997. Fettke simplified the syncopation of the vocal parts to the point where it sounded like a page out of his Baptist Hymnal. Among the choir members, the mere mention of his name provoked regular eye-rolling.

  20. miss nomer wrote:

    Whatever Mitchel decides to call himself, in the end I think he will benefit from all the publicity given to him in this forum and others. Call him what you wish, but he is being talked about. To quote William Shakespear, “what’s in a name” anyway?

  21. gc wrote:

    Kirk Talley got alot of attention in GQ! Don’t think it helped his bookings any…The main problem — Three Bridges was great but it’s not like he is coming out of Cathedrals-GVB-or The Martins? Them solo gigs worked great for them too…

    Still think Mitch is a great talent..I hope he does well in whatever he decides to do….

  22. natesings wrote:

    I did a google on the name and found this guy. Different spelling but same name. I wonder if this changes anything.

  23. RR wrote:

    I think using Mitchell Ken would have been a better choice, if he’s determined to lose the full last name.

  24. Leebob wrote:

    Things that make you go hmmmm? People trying to go it solo after being with a group for a while?

    There are very few true successful soloists out there that were formerly very successful with a quality group. The fact that he is undergoing a name change only underscores the vanity that lies within artisans as a whole.

    Looking back, there probably wasn’t a bigger name than Brian Free that went solo from Gold City. This worked out so well that he returned to start “Brian Free and Assurance.” After some success he tried the solo thing again and went back to BF&A. One of my favorite groups I still jokingly call them Brian Free and Reassurance.

    Since you mentioned him, where is Jonathan Pierce? After VB he disappeared. Kelly Nelon tried the solo thing only to return to The Nelons. Solo ministries are hard enough when you haVe been with a group for a long time. Three Bridges has barely been on the map and Mitch is trying to launch a solo career with a name change on top of it?

    The most successful soloists that come to mind immediately were Squire Parsons (song writer extraordinair), Ivan Parker (vocalist extraordinair), and Kirk Talley (Tenor Extraordinair). These three had a combination of awesome voices, good songwriters, and, especially in Squire’s case, the tremendous ability to hold an audience’s attention from the moment they got on stage. Something about the Holy Spirit and a calling should probably be considered here as well, not just an opportunity to fill an ego.

    I am not saying one way or another because I do not know Mitch personally, but a name change personally and marginal success with a relatively new group does not mean guaranteed success nor does it mean failure. I am saying that only time will tell if Mitch is in the rare air of successful soloists.

  25. JR wrote:

    Ya, things always seem to be changing in SG. I don’t understand why he didn’t leave his name the same? Who cares if people say/spell it wrong.
    Name changes are always stupid.

  26. Big Ken 54 wrote:

    RR (post #23): I agree that Mitchell Ken would be a great stage name, since my name is Ken Mitchell Davis. If I ever make it big (and I won’t), I would have trouble using my real name of Ken Davis, because Scott Fowler’s father-in-law is getting rich using that moniker. So if Jon, or someone else, uses Mitchell Ken, I’ll have to start from scratch. (I always liked the sound of K. D. Sumner…)

  27. Tony Watson wrote:

    Leebob - just one point of clarification, Brian Free started Assurance immediately after leaving Gold City - only went solo one time but not at the time he left Gold City.

  28. burt wrote:

    A singer can be truly successful without anyone knowing their name at all. You don’t have to be in the Singing News every month to be making a good living at music.

  29. Tony Watson wrote:

    That is absolutely true - however you have to build a following in order for that to be the case. This is definitely like starting over in this case - particularly with the name change AND going solo. Three Bridges aren’t a popular group across the board at this stage anyway so the name value even with his “other” name would be tough. This just makes it VERY tough.

  30. HHE wrote:

    Last night I went to see Three Bridges. They did an awesome job! Mitch sang his rear off. As powerful of a Vocalist that he is, chances are that, he’ll have a lasting career.

    The new Tenor seems over the top (Eddie Bolton). He was dressed like he was appearing in Vegas in stead of appearing at a Church in Smyrna Tennessee. His antics and dances were rather nauseating. Although he sang well.

    Of course his old gig was performing in Branson. Hopefully, with Elliott’s guidance, he’ll be able to shake that rattle and roll.

    Peace My Brethern

  31. EC wrote:

    I’d like to make an appointment for a color and cut.

  32. Frank Lee wrote:

    1. ‘Amen’ to HHE’s blog (#30).

    2. I pray that TB will have continued success.

    3. Ok, Mitch… It’s about 3 weeks later… Please remind me, I’ve forgotten already… What is your new name….??!!!!!!

  33. Steve McVay wrote:

    Some of the comments regarding Mitch Kenitzer’s name change are VERY un-christian in spirit. Anyone in Christian music needs are prayers and support regardless. God inhabits praise not sarcasm.

  34. Christine Moore wrote:

    As a fellow Kenitzer (my maiden name), I can relate! Wonder if we are related? Good luck with your career.

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