Home Page

Charlie Patton painting © Copyright 2004 Loz Arkle
Painting © 2004 Loz Arkle

Website © Copyright 2000-2011 Alan White - All Rights Reserved

Site optimised for Microsoft Internet Explorer

Hero. Legend. Good Bloke.
John Peel OBE, 1939 - 2004

Red Lick Records



"Gettin' a Handle on Those Monikers"
(Origins of Blues Artist Names) by Alan White

There are so many blues artists that had nicknames or had adopted alternate names that I thought it would be interesting to list some of them and identify where their nicknames came from.  Here is the initial list which I'll be adding to over time.  Enjoy!

Whilst I have taken every care to ensure details are correct, you may spot a mistake, or have a different interpretation of the origins of a name, or have some new material.   If you do, please let me know, including the source if appropriate,  and I will update the details as soon as I can.      
Thanks,   Alan White.     

Kokomo Arnold Real Name: James Arnold
Born: Lovejoys Station, GA, 1901 Died: Chicago, IL, 1968
"Kokomo" was a popular brand of coffee in the early 20th century, and was the subject of Scrapper Blackwell's first recorded blues in 1928. When James Arnold revamped this number as "Old Original Kokomo Blues" in 1934, the name stuck - Kokomo Arnold.
Barbeque Bob Real Name: Robert Hicks
Born: Walnut Grove, Georgia, 1902 Died: Lithonia, GA, 1931
Columbia Records' talent scout, Don Hornsby, gave Robert the nickname Barbeque Bob, as his day job was as a chef in a barbeque restaurant.
Scrapper Blackwell Real Name: Francis Hillman Blackwell
Born: Syracuse, NC, 1903 Died: Indianapolis, IN, 1962
Nicknamed for his hot temper!
Buckwheat Zydeco Real Name: Stanley Dural Jr.
Born: Lafayette, LA, 1947  
As a youngster, Stanley had braided hair, and he soon acquired the nickname "Buckwheat", after an 'Our Gang' character). Whilst he grew up listening to Zydeco, he originally preferred R&B and performed in bands playing the latter for many years. It was after being recruited to back Clifton Chenier on tour that he fell for Zydeco, soon forming his own Zydeco combo, playing the accordion and re-christening himself "Buckwheat Zydeco".
Bo Carter Real Name: Armenter Chatmon
Born: Bolton, MS, 1893 Died: Memphis, TN, 1964
Although he recorded mostly as 'Bo Carter' (his stepfather's name) he was also known as 'Bo Chatman'.
Ida Cox Maiden Name: Ida Prather
Born: Toccoa, GA, 1896 Died: Knoxville, TN, 1967

Married fellow minstral player Adler Cox.

Catfish Keith Real Name: Keith Daniel Kozachik
Born: East Chicago, IL, 1962  
Nicknamed by a West Indian lobster diving partner who, after seeing him swim, dubbed him "Catfish-Swimmin'-Around" and "Catfish-Steel-Guitar-Man".
Cow Cow Davenport Real Name: Charles Edward Davenport
Born: Anniston, AL, 1894 Died: Cleveland, OH, 1955
Named after his signature tune 'Cow Cow Blues', originally recorded with Dora Carr in 1925.
David Honeyboy Edwards Real Name: David Edwards
Born: Shaw, MS, 1915  
Nicknamed 'Honey' as a small baby by his mother Pearl Edwards, and for many year known as 'Honey' by his close family, he took the name 'Honeyboy' when he started recording.

David Honeyboy Edwards © Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.

Blind Boy Fuller Real Name: Fulton Allen
Born: Wadesboro, NC, 1907 Died: Durham, NC, 1941
Named by James Baxter Long, a talent scout for the American Recording Company (ARC), to help promote his recording of 'Rag Mama Rag'.
Homesick James Real Name: John (James) William Henderson
Born: Somerville, TN, 1910 (or 1914!) Died: 2007
'Call me Homesick' he was heard to say when travelling. He was often called 'Lookquick' in the early days as well.
Lightnin' Hopkins Real Name: Sam Hopkins
Born: Centerville, TN, 1912 Died: Houston, TX, 1982
Named by Miss Lola Anne Collum, of the Artist Recording Company (ARC).
Howlin' Wolf Real Name: Chester Arthur Burnett
Born: West Point, near Tupelo, MS, 1910 Died: Hines, IL, 1976
The name Howlin' Wolf came from a record by Funny Papa Smith "I'm the wolf that digs my tail down in the ground". I want everybody the hear me when I howl". Howlin' Wolf liked the song and wanted to call himself.... The Howlin' Wolf.  His parents named him 'Chester Arthur' after Chester Arthur, the 21st president of the United States.

Howlin' Wolf Memorial, West Point, MS

Papa Charlie Jackson Real Name: Charlie Carter?
or William Henry Jackson?
Born: New Orleans, LA, 1885 Died: Chicago, IL, 1938(?)
Name origin Unknown
Skip James Real Name: Nehemiah Curtis James
Born: Yazoo City, MS, 1902 Died: Philadelphia, 1969
Originally called 'Son' James, then 'Skippy' and finally 'Skip', he once remarked "I never was in anything too long or deep: that's why I reckon they called me 'Skip'".
Frankie 'Half Pint' Jaxon Real Name: Frankie Jaxon
Born: 1897 Died: 1953
Nicknamed for his 5' 2" stature!
Furry Lewis Real Name: Walter Lewis
Born: Greenwood, MS, 1899 Died: 1981
Nicknamed as a child
Louisiana Red Real Name: Iverson Minter
Born: Bessemer, AL, 1932 Died: 2012

He recorded under various pseudonyms including Rocky Fuller, Playboy Fuller, Cryin’ Red, Rockin’ Red and Walkin’ Slim before settling on "Louisiana Red," a nickname derived from his love of Louisiana hot sauce. The Rocky Fuller moniker came from Muddy Waters, who took Red under his wing during his first recording session in 1952.

Louisiana Red © Copyright 2009 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.
Louisiana Red © Copyright 2009 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.

Muddy Waters Real Name: McKinley A. Morganfield
Born: Issaquena County, MS, 1915 Died: Westmont, IL, 1983
'Renamed' Muddy as a small child by his maternal grandmother, Della Grant, who raised him from the age of three after his mother died - he was always playing in mud around her sharecroppers shack home at Stovall Farms plantation, Clarksdale. He later changed it to "Muddy Water" when he was establishing himself as a performer, and finally "Muddy Waters" when he had moved to Chicago in 1943.


Robert Nighthawk (also recorded as Robert Lee McCoy and Lee McCoy) Real Name: Robert Lee McCollum
Born: 1909 Died: 1967
Named 'Nighthawk' after he recorded "Prowlin' Nighthawk" at Victor's studio, Aurora , Illinois in 1937. McCoy was his mother's maiden name.
Pinetop Perkins Real Name: Joe Willie Perkins
Born: Belzoni, MS, 1913 Died: Austin, Texas, 2011
Named after one of his songs 'Pinetop's Boogie Woogie', written by Pinetop Smith who originally recorded it in 1928.
Speckled Red Real Name: Rufus G. Perryman
Born: Monroe, LA, 1892 Died: St Louis, MO, 1973
Nickname derived from being an albino.
Sunnyland Slim Real Name: Albert Luandrew
Born: Vance, MS, 1907 Died: 1995
Sunnyland got his name from playing "The Sunnyland Blues"; a tune about the Sunnyland train that didn't have its own track, but used to run over the Frisco line.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe Real Name: Rosa Etta Bell Nuben
Born: Cotton Plant, AR, 20 Mar 1915 Died: Philadelphia, PA, 9 October 1973
Rosetta had many names in her early years: Rosa, Rosie Etta, Rosabell and Rosetta. As was common in those days, there was no birth certificate. She married Church of God In Christ (COGIC) preacher Thomas J. Tharpe in Chicago on 17 November 1934, hence taking the name 'Tharpe'. Rosetta's name on the official marriage licence was: Rosa Etta Bell Nuben.

Source: 'Shout Sister Shout' by Gayle F. Ward, Beacon Press, Boston, published 2007.


As listed on the
Recommended Blues Books page.

Top of Page

Website, Photos and Text © Copyright 2000-2011 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.
For permission to copy, please email:

Home Page