Before becoming one of the biggest rock bands on the planet, Pearl Jam went by a different name — Mookie Blaylock. But obviously, they changed it.
Pearl Jam formed in Seattle in 1990 after the death of Andrew Wood, who sang for the group Mother Love Bone. Wood was only 24 when he died from an overdose, and Mother Love Bone had become pretty popular in the local scene by that point. So, members Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament decided to continue on with their musical journey and form a new band with fellow Seattle guitarist Mike McCready.
They received a demo from a San Diego singer named Eddie Vedder, who joined the group, along with drummer Dave Krusen. And they called themselves Mookie Blaylock at first, but they didn’t change the name because they were forced to.
How Did They Come Up With the Name Mookie Blaylock?
Mookie Blaylock was a point guard for the New Jersey Nets at the time. The fledgling Seattle band were invited to go on tour with Alice In Chains, and they needed a name. They had a stack of basketball cards and found Blaylock’s, so they went with it.
“When we were recording our first record, we had a per diem of about $10. So when we got lunch at the store across the street, we’d always buy a pack of basketball cards,” Ament told The Missoulan in 2008 [via Deadspin]. “When we turned in our tape, we didn’t have a name for the band yet so we put a Mookie Blaylock card in the case. We were about to go on a tour and still didn’t have a name and needed one quickly. We were told it didn’t need to be the name that we were going to use forever, just something for the tour.”
Thus, they went by Mookie Blaylock for those 10 tour dates, and even made a T-shirt with Blaylock on it.
Why Did They Change Their Name?
Some sources have stated that Blaylock threatened legal action against the band for using his name, but this actually wasn’t the case. In the aforementioned interview, Ament noted that the athlete “was cool about it” and didn’t sue them. In a separate interview with The New York Times, Ament said that they never planned to keep it as their band name anyway.
“As time went on, we sort of created a little bit of a monster out of the name,” he said. “We never intended it to actually be the name of the band.”
“He’s an amazing cult hero of ours. However, we ultimately I guess we thought it was a little bit of a goofy name and we don’t think we’re really a goofy band,” Vedder told KLOL in ’91.
Blaylock’s number for the Nets was 10, which is why the rockers named their massively successful debut album Ten. Ament even got to hang out with Blaylock later on.
How Did They Come Up With Pearl Jam?
This has also been a mysterious topic over the years, mainly because Vedder got enjoyment out of trolling in interviews. In the band’s early days, the singer told Rolling Stone that he came up with the moniker because his great grandmother’s name was Pearl.
“Great-grandpa was an Indian and totally into hallucinogenics and peyote,” he said. “Great-grandma Pearl used to make this hallucinogenic preserve that there’s total stories about. We don’t have the recipe, though.”
Over a decade later, Vedder admitted to the magazine that the story was “total bullshit,” but that his great grandmother’s name really was Pearl. However, the title had nothing to do with her — it was Ament who’d suggested Pearl as their name, and the latter half was inspired by a Neil Young concert they’d gone to see.
“He played, like, nine songs over three hours. Every song was like a fifteen-or twenty-minute jam,” Ament recalled. “So that’s how ‘jam’ got added on to the name. Or at least that’s how I remember it.”
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