Metallica : Lars Ulrich’s friend Ron Quintana was brainstorming titles for a new metal music fanzine, and had proposed ‘MetalMania’ and ‘Metallica.’ When Metallica was abandoned as a possible title, Ulrich snapped it up for the band he’d just formed. ‘Metal Massacre I,’ a 1982 compilation album, featured Metallica’s first recorded track – but early pressings listed the band incorrectly as “Mettallica.”
Motley Crue : Mötley Crüe bassist and founder NIkki Sixx considered naming the band Christmas, but the other members hated it. While brainstorming, guitarist Mick Mars remembered that while playing with a band called White Horse, a bandmate referred to his group as “a motley looking crew.” Mars scribbled the name down as Mottley Cru. After tweaking the spelling for full rock potential, “Mötley Crüe” was eventually selected. The two metal umlauts were allegedly added by singer Vince Neil, who had been inspired by the German beer Löwenbräu.
Motorhead : “Motorhead” is actually used in reference to amphetamine users. The band’s name is usually printed in a lowercase with an umlaut character ö, which is possibly derived from the similar “heavy metal umlaut” in the name of their 1975 acquaintances Blue Öyster Cult. It should be noted, the umlaut is not grammatically necessary and does not alter the pronunciation of Motorhead’s name.
Rainbow : Deep Purple veteran Ritchie Blackmore began recording with Ronnie James Dio in 1973, using Dio’s band Elf as additional musicians – but still in search of their own name. They ultimately turned to the Rainbow Bar and Grill in Hollywood for inspiration. Using a rotating group of musicians, Rainbow remained active through 1984, and reformed between 1993-97 before Blackmore resurrected the band again in 2015.
REO Speedwagon : Named for manufacturer Ransom Eli Olds, the REO Speed Wagon was introduced in 1915 as a groundbreaking predecessor of the pickup truck. Fast forward to 1967, and keyboardist Neal Doughty learns of the name, taking it for his newly formed band. “I sometimes say that’s the only thing I learned in college,” Doughty has said. “I was in a class which studied the history of transportation – and one day I walked in and ‘REO Speed Wagon’ was written on the blackboard.”