How 10 Huge Rock Stars Got Their Stage Names

Choosing the right stage name is a must for all aspiring rock stars, as it’s a key part of their appeal and legacy.

Oftentimes, these artists settle on something that’s flashy, quirky or provocative. You know, a label that’s immediately attention-grabbing and characteristic of the music they make. Conversely, it could be something so seemingly natural and unassuming that most people have no clue it’s not real.

Either way, we couldn’t imagine calling the 10 legends on this list anything else. No matter if the tales behind their titles are surprising, bizarre or simple and personal, each is genuinely fascinating.

How 10 Huge Rock Stars Got Their Stage Names

Origin stories!


Guitarist Brian Patrick Carroll – a.k.a. Buckethead – is among the most celebrated and enigmatic musicians of his generation. Endearingly, the origin of his alter ego dates back to Michael Myers and 1988’s Halloween 4.
Simply put, he was so inspired by the character that he bought a similar white mask, got some fried chicken, put the bucket on his head, looked in the mirror and remarked: “That’s Buckethead.”
During his 2017 appearance on the Coming Alive podcast, he elaborated on the story: “I could do everything I liked doing as this character that I’m totally scared to death to do otherwise. . . . I was like, ‘I can’t do it just like me.’ It was a great way to get all the stuff out.”


Born Saul Hudson, the English six-string savant became Slash long before joining Guns N’ Roses. As a teenager, he grew close to character actor Seymour Cassel, and one day, the veteran thespian gave him the moniker.
“I was friends with his kids, and he used to call me Slash because I was an aspiring guitar player, always hustling, never stopping to hang out. . . . So he started calling me that, and it stuck,” Slash told Swindle in 2010. Apparently, it was a “habitual” thing for Cassel to do whenever Slash “ditch[ed] school” to hang out at his house.


You might think that associating yourself with an insect would be a bad idea, but Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Michael Peter Balzary would prove you wrong.
In a 2014 interview with Larry King, he revealed that he started going by Flea as a kid: “I’ve always been kind of a spastic, jumping around, feral type of young man. Yeah, that’s how it came.” Although it initially exacerbated Balzary’s palpable sense of inadequacy – and although he initially went by Mike B. the Flea – he soon embraced the tag.
(There’s also conjecture that RHCP frontman Anthony Kiedis dubbed him Flea following a skiing trip.)

Iggy Pop

The professional persona of proto-punk pioneer James Newell Osterberg Jr. comes from two places. During his youth, he went from drumming and singing for garage/surf rock troupe The Iguanas to playing with blues-rock ensemble The Prime Movers.
Meanwhile, he worked at Discount Records near the University of Michigan, where manager Jeep Holland would routinely shout, “Iguana alert!” whenever Osterberg Jr. returned from the store’s basement stockroom.
Eventually, the nickname shortened to just Iggy, and once his hairless friend Jimmy Pop influenced him to shave off his eyebrows, Pop adopted Jimmy’s surname as well. Shortly thereafter, he started The Stooges.

Zakk Wylde

It wasn’t until he hooked up with Ozzy Osbourne in 1988 that Jeffrey Phillip Wielandt became Zakk Wylde.
As he recounted with Christina Rowatt in 2008, he felt pressured to invent a designation deserving of the “legacy” of his predecessors: “I was just sitting there watching Kim Wilde . . . and I go, ‘Well, Ozzy wants me to change my name. . . . What would be a cool name?””
The next day, he asked Ozzy what he thought of “Z-a-k-k W-y-l-d-e,” and Ozzy exclaimed: “Zakk, that’s the greatest name. It’s right up there with Randy Rhoads!” Mission accomplished.

Nikki Sixx

It’s no secret that Mötley Crüe’s Nikki Sixx – formerly Frank Carlton Serafino Feranna Jr. – got his stage name back in 1978 (when he started London, an unsuccessful glam rock band).
Part of the reason for the change was his family’s legacy, and at first, he was “Nikki London” and “Nikki Nine.” He continues: “But there was this girl, we were sharing a bed together, and she had a boyfriend named Nikki Six, so I said, ‘Not only am I gonna steal his girlfriend, I’m gonna steal his name.’ It was a joke that turned out pretty cool.” Indeed, it did.

Ozzy Osbourne

Long story short, heavy metal’s reigning “Prince of Darkness,” John Michael Osbourne, was labeled “Ozzy” while attending primary school. Obviously, it’s a shortened version of his last name, and despite his classmates intending for it to be an insult, Ozzy has unceasingly embraced it.
In fact, he inked “O-Z-Z-Y” onto his knuckles when he was merely 16 (and it remains one of few tattoos that he’s received without being intoxicated, or so he claims).
Since then, only a handful of people have ever rejected “Ozzy” – most famously, his first wife, Thelma – so it’s almost always gotten the respect it deserves.

Alex Lifeson

Even the most diehard Rush fans may not know that Alex Lifeson is actually Aleksandar Živojinović. So, why the change?
As he explained to Goldmine in 2012: “It is basically an English translation of my Serbian name. My last name is very difficult for people to pronounce, as there are a lot of vowels. My father certainly went through a lot with our name when we moved to Canada, and he actually thought at one time about changing our name. . . . Lifeson has been my professional name since I was, I don’t know, 15 or 16 years old.”

Dimebag Darrell

Darrell Lance Abbott spent the first 10 years of Pantera as Diamond Darrell. However, because 1992’s Vulgar Display of Power saw Pantera moving closer to groove and thrash metal, Darrell decided to alter his image accordingly, which meant replacing “Diamond.”
As his longtime partner, Rita Haney, told Billboard, the solution came when Darrell and Philip Anselmo were smoking marijuana: “[Philip] was always calling up Darrell to ask if he had any weed. . . . One night, [they] were getting stoned and Philip just started calling him ‘Dimebag’ and it stuck!” Elsewhere, guitar tech Walter Trachsler takes credit for it.

Freddie Mercury

Farrokh Bulsara suffered from self-doubt, so he wanted to disappear into a rock star persona ASAP by using an early Queen song as the motivation.
“Freddie had written this song called My Fairy King and there’s a line in it that says: ‘Oh Mother Mercury, what have you done to me?’ It was after that that he said, ‘I am going to become Mercury as the mother in the song is my mother. And we were like, ‘Are you mad’?” guitarist Brian May told biographer Leslie-Ann Jones. As for why he chose Freddie instead of Freddy, well, that’s anyone’s guess.