Canned heat

January 12, 2023
 by Paul McGowan

The band whose name titles this post was founded in 1965 by two blues enthusiasts, Alan Wilson and Bob Hite, who took the name from Tommy Johnson’s 1928 song “Canned Heat Blues”, a song about an alcoholic who had desperately turned to drinking Sterno, generically called “canned heat”.

I loved this band but what stood out most for me was their name.

What’s in a name?

I think a lot is in a name. Whether it’s the name of a product, a book, or a musical group, the name can signify to us a feeling, a vibe, or an emotion. Most importantly, it can often set an expectation. Before reading up on the origins of Canned Heat’s name, I had always assumed it referred to the musical heat they generated. The fact I was incorrect didn’t much matter. I expected musical heat and the band always delivered.

Some group names are memorable on their own without evoking emotion: Iron Butterfly, Kraftwerk, Genesis.

For the most part, great bands have great names.

What are some of your favorites?

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78 comments on “Canned heat”

  1. Vale Jeff Beck (1944- 2023)…what a great loss.

    And with such great sadness, I must also include something humorous.

    I read this today in a ‘comments section’,
    “So, there’s Trump pretending to be president, Lake pretending to be governor, Walker pretending to be a cop, McCarthy pretending to be speaker & Santos pretending to be…well, take your pick.
    These guys are just NUTS.”

    Then I read,
    “Isn’t impersonating a government official sort of illegal?”

    Aaw f#@k…this stuff is funnier than SNL 😀

    Pink Floyd…Pink Anderson/Floyd Council…plus so many others.

    1. ‘My Friend The Chocolate Cake’
      ‘Everything But The Girl’
      ‘Steely Dan’ …hee hee hee
      ‘Spin Doctors’
      ‘The Doobie Brothers’
      ‘Midnight Oil’
      ‘Cold Chisel’
      ‘Boom Crash Opera’
      ‘Girl Overboard’
      ‘10,000 Maniacs’
      ‘Black Sabbath’
      ‘Alice Cooper’
      ‘The Pork Hunts’

      …it’s endless… 😮

  2. Lothar and the Hand People (featured a Theramin, from 1968)
    The Doors
    The Beatles
    Bad Bad Not Good
    Beach Boys
    Bob Marley & The Wailers
    Oblivion Express
    Earth Wind & Fire
    Everything But the Girl
    Weather Report

  3. Hi Paul, my favourites are the Wiener Philharmoniker, Berliner Philharmoniker, CSO, Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège (OPRL), Dire Straits, Pink Floyd and so many more…
    Greetings from Belgium,
    Yours sincerely,

  4. There’s a danger here in choosing band names whose music you like rather than the merit of the name. There’s just too many though, they’re all good, especially if successful because success adds its own gloss. Whenever I tried to create a fictitious band name I always thought my ideas were rubbish, so I reckon it’s not that easy. You need to have conviction and belief.
    Is it any easier to think of band names you don’t like? One that stuck out for me was ‘The Killers’. I’d not heard any of their music but took an instant dislike to the name. I took it literally rather than thinking of say ‘killer’ songs. It was a long time before I heard any of their stuff but when I did, couldn’t believe how good it was, how for me the name had done them an injustice when it came to the music. A case of me judging a book by its cover, wrongly. And Brandon Flowers is a great vocalist, done some excellent solo tunes as well.

    So, band names, my head is spinning trying to think of them, and I kind of wish I hadn’t read this post because it will be difficult to stop now, but a few that come to mind.
    What should be the audiophiles favourite ‘Stereophonics’.
    School of Fish (logical) which I first saw reported as School For Fish (bizarre).
    Van der Graf Generator.
    Diesel Park West.
    Most of the punk bands had inventive names.
    Sex Pistols being the obvious one.
    Poly Styrene and X-Ray Spex.
    Talking Heads.
    Then there’s the boring ones which you think shouldn’t work but do owing to that success thing again.
    The Smiths
    The The
    Bread, they certainly made it, with you buying their records.

    Of course naming extends to just about everything, especially things we buy, when it then becomes marketing. Cars, watches and hi-fi have got to be three of the main culprits here.

      1. Their stuff would be stale in a few days…

        We actually have a local band on our island called Wonder Bread and they DO schlocky 70’s cover stuff…
        Good call!

  5. I love band names that seem to be names of a person, but actually aren’t. It fools so many people:

    Alice Cooper
    Jethro Tull
    Mott The Hoople
    J. Geils Band
    Lynyrd Skynyrd
    Hootie and the Blowfish

    1. Alice Cooper and Lynyrd Skynyrd are/were people. Alice Cooper wasn’t his real name but that is what he goes by and I and Lynyrd Skynyrd was some of the band members high school athletics coach.

  6. Once in Cleveland I saw a club flyer promoting an appearance by Sleazy Jesus & The Splatter Pigs.

    One of my favorites, though, has to be Indiana’s own Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band.

  7. “Doug and the Slugs” (Canadian band. First “modern” music video I ever saw was on HBO; Doug and the Slugs performing “Too Bad.”)

    “Waiting for CJ”

    “Six Tits and Three Slits” – oh wait, that was a female team in the 1980 “Over the Line” tournament on Mission Bay, San Diego.

    1. socal77, the classic Over The Line team names could fill a book. Year after year the guys and gals outdid themselves with new, ever more suggestive or simply sleazy monikers.

      But for any organization that promoted a Miss Emersome contest and had an age-related Conardly Division, could you expect anything less?

      One of the funniest parts was local media attempting to cover the event while not being able to repeat the names of the teams. ;^)

  8. Maybe I missed it in the above but one of my favorite bands is Led Zeppelin.

    I completely agree that The Beatles is so simple yet unique.

    At the other end of the spectrum for band names is another favorite of mine that is very straight forward: Crosby, Stills and Nash ( CSN ).

  9. Leviathan, who morphed into Black Axe. It was my brothers band. I was their roady in the late seventies early eighties. I loved their music. Leviathan they were not. They got signed to Chrysalis toured and big brother took over the band’s sound and ripped the heart out of it. The rest is sad history as they say.
    But, my brother, continued with music and today teaches the guitar and has his own recording studio. Even if you get knocked down hard if you believe in yourself you’ll get there in the end.
    I am over the fact that he sold my prized guitar to pay for his bands vans road tax while I was abroad in 1977. Nearly.
    Todays post, for me, is memorable.

  10. Many years ago I saw a flyer for a local band in Traverse City Mi. ( Phil Dirt and the Dozers). Also recently I discovered ( Sleepytime Gorilla Museum) which are in my Tidal playlist.

    1. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, now that is a good one, plus quite a few others of the more obscure ones above. Not a band name (I know, slap the back of my hand and minus five points for digression) but one of my favourite song titles:
      Beware of the Flowers (‘Cos I’m Sure They’re Going To Get You Yeh).
      It’s great for charades.

  11. Paul, you happened to pick three of my favorite bands. (I know people dump on Iron Butterfly but they had a huge influence on me when I was a teenager, and I like them. Definitive psychedelic fuzz guitar.

    Most of my other favorite bands have distinctive names, and having good band name is important. Talking Heads, Gary Wilson and the Blind Dates, Love, Blue Oyster Cult, Roxy Music, the Mothers of Invention, Be-Bop Deluxe, Gentle Giant…and one artist whose name stands on its own…Roy Orbison.

    RIP Jeff Beck. There will never be another like him.

  12. My favorite singer, Willy DeVille, started a band called Mink DeVille in 1974. I assumed it came from his last name, and they just added a “Mink” in front for the coolness factor. Wrong! The lead singer, Billy Borsay, changed his name to Willy DeVille after his girlfriend, Toots (or another band member) came up with the band’s name. From Wikipedia:

    “In 1975, the band changed its name to Mink DeVille; lead singer Billy Borsay took the name Willy DeVille. Said DeVille, ‘We were sitting around talking of names, and some of them were really rude, and I was saying, guys we can’t do that. Then one of the guys said how about Mink DeVille? There can’t be anything cooler than a fur-lined Cadillac can there?’ DeVille also remarked about the name, ‘What could be more pimp than a mink Cadillac? In an impressionistic sort of way.’… According to a 1977 article in Creem, DeVille’s wife Toots Deville suggested the name: ‘…the band looked like it might have been going nowhere, in reverse. So maybe another name change would help—God knows the music was great. Mink Pie … hmmmm. “No, it’s gotta be something slick—something sorta French, somethin’ sorta black … poetry. Mink … MINK DE VILLE!” blurted out Toots, Willie’s omnipresent, black-bouffanted old lady, whose quiet intensity is not unlike his own.'”

    I love that “the band was going nowhere, in reverse” until the name change.

  13. From Long Island on Oyster Bay “Blue Oyster Cult”. Nice to see Frank Doris mention them too as I think he’s still friendly with the lead guitar player one Donald “Buck Dharma” Roeser.

  14. Let’s not forget Moby Grape.
    Or The Fabulous Farquahr (probably too regional; comedy folk in the Northeast late ’60s).

    All-time favorites: The Beatles and Pink Floyd

    Perfectly named: The Mahavishnu Orchestra.

  15. My 2 favorite musicians of all time didn’t need to change their names – Tom Waits and Frank Zappa. I’ve always said “Tom Waits for due recognition.” Zappa, well, he’s Zappa.

  16. This is fun, thanks, Paul:
    * Seldom Scene
    * Cowboy Junkies
    * Fleetwood Mac (founded by the best British Blues guitarist, and named after the best, longest-playing rhythm section in R&R)
    * Lynyrd Skynyrd (named after my 9th grade gym coach, Leonard Skinner. Yes, I was in gym class with the two LS founders)

  17. Beatles
    Simon & Garfunkle
    Philadelphia Orchestra
    Concertgebouw Orchestra (live in their hall in Amsterdam)
    I Musici
    Quartetto Italiano
    Jefferson Airplane

    – Jeffrey in Philadelphia

  18. As listed here, an almost endless number of great, interesting, or simply funny band names from the Classic Rock period.

    A few mentioned the Beatles. But what image does that suggest? Most of those young girls would have run screaming from the room rather than screaming in excitement at the sight of real beetles.

    Regarding the name, I’ve read a couple of sources stating the Beatles admired and were influenced by Buddy Holly. So they took their name from his group, The Chirping Crickets.

    Oh yes, I was a fan of Canned Heat as well.

  19. Bands whose music I enjoy and whose names are cool:

    The Dream Syndicate
    King Crimson
    This Mortal Coil
    My Morning Jacket
    The Teardrop Explodes
    Cat Power
    The Velvet Underground
    The Lounge Lizards

  20. Nirvana, The Swinging Medallions, The Band, Crazy Horse, Dan Hicks and the hot licks, Humble Pie, B-52’S, The Candymen, Traveling Wilburys…..

  21. Great list so far!

    A band named Guess Who emerged from Canada with an album titled Wheatfield Soul.
    Some really good stuff.

    I went to see Iron Butterfly with some friends, and Guess Who opened for them.
    Speaking of Canada, “Chiliwak” for a cool album.

    Then there are the bands that travel with names like James Taylor. Road bands and studio bands have much overlap and fluidity

    Joni Mitchell had great musicians (road and studio).
    Larry Carlton comes to mind and is a prolific and amazing guitarist.
    He and Steve Lukather (Toto) did a tour with three musicians which was awesome.
    They stopped in Seattle at Jazz Alley, and we stayed for all four shows.

    Someone mentioned Mahavishnu Orchestra and John McLaughlin comes to mind – what an amazing guitarist.
    Then names like Larry Corryell and his many contributions and collaborations.

    Addy came from my home town and learned guitar under John LaChapell, from who I took some lessons from.

    Saw him a few years back and was able to reminisce about LaChappell.

    Our great Seattle list of names is also amazing. Hendrix, Steve Miller band, and Kenny G to mention just a few.

    So many more to mention.

  22. The Beatles was the first band name that came to mind. Skipping forward a few years, Steely Dan strikes me as fitting the category especially when you consider the dark yet sometimes humorous nature of their lyrics.

  23. How about pre BOC Soft White Underbelly (ask Frank D),
    Be-Bop Deluxe
    The Stranglers
    The Strawbs
    Twisted Sister
    The Shills ask Frank D about this one)
    The Bouys (Timothy)
    The Kinks
    Pavlov’s Dog
    The Who
    Small Faces
    ….the best I got in five minutes
    Good post today Paul

  24. cool names:

    Dream Theater
    Sound of Contact
    Acoustic Alchemy
    Flying Colors
    Frequency Drift
    Lonely Robot
    Only Echoes Remain
    Tears for Fears

    and many others

        1. I made a sign for my shop years ago:

          CAUTION (cartoon cowboy image inside the red crossout circle)

          This shop plays music with complex compositional arrangements
          (containing more than 3 chords), masterfully crafted and
          sometimes lengthy skilled solos, challenging bass lines,
          elaborate tempo changes, and cliché free lyrics.
          Transitions from 8/8 to 7/8 to 13/8 time signatures may cause
          you to experience confusion, dizziness, lightheadedness,
          disorientation and nausea. If these symptoms persist,
          consult your nearest progressive rock DJ.

  25. Here are some of mine: Utopia, Return to Forever, Average White Band, The Tubes, The Faces, and Humble Pie…The list is longer but that should do for now. Listen well everyone!

  26. I’m rather surprised some of my fellow crassmates did not stoop to some of the hippie 60s free sex era origins like Lovin’ Spoonful, 10CC or Steely Dan…

    Supertramp (from The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp)
    Pink Floyd ( from Pink Anderson and Floyd Council)
    Three Dog Night
    Xinema (Sweden)
    Yesternight (Poland)
    Lemur Voice (Netherlands)
    Anima Mundi (Cuba)
    Toy Matinee
    Ozric Tentacles
    Liquid Tension Experiment
    Marillion (derived from the Hobbit’s Samarillion)
    Los Lobotomys
    Pavlov’s Dog

    And probably my favorite – my buddy drummer was in a local gig for many years – a band they named:
    Nobody In Particular.
    “Oh, You’re a drummer – who do you play for?”
    “And the grammy goes to….”

    Nobody In Particular

    Nowadays bands have to take into consideration when choosing a name the ‘search engine’ factor.
    If you want to look up Xinema – you’re going to get good results. A band like XYZ or The The – not Google search friendly.

  27. John……………………………………………………………….…………………
    …………………………………. Cage

  28. What’s the record for most comments on a single daily Paul’s Post?
    Anyone know?





    (You did the Ben Stein voice in your head.

    1. Over 100. Guessing 121? 132?
      There’s been a big one in the last 12 months.
      Don’t ask me which date though, or the topic.
      If anyone cares to look…..

  29. Getting back to the title of this post, when the sun goes down, shortly, it will be time to fire up the amps and do a needle drop on Hooker ‘n Heat, a great double album Canned Heat did with John Lee Hooker. (1971)

    “Boogie Chillen’ No. 2” along with a glass of bottled heat on the rocks, if I can stay seated, that is. 😎

  30. It’s been a fun topic today, one that could run and run.
    A couple more inspired by others.
    Mr Mister, they quickly ran out of ideas.
    Four Just Men, went on to make hair dye.
    Finally, for now, it’s cheating, but found on the internet,
    Test Icicles.

  31. Great topic – so many to expore!!!
    As a non-English native, I would try:
    The Back Tornado – Thorbjørn Risager`s blues band (Denmark)
    Second Grass (“Druhá Tráva”) – bluegrass band (Czech Republic)

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