Home Read Features Area Resident’s Stylus Counsel | My Initial Column of 2024

Area Resident’s Stylus Counsel | My Initial Column of 2024

Track 159 | Musical men (and women) of letters.

I was going to write something about stage names, but I decided to get a little more specific. It is, after all, my initial Stylus Counsel offering of 2024, so I decided to examine musicians who either go by initials or have initials in their stage names.

Forget bands like Boney M., T. Rex, 10cc, ZZ Top, alt-J and the E Street Band — we’re going to focus on individuals. But as you can see from even those examples, there are several categories of “the initialized.” There are those who replace their first name with an initial, and those who replace their last name with one. But there are two others I’m going to include as well — individuals with middle initials and those who go with a double initial.

As always, I’m going to forget a few — so don’t freak out.

I’ll start with the one which gave me the idea for this, Dinosaur Jr.‘s J Mascis. The guitarist/vocalist and songwriter goes with J, no period after. His real name is Joseph Donald Mascis Jr.

P. Diddy is known by many variants, but this one is P with a period. Sean Love Combs has had several stage names. He originally went with Sean “Puffy” Combs, then Puff Daddy, then P. Diddy and finally just Diddy.

D. Boon (center) & The Minutemen.

A favourite of mine, the late D. Boon was the lead vocalist of The Minutemen from 1980 until his death in 1985. He and I share the same birthday, though his was 15 years before mine. Boon was born Dennes Dale Boon but started going by D. Boon as a teenager because that’s how he signed his paintings — D being both his slang for weed, but also reminiscent of Daniel Boone and E. Bloom (Eric Bloom) the guitarist of Blue Öyster Cult. So that takes care of him as well.

M. Ward just turned 50 in 2023. The Portland, Oregon singer-songwriter was born Matthew Stephen Ward — and it’s M, period, Ward like D. Boon. He’s also a member of She & Him and Monsters of Folk.

When I was a kid I found it strange that J. Geils wasn’t the lead singer of The J. Geils Band — he was the guitarist. Just like Kool in Kool And The Gang is the bass player, rather than the singer. But I digress. It’s hard to believe John Warren Geils Jr. has been dead since 2017. Even though he and the band used J, period, Geils — he also occasionally went by Jay Geils.

2014 Forest Hills Drive is one of my favourite hip hop albums — it’s artist J. Cole‘s masterpiece, as far as I’m concerned. He was just 20 years old when his career started taking off and he tried and re-tried to get the attention of rapper/producer Jay-Z (who comes up later). Cole, born Jermaine Lamarr Cole, was the first artist signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label in 2009.

I first encountered G. Love when he and his band Special Sauce appeared on Late Night with Conan O’Brien in 1994. They performed the track Blues Music from their self-titled debut album, which I immediately went out and bought. I had to look it up just now, but G’s real name is Garrett Dutton.

The less attention given to R Kelly, the better. The convicted child sex offender was born Robert Sylvester Kelly.

J. Geils, front and center with his bandmates.

So now we move into the second category of last-name initials — which is where we find Jay-Z whose real name is Shawn Corey Carter, but his nickname of Jazzy morphed into Jay-Z.

There are a lot of rappers in this category: Public Enemy’s Chuck D (Carlton Douglas Ridenhour), Beastie Boy Mike D (Michael Louis Diamond), Body Count’s Ice-T (Tracy Lauren Marrow), the godfather of gangsta rap Eazy-E (Eric Lynn Wright), founding member of The Roots Malik B. (Malik Abdul-Basit Smart), and LL Cool J (James Todd Smith), which is actually short for Ladies Love Cool James.

But there are a few others like R&B bandleader and organist Booker T (Booker Taliaferro Jones Jr.), pop singer Stacey Q (Stacey Lynn Swain), and demonic saxophonist Kenny G (Kenneth Bruce Gorelick).

Our third category is the middle-initial folks, of whom I have identified three. The first is early Beatles cohort and fellow Liverpudlian Billy J. Kramer (William Howard Ashton) who chose Kramer randomly from the phonebook and then added the J. at the suggestion of John Lennon. Unlike him, singer/ songwriter / actress Mary J Blige’s middle initial actually stands for something — Jane, as it turns out. So, too does the E. in Ben E. King. The Stand By Me singer’s full name is Benjamin Earl King.

OK, on to the final category — double initials.

Here in Ottawa, we have guitarist JW-Jones, whose full name is Josh Wynne-Jones. His star first began to rise when the Ridgemont High School student won a battle of the bands at age 18. He’s now a Billboard Top 10 artist and a Juno nominee.

The one and only J.J. Cale.

Singer-songwriter PJ Harvey has some letters after her name as well — she’s now Polly Jean Harvey, MBE (Member of the British Empire). Poison guitarist C.C. Deville’s real name is nothing like his stage name, which is Bruce Anthony Johannesson. Huh. KC of KC And The Sunshine Band is actually Harry Wayne Casey. The original slowhand, J.J. Cale, was actually a J.W. His real name was John Weldon Cale. Notorious punk GG Allin’s real handle was Kevin Michael Allin.

There are two B.B.s — King and Gabor. The ’70s/’80s new wave B.B. Gabor was born Gabor Hegedus in Hungary before his family fled to England and eventually Canada. Legendary Memphis blues guitarist and singer B.B. King’s real name was Riley B. King, but the moniker was not meant to be a shortened version. Instead, it’s a shortened version of his early nickname, which was Beale Street Blues Boy and later Blues Boy.

Less legendary was one-hit wonder C.W. McCall, who hit the jackpot with his single, the movie theme Convoy in 1975. His real name — like C.C. Deville — is nothing like his moniker. It’s Billie Dale Fries.

B.J. Thomas only had a handful of hits, but man — they were doozies. Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head, Don’t Worry Baby and Hooked On A Feeling. If you were guessing, you’d probably manage to get his real name — Billy Joe Thomas. A far more complicated character is that of the performer C.W. Stoneking. The Australian born Christopher William Stoneking makes authentic country/vaudeville blues music which not only sounds American, but 1930s American.

From Australia to Scotland now, and singer-songwriter/musician KT Tunstall, whose real name is Kate Victoria Tunstall.

Finally, we’ll wrap with the sadly semi-retired k.d. lang (all lowercase!), who has the distinction of having made all of Canada cry when she performed Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah at the Vancouver Olympic Games opening ceremony in 2010. Her (she uses both they/them and she/her pronouns) real name is Kathryn Dawn Lang.

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Area Resident is an Ottawa-based journalist, recording artist, music collector and re-seller. Hear (and buy) his music on Bandcamp, email him HERE, follow him on Instagram and check him out on Discogs.


k.d. lang.