It seems like if you want to make it in music, you need a nickname. Or maybe it’s the other way around: when you’ve made it in music, you are given a nickname. We have seen kings, queens, and princesses in every micro-genre you could imagine. There have also been “Lefties” and “Whiteys,” and, of course, the “Man in Black.”
The nicknames below are a little more imaginative. Think Glenn Trout “the Stinkin’ Fisherman,” or the “Heartbreak Heroine,” “T-Swizzle,” “the Singing Brakeman” and “the Hag.”
They don’t all fit here, so we had to narrow it down to the best. We included classic artists with legendary nicknames, modern artists, and a couple of the both.
The Classic Artists
The Possum – George Jones
George Jones deserves two places on this list. The first, for this hilariously unflattering comparison to a marsupial. On the cover of one of Jones’ early albums, the singer appears in profile with a crew cut and his nose slightly turned up. This image, paired with, in his words, “little beady eyes,” earned the comparison. He earned his second nickname, “No-Show Jones,” for repeatedly missing his own concerts.
Luke the Drifter – Hank Williams
Early on in his career, Hank assumed the pseudonym “Luke the Drifter” as a type of wholesome flipside to his carousing identity. As Luke, Williams recorded gospel songs and built a reputation of doing good deeds while as Hank he built a reputation of drinking and carryin’ on. Luke became more of an alter-ego, but Hank’s other nicknames like the Hillbilly Shakespeare ensure his place on this list.
Tater – Little Jimmy Dickens
Not many people can claim their nickname was given to them by Hank Williams, except for, you know, Bocephus (see below). Little Jimmy Dickens was one of the few who could boast this honor. When Dickens joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1948, Williams started calling him “Tater,” based on the song Dickens sang, “Take and Old, Cold Tater and Wait.” In the song, Dickens laments his small stature and blames it on his mother never feeding him properly. Of course, “Little” Jimmy Dickens is a nickname in it’s own right.
Pie Plant Pete – Claud J. Moye
“Pie Plant Pete” has a tongue twister as a nickname and was one of country music’s earliest singers. He joined the Barn Dance in 1928, where the announcer heard him order a pie plant pie, which is a rhubarb pie. The nickname stuck. Pete was also famous for playing guitar while simultaneously playing a harmonica on a wire frame. Announcers called this device a “two-cylinder cob crusher.”
The Most Colorful Hillbilly Band in America – Maddox Brothers & Rose
This band is known for more than just their nickname. Their flamboyant costumes inspired Tennessee Earl Ford to say they made Liberace look like a plucked chicken. Each member also had his or her own stage nickname, which included “Friendly Henry, the Working Girls’ Friend,” “Don Juan” and “Cal the Laughing Cowboy.”
The band’s rowdy variety shows and loud honky-tonk music vaulted them to the forefront of country music in the late 1940s and helped pioneer both the rockabilly genre and the Bakersfield sound. By the mid-1950s, Rose was singing with a bare midriff in risqué suits and breaking hearts across the nation.
The Gambler – Kenny Rogers
If you don’t know why Rogers is nicknamed the Gambler, you haven’t been around country music very long. Or really any music for that matter. “The Gambler” is one of the 20th century’s most enduring songs and offers some of its best advice. It recently popping up again with Rogers in a GEICO commercial.
The Round Mound of Sound – Kenny Price
Wow. This nickname pretty much blows all others out of the water. Kenny Price was never shy about his size. He was six feet tall and 300 pounds, and he used it to help him earn national fame in the 1960s and ’70s with songs like “The Heavyweight.” When he slimmed down, he used his weight to lampoon himself in “The Boone County Weight Watchers of America.”
The Modern Artists
Toad – Blake Shelton
Blake Shelton is nothing if not entertaining. His nickname, “Toad,” makes his sense of humor even more hilarious, especially given his status as one of the world’s sexiest people. When Shelton was a kid, he used to have a thing for all manner of creepy crawlies, including snakes, worms and locusts. He started bringing so many toads home his mother gave him the amphibious nickname.
The Hispanic Titanic – David Abeyta
We haven’t heard if his band, Reckless Kelly, actually calls him “The Hispanic Titanic” on an everyday basis. However, lead guitarist David Abeyta certainly has a fantastic nickname! Abeyta is introduced as such on their live album, Reckless Kelly Was Here, and he probably hasn’t heard the end of it yet. His equally fantastic alternate nicknames include “The Mexicutioner” and “The Angry Enchilada.”
Chief – Eric Church
In an almost poetic coincidence, Church earned himself the same nickname as his grandfather. Church’s grandfather was a police chief, an unsurprising origin of the name. Eric, however, earned it when he began to wear his signature sunglasses and cap on stage–his band thought he looked like a police officer.
Woody – Shania Twain
Yup. This nickname is pretty awful, isn’t it? Apparently, Shania Twain’s ex-husband, Mutt Lange, thought that one of her hairstyles made her look like Woody Woodpecker. Here’s something to remember, Lange: Twain has never, will never, and could never possibly look like Woody Woodpecker. This probably wasn’t his best move. Then again, his own nickname is “Mutt.”
The Best of Both Worlds
Shotgun Willie – Willie Nelson
Instead of explaining why he shot at his son-in-law, puncturing the tire of his car, Willie Nelson chose to tell the cops he ran over the bullet. This is just plain amazing. In reality, Nelson had been protecting his daughter and grandson from her abusive husband. The name and the story became the stuff of legend.
Wylie Lama – Ray Wylie Hubbard
Ray Wylie Hubbard is one of Texas Country’s most influential songwriters and musicians. He has used his lifetime of experience to help younger artists. As a musical and quasi-spiritual counselor, he earned the nickname “Wylie Lama,” a brilliant play on words.
Bocephus – Hank Williams, Jr.
There is possibly no other artist who has embraced his nickname as wholeheartedly as Hank Jr. Hank Sr. gave his son the nickname after watching a comedian called Rob Brasfield perform on the Grand Ole Opry with a puppet named Bocephus. Reports differ as to if Hank thought his son looked like the puppet or he simply liked the name. Of course, Jr.’s other nickname, Rockin’ Randall Hank–his real first name is Randall–isn’t a slouch either.