Nine Performers Whose Real Names Sound Like Stage Names

Kurt Vile

You have no idea how many famous people use stage names, pseudonyms, noms de plume, etc. until you start researching a list like this, which is about the exact opposite: noteworthy performers with improbable birth names. As there are so many to choose from, I'm being a stickler and not including anyone who changed their name in marriage (e.g., Loretta Lynn, née Loretta Webb), used their middle name as their first name (e.g., Charles Robert Redford), or even shortened their given first name (e.g., Clinton Eastwood).

  1. Jimmy Dean. Not to be confused with 1950s icon James Dean (who also performed under his real name), the late country singer/breakfast sausage mogul was born Jimmy Ray Dean in 1928.
  2. Kurt Vile. Most would guess that this singer/songwriter created the stage name "Kurt Vile" as a pun on the great German composer Kurt Weill, with the spelling of "Vile" adding an extra sneer. But nope: he's the oldest of ten children in the Vile family; the name Kurt was just a coincidence.
  3. Blossom Dearie. The jazz singer and pianist (1924-2009) was named for a bouquet of peach blossoms delivered to her family's house on the day of her birth. Her surname is Scots Irish.
  4. Thelonious Monk. Another jazz legend (1917-1982), the pianist's father was also named Thelonious Monk. His equally unusual middle name, Sphere, was in honor of his maternal grandfather Sphere Batts.
  5. Duncan Sheik. His name sounds more like an indie band than an individual. Duncan Scott Sheik, born in 1969, is famous for his 1996 hit single "Barely Breathing" and for his Tony-winning score for the 2006 musical Spring Awakening.
  6. Parker Posey. The prolific film and TV actress was born Parker Christian Posey in 1968.
  7. January Jones. The icy blonde Mad Men star was born January Kristen Jones in 1978. Interestingly, another January Jones predates her: that was the stage name of a 1960s singer who was born Jacqueline Allison. Was the actress named for the singer? Shrug.
  8. Polly Scattergood. The young British songstress is not that well known, but her impressive name is worth noting here.
  9. Amy Winehouse. You probably already knew that the alcoholic singer's real surname was, fittingly, Winehouse, but I couldn't close this list without her. Honorable mentions: Frank Zappa, Neil Diamond, Simon Le Bon, Marianne Faithfull.