The rock and roll stage name: Possibly a critical perception changer for one’s musical career, right? Would ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ have been as revolutionary if it were penned by Robert Zimmerman and not Bob Dylan? Would the Rocket Man persona have fit the same for a man named Reginald Dwight rather than Elton John? Could the new wave movement have taken off led by someone screaming “Roxanne!” named Gordon Sumner not Sting? I don’t know, but I can almost assure that Guns N’ Roses wouldn’t have dominated hard rock in the late ‘80’s with a lead guitarist named Saul Hudson as opposed to Slash, and U2 may not have always maintained quite the same swagger if they were fronted not by Bono and The Edge but guys named Paul Hewson and David Evans.
Then there are the artists whose birth names were plenty sharp enough, you almost wish they’d have just stuck with them. Bo Diddley is certainly unmistakable, but the original Elias McDaniel was already pretty catchy. Muddy Waters is iconic, but I think his birth name of McKinley Morganfield is even more badass. Which brings me finally to the New Orleans Gris-Gris man and 2011 Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductee, the inimitable Dr. John. From his early days playing boogie-woogie piano in the Crescent City to his popular breakthrough with ‘Right Place Wrong Time’ and this song, ‘Such A Night’, he was simply known by that name, Dr. John (or occasionally as The Night Tripper). That is until The Last Waltz, The Band’s grandiose farewell concert, when Robbie Robertson basically outed him to the music world with the following stage introduction (while also revealing possibly the utmost in names that could’ve been cooler if left alone): “You all know the doctor…Dr. John…Mac Rebennack…C’mon Mac!” It may have been the first time most fans had heard the real name of The Doctor – it was for me – but if it bothered him at all he certainly didn’t show it: Smiling broadly, drawling something mostly unintelligible in Creole-ese, and counting off the start, Dr./Mac ripped into an unforgettable version of his hit, with Robertson and Rick Danko handling backing vocals, just one highlight of what to me is still the greatest concert documentary film ever made – thank you, Martin Scorcese, its director (real name, Martin Marcantonio Luciano Scorcese).