“And the…” Bands Played On

December 6, 2018

If you think music today is weird, think of how many bands and singing groups in pop music history that had names where, after the name of the lead singer was given, the rest didn’t make any sense without a primer. Well, here’s that long lost primer, because what even is a “Shondell,” anyway?

Gladys Knight and the Pips

After winning a proto-American Idol-type TV singing contest in 1952, Knight formed a vocal group with her cousins and siblings and called it Gladys Knight and the Pips. Another relative of the bandmates — who was never in the group — inspired the group’s name. They had a cousin named James Woods, but everybody called him Pip. Since he entered the just-formed group (before it had a name) into different contests and bought them their stage clothes, members thought it was only fitting to name the group the Pips.

Martha and the Vandellas

The “girl group” fronted by Martha Reeves recorded some of Motown’s biggest and best hits in the ‘60s, including “Nowhere to Run” and “Dancing in the Street.” Motown head honcho asked the group to name themselves, and they combined the name of Van Dyke Street in Detroit with that of Reeves’ favorite singer, gospel belter Della Reese. Van + Della = Vandella(s).

Tommy James and the Shondells

The ‘60s pop-rock band with hooky songs like “Hanky Panky” and “Mony Mony” is actually named after another musician. Previously named the Echoes, frontman Tommy James changed it in 1964 to the Shondells, after one-hit wonder Troy Shondell, whose only hit was the 1961 single “This Time.” James just thought it sounded good.

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings

They’re a new band, forming in the ‘90s and breaking through commercially in the 2000s, but this group plays old-fashioned soul straight out of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Jones passed away in 2016, but the Dap-Kings soldiered on without her. They take their name from the matching, tailored double-breasted suits the members wear on stage. They are the most dapper gents around — in other words, they’re “dap”

Booker T. and the M.G.’s

The innovative, Memphis-based soul band is best known for its groovy, jazzy, organ-powered 1962 instrumental hit “Green Onions” (which has been in about every movie trailer ever produced). The “Booker T.” Refers to band master, organist, and pianist Booker T. Jones. The M.G.’s is merely an abbreviation for “Memphis Group.”