Tom Turpin
Professor of
Purdue University


Download the audio files or subscribe to our podcast.


Check out these books by Tom Turpin:

Flies in the face of fashion

What's Buggin You Now?





Download the audio of On Six Legs: MP3, WMV.

Rock 'n' roll Artist Names Infested With Insects

In 1979, historian Carson Ritchie wrote a book about insects and human history entitled "Insects, The Creeping Conquerors." The book chronicles the effect that insects have had on people. It is considerable.

But Ritchie concedes he omitted, "in order to keep the book within readable bounds," a discussion of how insects have influenced human music. Indeed, in human music as well as in the rest of human history, insects are there!

Take rock 'n' roll for instance. Beginning with the Beatles, insect names for rock 'n' roll artists are as common as, well, fleas on dogs! The Beatles based their name on the "beat" music they were playing, and the most common type of animal on Earth--beetles. They wanted an insect name because they admired the U.S. group known as Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

The history of rock 'n' roll is infested with artists who have chosen insect names. Even the word insect shows up--as in the group called Insects. Sometimes the word insect is combined with other words to form a name for a rock 'n' roll group. For instance, Insect Funeral. We also find groups called Insect Jazz and Insect Opera, apparently in reference to the songs that real insects produce. There are also the Insect Surfers and Startled Insects.

Not surprisingly, insects that sing are popular in rock 'n' roll artist names. Such a singing insect and a group is Katydids. Crickets have been referenced as merry in poetry, and we find a rock group named Happycrickets. If one singing insect is good, two must be better: thus the name Grasshopper and Golden Crickets. In addition to their singing prowess, grasshoppers are also known for their numbers, as is referenced in the groups Grasshopper Highway and Grasshopper Takeover.

The locust, which is an incorrect common name used for cicadas in North America and correct for grasshoppers in the rest of the world, also shows up in rock 'n' roll names. We find groups called Chrome Locust, Hungry Locust, Locust Fudge and Distant Locust.

Flies are naturals to be included in names for rock 'n' roll artists. There are real types of flies, including Horse Flies, Domestic Flies and Tse Tse Fly. Other flies include Twenty Ton Fly, Lounge Fly, Madfly and Milky Fly. There is also Flyscreen, Flyspeck and Fly Swatter. Even immature flies get in on the act in the names Maggots from Mars and Baby Flies. There are rock groups called Four Flies on Grey Velvet and Fly Ashtray.

Bees also abound in rock 'n' roll group names. Bee names include Busy Bee, Killer Bee, Dance Bee, Sick Bees and Sugar Bees. The success of Buddy Holly and the Crickets was probably the inspiration for the name Honey and the Bees. An insect cousin to the bees shows up in another Buddy Holly name mimic, Chico and the Hornets. Bees and hornets are both stinging insects. The result of such a sting is included in the name of Bee Stung Lips, a reference to the full, red pouty lips that were a fashion statement back in the flapper era.

Buddy Holly would be proud of other insect names as well--Freddie and the Fleas, for instance. But that is not the only rock group with flea in its name. Consider Atomic Flea, Beach Flea and Fleaboy as other examples. There is also a group that uses an ancient flea control technique in its name, Saturn's Flea Collar. Speaking of insect control names, there are also groups called Roach Motel Style and Roachpowder. The latter is an obvious reference to an insecticide for these pest insects.

One of the first popular hard rock groups had the name Iron Butterfly, an obvious play on the delicate nature of this group of insects. Butterflies show up in many rock group names, including Butterfly Temple, Butterfly Train and Butterfly Messiah. The group Butterfly Tree took its name from the roosting trees where migrating monarch butterflies land to spend the night. Butterfly Child is the name of a rock group. However, the term is also used to describe a genetic human disease where the skin lacks anchoring fibrils, creating a condition where the child is "as fragile as a butterfly."

All sorts of insects are included in rock artists names. Adam Ant or Adam and the Ants and Alien Ant Farm represent these sometimes pesty creatures. There is a group called Termites.

The light-producing beetles known as fireflies are the basis for rock group names as well. There is a group called Firefly and another called Fire Fly. Since one word is the correct spelling for the light-producing beetle, the use of two words suggests that the group has the name of a real fly associated with fire. The immature firefly is included in the name Glo-worm. And the Buddy Holly model shows up again in Kory and the Fireflies.

In the history of rock 'n' roll, insects are there, and it all started with a couple of crickets chirping in Buddy Holly's garage!



Writer: Tom Turpin
Editor: Olivia Maddox