Why Is Pearl Jam Named Pearl Jam?

Ever since the early 1990s, Pearl Jam has been one of the most popular rock bands worldwide. The rockers from Seattle took over the world with their debut album “Ten” in 1991, sold over a good 85 million records over the course of 4 decades, and are still making and performing music to this very day. It surely raises the question: Why on earth did they decide the name themselves Pearl Jam? Let’s find out!

By Raph – CC BY 2.0

The members of Pearl Jam initially named themselves after basketball player Mookie Blaylock. The band even played a few shows as Mookie Blaylock in late 1990 and early 1991. But record executives feared legal concerns over the band’s name, and urged the musicians to pick another name before signing with Sony’s Epic Records.

The band eventually picked Pearl Jam. In an early promotional interview, Eddie Vedder jokingly said the band’s name was inspired by his great-grandmother Pearl.

“It turns out that she used to make this kind of hallucinogenic preserve. I wish it was passed down through the family. If it was, it was stopped about a generation before me. I never got to taste any myself. But I’m still in search of that elusive recipe for Pearl Jam.”

A lot of people perceived Eddie Vedder’s joke as true, even to this very day. But in 2006, Vedder clarified the story was ‘total bullsh*t’, although he did have a great-grandmother named Pearl.

The real story behind the band’s name is less exciting. Bassist Jeff Ament was playing around with the word ‘pearl’ and decided to add ‘jam’ after visiting a Neil Young concert with guitarist Stone Gossard and Eddie Vedder.

“[We] went to New York to sign the contract with Sony, and we saw in the paper that Neil Young was playing Nassau Coliseum with Sonic Youth and Social Distortion on February 22. So we got in a van, went out to Nassau, saw the show, and Sonic Youth was really incredible at that show. Neil played only about eight songs, but it was, like, a three-hour show.”

“We were kind of panicked trying to figure out a band name, and he was having these long jams, and we just threw Jam at the end of Pearl. Kind of a stupid name, but it has a lot of meaning. There’s some weight behind it even though it doesn’t sound like there’s any weight behind it.”

But Ament’s account isn’t as well-known and popular as Vedder’s story, or some of the other theories. Like the rumor Pearl Jam was inspired by Janis Joplin, who nicknamed herself Pearl, or that the name referred to a man’s seed, which was a rumor waiting to be spread.

So who to believe? the story-seeking uninvolved or the man who came up with the band’s name? Maybe it was Vedder’s great-grandmother Pearl after all.

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