The Truth About How Led Zeppelin Got Their Name

It's been a long time since Led Zeppelin rock-and-rolled. And for avid fans who yearned for a Led Zeppelin reunion, it's been a long lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely time. So it's nice to wind back the clock to times when our favorite heavy metal airship still burned bright. Remember when a ticked-off Danish aristocrat caused the rock legends to rename themselves a slang term for male genitalia? As recounted by author Mick Wall, Countess Eva Von Zeppelin, whose ancestor Count Ferdinand Von Zeppelin invented the eponymous airship, verbally torched Led Zeppelin over its name. "They may be world famous," she fumed, "but a couple of shrieking monkeys are not going to use a privileged family name without permission."

In 1970, those shrieking monkeys were slated to play in Copenhagen, per Ultimate Classic Rock, so they tried to smooth things over. However, the countess became more inflamed when she noticed their first album cover featured an airship burning like the Hindenburg. This led Zeppelin the band to temporarily switch their name the Nobs to avoid getting sued. It was no skin off the band's nob, though. Drummer John Bonham even joked, "Personally speaking, we should have continued as the Nobs. Just think what our album covers could have looked like!"

While it's tempting to picture a Nobs album cover with a flaming ding-a-ling, it's even more tempting to wind back the clock to when Led Zeppelin adopted its iconic moniker.

Who gave Led Zeppelin their name?

Led Zeppelin rose from the ashes of a band called the Yardbirds, where great guitarists went before becoming more famous elsewhere. Per the Encyclopedia Britannica, the original lineup included Eric Clapton. A later incarnation replaced Clapton with Jeff Beck and added Jimmy Page to the fold. Yet somehow the Yardbirds folded in 1968. As Deutsche Welle details, before the band completely called it quits, Page assumed managerial duties and recruited drummer John Bonham, Bassist John Paul Jones, and singer Robert Plant.

Calling themselves the New Yardbirds, they wanted to fly in a different direction from the band's previous incarnations. But a member of The Who joked that the only direction they were headed was down. According to Far Out magazine, Page wanted to form a "supergroup" with Jeff Beck and two members of The Who: drummer Keith Moon, bassist John Entwistle. In one version of events, Moon jokes that their idea would sink like a "lead balloon." Others have said Entwhistled made the comment.

Regardless of who planted the seed, an epic band name was on its way through the birth canal. Page says Moon fathered Led Zeppelin's name: "It was a name that Keith Moon had mentioned back then. He was talking, 'Wouldn't it be fun to have a band called Led Zeppelin?'" The answer was obviously yes, unless you're a Danish countess.