Why Simon And Garfunkel Couldn't Use Their Real Names In The '50s

Shakespeare asked the question: What's in a name? People are still asking it, all these centuries later. And for good reason. Pink Floyd wasn't always Pink Floyd. Nor was The Grateful Dead born that way (probably grateful, but certainly not dead). And actors — Jamie Lee Curtis's father, 1950s heartthrob Tony Curtis, entered the world as Bernard Schwartz; Doris Day was Doris von Kappelhoff; even John Denver was Henry John Deutschendorf Jr., all before wiser (or more cynical) heads prevailed.

Arthur Garfunkel grew up just a couple of blocks from Paul Simon, in Queens, New York, but never really connected until show business called and they were both cast in a production of Alice in Wonderland when they were in sixth grade, as Biography tells it. Simon knew of Garfunkel — he was the kid prone to belting out songs in the hallways at school, and his voice seemed to attract the attention of girls, also according to Biography. The two started singing together at home, practicing in their basements. Usually, Paul wrote, Art arranged. And they practiced. And wrote. And arranged. They sang at some school dances, but spent their free time trying for gigs as duo demo singers. In 1957 they pooled their money and cut their own single, "Hey Schoolgirl."

They had more success under their own names

"... (W)e were fans of the Everly Brothers, and this was our rockabilly song that we wrote together," said Garfunkel, says The Hollywood Reporter. As Rolling Stone tells it, they cranked out the number in less than an hour. And it was a bit of a hit, reaching #49 on the Billboard Hot 100 list. They were teenagers with a successful pop single — but not as Simon and Garfunkel. Besides parents scratching their heads and wondering, "What's a garfunkel?" the names sounded like what they were: Jewish. And anti-semitism was very much a thing. In an attempt to be more mainstream — white-bread American — they re-fashioned their identities. First grabbing Tom and Jerry from the MGM cartoon shorts, Garfunkel, a math kid — he later earned a master's from Columbia — added Graph. Simon borrowed a girlfriend's last name — Landis. Ladies and gentlemen, behold: Tom Graph and Jerry Landis.

Tom and Jerry never quite matched the success of "Hey Schoolgirl" and drifted apart, personally and professionally. They got back together and released an acoustic album in 1964, which included a song called "The Sounds of Silence." And one thing led to another. For Simon and Garfunkel.