Here's How Pearl Jam Got Their Name

As one of the key bands of Seattle's grunge explosion, you'd expect the history of Pearl Jam to be a lot more dramatic than it is. Apart from going through a cavalcade of different drummers and having the occasional spat with Ticketmaster, their existence has been comparatively cozy. To be fair, the points of comparison here are their grunge compatriots Alice in Chains, Nirvana and Soundgarden, all of whom have gone through several tragic troubles, including the deaths of their frontmen.

There is one enduring mystery about Pearl Jam, though: What, exactly, is up with the name? You can sort of understand where band names like "Nirvana" or "Alice in Chains" are coming from, but "Pearl Jam" just seems like Eddie Vedder and his cohorts picked two random words from a dictionary. Is there any deeper meaning behind the name, is it just a word salad, or does it perhaps hide some sort of hidden joke? 

A desperate brainstorming session and a Neil Young concert

In 1991, Eddie Vedder told Rolling Stone's Kim Neely that the name Pearl Jam referred to the singer's great-grandmother, and particularly a certain special recipe of hers. "Great-grandma Pearl used to make this hallucinogenic preserve that there's total stories about," Vedder said. We don't have the recipe, though." 

The story may have come up in one or two family meetings, though, because in 2006, Vedder admitted to Brian Vedder of Rolling Stone that he might have been embellishing the facts a tad. In fact, only the fact that his great-grandmother was called Pearl is true, and the rest is "total bulls**t." Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament and guitarist Mike McCready then provided the real story: They were originally called "Mookie Blaylock" after the NBA legend, whose jersey number was also the title of the band's debut album, Ten. The band was pretty desperate to come up with something better, and in a brainstorming session in a Seattle restaurant, Ament managed to conjure "Pearl." The "Jam" part of the name was added after a Neil Young concert where, as Ament puts it, "Every song was like a fifteen- or twenty-minute jam."