How Alice Cooper Got Its Band Name

There really is a person who really is named Alice Cooper. Probably more than one, if you went through census records around the country (and the world, for that matter), but no doubt you went right to the point: Alice Cooper of shock-rock fame, all of that drippy black eyeliner and the boa constrictor and the guillotine and who knows what all. That Alice Cooper.

Just as Mark Twain didn't start out that way (he was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens), Alice Cooper — the band — had a couple of different names along the way. They started out in Phoenix, Arizona, in high school. According to AZ Central, Dennis Dunaway saw Duane Eddy play between features at the movies and found himself inspired. He told his good friend, Vince Furnier, they should start a band, even though they didn't actually own or play any instruments. Then The Beatles hit, "and we said, 'OK, now we really have to start a band.'"

Bands need names, and at first they were the Earwigs ("We wore scuzzy Beatles wigs we got from Woolworths," said Dunaway), then the Spiders. They made a reputation locally in Phoenix and headed for the big time in Los Angeles, where they changed the name yet again, to the Nazz. And as is the backstory of so many bands, they found out that somebody else was already using that name — Todd Rundgren, in point of fact. And here's where Alice comes in, though how depends on who's telling the story.

Vince became Alice

Furnier was singing lead. Neil Smith was the drummer. According to Smith and Dunaway, they were playing with a Ouija board, asking about past lives, "Then Vince [Furnier] sat down and he asked it his name in a previous life. It spelled out Alice Cooper. I was right there. And I saw it," Smith told AZ Central. They decided to use the name for the band — it could mean anything. Or nothing.

Furnier, the man who eventually became Alice Cooper, tells it differently. In an interview with the Shreveport Times, Furnier thought their band name should contrast sharply with their on-stage theatrics. "I said let's not come up with a name that's dark, because they're expecting that. I said, 'What if we sounded like we were somebody's aunt?' It was kind of like the all-American, sweet little old lady name." He wasn't Alice Cooper. Alice Cooper was the band, "like Manfred Mann." But of course everyone started calling the frontman Alice Cooper. In time, he changed his name legally, and when he went solo he took the name with him, according to Biography.

According to Shreveport, today, only two people call him Vince: his wife, and Keith Richards.