How The Who Got Their Name

Sometimes, simplicity trumps all. Take a look at the vast span of monikers that adorn the plentiful history of rock n' roll bands. Yes, Spoon, Cream, The Birds, Chicago, The Band ... It's almost laughable how rudimentary some of these names actually are, though it's really the music that speaks for the group more than anything, so who cares what labels accompany the true substance of the art itself?

While pondering the matter, however, there's no avoiding mention of The Who. The British rock titans took the sound waves by storm in the midst of the 1960s musical revolution, all the while sporting a name that almost undermined their own momentous recognizability in a tongue-in-cheek way. Have you ever stopped to wonder why they decided to refer to themselves in such a peculiarly self-dismissive way? According to American Songwriter, there's a story behind it all that stretches back to the iconic band's conception back in the early 1960s.

A detour from The Detours

At first, the troupe of young rockers called themselves The Detours. They were known for high-energy, more than a little destructive stage shows that often resulted in material casualties like amplifiers, microphones, instruments, and various other objects adorning the stage (per American Songwriter). This practice extended into the band's later years as well. Devout Who fans will recall the infamous moment on "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" in 1967 when, in the middle of a televised performance, an abundance of low-grade explosives packed into Keith Moon's bass drum erupted point blank into Pete Townshend's ear. Some attribute this exact instance to the beginning of the guitarist's chronic hearing loss, according to History

The Detours, comprised of Roger Daltry, John Entwistle, Pete Townshend, and Keith Moon, were fast on the rise and quickly started developing a reputation as one of the hottest bands to keep an eye out for. However, after finding out that a fellow musician named Johnny Devlin had already beaten them to their own brand (Johnny Devlin and the Detours), they were left with no choice but to retitle themselves, as American Songwriter reports.

How did The Detours become The Who?

Musicoholics reports that it was in 1964 when The Detours had to ascertain a different band name. Despite pressure to pivot, the guys didn't seem too daunted. In fact, the new name would come to Pete Townshend in the middle of the night while jesting back and forth with his friend Richard Barnes. After a long night spent conversing and discussing the matter in a light-hearted manner of brainstorming, the two welcomed the rising sun with a series of contenders for new names floating within their heads. Hair, No One, The Group, and — of course — The Who seemed to be in the top tier of choices. However, after some contemplation and consideration, Townshend and his compatriots resolved to go with the final possibility (via American Songwriter). 

It's been nearly 60 years since that juncture in music history. Over the span of six whole decades, nobody has ever question who The Who is whenever their name is brought up or one of their songs comes on.