The Surprising Real Names of 30 Famous Blues Artists

Big Bill Broonzy may have been big, but he wasn't a Broonzy, nor was his name Bill!

2018 728×90 Allchin

It’s no shocker that artists in many fields take on different names. In the blues world, it could be a stage name or a nickname, either given or earned, that one uses throughout his or her career.

Sometimes it made their name easier to pronounce. Others may have a name describing a physical feature or playing style. Still others do so for religious regions, or to provide some anonymity.

We’ve gathered 30 blues men and women who go by different names than those they were born with. We’re betting a few of them surprise you.

Barrelhouse Chuck

Birth name: Harvey Charles Goering 7/10/1958 – 12/12/2016


Big Bill Broonzy

Birth name: Lee Conley Bradley 6/26/1903 – 8/14/1958

Big Bill Broonzy Studio Portrait
Studio portrait of Big Bill Broonzy


Blind Boy Fuller

Birth name: Fulton Allen 7/10/1904 or 1907 – 2/13/1941

Blind Boy Fuller Studio Portrait
Studio portrait of Blind Boy Fuller


Bo Carter

Birth name: Armenter Chatmon 6/30/1893 – 9/21/1964

Bo Carter photo: Paul Oliver 1960


Bo Diddley

Birth name: Ellas Otha Bates 12/30/1928 – 6/2/2008



Bumble Bee Slim

Birth name: Admiral Amos Easton 5/7/1905 – 6/8/1968


Bumble Bee Slim
Bumble Bee Slim



Catfish Keith

Birth name: Keith Daniel Kozacik 2/9/1962

catfish3 - Hattie Miles
Catfish Keith photo: Hattie Miles



Guitar Slim

Birth name: Eddie Jones 12/10/1926 – 2/7/1959

Guitar Slim Find a Grave
Guitar Slim photo: Bobb Edwards – Find a Grave



Hip Linkchain

Birth name: Willie Richard 11/10/1936 – 2/13/1989

Hip Linkchain



Hollywood Fats

Birth name: Michael Leonard Mann 3/17/1954 – 12/8/1986

Hollywood Fats



Howlin’ Wolf

Birth name: Chester Arthur Burnett 6/10/1910 – 1/10/1976




Jelly Roll Morton

Birth name: Ferdinand Joseph LaMothe 10/20/1890 – 7/10/1941

Jelly Roll Morton
Jelly Roll Morton — One of the most instrumental figures in the development of Jazz music.



Junior Wells

Birth name: Amos Wells Blakemore Jr. 12/9/1934 – 1/15/1998




Koko Taylor

Birth name: Cora Anna Walton 9/28/1928 – 6/3/2009

Koko Taylor and Bruce Iglauer
Koko Taylor and Bruce Iglauer



Keb’ Mo’

Birth name: Kevin Roosevelt Moore 10/3/1951

Keb’ Mo’ photo: Kind of Blue Music



Lazy Lester

Birth name: Leslie Carswell Johnson 6/20/1933

Lazy Lester Tom Beetz
Lazy Lester photo: Tom Beetz



Lead Belly

Birth name: Huddie William Ledbetter 1/20/1888 – 12/6/1949

circa 1935: Promotional portrait of American blues musician Huddie ‘Leadbelly’ Ledbetter (1889 – 1949) playing a 12-string guitar and singing. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)



Little Walter

Birth name: Marion Walter Jacobs 5/1/1930 – 2/15/1968




Ma Rainey

Birth name: Gertrude Pridgett 9/1882 or 4/26/1886 – 12/22/1939

Ma Rainey



Magic Slim

Birth name: Morris Holt 8/7/1937 – 12/21/2013



Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis

Birth name: Charles W. Thompson 3/2/1925 – 12/28/1995

Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis at John's Pub,in Palatine, IL., 1988
Maxwell Street Jimmy Davis at John’s Pub,in Palatine, IL., 1988


Memphis Minnie

Birth name: Lizzie Douglas 6/3/1897 – 8/6/1973

Memphis Minnie (photo from The Language of the Blues, courtesy Delta Haze Corporation)



Muddy Waters

Birth name: McKinley Morganfield 4/4/1913 – 4/30/1983

Muddy Waters and The Band –Image courtesy of Bob Margolin



Peetie Wheatstraw

Birth name: William Bunch 12/21/1902 – 12/21/1941

Peetie Wheatstraw album



Peg Leg Sam

Birth name: Arthur Jackson 12/28/1911 – 10/27/1977

Peg Leg Sam album



Popa Chubby

Birth name: Theodore Joseph Horowitz 3/31/1960

Popa_Chubby_pub_photo_1 Intrepid Artists
Popa Chubby photo courtesy of Intrepid Artists International



Slim Harpo

Birth name: James Isaac Moore 1/11/1924 – 1/31/1970

Slim Harpo Amazon



Sonny Boy Williamson II

Birth name: Alex Ford 12/5/1912 – 5/24/1965

Sonny Boy Williamson II album



Taj Mahal

Birth name: Henry Saint Clair Fredericks 5/17/1942

Taj Mahal will be visiting The Ridgefield Playhouse March 1st



Washboard Sam

Birth name: Robert Clifford Brown 7/15/1910 – 11/6/1966

Washboard Sam

What’s your favorite artist’s nickname or stage name? Sound off in the comments and let us know.

*Feature image Jay Blakesberg