The Arrival of Axl

guns n roses, album, axl, baby name, 1980sWe’re well into November, and while I don’t typically experience “November Rain” — usually just November snow — now’s a good time to talk about Axl, the name of the guy who sang “November Rain.”

Axl debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1988:

  • 1992: 29 baby boys named Axl
  • 1991: 23 baby boys named Axl
  • 1990: 25 baby boys named Axl
  • 1989: 21 baby boys named Axl
  • 1988: 9 baby boys named Axl [debut]
  • 1987: unlisted

The next year, the names Axle and Aksel both debuted, while the already-in-use name Axel (which can be traced back to the biblical name Absalom) more than doubled in usage.

The influence? Axl Rose, lead singer of the rock band Guns N’ Roses.

The band’s debut album Appetite for Destruction was released in July of 1987. It became a commercial success the next year, after the band started touring and releasing singles such as “Sweet Child o’ Mine” (peaked at #1 in Sept. 1988), “Welcome to the Jungle” (#7 in Dec. ’88), and “Paradise City” (#5 in Mar. ’89).

Axl Rose grew up in Lafayette, Indiana, with the name William “Bill” Bailey. As a teen, he discovered that his surname at birth had been Rose, so he started using it. Not long after that, he adopted the first name Axl:

One of the short-lived local bands he’d sung with was called AXL, which then became his moniker. When the band broke up, he kept using the name, and styled himself “W. Axl Rose.”

And in early 1986, right before signing with Geffen Records, he legally changed his name to “W. Axl Rose.”

axl, name, music video, GNR
W. Axl Rose grave from the “Don’t Cry” music video (1991)

Unexpectedly, the name is more popular today than ever before:

  • 2017: 335 baby boys named Axl [rank: 716th]
  • 2016: 305 baby boys named Axl [rank: 778th]
  • 2015: 313 baby boys named Axl [rank: 760th]
  • 2014: 266 baby boys named Axl [rank: 842nd]
  • 2013: 111 baby boys named Axl
  • 2012: 102 baby boys named Axl

This is probably thanks to another singer, Fergie, who welcomed a baby boy in August of 2013 and named him Axl after Axl Rose. (Some ’80s trivia for you: Stacy “Fergie” Ferguson was on Kids Incorporated with Marta “Martika” Marrero.)

What are your thoughts on the baby name Axl? Would you use it?

Sources:

P.S. How did the band name “Guns N’ Roses” come to be? It was created from the surnames of two of the founding members, Axl Rose and Tracii Guns (born Tracy Richard Irving Ulrich), essentially. More precisely, it came from the merger of the bands they were in at the time: Hollywood Rose and L.A. Guns.


2 thoughts on “The Arrival of Axl

  1. Detective Axel Foley is a fictional character, portrayed by Eddie Murphy, and is the protagonist of the Beverly Hills Cop film series. He is ranked No. 55 on Empire magazine’s list of The 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time. Wikipedia

  2. @Christa – It’s hard to tell if the character influenced baby names, tho. The original (and most popular) Beverly Hills Cop movie came out toward the end of 1984, but usage of the name actually decreased a little the next year, which is weird.

    Usage did rise significantly in 1986, though. Looks like the movie was being played on Showtime (the cable TV channel) by then, so maybe television has something to do with it.

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