Downtown Baby Name: Petula

petula clark, downtown, 1960s, music, song

Here’s an easy one. The baby name Petula appeared on the U.S. charts in the mid-’60s:

  • 1969: 16 baby girls named Petula
  • 1967: 39 baby girls named Petula [peak usage]
  • 1967: 23 baby girls named Petula
  • 1966: 20 baby girls named Petula
  • 1965: 19 baby girls named Petula [debut]
  • 1964: unlisted

This is the year the catchy song “Downtown” was a hit for English singer Petula Clark.

Petula was born in 1932, singing on radio by 1942, and putting out singles by the mid-’50s. She’d achieved fame in Europe, but when “Downtown” was released in late 1964, it brought her international fame.

“Downtown” hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January of 1965. Several months later it won the Grammy for Best Rock & Roll Recording, beating contenders like “Oh, Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison and “A Hard Day’s Night” by The Beatles. (A Billboard writer admitted that “Downtown” winning in the Rock & Roll category “puzzled many.”)

Petula’s birth name was Sally. The nickname “Petula” was coined by her father. Here’s what she said about her name(s) during a recent interview:

True or false: your dad named you after two of his former girlfriends, Pet and Ulla?

I have no idea if it’s true or false. This is a story that’s come up, and I don’t think it came from me – it’s just there. It could be. I’ve never heard of anyone called Pet or Ulla.

I’ve never heard of anyone else called Petula either, though.

No, but there are some Petulas. There’s actually a Petula Clark in the States. I don’t much like it actually. It sounds like a sort of stagey type name and I prefer Sally, which is the name on my birth certificate. I’ve always been called Petula.

What are your thoughts on the name Petula?

Sources:

2 thoughts on “Downtown Baby Name: Petula

  1. Regarding its usage in England & Wales, it was first used sometime in early 1943, after Clark made her radio debut in October of the previous year. Here are the numbers from ’43-’82:
    1943 = 4 / 1944 = 1 / 1945 = 5 / 1946 = 7
    1947 = 6 / 1948 = 12 / 1949 = 19 / 1950 = 25
    1951 = 45 / 1952 = 29 / 1953 = 27 / 1954 = 28
    1955 = 42 / 1956 = 32 / 1957 = 26 / 1958 = 39
    1959 = 26 / 1960 = 25 / 1961 = 33 / 1962 = 20
    1963 = 20 / 1964 = 9 / 1965 = 26 / 1966 = 20
    1967 = 21 / 1968 = 32 / 1969 = 9 / 1970 = 10
    1971 = 3 / 1972 = 8 / 1973 = 8 / 1974 = 2
    1975 = 2 / 1976 = 2 / 1977 = 2 / 1978 = 1
    1979 = 2 / 1980 = 1 / 1981 = 2 / 1982 = 1

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