Wynton: Jazz-Inspired Baby Name

wynton, baby name, 1960s
Wynton Kelly

Wynton is a name doubly associated with jazz.

First there was jazz pianist Wynton Kelly, born in Jamaica in 1931. He’s best known for being part of Miles Davis’ band starting in 1959, including an appearance on Kind of Blue (1959), which would become one of the greatest jazz records of all time. (He played in the song “Freddie Freeloader.”)

Around the same time, the baby name Wynton began appearing in the U.S. baby name data:

  • 1963: 6 baby boys named Wynton
  • 1962: unlisted
  • 1961: unlisted
  • 1960: 8 baby boys named Wynton [debut]
  • 1959: unlisted
  • 1958: unlisted
wynton marsalis, baby name, 1980s
Wynton Marsalis

In 1961, New Orleans jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis welcomed a baby boy and named him Wynton in honor of his friend Wynton Kelly.

Little Wynton went on to become an internationally famous jazz trumpeter, winning eight Grammy Awards from 1983 to 1987 and playing the national anthem at Super Bowl XX [vid] in New Orleans in January of 1986. His success not only gave new life to the name Wynton, but it put the name Marsalis on the map:

YearWynton usageMarsalis usage
198819 baby boys13 baby boys
198722 baby boys12 baby boys
198627 baby boys13 baby boys [debut]
198517 baby boys(unlisted)
198423 baby boys(unlisted)

The surname Marsalis is thought to be a Dutch variant of the French surname Marchal, which was originally an occupational/status name meaning “marshal.”

I can think of just two other names that with similar usage stories (i.e., influenced twice by two different people working in the same field, with the second person being a namesake of the first): Ryne and Damita.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Wynton?


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