The TV Western Johnny Ringo, based loosely on the life of Old West outlaw John Ringo, only lasted from 1959 to 1960. But that was long enough for two characters from the short-lived series to boost two new baby names onto the charts.
This one was inspired by the Deputy William “Cully” Charles, played by actor Mark Goddard (who later co-starred in Lost in Space).
But here’s the wrinkle: friendly old-timer Cully Wilson from the TV show Lassie (1954-1973) was introduced to TV audiences in 1959. He could have been an influence here as well.
The name Cully, despite its impressive start, never really gained traction among American parents. The name Case, on the other hand, entered the top 1,000 about a decade ago and is currently ranked 601st in the nation.
And while Johnny Ringo didn’t do much for the baby name Ringo, that one eventually showed up in the data thanks to The Beatles.
P.S. Like Trackdown (which gave us Hoby), Johnny Ringo was one of five shows spun off from Zane Grey Theatre. The Ringo episode aired in March, and the series premiered just siven months later, in October. In the episode, Case’s full name is revealed to be “Cason.”
According to a newspaper article from 1911, many people assumed that Zane Grey was a woman because of his first name:
Zane Grey, who is spending the summer at Cottage Point, Lackawaxen, Pa., complains that his unusual first name is the cause of much misunderstanding and that he has received numerous letters addressed to “Miss” Zane Grey and requests for the lady’s photograph.
But “Zane” wasn’t his actual first name. It was his middle name, taken from his mother’s maiden name.
His full name at birth was Pearl Zane Grey. He was born in early 1872 in the Ohio town of Zanesville, which was named after his maternal ancestor Ebenezer Zane.
The name “Pearl” is usually considered feminine, but it seems to have been used for males in Zane’s family; he had a male cousin named Pearl. He disliked the name and dropped it when he began his writing career.
Various sources claim the name “Pearl” was chosen because, around the time of Zane’s birth, newspapers were describing Queen Victoria’s mourning attire as pearl gray. (He was born a few weeks after the tenth anniversary of Prince Albert’s death.) I did some research, though, and couldn’t find a single American newspaper from that era that mentioned pearl gray in association with the queen.
What are your thoughts on the name Zane? Do you view it as masculine or feminine?
P.S. The Zane Grey-inspired television show Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theater (1956-1961) gave rise to five (!) other TV shows. These spin-offs were behind several baby name debuts, including Hoby, Case and Cully.
Source: “Authors and their work.” Sun [New York] 14 Jul. 1911: 7.
The inspiration? Hoby Gilman, the main character of the TV western Trackdown (1957-1959).
Hoby, played by actor Robert Culp, was a Texas Ranger who spent his days tracking down bad guys in post-Civil War Texas. “[Culp’s] Hoby Gilman was a cooler character than other deadpan Western cowboys. Culp…imbued Hoby with a hipness that was ahead of the time but which presaged the Sixties yet to come.”
Notably, Trackdown “was given official approval from the (modern day) Rangers and the state of Texas.”
The character originated on an episode of Zane Grey Theatre in May of 1957. A mere five months later, a whole series based on Hoby had emerged. (A whopping five episodes of Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theatre were developed into subsequent TV shows. Impressive.)
Robert Culp went on to co-star with Bill Cosby in I Spy from 1965 to 1968. His character, named Kelly, gave a temporary boost to the male usage of Kelly, which peaked for boys in 1967/1968.
This week let’s finish checking out the top baby name debuts of all time.
I’ll be counting down the 50 most popular boy name debuts in five posts, from today until Friday. (I did the top girl name debuts a couple of weeks ago.) I didn’t break any ties, so this “top 50” list actually has 93 names.
I came up with explanations for as many names as I could, but I’m still stumped on a few of them. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these.
Here’s 50 to 41:
Cordaryl, Devaunte, Jeffren, Naksh, Sanjaya, Tige & Trysten, 7-way tie for #50
Cordaryl debuted with 28 baby boys in 1986.
Inspired by Cordero Roberts, a character on the soap opera “One Life to Live.”
Devaunte debuted with 28 baby boys in 1992.
Inspired by singer DeVante Swing, a member of Jodeci.
Jeffren debuted with 28 baby boys in 2010.
Inspired by soccer player Jeffren Suarez.
Naksh debuted with 28 baby boys in 2012.
Inspired by Naksh, a character on the Indian TV show “Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai.”
Sanjaya debuted with 28 baby boys in 2007.
Inspired by Sanjaya Malakar, a contestant on the TV singing competition “American Idol.”
Though vast majority of the baby names on the Social Security Administration’s yearly baby name lists are repeats, every list does contain a handful of brand-new names.
Below are the highest-charting debut names for every single year on record, after the first.
Why bother with an analysis like this? Because debut names often have cool stories behind them, and high-hitting debuts are especially likely to have intriguing pop culture explanations. So this is more than a list of names — it’s also a list of stories.
Here’s the format: “Girl name(s), number of baby girls; Boy name(s), number of baby boys.” Keep in mind that the raw numbers aren’t too trustworthy for about the first six decades, though. (More on that in a minute.)
I’ve already written about some of the names above, and I plan to write about all the others as well…eventually. In the meanwhile, if you want to beat me to it and leave a comment about why Maverick hit in 1957, or why Moesha hit in 1996, feel free!