How popular is the baby name Johnny in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Find out using the graph below! Plus, check out all the blog posts that mention the name Johnny.

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Popularity of the Baby Name Johnny


Posts that Mention the Name Johnny

What Would You Name the Catfish-Riding Boy?

little boy, large catfish, old photo, texas, 1940s

This might be my favorite photo on the entire internet.

The shot, which depicts a playful little Texas boy pretending to ride a dead catfish on someone’s front porch, was taken by photographer Neal Douglass in April of 1941.

The Portal to Texas History calls it “Mrs. Bill Wright; Boy Riding Catfish.” So I’m guessing that “Mrs. Bill Wright” was the boy’s mother. But there’s no other identifying information, so I don’t know the boy’s name, nor do I have any way of tracking it down.

So let’s turn this into a name game!

First, let’s suppose our little catfish-rider was not named “Bill” (or “William,” or “Willie,” etc.) after his father. With that rule in place, here are the questions:

  • What do you think Mrs. Bill Wright named her son?
  • What would you have named him?

Just for reference, popular names for Texas newborns in the late ’30s included:

Albert
Arthur
Carl/Charles
Clarence
Daniel
David
Don/Donald
Edward/Eddie
Ernest
Frank
Fred
Gary
Gene/Eugene
George
Gerald
Harold
Henry
Jack
James
Jerry
Jesse
Jesus
Jimmie/Jimmy
Joe/Joseph
John/Johnny
Jose
Juan
Kenneth
Larry
Louis
Manuel
Melvin
Paul
Raymond
Richard
Robert/Bobby
Ronald
Roy
Thomas/Tommy
Walter

For extra credit, what do you think the boy named his catfish? And, what would you have named his catfish? ;)

(If you like this game, here’s a similar one from years ago: What Would You Name the Two Frenchmen?)

The Coming of Cully and Case

TV, western, 50s, 60s
Cully and Case, characters from Johnny Ringo

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.

The first name was Case, which popped up in 1959:

  • 1962: 5 baby boys named Case
  • 1961: 6 baby boys named Case
  • 1960: 5 baby boys named Case
  • 1959: 5 baby boys named Case [debut]
  • 1958: unlisted

The corresponding character was Case Thomas, played by actor Terence De Marney. Case was an older man who spoke with an Irish lilt and owned the town general store. He was also the former town drunk.

The second name was Cully, which debuted in 1960:

  • 1962: 12 baby boys named Cully
  • 1961: 5 baby boys named Cully
  • 1960: 31 baby boys named Cully [debut]
  • 1959: unlisted
  • 1958: unlisted

Not only was Cully the top debut name for boys that year, but it’s now tied for 47th biggest debut of all time with Omarian and Yul.

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.

Source: Johnny Ringo (TV series) – Wikipedia

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.”

The Arrival of Lillette

lillette, song, 1940s, baby nameThe rare name Lillette appeared in the U.S. baby name data for four sequential years from the late ’40s to the early ’50s:

  • 1952: unlisted
  • 1951: 5 baby girls named Lillette
  • 1950: 9 baby girls named Lillette
  • 1949: 9 baby girls named Lillette
  • 1948: 8 baby girls named Lillette
  • 1947: unlisted

Where did the name come from?

A song called “Lillette,” written and composed by Jack Gold in 1948. The same year, it was recorded and released by various vocalists: Nat King Cole, Vic Damone, Bill Lawrence, Jean Sablon, Johnny Desmond, and others.

Billboard preferred the King Cole Trio version:

Cole’s tasty rhythm treatment of the appealing rhythm ballad looks like a good bet for the jukes, the jocks, and the over-the-counter sales. Standout among some half-dozen waxings of the tune, the impeccable Cole treatment brings out the best in the lyric and melody. Worthy of attention, too, is Vic Damone’s Mercury platter of the ditty.

Here’s Nat King Cole’s version of “Lillette”:

I’m not sure where Jack Gold found the name Lillette, but one possibility is jazz vocalist/pianist Lillette Thomas, who was putting out singles on Sterling Records in the mid-1940s.

Do you like the name Lillette?

Source: “Record Possibilities.” Billboard 9 Oct. 1948: 39.

Name-Song Tournament: 1950s & 1960s (Winner)

The winner of the championship round is…“Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry!

Berry’s semi-autobiographical “Johnny B. Goode” was released on March 31, 1958 — sixty years ago tomorrow, coincidentally — and was the very first “rock song about the glory of being a rock star.”

Who never ever learned to read or write so well
But he could play the guitar just like a ringin’ a bell.

Here’s Chuck playing the song live:

In 1977, the song was considered culturally significant enough to be included on Voyager spacecraft’s golden phonograph record. A few years later, it was featured in a key scene in the film Back to the Future (1985).

So how did the character in the song come to have the name Johnny B. Goode?

The first name came from pianist and longtime Berry collaborator Johnnie Johnson (“one of the unsung heroes of rock and roll”). The surname came from Chuck Berry’s childhood address (2520 Goode Avenue in St. Louis).

The song “Johnny B. Goode” didn’t have an effect on the baby name Johnny, but then again it didn’t need to — the name was within the top 100 all the way from the early 1930s until the late 1970s.

*

So thank you to everyone who participated in the name-song tournament this year! If anyone has any fun ideas for a future name-related tournament (cartoon characters, weird place-names, etc.) please let me know.

Sources: Johnnie Johnson – Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Why Chuck Berry’s ‘Johnny B. Goode’ Is a Rock ‘n’ Roll Classic

Name-Song Tournament: 1950s & 1960s (Championship)

We’re down to the final two songs of the tournament!

  • “Johnny B. Goode” (1958) by Chuck Berry
  • “Peggy Sue” (1957) by Buddy Holly and The Crickets

Both of these early rock classics are strong contenders for the title. They also have a few things in common, like…

  • Both reached the Billboard top 10 in the late ’50s. “Peggy Sue” peaked at #3 and “Johnny B. Goode” peaked at #8.
  • Both were included on Rolling Stone‘s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” “Johnny B. Goode” was ranked 7th and “Peggy Sue” was ranked 197th.
  • Both were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame the very same year (1999).

So which one will you choose?

Which should be crowned the #1 name-song of the late '50s/early '60s?

  • "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry (81%, 13 Votes)
  • "Peggy Sue" by Buddy Holly and The Crickets (19%, 3 Votes)

Total Voters: 16

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Voting ends tomorrow night. The Champion will be announced on Friday.