In the mid-1970s, the name Tavares suddenly popped up in the U.S. baby name data:
1978: 163 baby boys named Tavares
1977: 169 baby boys (peak) named Tavares
1976: 169 baby boys (peak) / 5 baby girls named Tavares
1975: 162 baby boys / 10 baby girls named Tavares
1974: 60 baby boys / 8 baby girls named Tavares [dual-debut]
What was behind the debut?
Tavares, a soul/R&B music group consisting of the five Tavares brothers: Ralph, Arthur (called “Pooch”), Antone (“Chubby”), Feliciano (“Butch”), and Perry (“Tiny”).
They scored their first hit in 1974 with a cover of the Hall & Oates song “She’s Gone.” The cover reached #1 on Billboard‘s R&B chart and peaked at #50 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart. Over the next few years, the brothers put out a string of successful songs, including “It Only Takes a Minute” (1975) and “Whodunit” (1977).
The Tavares brothers were born and raised in New England, but were of Cape Verdean ancestry. Their Portuguese surname was originally a “habitational name from any of at least seven minor places” in Portugal called Tavares.
The Edge of Night (1956-1984) was a television soap opera with heavy crime drama elements (e.g., courtroom scenes). It was based directly on the radio drama Perry Mason (1943-1955). In fact, the central character of EoN — a police officer/lawyer named Mike Karr — was played by actor John Larkin, who had been the voice of Perry during the last eight years of the radio show.
EoN was a popular soap, ranking anywhere from 2nd to 6th from its inception until the early 1970s. More importantly, though, several EoN characters/actors ended up influencing the U.S. baby name charts.
First we have Teal, which debuted in the data in 1957:
1962: 24 baby girls named Teal
1961: 35 baby girls named Teal
1960: 28 baby girls named Teal
1959: 21 baby girls named Teal
1958: 28 baby girls named Teal
1957: 14 baby girls named Teal [debut]
Teal was inspired by actress Teal Ames, who played Mike’s girlfriend/wife Sara Karr on the show from 1956 to 1961. When Teal decided to quit show business, the character was killed off Edge of Night in a car crash. “CBS received so many anxious and hysterical calls after this episode that actress Teal Ames had to go on the air the following day to assure her fans that she was still very much alive.”
(That said, another potential influence on the name was Japanese-American jazz singer Teal Joy — real name Elsie Itashiki — who put out an album and started appearing on TV in late 1957.)
Next is Laurieann, which debuted in 1959. (And, a year later, the similar name Laurieanne popped up.)
1964: 25 baby girls named Laurieann
1963: 39 baby girls named Laurieann
1962: 35 baby girls named Laurieann
1961: 23 baby girls named Laurieann
1960: 21 baby girls named Laurieann
1959: 5 baby girls named Laurieann [debut]
No doubt Laurieann and Laurieanne were given a nudge by Laurie, which was at peak popularity in the early ’60s (perhaps thanks to Piper Laurie). But the more direct influence was fictional Laurie Ann Karr, Mike and Sara’s only daughter, who was born in the storyline in September of 1959.
Ratings for EoN weren’t as good from the mid-1970s onward, but by then the show was becoming known for something entirely different: unusual character names. These included Taffy, Lobo, Morlock, Cookie, Gunther, Didi, Smiley, Raven, and Schuyler. (Raven and Sky were a couple, of course.) And several of these unusual names got a boost in real life, thanks to the show.
For instance, character Draper Scott was featured in the storyline from 1975 to 1981. The baby name Draper re-emerged in the SSA data in 1976 and saw peak usage in 1980:
1981: 40 baby boys named Draper
1980: 46 baby boys named Draper
1979: 39 baby boys named Draper
1978: 36 baby boys named Draper
1977: 35 baby boys named Draper
1976: 15 baby boys named Draper
And female character Winter Austin, who was on the show from 1978 to 1979, pushed the baby name Winter into the top 1,000 for the first time in the late ’70s:
1980: 140 baby girls named Winter
1979: 241 baby girls named Winter [rank: 705th]
1978: 137 baby girls named Winter [rank: 1,000th]
1977: 29 baby girls named Winter
Were you a regular viewer of The Edge of Night? Did you have any opinions on the character names?
“Everly” is hot…”Beverly” is not. It’s a one-letter difference between fashionable and fusty.
If you’re sensitive to style, you’ll prefer Everly. It fits with today’s trends far better than Beverly does.
But if you’re someone who isn’t concerned about style, or prefers to go against style, then you may not automatically go for Everly. In fact, you may be more attracted to Beverly because it’s the choice that most modern parents would avoid.
If you’ve ever thought about intentionally giving your baby a dated name (like Debbie, Grover, Marcia, or Vernon) for the sake of uniqueness within his/her peer group — if you have no problem sacrificing style for distinctiveness — then this list is for you.
Years ago, the concept of “contrarian” baby names came up in the comments of a post about Lois. Ever since then, creating a collection of uncool/contrarian baby names has been on my to-do list.
Finally, last month, I experimented with various formulas for pulling unstylish baby names out of the SSA dataset. Keeping the great-grandparent rule in mind, I aimed for names that would have been fashionable among the grandparents of today’s babies. The names below are the best results I got.
The cause was the catchy song “Cindy, Oh Cindy,” two versions of which reached the Billboard Hot 100 in late 1956 and early 1957. The one by Vince Martin and The Tarriers peaked at 12th, while the one by Eddie Fisher* peaked at 10th. Television audiences also heard the song: Perry Como sang it on his own show in November 1956, and Vince Martin sang it on The Steve Allen Show a month later.
Getting back to Cindylou, though…there are some possible outside influences for the debut of Cindylou specifically. The most intriguing is Cindy-Lou Who (“who was no more than two”) from the beloved Dr. Seuss book How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, which was published simultaneously in Redbook magazine and as a standalone book in December of 1957.
Now, Cindy-Lou was a minor character, and the story appeared late in the year — these are strikes against the theory. But, looking at vital records, there do seem to be a few extra people with the first-middle combo “Cindy Lou” born in December of 1957 as opposed to earlier in the year.
It’s likely that Dr. Seuss (or one of his editors) was influenced by the trendiness of the name Cindy that year…but did Cindy-Lou Who in turn give a bump to the name Cindylou? What are your thoughts on this?
*Later in 1957, Eddie Fisher’s wife, Debbie Reynolds, scored an even bigger hit with “Tammy.” Around the same time, their daughter, Carrie — who went on to play Princess Leia in Star Wars — had her first birthday.
P.S. The Buddy Holly song “Peggy Sue” (1957) was originally called “Cindy Lou,” incidentally.