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
1960: 8 baby boys named Wynton [debut]
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:
19 baby boys
13 baby boys
22 baby boys
12 baby boys
27 baby boys
13 baby boys [debut]
17 baby boys
23 baby boys
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.
In the late ’50s, the name Ryne debuted impressively on the charts:
1962: 7 baby boys named Ryne
1961: 13 baby boys named Ryne
1960: 10 baby boys named Ryne
1959: 31 baby boys named Ryne
1958: 21 baby boys named Ryne [debut]
Where did it come from?
It was inspired by professional baseball pitcher Rinold “Ryne” Duren, known for “[staring] down batters through thick-lensed eyeglasses and then [delivering] fastballs that might go just about anywhere.”
In fact, Duren was the inspiration for the character Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn (played by Charlie Sheen, clearly #winning at the time) in the 1989 movie Major League.
Duren was in the Major Leagues from 1954 to 1965, but in 1958 was a member of the World Series-winning New York Yankees. It was also the first year he was selected for the All-Star Game.
He inherited the name Rinold from his father, whose family came from Germany. Rinold, like Renault, is related to the more familiar name Reynold.
…But that’s not the end of the story!
Because one of the 1959 babies named Ryne was Ryne Dee “Ryno” Sandberg, who also became a professional baseball player (second baseman). He started with Chicago Cubs in 1981 and went on to become a Hall of Famer.
He boosted the name Ryne not just back into the data, but into the top 1000 for the first time:
Ryne Sandberg had a son in the mid-1980s, but didn’t give him a baseball-inspired name. Instead, Justin Ross got a theater-inspired name. Ryne had seen “A Chorus Line” in New York around that time and been impressed with the name of performer Justin Ross.
Do you like the name Ryne? Would you use it for a baby boy?
So today let’s check out another fun set of “top” names: the top rises. The names below are those that increased the most in usage, percentage-wise, from one year to the next according to the SSA data.
Here’s the format: girl names are on the left, boy names are on the right, and the percentages represent single-year jumps in usage. (For example, from 1880 to 1881, usage of the girl name Isa grew 240% and usage of the boy name Noble grew 333%.)
The SSA data isn’t perfect, but it does get a lot better in the late 1930s, because “many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data” (SSA). Now, back to the list…
(Did you catch all the doubles? Tula, Delano, Tammy, Jermaine, and Davey/Davy.)
I’ve already written about some of the names above (click the links to see the posts) and I plan to write about many of the others. In the meanwhile, though, feel free to beat me to it! Leave a comment and let us know what popularized Dorla in 1929, or Lauren in 1945, or Dustin in 1968, or Kayleigh in 1985, or Talan in 2005…