Jazz pianist and singer Nat King Cole (1919-1965) was born Nathaniel Adams Coles. He dropped the “s” from his surname early on, and acquired the “King” after forming a trio called the King Cole Trio (originally the King Cole Swingsters), which was a reference to “Old King Cole” from the nursery rhyme.
Maria, his second wife, originally went by Marie. She changed the name to Maria after she married Cole because, as she said, “[i]t sounded more lyrical.”
The two of them raised five children together:
Carole, nicknamed “Cookie” (adopted)
Natalie, nicknamed “Sweetie”
Nat Kelly (adopted)
Nat, the only boy, was given the middle name Kelly in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, which was his father’s birthday.
Casey Eugenia and Timolin Elizabeth were identical twin girls born in September of 1961. (I mentioned them in the celebrity baby name debuts post.) Their middle names came from two of Maria’s sisters. Casey’s first name was inspired by Charles Dillon “Casey” Stengel, the manager of the New York Yankees throughout the ’50s. Timolin’s first name was inspired by the youngest daughter of lyricist Johnny Burke*, whose song “Swinging on a Star” won an Oscar in the ’40s.
[*Burke’s four children were Reagan, Rory, Kevin, and Timolin. Reagan and Rory were female twins born in 1941 — long before the names Reagan and Rory were regularly given to baby girls. And Timolin, born in 1954, was very likely named after the Irish village of Timolin.]
Grudens, Richard. The Music Men: The Guys who Sang with the Bands and Beyond. Stony Brook, NY: Celebrity Profiles Publishing, 1998.
Oklahoma-born country singer Reba McEntire is one of four siblings:
Alice, b. 1951
Del Stanley, “Pake” (rhymes with rake), b. 1953
Reba Nell, b. 1955
Martha Susan, “Susie,” b. 1957
Reba was named after her maternal grandmother, but the story of Pake’s nickname is a bit more interesting. Here’s how their mother Jacqueline starts the story:
Our oldest daughter, Alice, was named “Pedro Joe” long before her birth. Her father, Clark [veteran rodeo cowboy and inductee in the Rodeo Hall of Fame], would often write home on the road because we didn’t have a phone.
He’d say, “How is Pedro Joe?” and, if I knew where he was going to be, I’d write back to the next rodeo he was entering and tell the prospective father that he was just fine. Well, when the baby came, she was a little girl. End of Pedro Joe.
The same thing happened with their second child, who was called “Pecos Pete” or “Pake” before he was born. In his case, though, the name was retained. The formal name his parents chose for him was Del Stanley (after rodeo stars Del Haverty and Stanley Gomez), but the birth certificate reads: “Del Stanley (Pake).”
The McEntire’s in utero nicknaming tradition wasn’t carried on with Reba or Susie.
Pake went on to have three daughters: Autumn (born on the first day of autumn), Calamity (named after frontierswoman Calamity Jane), and Chism (named after cattle baron John Chisum).
Sharpe, Jerry. “Pake McEntire heads for success on his own.” Pittsburgh Press 1 Jun. 1986: 101.
Smith, Lisa. “Pake McEntire” Gavin Report August 8, 1986: 39.
Around 1920, a 15-year-old Montana boy named Reindeer Coffman was in the news.
Reindeer’s baby brother had died while Reindeer was babysitting. At first, murder was suspected. Later, it was revealed that Reindeer had simply neglected the baby, who proceeded to accidentally strangle himself. (The baby’s shirt collar got caught on a protruding nail.)
One article about the case included a few lines about Reindeer’s name:
The boy’s unusual name caused [Humane Officer A. E. Decew] to make inquiries as to its genuineness. He found not only that Reindeer was called by his correct name but that there was a still more unusual name in the family. Reindeer has a brother named Rainbow.
Sure enough, both Rainbow and Reindeer (spelled “Rainder”) were listed together on the 1920 U.S. Census:
Their parents were William and Mina, and their siblings had the more common names Warren, Emery, Frances, Iona, Henry, Myrtie, Charles, and Allen.
Source: “Nail catches dress, baby is strangled, is brother’s tale.” Great Falls Daily Tribune 13 Mar. 1920: 13.