Babies Named for Covergirl Clintona

Clintona Jackson. Ebony, 1962

Two very similar names, Clintonia and Clintona, debuted in the baby name data in 1957:

Year Clintonia Clintona
1965
1964
1963
1962
1961
1960
1959
1958
1957
1956
unlisted
unlisted
7 baby girls
13 baby girls
unlisted
unlisted
5 baby girls
6 baby girls
5 baby girls [debut]
unlisted
unlisted
5 baby girls
9 baby girls
11 baby girls
unlisted
unlisted
unlisted
unlisted
5 baby girls [debut]
unlisted

Both saw peak usage in 1962 before slipping off the charts entirely a few years later.

Where did they come from? A Detroit debutante named Clintona “Tona” Jackson, who was featured in several African-American magazines (including Jet, Hue, and Ebony) in the late ’50s and early ’60s. These magazines sometimes misspelled her name “Clintonia.”

She was on the cover of both Hue and Jet in 1957, when she was just 15.

The increased usage in 1962 corresponds to coverage of Clintona’s first-place finish at the International Freedom Festival beauty pageant in Detroit-Windsor. Tona, by then a 20-year-old Howard University student, was chosen from a pool of 120 contestants. She was the first black Miss Freedom Festival and, according to reports, many people were openly displeased about it:

Tona told intimates after winning: “I didn’t do it for myself but for my people.” Not a single white mother or father congratulated Tona or her mother, nor did Tona receive many of the lavish gifts usually donated.

Do you like the name Clintona? Do you like it more or less than Clintonia (which is also a type of flower)?

Source/Image: “Detroit Beauty Queen.” Ebony Sept. 1962: 23-28.


Mystery Monday: The Curious Name “Caster”

The top two debut names of 1953 were Trenace (for girls) and Caster (for boys). And you know what? Both have me stumped.

We’ve already talked about Trenace, so here are some details about Caster:

  • 1957: unlisted
  • 1956: 5 baby boys named Caster
  • 1955: 11 baby boys named Caster
  • 1954: 16 baby boys named Caster
  • 1953: 21 baby boys named Caster [debut]
  • 1952: unlisted

Caster doesn’t seem to be a variant of some other name (like Casper, or Lancaster). So I’m assuming this usage corresponds to someone named Caster — either real or fictional — who was in the public eye for several years in a row.

The tricky thing is, of course, that any online search for the name “Caster” turns up all sorts of extraneous stuff — fishing, furniture, music (stratocaster), sports (sportscaster), and so forth.

Still, I was able to track down a few clues.

Records suggest that the majority of these 1950s Casters had middle names that started with D. Here’s a Caster D. born in 1953, and another Caster D. born in 1957.

And every single D-middle I tracked down included the letter L and/or the letter R. Some examples: Dell, Derrell, Derrel, Derriel, Daryl, Deryl, Derald, Derra, Doria, and Doral. A handful of people even had combination names like Casterdale or Casterdell (b. 1953).

Finally, it looks like most of the people named Caster D. were born in the South.

Do you have any idea where the name Caster might have come from?

The Baby Name Peggysue

Buddy Holly
Buddy Holly, 1958
In September of 1957, the classic rock and roll song “Peggy Sue” by Buddy Holly came out. (This was just a few months after the doo wop song “Deserie” was released.)

“Peggy Sue” was on the Billboard Top 100 for 22 weeks in late 1957 and early 1958, reaching as high as the #3 spot.

Right on cue, the compound baby name Peggysue debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1958:

  • 1962: 6 baby girls named Peggysue
  • 1961: 6 baby girls named Peggysue
  • 1959: 6 baby girls named Peggysue
  • 1958: 7 baby girls named Peggysue [debut]
  • 1957: unlisted

The name Peggy by itself also saw a significant increase in usage that year:

  • 1961: 6,434 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 69th]
  • 1959: 7,408 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 57th]
  • 1958: 10,072 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 42nd]
  • 1957: 7,379 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 62nd]
  • 1956: 7,487 baby girls named Peggy [rank: 63rd]

No doubt many of these Peggys had the middle name Sue.

So how did Buddy Holly chose the name “Peggy Sue” for the song? He didn’t — he wrote a song called “Cindy Lou,” taking the names from his newborn baby niece, Cindy Carol, and Cindy’s mom (Buddy’s sister) Patricia Lou.

But the original song wasn’t working out, so the band experimented with it in the summer of ’57. One of the changes they made was to the name. The rhythmically identical “Peggy Sue” was suggested by drummer Jerry Allison, who was dating a girl named Peggy Sue at the time.

At the end of 1958, Buddy Holly started working on “Peggy Sue Got Married,” one of rock and roll’s first sequel songs. Sadly he didn’t finish the song before February 3, 1959 — the day that he, Ritchie Valens, and The Big Bopper died in a plane crash in Clear Lake, Iowa.

*

If you were having a baby girl, and you had to name her either Peggy Sue or Cindy Lou, which combination would you choose?

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Sources: ‘Peggy Sue’: NPR, Who Was Buddy Holly’s “Peggy Sue”?, Patricia Lou Holley-Kaiter (Obit) – Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

Doo Wop Baby Name: Deserie

the charts, deserie, band,
The Charts (Glenmore, Ross, Leroy, Stephen, & Joe)

The French name Desiree was first popularized in the U.S. by the 1954 movie Désirée, which told the story of Désirée Clary, the one-time fiancée of Napoleon Bonaparte who later became the queen of Sweden and Norway.

Several years later, during the doo-wop craze of the ’50s, five Harlem-based teens formed a vocal group called The Charts — intentionally naming themselves after the Billboard‘s hits list in the hope that they would one day see themselves on the charts.

Despite being booed off stage during an Apollo Theater amateur night, the quintet got signed to a label and ended up recording several songs before disbanding in 1958.

The only Charts song to actually reach the charts? “Deserie,” a “huge East Coast doo wop cult classic” that appeared on Billboard‘s Hot 100 four times during the second half of 1957, peaking at 88th.

Here’s a video featuring the song:

But the Charts actually charted twice, because the baby name Deserie debuted on the U.S. baby name charts the very same year:

  • 1960: 15 baby girls named Deserie
  • 1959: 8 baby girls named Deserie
  • 1958: 7 baby girls named Deserie
  • 1957: 13 baby girls named Deserie [debut]
  • 1956: unlisted

Though the spelling and pronunciation aren’t quite the same, Deserie (deh-zə-REE) was no doubt inspired by then-trendy Desiree (deh-zi-RAY), which can be traced back to the Latin word for “desired,” desideratum.

Which name do you like better, Desiree or Deserie?

Source: Warner, Jay. American Singing Groups: A History from 1940s to Today. Milwaukee, WI: Hal Leonard Corporation, 2006.

The Baby Names Shevawn and Siobhan

siobhan mckenna, 1956, life, magazine
Siobhán McKenna on the cover of LIFE
Tara, Maeve, and many of the other
Irish names used in the U.S. today weren’t popularized by Irish immigrants. Instead, they gained traction after being introduced to the public via movies, television, and other types of pop culture.

Siobhan is no different. But it’s also a special case, because Americans heard about the name before they saw it written down. The result? The Irish spelling made a splash on the U.S. baby name charts…but only after a phonetic respelling made a similar splash. In fact, the misspelled version and the correctly spelled version were consecutive top girl name debuts in the mid-1950s.

So who’s the person behind the launch of Siobhan? Irish actress Siobhán McKenna (1923-1986).

In 1955, McKenna was nominated for a Tony for her role as Miss Madrigal in the play The Chalk Garden by Enid Bagnold (who had written National Velvet two decades earlier). The same year, the name Shevawn debuted in the U.S. data:

  • 1960: 5 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1959: unlisted
  • 1958: 9 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1957: 8 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1956: 24 baby girls named Shevawn
  • 1955: 36 baby girls named Shevawn [debut]
  • 1954: unlisted

The spellings Shevon, Shevonne, Chavonne, and Chevonne also debuted in ’55.

The next year, Siobhán McKenna impressed audiences with her portrayal of Joan of Arc in the George Bernard Shaw play Saint Joan. Her popularity in this role earned her the cover of LIFE magazine in September. Next to her image was her name, Siobhan, spelled correctly (but missing the fada). Right on cue, the name Siobhan debuted in the data:

  • 1960: 90 baby girls named Siobhan
  • 1959: 85 baby girls named Siobhan
  • 1958: 54 baby girls named Siobhan
  • 1957: 67 baby girls named Siobhan
  • 1956: 58 baby girls named Siobhan [debut]
  • 1955: unlisted
  • 1954: unlisted

Once U.S. parents learned how to spell “Siobhan,” the alternative spellings became less common, though they remained in use.

Siobhan was boosted into the top 1,000 in 1979 and remained popular during the 1980s thanks to the soap opera Ryan’s Hope, which introduced a character named Siobhan in 1978.

It’s rather fitting that Siobhán McKenna was best known for playing Saint Joan, as both “Siobhán” and “Joan” were derived from the name Jeanne, which is French feminine form of John (meaning “Yahweh is gracious”).

How do you feel about the name Siobhan? If you were going to use it, how would you spell it?

Sources: Siobhán McKenna – Wikipedia, SSA