The eye-catching name Sakeena debuted in the U.S. baby name data in 1957:
1961: 9 baby girls named Sakeena
1957: 8 baby girls named Sakeena [debut]
Where does it come from? I’ve traced it to jazz drummer/bandleader Arthur “Art” Blakey. He and his second wife, Diana, welcomed a baby girl named Sakeena in early 1957. The same year, Art Blakey and his band The Jazz Messengers put out at least two songs with the name Sakeena in the title:
“Sakeena” on the album Cu-Bop (1957), and
“Sweet Sakeena” on the album Hard Drive (1957).
The news of baby Sakeena’s birth didn’t seem to garner any attention, so it was either one or both of these songs that boosted the name Sakeena onto the charts.
It fell back off the charts the next year, but reappeared in 1961, after the release of a third song with Sakeena in the title: “Sakeena’s Vision” on the Art Blakey album The Big Beat (1960). This song was written by saxophonist/composer Wayne Shorter. Here’s what a biography of Shorter said about the genesis of “Sakeena’s Vision”:
Sakeena was an unusual two-year-old who had developed the precocious habit of sizing up visitors like a hanging judge the moment they stepped into the Blakey house. “If they were cool, Sakeena was cool,” Wayne said. “If they weren’t, then she wasn’t either. Art said, ‘Sakeena’s hip to them all,’ and let the child have the run of the house.” The toddler made an impression on Wayne, enough to inspire a composition with a difficult, penetrating melody line.
Do you like the name Sakeena?
P.S. Art had quite a few children in total, but the only other child he had with Diana was a son named Gamal, born in 1959.
Gourse, Leslie. Art Blakey: Jazz Messenger. New York: Schirmer Trade Books, 2002.
Mercer, Michelle. Footprints: The Life and Work of Wayne Shorter. New York: Tarcher/Penguin Books, 2007.
A couple of years before Tequila popped up on the charts, the like-sounding name Takeela debuted:
1956: 5 baby girls named Takeela [debut]
Like Tequila, Takeela can be traced back to music.
Introducing Kenny Burrell, the debut album of jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell, was released by Blue Note in September of 1956. One of the seven tracks on the album was a song called “Takeela,” which “starts with a fast Latin beat on congas, giving Burrell a nice opportunity for fast, fluid solos.” (The congas were played by Cuban-born percussionist Candido Camero, who included a version of “Takeela” on his own 1957 album The Volcanic.)
According to the text on the back of the Introducing Kenny Burrell record album, the song “allegedly was not named after a bottle or even a glass of tequila, but after a girl.”
The uncommon baby name Jilla appeared for the first and only time in the U.S. baby name data in 1951:
1951: 6 baby girls named Jilla
No doubt it was put there by American jazz/pop vocalist Jilla Webb, who was at the peak of her fame in the early 1950s. She recorded on the MGM label and regularly performed with the Harry James Orchestra.
Below is a 1958 recording of Jilla Webb singing with Harry James. (The video ought to start at 11:50, when Jilla first comes in.)
Though the similar name Jill was very trendy in the early ’50s — it reached the top 100 by the end of the decade (and stayed there for nearly 30 years) — Jilla remained a mere one-hit wonder.
Do you like the name Jilla? Now that Willa is on the rise, do you think Jilla could catch on as a variant?
P.S. Jilla Webb’s daughter is also a professional singer who goes by the name Jilla Webb.
In fact, the name Angeli was the 3rd-highest debut name of the year (after Trenace and Caster).
Pier Angeli was born Anna Maria Pierangeli in Sardinia, Italy, in 1932. Before she launched her U.S. film career, her name was changed:
The movie moguls decided that her name Anna Maria Pierangeli was too long for the lights over a marquee, so it was abridged to Pier Angeli simply by dividing her surname. She didn’t like it, complaining that it was “a boy’s name” which of course it was in Italy, and never used it in private life. Her friends always called her Anna.
Pier Angeli’s first American film Teresa (1951). Her performance impressed critics; she won a Golden Globe Award in 1952 for “Most Promising Newcomer.” And the year after that, her names double-debuted in the U.S. baby name data.
Nowadays, dozens of baby girls are named Angeli every year. Pier is still used as well, but mostly as a boy name. Which name do you prefer?
Source: Allen, Jane. Pier Angeli: A Fragile Life. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, 2002.
P.S. Speaking of dividing a surname to create a stage name…two people who divided a first name to come up with a professional name were actor Kal Penn (born Kalpen Modi) and lyricist Kal Mann (born Kalman Cohen).
(The SSA omits spaces, hyphens, and apostrophes, so “Jerilou” here includes Jeri Lou, Jeri-Lou, and other potential renderings.)
Where did Jerilou come from?
Child actor Jeri Lou James, who was on TV primarily during the first half of the 1950s.
She was born Jerilyn Louise Kuehl in California in 1945. (Her birth name may have been inspired by celebrity baby Jerilyn Jessel.)
Jeri Lou guest starred on various TV shows, but the one show she appeared on regularly was The Dennis Day Show, which aired on NBC from 1953 to 1954. No doubt this is what gave Jeri Lou’s name enough visibility to see a temporary rise in usage.
These days, Jeri Lou James is Hon. Jerilyn L. Borack, a family law judge on the Sacramento Superior Court.
Both her acting career and her law career were inspired by the acting and law careers of her older sister, Sheila James (b. Sheila Ann Kuehl in 1941), whose best-remembered TV role was that of Zelda on The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (1959-1963). Today Sheila Kuehl is a politician in California.
Which name do you like better, Jerilyn or Jerilou?