In yesterday’s post on the name Clu, I mentioned The Virginian (1962-1971), television’s first 90-minute Western.
The show was set in Wyoming in the 1890s, and, interestingly, the two main characters — ranch foreman “The Virginian” (played by James Drury) and ranch hand Trampas (played by Doug McClure) — did not use first names.
Despite not being a first name, Trampas ended up in the baby name data in the mid-1960s:
1967: 6 baby boys named Trampas
1966: 5 baby boys named Trampas
1965: 6 baby boys named Trampas
1964: 5 baby boys named Trampas [debut]
Spelling variants Trampus and Trampis also appeared in the data around that time.
The show was loosely based on the 1902 novel The Virginian: A Horseman of the Plains by Owen Wister (after whom Mount Wister in Grand Teton National Park was named). In the novel, Trampas was the antagonist. His name was based on the Spanish noun trampa, meaning “trap” or “snare.”
William Martin “Clu” Gulager, an actor who appeared primarily on television during the early ’60s. Most notably, he co-starred in the NBC series The Tall Man (1960-1962) as a very fictionalized version of Billy the Kid. He could also be seen on shows like Wagon Train and The Virginian around that time.
Clu Gulager was born in Oklahoma in 1928, and was a member of the Cherokee Nation. “Clu” wasn’t a stage name — it was an inherited childhood nickname. He was named directly after his father’s older brother, William Martin “Clu Clu” Gulager, who served in the Oklahoma State Senate from 1922 to 1930.
The nickname “Clu Clu” came from the Cherokee word clu-clu or tlu-tlu, which referred to the purple martin (a type of bird).
What do you think of the baby name Clu?
Conley, Robert J. A Cherokee Encyclopedia. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2007.
The unusual name Hud first appeared in the baby name data in 1964:
1965: 6 baby boys named Hud
1964: 9 baby boys named Hud [debut]
Where did it come from?
The Western Hud (1963), which was set on a failing cattle ranch in Texas. The movie starred Paul Newman as unscrupulous Hud Bannon, son of ranch owner Homer Bannon (who, in contrast to his son, was very principled).
Hud’s character, despite being despicable, was embraced by audiences. Newman himself later said, “The kids thought he was terrific. His amorality just went right over their heads; all they saw was this Western, heroic individual.”
The TV Western Johnny Ringo, based loosely on the life of Old West outlaw John Ringo, only lasted from 1959 to 1960. But that was long enough for two characters from the short-lived series to boost two new baby names onto the charts.
This one was inspired by the Deputy William “Cully” Charles, played by actor Mark Goddard (who later co-starred in Lost in Space).
But here’s the wrinkle: friendly old-timer Cully Wilson from the TV show Lassie (1954-1973) was introduced to TV audiences in 1959. He could have been an influence here as well.
The name Cully, despite its impressive start, never really gained traction among American parents. The name Case, on the other hand, entered the top 1,000 about a decade ago and is currently ranked 601st in the nation.
And while Johnny Ringo didn’t do much for the baby name Ringo, that one eventually showed up in the data thanks to The Beatles.
P.S. Like Trackdown (which gave us Hoby), Johnny Ringo was one of five shows spun off from Zane Grey Theatre. The Ringo episode aired in March, and the series premiered just siven months later, in October. In the episode, Case’s full name is revealed to be “Cason.”
These days, the baby name Alfie sees a lot more usage overseas than it does in America. That said, Alfie (and Alfy) were doing some interesting things on the U.S. baby name charts in the mid-1960s:
34 baby boys
57 baby boys [ranked 968th]
62 baby boys [ranked 915th]
16 baby boys
15 baby boys [debut]
(There was some female usage of Alfie during this time as well, but I didn’t include it in the table.)
Alfie‘s influence is easy enough to pinpoint, so let’s start there. In 1966, the well-received British movie Alfie came out — in March in the UK, and in August in the US. Michael Caine had the starring role as womanizer Alfie, and this proved to be the breakthrough role of his career.
The film — with lots of help from the theme song “Alfie,” which was recorded and released by multiple artists, including Dionne Warwick — pushed the baby name Alfie into the top U.S. 1,000, where it stuck around for just two years.
The explanation behind the sudden appearance of Alfy, a distinct spelling (and also the top one-hit wonder name for boys in 1966), took me a lot longer to figure out.
This one came from the short-lived teen soap opera Never Too Young, which aired on September of 1965 to June of 1966. It was set in Malibu and was narrated by the character Alfy, owner of the local beach hangout. He was played by British actor David Watson (whose first American TV appearance was on Rawhide with Clint Eastwood, aka Rowdy Yates).
One thing I find curious is that two fictional British characters named Alfie/Alfy emerged around the same time in American pop culture. The movie was an adaptation of the 1963 play Alfie by Bill Naughton…perhaps the play influenced the writers of the TV show as well?