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?
Jemal David, an African-American character played by actor Otis Young on the single-season TV western The Outcasts (1968-1969).
The series was set in the decade following the Civil War, when “people of all creeds and colors were part of the West” (according to the narrated introduction). The two protagonists, both bounty hunters, were an unlikely pair: Jemal, an ex-slave freed by the Proclamation, and Earl Corey, a former slave owner from Virginia.
Young’s Jemal David was possibly television’s angriest African American protagonist; a defiant man who refused to forget the indignities and humiliations of slavery. He also never let his partner’s racism go unchallenged.
There was even an episode called “My name is Jemal” that drew extra attention to the name:
The similar name Jamal also saw a big boost in usage thanks to the character. But, unlike Jemal, which quickly petered out, Jamal’s usage continued to increase for several decades.
What are your thoughts on the name Jemal? Which spelling do you prefer?
Bogle, Donald. Primetime Blues: African Americans on Network Television. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.
Bewitched, the sitcom about a witch who marries a mere mortal, premiered on ABC in September of 1964 and ran all the way until 1972. Like many popular TV shows, it had a noticeable influence on U.S. baby names. For instance…
The name Samantha, which had ranked far outside the top 1,000 for most of the 20th century, skyrocketed in popularity in the mid-1960s thanks to main character (and witch!) Samantha Stephens, played by Elizabeth Montgomery.
1968: 2,339 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 136th]
1967: 1,806 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 176th]
1966: 1,794 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 182nd]
1965: 1,963 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 179th]
1964: 421 baby girls named Samantha [rank: 473rd]
1963: 73 baby girls named Samantha
The name reached and maintained top-5 status during most of the 1990s (with a lot of help from another fictional Samantha: Samantha Micelli from ’80s sitcom Who’s the Boss?).
Montgomery also played the part of Samantha’s cousin Serena, who was a recurring character during later seasons of the show. The name Serena saw higher usage in the late ’60s and early ’70s as a result.
The name Darrin was boosted up to its highest-ever usage in 1965 thanks to Samantha’s husband Darrin Stephens, originally played by Dick York.
1968: 2,078 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 138th]
1967: 2,029 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 141st]
1966: 2,568 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 119th]
1965: 3,257 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 102nd] <- peak usage
1964: 801 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 272nd]
1963: 310 baby boys named Darrin [rank: 450th]
In fact, all the spelling variants of Darrin saw peak usage in 1965. The most common spelling of the name, Darren, reached 52nd place in the rankings that year. Also in the top 1,000 were Darin (123th), Daren (271st), Darron (408th), Daron (494th) Daryn (717th), and Darryn (818th).
The rare name Endora debuted in 1965, thanks to Samantha’s flamboyant and moderately villainous witch-mother Endora, played by Agnes Moorehead (who, several years earlier, played another TV witch).
1968: 7 baby girls named Endora
1967: 17 baby girls named Endora
1966: 19 baby girls named Endora
1965: 28 baby girls named Endora [debut]
Endora was so dismissive of Darrin that she nearly never bothered to say his name correctly, calling him things like Derwood, Dagwood, Darwick, Dumpkin, and so forth.
Endora’s own name was inspired by the biblical Witch of Endor; “Endor” was an ancient Canaanite city.
Tabatha & Tabitha
The names Tabatha and Tabitha were both featured on Bewitched, confusingly.
Samantha and Darrin’s first child was a baby girl born in January of 1966. They named her Tabitha, a name first strongly suggested in the storyline by Endora (“Whatever you call her, I shall call her Tabitha”).
Behind the scenes, it was Elizabeth Montgomery who suggested the character name Tabitha — spelled the traditional way, with an i.
But, for some unknown reason, the name was spelled Tabatha — with an a — on the credit role. Montgomery was later quoted as saying: “Honestly, I shudder every time I see it. It’s like a squeaky piece of chalk scratching on my nerves.” The spelling wasn’t corrected until season 5 (1968-1969).
Accordingly, the usage of both baby names rose during the ’60s, with Tabatha ranking higher than Tabitha for a three-year stretch before the spelling mistake in the credits was corrected:
947 [rank: 295th]
543 [rank: 398th]
1,050 [rank: 279th]
585 [rank: 401st]
944 [rank: 297th]
658 [rank: 355th]
549 [rank: 391st]
701 [rank: 328th]
444 [rank: 451st]
581 [rank: 378th]
327 [rank: 524th]
500 [rank: 419th]
The name Adam more than doubled in usage over a two-year stretch thanks to Samantha and Darrin’s second child, Adam, who was born in October of 1969.
1972: 5,748 baby boys named Adam [rank: 51st]
1971: 5,855 baby boys named Adam [rank: 57th]
1970: 4,320 baby boys named Adam [rank: 71st]
1969: 2,869 baby boys named Adam [rank: 113th]
1968: 2,546 baby boys named Adam [rank: 119th]
1967: 2,528 baby boys named Adam [rank: 118th]
The name reached and maintained top-20 status for several years during the early 1980s.
…So are you a fan of Bewitched? Which names from the show do you like the best?