What gave the baby name Marylou a boost in 1961?

Ricky Nelson's single "Hello Mary Lou" (1961).
“Hello Mary Lou” single

The baby name Marylou was generally on the decline during the second half of the 20th century, but there was a conspicuous spike in usage in 1961 specifically:

  • 1963: 207 baby girls named Marylou [rank: 708th]
  • 1962: 207 baby girls named Marylou [rank: 719th]
  • 1961: 300 baby girls named Marylou [rank: 580th]
  • 1960: 227 baby girls named Marylou [rank: 675th]
  • 1959: 223 baby girls named Marylou [rank: 670th]

You can see it on the graph:

Graph of the usage of the baby name Marylou in the United States since 1880
Usage of the baby name Marylou

What caused the spike?

The Ricky Nelson song “Hello Mary Lou” (1961), which peaked at #9 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart in May of 1961.

It was written by Gene Pitney, but sounded enough like the earlier song “Merry, Merry Lou” [vid] by Cayet Mangiaracina that the two musicians are now credited as co-authors.

Here’s “Hello Mary Lou”:

The song was released as the B-side to Nelson’s #1 hit “Travelin’ Man.” It was also included on his sixth studio album, Rick Is 21.

That album title is notable because, on his 21st birthday, Nelson — born Eric Hilliard Nelson in 1940 — officially changed his recording name from “Ricky Nelson” to “Rick Nelson.”

The name change was a hard sell, though, because audiences had known him for so long as Ricky. He’d gone by “Ricky” on his family’s long-running sitcom, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (on radio and/or television from 1944 to 1966), and he’d continued to use “Ricky” when he launched his recording career in 1957. (His first five albums were called Ricky, Ricky Nelson, Ricky Sings Again, Songs by Ricky, and More Songs by Ricky.)

One of the ways he promoted his songs — “Hello Mary Lou” included — was by performing them at the end of weekly Ozzie and Harriet TV episodes. (Elvis Presley was a fan of these musical segments, incidentally.)

Getting back to Mary Lou…what are your thoughts on the compound name Marylou? Would you consider using it?

And, which song you like better: “Hello Mary Lou” from 1961, or “Mary Lou” from 1926?


P.S. In April of 1963, Rick Nelson married 17-year-old Kristin Harmon. Later the same year, she began appearing regularly (as “Kris”) on Ozzie and Harriet. As a result, the names Kristin and Kris both saw increased usage in 1963.

3 thoughts on “What gave the baby name Marylou a boost in 1961?

  1. I don’t mind Marylou, although I prefer Marianne. I am not crazy about Mary on its own, but I suppose you can’t go to Catholic school for 13 years and not have an opinion about Mary names. I know a family with 15 children and all the daughters have Mary as a first name. (Like Joey’s sisters on Friends.) The only one who used the ‘Mary’ part of her name was Mary Frances. The others go by their middle names, or some variation of them. The sons in the family all have Joseph as a middle name, and the eldest son goes by Joe because he has the same first name as their dad.

  2. Wow that’s a big family!

    I tend to really like short/simple names, but Mary isn’t a personal favorite, I think because of that strong religious association. (I grew up Catholic also.)

    That said, names that signal certain things — for instance, membership in a particular religious group (like Ammon, or Deliverance, or Mohammad, or Mary — especially when there’s a long string of them!) — become my favorite names of all time when I’m doing research. :) But they’re only my favorites in that context.

  3. I like short, simple names, too. My list includes Jane, Jean, Joan, June, Anne, Eve, Faye, Grace, Hope, Lane, Maud, May, Paige, Quinn, Rose, and Tai. (Yet I named my cats Genevieve and Cecilia, so I suppose I also like long names that are often misspelled.)

    I’m very glad not to be named Deliverance. I bet somebody imitates “Dueling Banjos” to them every day.

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