Right around the time the name Shannon was seeing a steep rise in usage, the name Deshannon debuted in the U.S. baby name data:
Girls named Shannon
Girls named Deshannon
10,965 [rank: 22nd]
12,651 [rank: 21st]
13,548 [rank: 22nd]
10,448 [rank: 31st]
6,402 [rank: 53rd]
3,446 [rank: 101st]
2,992 [rank: 120th]
The influence? Singer Jackie DeShannon, whose biggest hit, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart,” peaked at #4 on Billboard‘s “Hot 100” chart in the summer of 1969.
But this wasn’t DeShannon’s first hit. She’d already seen success with the Burt Bacharach song “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” which had peaked at #7 in the summer of 1965.
So it seems that sudden trendiness of “Shannon” was the x-factor that prepared expectant parents to see more name-potential in “DeShannon” the second time around.
The singer’s birth name was Sharon Lee Myers. She went through various stage names before settling on “Jackie DeShannon.” “Jackie” was chosen because it was gender-neutral, while “DeShannon” was created out of two earlier ideas: “Dee,” which, by itself, made the full name too close to ones already in use (like Sandra Dee and Brenda Lee), and “de Shannon,” which was often written incorrectly.
DeShannon also had a successful career as a songwriter, working with performers like Jimmy Page and Marianne Faithfull. In 1982, she received the Grammy Award for Song of the Year for “Bette Davis Eyes,” which she had co-written with Donna Weiss. (The song was a 1981 hit for singer Kim Carnes.)
The name Valerie was rising fast on the baby name charts in the ’40s and ’50s, but the specific spelling Vallorie debuted and spiked in usage right in the middle of that period:
1951: 5 baby girls named Vallorie
1950: 49 baby girls named Vallorie [peak]
1949: 6 baby girls named Vallorie [debut]
Comics! The Brenda Starr, Reporter comic strip featured a storyline called “Queen Vallorie” during the early months of 1950. Queen Vallorie wasn’t an adult, but a little girl who ran off to America with her dog (Veronica) after the death of her grandfather, the king of Gastovia (a fictional European nation). Vallorie was next in line for the throne.
Generations ago, fewer parents named their newborns right away — that’s how how a comic strip character from 1950 would have influenced the names of babies born 1949.
The main character of the strip, glamorous redhead Brenda Starr, had been modeled after actress Rita Hayworth and named after two things: debutante Brenda Frazier, and the fact that she was the star reporter at her newspaper, The Flash.
Strip creator Dale Messick (1906-2005) ended up naming her own daughter Starr (b. 1942) after the character. And when the character had a baby girl in 1977, the baby was in turn named Starr after Dale’s real-life daughter.
Dale herself was originally a Dalia, but was convinced (by a secretary at the Chicago Tribune-New York News Syndicate) to change her first name to Dale “to get around the blatant sexism of the time.”
So today let’s check out another fun set of “top” names: the top rises. The names below are those that increased the most in usage, percentage-wise, from one year to the next according to the SSA data.
Here’s the format: girl names are on the left, boy names are on the right, and the percentages represent single-year jumps in usage. (For example, from 1880 to 1881, usage of the girl name Isa grew 240% and usage of the boy name Noble grew 333%.)
The SSA data isn’t perfect, but it does get a lot more accurate starting in the late 1930s, because “many people born before 1937 never applied for a Social Security card, so their names are not included in our data” (SSA). Now, back to the list…
(Did you catch all the doubles? Tula, Delano, Tammy, Jermaine, and Davey/Davy.)
I’ve already written about some of the names above (click the links to see the posts) and I plan to write about many of the others. In the meanwhile, though, feel free to beat me to it! Leave a comment and let us know what popularized Dorla in 1929, or Lauren in 1945, or Dustin in 1968, or Kayleigh in 1985, or Talan in 2005…
Deyanne was a two-hit wonder on the U.S. baby name charts at the start of the 1950s:
1951: 7 baby girls named Deyanne
1950: 13 baby girls named Deyanne
Where did the name come from?
A New York debutante named Deyanne O’Neil Farrell.
Deyanne never appeared on the cover of Life (like Brenda Frazier) or on the cover of Jet (like Theonita Cox). But she did appear inside the December 1949 issue of Vogue. She wore a white ball gown designed by Ceil Chapman and the photo was taken by famous fashion photographer Horst P. Horst.
The New York Times announced Deyanne’s engagement the next month, and she married Herbert Miller in St. Patrick’s Cathedral the month after that.
Their wedding photos ended up being part of a marketing campaign for soap made by the Woodbury Soap Company, which regularly featured debutantes and actresses in its advertisements. The image above, for instance, came from a full-page ad in the May 8, 1950, issue of LIFE. I saw other versions of the ad in other magazines (like McCall’s) and in the newspapers (like the Pittsburgh Press) in 1950 and 1951.
The Woodbury ads featuring Deyanne are no doubt what gave the name a boost on the charts during both of those years.
And Deyanne gave one more thing a boost a few years later: Portuguese Water Dogs. In fact, she’s credited with introducing the breed to the United States in 1968. Four decades after that, the Obama family introduced the breed to the White House. (Their Portuguese Water Dogs were named Bo and Sunny.)
But let’s get back to human names now…do you like the name Deyanne? Do you like it more or less than the similar name Diane?
“Deyanne Farrell Becomes Fiancee; a Bride-to-be.” New York Times 7 Jan. 1950: 20.
“Deyanne Farrell Wed to a Veteran; Married in Ceremony at St. Patrick’s.” New York Times 19 Feb. 1950: 70.