To explain this one fully, we need to start with Wisconsin newspaper publisher-turned-politician George Wilbur Peck (1840-1916), who wrote a series of humorous “Peck’s Bad Boy” stories starting in the 1880s.
The main character, Henry Peck, was mischievous trickster. In fact, he became so well known in the late 1800s that the phrase “Peck’s Bad Boy” entered the language; Merriam-Webster defines it as “one whose bad behavior is a source of embarrassment or annoyance.”
The stories were later adapted for the big screen, with young Jackie Cooper playing the part of Henry. But in one of the movies, Peck’s Bad Girl (1918), the character was turned into a girl named Minnie Peck.
The main character was once again a girl in the single-season TV sitcom Peck’s Bad Girl, which aired originally from May to August, 1959. This time around, the “bad girl” was named Torey Peck, and she wasn’t mischievous so much as tomboyish. She was played by Patty McCormack of Bad Seed fame.
The show only lasted 13 episodes, but that was long enough to give Torey a sizeable boost in usage. (No doubt the rhyming name Lori, which was very trendy in the 1950s, had helped set the stage for Torey.)
Do you like the name Torey? Which spelling do you prefer?
Here are Jermaine’s thoughts on some of the Jackson family names, from his memoir:
I have often wondered how many names my parents went through before agreeing on the final nine. Not that it mattered in the end, because the choice of “Sigmund Esco” for their first son morphed into “Jackie” when Papa Samuel thought it easy to refer to him as “Jackson boy,” then laziness shortened it some more. And “Tariano Adaryl” [sic] became “Tito” because it was easier for us all. I was forever curious as a child about how two people’s taste could go from the exotic-sounding “Jermaine LaJuane” to “Michael Joe.” From somewhere, and especially after Michael’s death, a rumor began that his middle name was Joseph. Maybe this myth prefers the echo with our father’s name because the crossover reads better about a father and son who struggled to see eye to eye. “Joe” was his middle name, as recorded on his birth certificate. His first name was almost “Ronald,” at the suggestion of Mama Martha, but Mother quickly quashed that one.
(Papa Samuel was Jermaine’s paternal grandfather; Mama Martha was his maternal grandmother.)
The Jackson 5, whose “bubblegum soul” sound made them remarkably successful in the early 1970s, consisted of five musically gifted brothers out of Gary, Indiana. Their names were:
Sigmund Esco “Jackie” Jackson, b. 1951
Toriano Adaryll “Tito” Jackson, b. 1953
Records suggest that Tito’s first name was actually “Tariano,” but the press typically spelled it “Toriano.”
Jermaine LaJuane Jackson, b. 1954
Marlon David Jackson, b. 1957
Michael Joe Jackson, b. 1958
The brothers began performing together in the mid-1960s, but Jacksonmania didn’t hit until 1970, with the success of songs like “I Want You Back” (1969), “ABC” (1970), “The Love You Save” (1970), and “I’ll Be There” (1970) — all four of which hit #1 on Billboard‘s Hot 100 chart.
At the height of their fame, the boys even had a Saturday morning cartoon show called “The Jackson 5ive” (1971-1972).
So how did the Jacksons’ celebrity affect U.S. baby names in the early 1970s? Let’s go brother by brother…
Jackie Jackson couldn’t stop the name Jackie from trending downward, and he didn’t do much for the unusual name Esco, but the name Sigmund did see a distinct uptick in usage in 1971.
Tito’s first son, Toriano Adaryll “Taj” Jackson, Jr. (b. 1973) — whose nickname was derived from his initials — gave the name Taj a boost. His second son, Taryll (b. 1975), was behind the debut of the name Taryll (also mentioned here).
Jermaine Jackson, the co-lead vocalist of the group (with Michael), brought so much attention to the name Jermaine that it not only entered the top 1,000, but nearly cracked the top 100 as well:
1974: 1,628 baby boys named Jermaine [rank: 151st]
1973: 2,039 baby boys named Jermaine [rank: 127th]
1972: 1,966 baby boys named Jermaine [rank: 135th]
1971: 1,015 baby boys named Jermaine [rank: 233rd]
Jermaine’s middle name, LaJuane, also debuted (in 1971).
Jermaine had a total of nine children, one of whom was named (rather infamously) Jermajesty.
Marlon Jackson was the main reason that the name Marlon saw peak usage in 1972. (But he had some help from Marlon Brando, whose movie The Godfather came out the same year.)
Michael Jackson — who was still a decade away from releasing his massively popular solo album Thriller — couldn’t ultimately reverse the decline of the name Michael. But the combined influence of Michael Jackson and other famous Michaels (like basketball star Michael Jordan, and TV star Michael Landon) did help the name’s usage level out somewhat during the 1970s and ’80s.
Which Jackson 5 name is your favorite? (And, if you were around during Jacksonmania: Which group member was your favorite?)
While you ponder these questions, check out the group’s appearance on the Ed Sullivan show in December of 1969:
My first thought was that Debraca might be mashup of Tristaca and Debbera, but some digging revealed a far more likely influence: Debraca Denise Foxx, the stepdaughter of comedian Redd Foxx (stage name of John Elroy Sanford).
Debraca appeared with Redd on an episode of his TV show Sanford and Son in January of 1977. Perhaps more importantly, in late 1977 she was presented as a “beauty of the week” in Jet magazine. (Other Jet beauties include Meyosha and Tchanavian.)