How popular is the baby name Korla in the United States right now? How popular was it historically? Use the popularity graph and data table below to find out! Plus, see all the blog posts that mention the name Korla.

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Popularity of the baby name Korla

Posts that mention the name Korla

Where did the baby name Shelleen come from in 1965?

The character Kid Shelleen (played by Lee Marvin) in the movie Cat Ballou (1965).
Kid Shelleen from “Cat Ballou

Here’s an interesting one. Most baby names that debut on the girls’ side of the list are put there by a female (either real or fictitious). But Shelleen, just like Kookie and Korla, seems to have popped up in 1965 thanks to a male.

  • 1967: unlisted
  • 1966: 6 baby girls named Shelleen
  • 1965: 7 baby girls named Shelleen [debut]
  • 1964: unlisted
  • 1963: unlisted

The name can be linked to Kid Shelleen, the bumbling gunfighter played by Lee Marvin in the 1965 comedy Western Cat Ballou.

In fact, Lee Marvin had two roles in the film: Kid Shelleen, and Kid’s brother Tim Strawn, a much more competent gunfighter. For the dual role, Marvin won both the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Actor in early 1966.

Males don’t typically give rise to new female names, but the timing and trends were just right for Shelleen in the ’60s. The same decade, similar names like Shelly, Michelle, and Sheila all saw peak usage.

What are your thoughts on the baby name Shelleen? Do you like it more or less than, say, Shelly?

Source: Cat Ballou – Wikipedia

Babies named for Liberace

Photo of Liberace sitting at a piano, 1954
Liberace at the piano

Yesterday I mentioned that Korla Pandit leaving Snader Telescriptions circa 1951 opened the door for a Vegas pianist named Wladziu Valentino Liberace to have a shot at television.

And the rest is history: Liberace’s energetic live TV performances quickly made him famous. He went on to become one of highest-paid entertainers ever.

He was known as “Lee” to family and friends, but as a showman he preferred to go by his Italian surname, pronounced lib-er-AH-chee. It can probably be traced back to the Latin word liber, meaning “free.”

And while the baby name Liberace has never been popular enough to appear in the SSA’s baby name data — I would have told you a long time ago if it had! — it has been used as a given name before. As you’d expect, most Liberaces were born in the early-to-mid ’50s. Here are some examples:

  • Liberace Harris, b. 1953
  • L. Liberace Parker, b. 1953 in Indiana
  • Liberace Williams, b. 1953 in California
  • Liberace Atkins, b. 1954
  • Liberace Sharpe, b. 1954 in North Carolina
  • Liberace Ford, b. 1955 in North Carolina
  • Liberace Jackson, b. 1955 in Kentucky
  • Liberace Malbon, b. 1957 in Texas
  • L. Liberace Hamilton, b. 1959 in Texas

What are your thoughts on Liberace as a baby name?

Image: Radio-TV Mirror, July 1954, page 32

Where did the baby name Korla come from in the early 1950s?

Musician Korla Pandit in the early 1950s
Musician Korla Pandit (early 1950s)

Behind today’s name is a fascinating story involving early television, exotic music, racial identity, and clever deception.

The name is Korla, which, along with variant Corla, first appeared in the SSA’s baby name data in 1951:

Girls named KorlaGirls named Corla
(5 born in CA)

A bit of research reveals that most of these early ’50s Korlas and Corlas — mainly females, but also a few males — were born in California specifically. This location is already pretty telling, but the smoking gun is this middle name:

  • Karlo Pandit Lindsay, male, born in November, 1950, in Los Angeles
  • Korla Ponda Williams, female, born in March, 1951, in Los Angeles
  • Korla Pandit Lord, male, born in September, 1953, in San Francisco

So what’s the influence here?

Korla Pandit, the mystical musician whose Los Angeles-based TV show Adventures in Music made him famous, particularly on the West Coast, in the early ’50s.

Pandit first appeared on TV in the spring of 1949. In each episode of Adventures in Music, Pandit wore a jeweled turban and gazed hypnotically at the camera, never speaking — just playing otherworldly music on a Hammond organ. His show, which aired on KTLA, was soon picked up by other California stations.

Some early recordings of Korla prominently feature his name, but I’m not sure if the live show Adventures in Music did. (If not, this could account for why “Corla” debuted higher than “Korla” in the data.)

Korla Pandit's television program, early 1950s

Korla Pandit was an immediate hit, particularly among suburban housewives. He received an impressive amount of fan mail.

He also started putting out albums, eventually releasing well over a dozen on various labels.

In 1951, after shooting hundreds of shows for KTLA, he left to film a series of short musical performances for Snader Telescriptions. These Snader clips introduced Pandit to a national audience.

But Pandit didn’t stay with Snader long, instead leaving to do other things (including start a new live TV show).

According to the 1952 ad below, his songs were “bringing dollars to the cash register and wild acclaim from feminine hearts.”

Korla Pandit advertisement in Billboard Magazine, 1952
Korla Pandit advertisement, 1952

His music helped set the stage for the late ’50s Exotica craze. In fact, some people have since dubbed Korla the “Godfather of Exotica,” though the title has also been given to other musicians (including Les Baxter).

As the decade wore on, Pandit’s fame began to wane. But he did spend the rest of his life recording and performing — and always wearing that bejeweled turban.

He passed away in 1998, leaving behind his American wife Beryl and their two sons, Shari and Koram.

…But the story doesn’t end there.

Because, a few years after that, a Los Angeles journalist discovered that Korla Pandit was not the half-Indian, half-French man from New Delhi that he had claimed to be. Instead, he was an African-American man named John Roland Redd from Columbia, Missouri.

Adopting a non-black identity had allowed Redd to have advantages that he couldn’t have had otherwise in 1950s America. He was one of the first African-Americans with a television show, but, ironically, if the public had known he was black, it’s highly unlikely that audiences (especially those entranced housewives) would have responded as enthusiastically as they did.

Redd took his adopted identity to the grave. Not even his sons were aware of their father’s true origin. (His wife must have known the secret, but she never openly admitted it.)

Notably, “Korla Pandit” was Redd’s second adopted persona. In the ’40s he had assumed the name “Juan Rolando,” which helped him get gigs during the Latin music craze of the time and, more importantly, allowed him to join the white L.A. musicians union as opposed to the black one, which afforded him more career opportunities.

It’s not hard to see how he got Juan from John, but I do wonder how he came up with Korla.

What are your thoughts on the name Korla? And on the story of Korla Pandit?


P.S. After Pandit left Snader Telescriptions, the company found a replacement: a young Las Vegas pianist, originally from Wisconsin, by the name of Wladziu Valentino Liberace

Name change: Ellen Walsh to Ida Mayfield

Ida Mayfield Wood, formerly Ellen Walsh
Ida Mayfield Wood

Ida Wood was the reclusive widow of wealthy New York politician and publisher Benjamin Wood (1820-1900).

Except…Ida wasn’t “Ida” at all. She was Ellen.

As a a young woman, Ellen Walsh of Massachusetts decided to change her fortune by inventing an entirely new identity for herself. So she became Ida Mayfield of Louisiana. And Ida Mayfield went on to become Ida Wood, wife of Benjamin Wood.

Confused yet?

Only after she died, on March 12, 1932, did all of the lawyers and supposed relatives unravel the mystery of her life: Her father wasn’t Henry Mayfield, prominent Louisiana sugar planter, but Thomas Walsh, a poor Irish immigrant who had settled in Malden, Massachusetts, in the 1840s. Her mother had little formal education and grew up in the slums of Dublin. Ida’s real name was Ellen Walsh, and when she was in her teens she adopted the surname Mayfield because she liked the sound of it. Her sister Mary took the name too. Emma Wood, her daughter with Benjamin Wood, wasn’t her daughter at all, but another sister.

(Her story is reminding me of Korla Pandit…)

If you were going to assume a new identity in order to move up in the world, what new name would you create for yourself, and why?

Source: Abbott, Karen. “Everything Was Fake but Her Wealth.” Smithsonian Magazine 23 Jan. 2013.