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While there are a lot of bands who are straightforward about the origin of their names, The Beatles was not one of them. Despite the fact that The Beatles was a legendary group and their name is known all around the world, even to this day, not many people have any idea why they are called “The Beatles.”

If you’re curious about how The Beatles got their famous name, read on below to learn more about this interesting tidbit.

The Beatles started with The Quarrymen

The Beatles
The Beatles | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Before The Beatles was even a thing, there was a group known as The Quarrymen. This band was started in the 1950s by John Lennon and a few schoolmates from Quarry Bank High School.

Paul McCartney joined the group in 1957 after seeing them play live. George Harrison also joined a year later.

By 1960, Lennon began studying at the Liverpool College of Art and his former schoolmates left the band. Thus, “The Quarrymen” no longer felt like a fitting name since the group was not made up of Quarry Bank students anymore. They decided to come up with a new name. 

There are different theories as to where the name ‘The Beatles’ came from

A widely accepted theory came from Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia. She alleged that the band had a drunken “brainstorming session,” where they wanted to get a bug-related name that was inspired by Buddy Holly’s band: The Crickets. Then-member Stuart Sutcliffe eventually thought of the name “The Beatles.”

However, there is also another theory floating around. This one came from The Beatles’ publicist, Derek Taylor. According to his memoir, Taylor said that “The Beatles” came from the 1953 movie The Wild One, in which Marlon Brando’s character referred to his leather-jacket-donning gang as “young beetles.” This theory is not completely sound, though, as The Wild One was banned in the U.K. until 1967, so it’s unlikely that any members actually saw it in 1960.

The Beatles members have given different answers during interviews

Meanwhile, The Beatles members themselves were often cryptic about where their name came from. In an interview with Dusty Springfield, Lennon was asked about this and he simply said: “I just thought of it.”

Yet, when he published an amusing biography of The Beatles in 1961, Lennon alleged that their name came from a dream.

“Many people ask what are Beatles?” he wrote. “Why Beatles? Ugh, Beatles, how did the name arrive? So we will tell you. It came in a vision – a man appeared on a flaming pie and said unto them ‘From this day on you are Beatles with an ‘A’. Thank you, mister man, they said, thanking him.”

Why is it spelled ‘Beatles’ and not ‘Beetles’?

Of course, while fans are aware that the flaming pie theory was simply not true, there is still a question left to be answered: Why “Beatles” and not “Beetles”?

According to Lennon, the name was supposed to be a reference to music. “It was beat and beetles and when you said it, people thought of crawly things, and when you read it, it was beat music,” he said in 1964.

Many years later, a poet named Royston Ellis began claiming that he was the one who thought of changing the extra “e” to an “a.” It has been confirmed that Ellis was indeed hanging out with John Lennon and Stuart Sutcliffe when they thought of the name. According to Ellis, at the time, Lennon decided to spell the name simply as “Beetles” but Ellis told him to include the beat reference. Furthermore, Ellis also said that he made them chicken pie for dinner, but it caught fire in the oven, hence John Lennon’s “flaming pie” story.

After several decades, it’s hard to know which story is the correct one. But while not everyone agrees on what the real story is, everybody can agree on the fact that The Beatles was no doubt one of history’s greatest bands.