How the Red Hot Chili Peppers Got Their Name

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been making music since 1983. Currently, the band has four members: Anthony Kiedis, Flea, John Frusciante, and Chad Smith. Here’s how the Red Hot Chili Peppers got their name.

Red Hot Chili Peppers perform at SoFi Stadium in 2022
Red Hot Chili Peppers | Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation

The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ name was inspired by Louis Armstrong

In 1983, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were formed by Kiedis, Flea, guitarist Hillel Slovak, and drummer Jack Irons.

According to a biography of the band by AAEP 1600, “the name Red Hot Chili Peppers” was “taken from the nickname for Louis Armstrong’s 1920s jazz quintet.”

Armstrong’s quintet first recorded music in 1925 and was known by two different names, the Hot Five and Louis Armstrong and His Hot Five.

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Who are the members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers?

Of the four current members, both Kiedis and Flea are founding members of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Kiedis serves as the band’s lead vocalist.

Flea, whose real name is Michael Balzary, is a bass player and provides backing vocals on the band’s songs. He will also occasionally play the trumpet and piano with the group.

Frusciante and Smith both joined the Red Hot Chili Peppers in 1988. In the band, Smith plays the drums and has been in the band consistently since he first joined.

Over the years, Frusciante has had multiple stints in the band. His primary instrument is the guitar, and like Flea, he provides backing vocals on the band’s songs. Also like Flea, Frusciante plays multiple instruments and has been known to play the keyboards in the band.

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Multiple musicians have left the band

With a decades-long tenure, several musicians have been part of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Originally, the band started as a trio with Flea, Slovak, and Irons.

According to AAEP 1600, Flea, Slovak, and Irons “performed in L.A. under the name Another School.” Because “Kiedis and Flea had been friends since the age of 15” and Kiedis “had frequently” performed with the group, he was later added to the band, making it a quartet.

Slovak died in 1988, and shortly after his death, Irons left the band.

One other former Red Hot Chili Peppers member has died. Jack Sherman, who played guitar in the Red Hot Chili Peppers from 1983 to 1984, died in 2020.

Cliff Martinez, DeWayne McKnight, D. H. Peligro, Arik Marshall, Jesse Tobias, Dave Navarro, and Josh Klinghoffer are all musicians that had stints in the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Martinez and Peligro each played the drums, while McKnight, Marshall, Tobias, Navarro, and Klinghoffer played guitar in the band.

Fans can see the Red Hot Chili Peppers perform next at the 2022 MTV Video Music Awards, which will take place on Aug. 28.

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