The name “Banana”
People are always asking me “Where did the name “Banana” come from?”
If there’s not a lot of time I just say “Well, here’s the short version. It seemed like a good idea at the time and it’s too late to turn back now.”
If there’s way too much time then I bore them with the long version which you can read here:
In 1962 Peter Golden and I were at the dress rehearsal of the Boston University production of On The Town by Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Leonard Bernstein.
We were merely stage hands since Freshmen are not allowed to actually appear in major productions which this was. There is a scene in On The Town, whose plot you may be familiar with but I shall synopsize it here. …. three sailors on leave in New York City for only 24 hours. Will they get laid…. no no … will they find romance? …
The show has many great songs, but one not so great is when one of the protagonists and his newly found girlfriend are taking an open cab ride through Central Park. The “Cab” is actually a plywood ‘flat’ painted to look like a cab and it has large dowels protruding from it’s back so that two stage hands crouching down on their knees can hold on to the dowels while they painfully shuffle along on their knees making the cab look like it is moving on it’s own across the stage with the two actors walking behind it. …. hey …. you asked.
Guess who those two stagehands were?
The cab pauses in the middle of the stage and while the stagehands endure their agony, the couple sings a romantic song. This song kept being interrupted during this dress rehearsal by costume people and then make-up people and then stage blocking people and all the while Peter and I, yes, crouched down there.
Well in our extreme agony and boredom we decided that it was absolutely imperative that we think of the funkiest folkiest name that might have been used in 1936. The best we could come up with was “Harmon N. Banana” so we went with it. We formed the band right then and there. “Harmon N. Banana and The Bunch – Old Time Music With Appeal” Within minutes we had created the secret hand shake and high sign which we both now have forgotten. He was the guitar player. I played banjo.
I can drag this story on for many more paragraphs about how we filled out the band with dog house bass and mandolin and traveled in a VW bug, the coffee houses we played and how we finally realized that the name was holding us back so we changed it … to “Harmon N. Banana and The Down Home Redneck Jamboree”. When our draw failed to improve we decided a more drastic name change was in order. “Harmon N. Banana and the Knights of Pytheas Wake The Dead Gospel Choir”.
Nope, still no stardom.
Surely you don’t want me to continue.
Eventually we dropped the “Harmon N.” as it just confused people.
What in the world, they wondered. was the “N.” for?
“Nothing” was our standard response.