How Neil Young Helped Name Pearl Jam
On March 10, 1991, Mookie Blaylock announced it had changed its name to Pearl Jam on Seattle’s KISW radio, but where did they come up with the new name? Turns out that Neil Young, Sonic Youth and a quick trip to New York provided the inspiration.
Early press materials would have you believe that Eddie Vedder’s great-grandma had a recipe for a hallucinogenic jelly — Pearl’s Jam. But you could almost see the singer wink as he told this creative, but ultimately made-up tale of the band’s name.
The group had hastily started going by Mookie Blaylock -- named after the NBA player whose trading card ended up stuck in the cassette case of the band's first-week demos -- back in October of 1990. As they faced recording their debut album, a “real” name was needed and bassist Jeff Ament honed in on using the word Pearl as part of it.
Fast forward to February 22, 1991. The new band flew to New York City to officially sign their contract with Epic Records and Ament, Vedder and guitarist Stone Gossard decided to head 30 miles out to the burbs of Long Island to catch Neil Young headline Nassau Coliseum with Sonic Youth opening.
Sonic Youth had helped Ament and Gossard’s previous band Green River by giving them a rare opening slot back in Seattle a few years prior.
Neil Young, of course, would go on to be one of Pearl Jam’s biggest mentors.
And on this one night in 1991, the three band members watched in amazement as Young stretched a few key songs on and on for hours. “He played, like, nine songs over three hours. Every song was like a fifteen- or twenty-minute jam," Ament told Rolling Stone in 2006. "So that's how 'jam' got added on.”
Ament soon turned to his longtime bandmate Gossard and simply said, “What about Pearl Jam?”
Once they were back in Seattle, they waited a couple of weeks to reveal the name, strategically doing so on longtime supporter Damon Stewart’s KISW radio show “New Music Hour” on March 10, 1991.
The announcement happened to fall on Ament’s 28th birthday, which would turn out to be one of the best presents of all time.
Just one day later the newly christened Pearl Jam entered Seattle’s London Bridge Studio to record Ten, which was was named after Mookie Blaylock’s jersey number in a gesture nodding to their origins.