Where did Pearl Jam get their name?
There’s a lot of misinformation on this subject, most of it gleefully spread by the band. For example, despite Eddie Vedder’s repeated claims, he did not have a great-grandmother Pearl who married a Native American and cooked up jam with peyote as an ingredient. And although the band was originally named Mookie Blaylock, after the star NBA point guard, “Pearl Jam” was not his nickname. (They changed their name to avoid legal problems–but Ten, the title of their debut, was Blaylock’s jersey number.) The band also doesn’t seem to have intended their name to refer to semen. So why did they pick it? They just liked the word “Pearl”: it’s surfer slang for submerging the nose of your board, it’s a good Janis Joplin record, it was the nickname of basketball great Earl Monroe, and Vedder did have a cool great-grandmother named Pearl. She didn’t wed a Native American–but she did marry a circus contortionist. (The band came up with “Pearl” at a brainstorming session in a Seattle restaurant; the “Jam” got added after a 1991 trip to New York City that included a Neil Young concert where many of his songs became extended jams.) So a Pearl Jam could be a Monroe slam-dunk, or as Vedder said he prefers to think of it, the creative conflict that turns the grain of sand in an oyster into a jewel.
(Excerpted from the 2006 book Is Tiny Dancer Really Elton’s Little John?: Music’s Most Enduring Mysteries, Myths, and Rumors Revealed, published by Three Rivers Press, written by Gavin Edwards.)