Behind The Band Name: Backstreet Boys

Backstreet Boys are one of the most iconic boybands of all time. Operating at peak boyband levels in the late ’90s-early ’00s, the five-piece – Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, AJ McLean, and cousins Brian Littrell and Kevin Richardson – helped to define an era of pop music.

Videos by American Songwriter

The name “Backstreet Boys” became vitally important to an entire generation of teens. So how did they land on the name that would soon reach every corner of the globe? Find out below.

Behind the Band Name

The band’s original manager, Lou Pearlman, wanted to create a group similar to the wildly popular New Kids on the Block. He put out an ad in the Orlando Sentinel for vocalists to help him in that pursuit. After the line-up was secured (more on that later), all that was left to do was name the five-piece.

Given a few of the members’ backgrounds in Orlando, Pearlman decided to name them after the area’s Backstreet Market – an outdoor flea market that evolved into a teen hangout.

The name not only grounded the band in its roots, but it also added a “bad boy” air to the group for those less well-versed in Orlando’s haunts. What is this backstreet and why are they hanging out there?


McLean was the first to audition for Pearlman in his living room and subsequently became the group’s first member. Between late 1992 and early 1993, Pearlman held an open casting call to hundreds of teens in an effort to find the lucky performers that would join McLean.

Ultimately, Carter, Dorough and Richardson were selected after meeting Pearlman’s expectations. Littrell formally joined the group on April 20, 1993, marking the anniversary of the group’s full formation.

The Backstreet Boys has their first performance at SeaWorld Orlando in May 1993. The early days of the group’s formation saw them perform at shopping malls, restaurants, and charity galas, slowly making their way up in the pop ranks.

With a change of management in the fall of that year, the group began to perform in schools across the U.S., amassing their core fanbase. With the pre-teen population of America starting to get on board, Mercury Records decided to sign the group in 1993. The deal was short-lived after long-time Mercury artist John Mellencamp threatened to leave the label if they went into the boyband business.

Their disappointment wouldn’t last for long, as they earned a deal with VPA&R Zomba/JIVE Records the following year.

The five-piece released their debut album Backstreet Boys in 1996, spawning some of their biggest hits including, “Quit Playing Games (With My Heart),” “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” and “I’ll Never Break Your Heart.”

Millennium and superstardom

Though the band experienced a fair share of superstardom prior to the release of their third album, Millennium solidified their stance as one of the most popular pop groups in the world.

Among the album’s tracklist is “I Want It That Way,” “Larger than Life” and “The One.” With these songs bolstering the LP’s popularity, it became the best-selling album of 1999 in the U.S. It has since been certified 13 times platinum.

By the end of the ’90s, the Backstreet Boys had signed a new contract with JIVE for a record-breaking $60 million.


The Backstreet Boys are still serving the world’s boyband fans today. After a series of hiatus, departures and reunions, the group most recently shared a holiday album titled, A Very Backstreet Christmas.

The group was supposed to perform the album on an ABC special late last year but, a lawsuit filed against Carter thwarted that plan.

Carter was accused of rape by Shannon “Shay” Ruth, who claims the boy bander raped her on a bus amid the group’s Black & Blue Tour. Ruth was 17 years old at the time to Carter’s 21.

Backstreet Boys remain on the road today. Their DNA World Tour runs through May, where it wraps in South Africa.

(Photo by Medios y Media/Getty Images)

Leave a Reply

The Cure’s Robert Smith Crafts Remix of Noel Gallagher’s “Pretty Boy”