Behind the Band Name: Goo Goo Dolls

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

The Buffalo, New York-formed band behind the post-grunge hits that soundtracked the late ’90s – originally made up of frontman and guitarist Johnny Rzeznik, bassist Robby Takac, and the since-departed drummer George Tutuska—has an unusual name. The Goo Goo Dolls. Yes, it’s memorable because of its uniqueness, and it’s easy, almost elementary, to pronounce, but strange nonetheless.

However, the band behind the swoon-worthy “Iris,” the heart-wrenching “Name,” the angsty “Slide,” and so many more melodramatic bops, began their career under an even weirder moniker.

Origin of the Name

The Sex Maggots was a tough name to sell on a marquee. Originally joining forces as a cover band, the threesome formed under that alias in 1985. While the origin of the name The Sex Maggots is unclear, the Goo Goo Dolls were forced to find a new name because of it.

“We had a gig and so we had to come up with some kind of a name just to play the show,” Rzeznik explained. The trio was, supposedly, flipping through a True Detective, a pulp true crime magazine in circulation until 1995, when they came across an ad for a toy called a Goo Goo Doll.

“That’s how the folklore goes,” the bassist, Takac, said. “[Goo Goo Dolls] doesn’t really mean anything … The first name was bad, so we moved on to another bad name, got 15,000 fans, and were afraid to change it … At the time, we thought [the name] was just really inappropriate for what we were doing in that post-punk era that we were sort of wallowing around in.”

What is a goo goo doll? If you Google a goo goo doll (try saying that five times fast), results for the band will inevitably pop up along with terrifying photos of a 1980’s hand puppet, pictured HERE.

What do you think? Was this the doll the band discovered between the pages of that True Detective?

The Goo Goo Dolls Today

Whatever a goo goo doll is or was, the Goo Goo Dolls have made a name for themselves with that peculiar pseudonym. Over the course of their nearly 40-year career, the band has garnered 19 top ten singles, sold 15 million records worldwide, and seen four Grammy nominations.

Revisit the band’s 1998 classic, “Iris,” and let us know the songs your goo goo over in the comments below.

Photo: Maxine Evans / BBgun Press

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