Behind the Band Name: Iron Butterfly

Iron Butterfly performed with acid-drenched dramatics, giving life to over-the-top arrangements that seem to be synonymous with a certain time and place. The ’60s-era psych rockers of “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” fame were a heavier kind of rock for the decade, but they were also in line with the light spirituality of the times. Hence the oxymoronic name. Iron. Butterfly.

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Behind the Name

Originally comprised of vocalist and organist Doug Ingle, drummer Jack Pinney, bassist Greg Willis, and guitarist Danny Weis, the San Diego, California-formed group was born in 1966. Pinney, Willis, and Weis knew each other from their days as members of the Palace Pages, the house band at the now-defunct all-ages club Palace.

In conversation with the San Diego Reader, Pinney, Willis, and Weis discussed the band’s origin story, as well as the reason they chose their moniker.

Weis explained when the band first formed, they were in search of a band name “that was heavy, so to speak, and also beautiful.”

And when they found that perfect name, it already belonged to another band. “The name came from San Francisco,” Pinney says of the band name. “We were playing a show with the Friendly Stranger and the Iron Butterfly, but the Iron Butterfly never showed. They broke up on the way down, and we thought it was a pretty good name.”

All thanks to the original Iron Butterfly for breaking up, or we may never have gotten the rock standard “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” in all of its 17-minute glory.

Iron Butterfly Today

Iron Butterfly has existed in several iterations, reuniting multiple times with various lineup changes, but all to little success. A regrouping occurred in 2015 that seems to have stuck, but the lineup contains no original members.

As of 2020, current band members include Eric Barnett, Dave Meros, Bernie Pershey, and Martin Gerschwitz. Drummer Ron Bushy of the band’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” era would occasionally fill in or make guest appearances in this new configuration. However, Bushy passed away in 2021, making Doug Ingle the only living member of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” heyday.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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