Behind the Band Name: Oingo Boingo

Traditional was never in Oingo Boingo’s vocabulary. They thrived in the unusual, making a career out of the unorthodox. Their beginnings as a band were just as artfully unconventional as their sound and their sound was just as wonderfully weird as their name. Oingo Boingo. It rolls off the tongue, but makes the mind wonder: what’s an oingo boingo?

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Behind the Name

The band Oingo Boingo first began as a theater troupe called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, a moniker inspired by the 1950s television series Amos ‘n’ Andy, in which there was a fictional secret society known as The Mystic Knights of the Sea. As for the Oingo Boingo part, some sources suggest it means “thinking while dancing” in Swahili. The troupe was formed in the early 1970s by Richard Elfman.

[RELATED: Review: Danny Elfman Leaves His Pop Oriented Oingo Boingo Past Far Behind On His First Solo Release In 37 Years]

Consisting of over a dozen members, the performance art group would blend theater, comedy, and music, crafting elaborate and often experimental shows. The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, however, saw a shift when Richard’s brother Danny Elfman joined the troupe a few years later. By the mid-1970s, the younger Elfman had taken over as troupe leader and turned the group into a full-fledged musical outfit.

By 1979, The Mystic Knights were no more, using simply Oingo Boingo in its place. With Elfman as frontman joined by guitarist Steve Bartek, keyboardist Richard Gibbs, bassist Kerry Hatch, drummer Johnny “Vatos” Hernandez, and Leon Schneiderman, Sam “Sluggo” Phipps, and Dale Turner on horns, they were a bonafide rock band with a penchant for an industrial new wave sound and quirky ska sensibilities all tied together by an orchestral eloquence.

Oingo Boingo lasted for nearly two decades, officially disbanding in 1995. During that time, they produced a number of memorable tunes, including “Only a Lad”, “Little Girls”, “Dead Man’s Party,” and the smash hit “Weird Science.”

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