Chris Ballew Goes Behind the Meaning of the Band Name: The Presidents of the United States of America

Photo courtesy Chris Ballew

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

In the ’90s, music fans couldn’t get away from the song “Peaches,” by the Seattle-born band The Presidents of the United States of America.

Truly, the song was everywhere—on radios, in shopping malls, everywhere.

But the band that brought the song to life: what a lengthy name, right? Often, it was shortened to PUSA, just to save stress on hands typing it out. The name, though, raises questions. Like, where did it come from? How did it stick and why did a rock band want to be known as The Presidents?

Well, we caught up with The Presidents’ frontman Chris Ballew to ask him these very questions.

American Songwriter: How did you and the group come up with the band name, The Presidents of the United States of America?

Chris Ballew: We had a hard time finding a name. The deal was that every time we got together we had to have five band names to offer. We thought that we would know it when we heard it but we kept striking out. One day, I ran into a friend named Fred Freedom who invited me to a party at his house. I brought my two-string guitar and jammed with the hippies in attendance. In between songs I was improvising band names in order to have five to show up with at our next PUSA practice. One of the band names I blurted out without thinking was The Presidents of the United States of America and when I said it out loud along with my other ideas at the next PUSA practice we all smiled broadly and knew it was just stupid enough to work.

AS: Was it serious or a joke at first? How did it stick?

CB: It was a joke and it stuck immediately and became the obvious choice in a matter of milliseconds as I remember it.

AS: Did it ever cause problems, either the length or just referencing the office of the President? Ever any confusion?

CB: When we got signed to a major label we did have a scare. Someone thought that it might be illegal to use the office of the president to profit in the way a band would but it was not true only because our band name was plural so we were all good. Hillary Clinton did refer to us once in a speech. It was something about us being honored by the gathering and her showing up to “accept the award for her husband.” Because of the band name we opened up for President Clinton at the Pike Place Market and got to meet him and take a photo and give him a T-shirt.

AS: How do you feel about the name today, some few decades removed from its origin?

CB: I love it one million percent.

Photo courtesy Chris Ballew

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