The Canadian-born rock band Rush formed in Toronto nearly 55 years ago in 1968 when guitarist Alex Lifeson, drummer John Rutsey and bassist-singer Jeff Jones got together. Jones, however, was almost immediately replaced by bassist-singer Geddy Lee.
After Lee joined the group, the band tried several configurations but eventually landed on its now-classic power trio with the addition of drummer and lyric writer Neil Peart, who replaced Rutsey in 1974 four months after the debut of the band’s first LP.
Today, that lineup has remained intact ever since. The rest, as they say, is history.
But where did the band’s short, quick, impactful name come from? And what was its impact on the trio’s career? Let’s dive in.
Before we dive into the band’s name, let’s dive into some of the band’s legendary history.
The group achieved commercial success in the 1970s in North America with the 1975 album Fly by Night and the following year with the record 2112. Two more albums, the 1997 LP A Farewell to Kings, and the 1978 LP Hemispheres were next.
The group’s fame continued into the ’80s and ’90s with albums hitting the top of charts throughout North America. The band continued to record and perform until 1997, after which they endured a four-year hiatus stemming from personal difficulties in Peart’s life.
In 2001, Rush got back together and released three more studio records from 2002 to 2012. The band stopped touring in 2015 and in 2018, Lifeson announced that the band was kaput, which was further cemented after Peart’s death from brain cancer in January 2020. He was 67.
To date, Rush has sold 26 million albums in the U.S and some 42 million worldwide. 14 of those albums were certified platinum and three were multi-platinum. The band has also been nominated for seven Grammy Awards. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
Rush became known for their complexity as musicians as well as their vast, resonant lyrical styles, which drew heavily on fantasy, sci-fi, and even philosophy.
While the group changed its style over the years, from a blues-inspired more traditional hard rock band to a more progressive rock outfit, their fans subsisted. Later, the band was known for its use of synthesizers before returning to more guitar-driven songs toward the end of the 1980s. Ultimately, the band is known for its prog-rock output.
Indeed, the award-winning band is remembered today for their proficiency and prowess as musicians and their intricate musical offerings.
Beginnings and Name
Formed in the Willowdale neighborhood of Toronto, Ontario, in August of 1968, the band was born out of another, The Projection (formerly known as The Lost Cause), which Lifeson and Rutsey were a part of together. After that group broke up, the two stuck together and brought in Jones to form a new band. This group’s first gig was in September of that year at the Coff-Inn, a youth center in the basement of St. Theodore of Canterbury Anglican Church in North York.
At the time of that booking, the band had not named themselves. But it was Rutsey’s brother Bill who helped, saying the group needed a name that was short and to the point. Impactful. He suggested Rush and the band, well, went with it.
Similarly, the band’s lead singer enjoyed a name change. When Jones, the original singer, decided to attend a party hours before the band’s second gig, Lifeson recruited his school friend Gary “Geddy” Weinrib to step in on lead vocals and bass. Jones did not return, so Gary became the frontman, taking the name “Geddy Lee.”
At first, the band did mostly covers by bands like Cream, Jimi Hendrix and more but eventually they landed on the styles that would make them a household name.
(Photo by Fin Costello/Redferns)