Hud? Speck? Huh?

I have always liked John Mellencamp’s music.  I liked it because it felt to me like music for the common man and woman.  And that was Mellencamp’s presentation of self as well in press, concerts, and music videos – a guy just like us telling the stories of our lives.  He seemed down-to-earth, genuine, and sensible.

But folks, after reading a story about two of Mellencamp’s sons who were charged with felony battery about a week ago, I have to question my assumptions about his sensibilities.  My questioning does not come from his sons’ alleged behavior – although it is concerning to hear about such violent behavior.  My questioning comes from the names of his two sons that were involved in the incident – Hud and Speck.  Huh???

At first I thought that those were surely cute family nicknames that the boys had garnered as toddlers, but not so.  Those are their names.  Those were the names they were charged under – Hud and Speck Mellencamp.

What in the world was John Mellancamp thinking when he named those boys?  Didn’t he ever hear that song by Johnny Cash called a Boy Named Sue? Life can’t be made any easier when your name is Hud or Speck.

I don’t get some of these really different names folks pick out these days.  I wonder if they think it through.  Do they imagine how the name will be received by their child’s classmates?  Do they think about how that name will feel to their child when he or she hits adulthood, or middle age, or old age?  I often wonder what level of push-back kids with some of these truly different names give their parents as they grow older.

I remember the names of Frank Zappa’s kids – Moon Unit, Dweezil, Ahmet, and Diva – but not in a good way.  Was he trying to be funny when he named them – especially Moon Unit?  Or was he just high?

Now, I realize that sooner or later the traditional names of yore – Richard, Robert, Abigail, Gertrude, Elizabeth, etc.  – will come to be back in vogue.  In the meantime who knows what will capture the imagination of new parents.  It could just be that before long we will have Huds and Specks in every classroom across America.   Perhaps then a boy named Sue will fit right in.

Day one thousand five hundred and eight of the new forty – obla di obla da

Ms. C

3 Responses

  1. B-dubya

    The name game has become a fascinating business. I can think of 2 interesting examples: (1) A mother was called by the principal where her daughter would be attending kindergarten. “How is your daughter’s name pronounced?” (It was written as La-a.) The mother sighed with exasperation. “It’s pronounced La-dash-a…the dash don’t be silent!” (2) The rule of thumb for naming boys used to be that it should be plain and dignified enough to live in the White House. Then a lovely young lady from Kansas, who was named Stanley, met a man from Kenya and…we know the rest of that story….

  2. Katherine

    In February 1969, Johnny Cash had a party at his house in Hendersonville, TN. As the evening went on, the party turned into a guitar pull, with some of Johnny’s friends trying out their latest songs. “Bob Dylan sang ‘Lay Lady Lay,'” recalled Cash. “Kris Kristofferson sang ‘Me and Bobby McGee.’ Joni Mitchell sang ‘Both Sides Now.’ Graham Nash sang ‘Marrakesh Express.’ And Shel Silverstein sang ‘A Boy Named Sue.'”

    Cash loved Silverstein’s tune and asked him to write down the words. He might not have realized it then, but the song was about to change his life. He said, “We were leaving the next day to go to California and June said, ‘Take the words to ‘A Boy Named Sue’ to California. You’ll want to record that at San Quentin.’ I said, ‘I don’t have time to learn that song before the show.’ And she said, ‘Well, take them anyway.'”

    Cash’s recorded performance before the inmates at San Quentin prison was a follow-up to the previous year’s hit album, At Folsom Prison. (Cash had been playing shows at prisons since 1957.) For San Quentin, Cash rehearsed a set of material that included past hits such as “I Walk the Line” and “Ring of Fire.” But his wife June encouraged him to add Silverstein’s humorous song to his set.

    Cash said, “I’d only sung it the first time the night before and I read it off as I sang it. I still didn’t know the words. As a last resort, I pulled those lyrics out and laid them on the music stand, and when it came time that I thought I was brave enough, I did the song.”

    Despite reading the lyrics, Cash gave the song his all, investing it with an actor’s bravado. There’s also a spontaneity and joy about the performance, with Cash obviously amused by Silverstein’s clever lyrics. And the inmates loved it, whooping and laughing along, especially when Cash shouted the lines, “My name is Sue! How do you do? Now you’re gonna die!” From the ovation at the song’s end, Cash suspected he might have a hit on his hands.

    Read the full text here:
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    1. B-dubya

      Thanks, Katherine! I had not heard this story before–and it is a Beaut! I have a lady friend who was given a male name by her father (who thought it was just a terrific joke). She often comments about how she hates A Boy Named Sue because of all the teasing she endured growing up. I’m thinking that any day now, she’ll realize that she is the unique and compassionate person she is today largely because of that name and all that went with it. Funny how that works…

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