How Did Metallica Get Their Name?


Black and white image of the metal band Metallica.

Metallica – Author Anne Erickson, Photo via Tim Saccenti

Metallica are the definitive heavy metal band. Sure, you’ll hear lots of metal purists moan and groan about how the band “sold out” when they released “The Black Album” in 1991. I get it. It was much more “mainstream” than the band’s previous records and perhaps a bit shocking for some fans. But, “The Black Album” made Metallica and, subsequently, metal music one of the most widespread musical genres in the world. So, that album spread the good word about metal music, and I’m not mad about it. But, back to the band itself. How did Metallica get their name?

Let’s delve into the story behind how Metallica got their beloved moniker.

How Did Metallica Start?

Before we get to how Metallica got their name, let’s look at when and how Metallica formed. The band got together in the early 1980s, a time when the music industry was far different than it is today. With barely any technology to use, drummer Lars Ulrich ran a newspaper ad asking to find some people to jam with and form a band. James Hetfield responded, and the two discovered they had great musical chemistry. Guitarist Dave Mustaine and bass player Ron McGovney also came into the fold early on. Later, Mustaine got fired and eventually formed Megadeth. McGovney left the group and was replaced by the late, great Cliff Burton. Read more about the story of Metallica here.

What’s the official definition of Metallica?

Unlike some bands who take their name from words that have a real meaning, Metallica pretty much created their own word with Metallica. If you look the official definition up, its meaning is literally the band. Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries defines Metallica as “a US band whose music combines punk and heavy metal.” Sounds about right. Now, metallic is actually a world. The Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries defines metallic as an adjective describing something “that looks, tastes or sounds like metal.” Yummy.

How did Metallica get their name?

It’s funny when people say the Metallica isn’t metal. I mean, the word metal is actually in their band name. So, how did Metallica get their name?

Drummer Lars Ulrich’s friend Ron Quintana is to thank for the band name. He was apparently brainstorming names for a fanzine and was looking at names such as Metal Mania and Metallica. Ulrich heard the options and said he would love to have the name Metallica for his band. So, he suggested that Quintana use Metal Mania, and Ulrich took Metallica.

Ulrich explained the name choice in an interview with NPR. When asked, “How did you come up with the name Metallica for your band?” he replied, “Well, I came up here actually in the spring of 1981 and ended up at a kegger over on Strawberry Hill. And I met a bunch of really cool San Francisco kids. One them was named Ron. And he told me he wanted to start his own fanzine, like a hard rock fanzine, where he wrote about all his favorite bands. And he wanted – he asked me whether he should call the fanzine Metallica or Metal Mania. So I suggested that he call it Metal Mania.”

How Did Metallica Get Famous?

In that same interview, NPR asked Ulrich why Metallica became such a popular band. So, how did Metallica become famous? Ulrich says Metallica’s success is due to the fact they didn’t sound like any other band in California at the time. They had European influences and had a novel sound, he explained. It makes sense. They simply stood out.

So, that’s how Metallica got their band name and become so popular. Want more metal? Find some of the best heavy metal riffs of all time here.

Anne Erickson
Latest posts by Anne Erickson (see all)
Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Metal, Music

Related Posts