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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"The Name Game"
Single by Shirley Ellis
from the album The Name Game
B-side"Whisper To Me Wind"
Released1964 (1964)
GenreR&B, novelty
  • 2:39 (Single Version)
    4:39 (Album Version)
Producer(s)Charles Calello
"Name Game"
Single by Laura Branigan
from the album Touch
GenreSynth-pop, pop rock
LabelAtlantic Records
Songwriter(s)Shirley Elliston, Lincoln Chase
Producer(s)David Kesherbaun
Laura Branigan singles chronology
"Cry Wolf"
"Name Game"
"Moonlight in Water"

"The Name Game" is an American popular music song co-written and performed first by Shirley Ellis[1] as a rhyming game that creates variations on a person's name.[2] Ellis recorded the song in 1964. She explains through speaking and singing how to play the game. The first verse is done using Shirley Ellis's first name; the other names used in the original version of the song are: Lincoln, Arnold, Tony, Billy, and Marsha, while the final verse is the one syllable "Little Trick with Nick".


It was written by American singer Shirley Ellis and Lincoln Chase, and Ellis's recording, produced by Charles Calello, was released during late 1964 as "The Name Game". The record scored number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number 4 on the magazine's R&B charts during 1965. The record was re-released in 1966 and again in 1973. A Rhythm & Blues singer for 10 years before that success, Ellis was also successful with "The Clapping Song (Clap Pat Clap Slap)" (#8 pop and #16 R&B), and "The Nitty Gritty" (#8 on the Hot 100 and #4 on the Cash Box R&B chart). Ellis performed "The Name Game" on major television programs of the day, including Hullabaloo, American Bandstand and The Merv Griffin Show. The song later became a popular children's singalong.[2]

"The Name Game" has been recorded by dozens of recording artists in the years since, notably Laura Branigan, whose version produced by Jeff Lorber was included on her 1987 album Touch, released as the fifth single. It features a classroom of third-grade schoolchildren singing along to the game. Judy Moody, Hannah Banana, and many other phrases have been referenced from this song. Often sung by relative unknowns for collections of songs for children, other cover versions have been recorded by artists as diverse as Dean Ford and the Gaylords (1965), Divine (1980), and Soupy Sales (1965). The Brazilian singer Xuxa recorded a song using the same play and the same sample in the song "Jogo da Rima". In 1965, singer Olivia Molina recorded a Spanish version, "Juego De Palabras". In 1975, Anne Renée recorded "Un jeu d'fou" in French. Joanie Bartels covered the song with different names, releasing it as a single from the 1980 album, Sillytime Magic and the 1994 video The Extra-Special Substitute Teacher. In 1982, Stacy Lattisaw's "rap" recording "Attack of the Name Game" scored #70 on the Hot 100. In 1990, Cree Summer Francks (as Elmyra) performed a cover version of the song for an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures using the Tiny Toons' names (except Plucky Duck's, as mentioned by that episode's end credits). Stacy's version was sampled by Mariah Carey on her 1999 single "Heartbreaker", from her album Rainbow. Character Sister Jude (Jessica Lange) sang her version of the song in season 2 episode 10 "The Name Game" of American Horror Story. Sheldon Cooper in Season 9 Episode 21 briefly sings "The Name Game" in The Big Bang Theory. In 1997, Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir covered the song with alternate names from the album Shakin' a Tailfeather.

Ellis told Melody Maker magazine that the song was based on a game she played as a child.[2] On May 3, 2017, Howard Stern stated that he sings this song to young children, and calls it "his secret weapon" saying "it not only comforts them, it also distracts them from [his] unsightly features".[3]

This song was excerpted in Dickie Goodman's novelty break-in record single called "Shonanza" (1965), a spoof on the popular television Western "Bonanza", where the "Tony" verse is speeded up, and then slowed down, losing its energy.

The former oldies AM radio station AM 1110, did a version of that song in the late 1980s, with the names of the living disc jockeys, who presided in that station at that time.


Using the name Katie as an example, the song follows this pattern:

Katie, Katie, bo-batie,
Bonana-fanna fo-fatie
Fee fi mo-matie

A verse can be created for any name with stress on the first syllable, with X as the name and Y as the name without the first consonant sound (if it begins with a consonant), as follows:

(X), (X), bo-b (Y)
Bonana-fanna fo-f (Y)
Fee fi mo-m (Y)

If the name starts with a b, f, or m, that sound simply is not repeated. For example: Billy becomes "Billy Billy bo-illy"; Fred becomes "bonana fanna fo-red"; Marsha becomes "fee fi mo-arsha"[2]

The song as originally performed gives no indication of what to do with names where the stress falls on a syllable after the first, like Anita or Antoinette, however, the cover version on the workout video Sweatin' to the Oldies 3 (vocals by Donna Miller) suggests that the first syllable should be dropped after the name is first said; the name Madonna is sung as "Madonna-donna-bo-bonna," etc.

See also


  1. ^ "The Name Game". Billboard.
  2. ^ a b c d The Shirley Ellis Name Game Page
  3. ^ "'The Name Game' Is Howard's Secret Weapon With Children". Howard Stern. Retrieved 2017-05-07.
This page was last edited on 27 October 2021, at 17:24
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