Did The Lovin’ Spoonful Get Their Name From a Slang Term for Heroin?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about music and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the music urban legends featured so far.

MUSIC URBAN LEGEND: The Lovin’ Spoonful got their name from a slang term for heroin

Over the years, basically every band that has a name that is a bit peculiar has had slightly more sinister meaning attributed to the origin of their name.

The Lovin’ Spoonful, the popular American Rock ‘n’ Roll band from the 1960s, is no exception.

The band was formed in New York by lead singer (and the group’s main songwriter) John Sebastian, guitarist Zal Yanovsky, drummer Joe Butler and bassist Steve Boone.

The band became a smash success, with such hit singles as “Do You Believe In Magic,” “You Didn’t Have to Be So Nice,” “Daydream,” “Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?” and their biggest hit, the 1966 smash hit “Summer in the City.”

In any event, after the group became extremely popular during 1965-1966, a series of misinformation sprung up about the band’s name.

One popular rumor was that the name was a reference to heroin, as in cooking up a “lovin’ spoonful” of heroin.

That does not appear to be the case.

First off all, in 1966, when the rumors began, the group specifically denied them. The band’s manager wrote a letter to Variety after an article implying that the name was a drug reference, saying:

You imply that America’s top new pop group have selected a name that alludes to narcotics. I have known the Lovin’ Spoonful since long before their formation, and I can assure you that they are too mature and too intelligent to engage in this particular form of nonsense.

Sebastian added at the time to the British music magazine Melody Maker, “Over here, they thing that everything sung by young people is a drug song. Daydream came under the same axe, too.”

So besides their denials, honestly, the origin of the band’s name is pretty clear – John Sebastian attributed it to a musician friend of his named Fritz Richmond (like Sebastian, Richmond was involved in a “jugband” style of music), taking the name from a song lyric of Mississippi John Hurt’s classic blues song, “Coffee Blues.”

Here are the lyrics of the song:

(spoken:This is the “Coffee Blues”, I likes a certain brand – Maxwell’s House – it’s good till the last drop,
just like it says on the can. I used to have a girl cookin’ a good Maxwell House. She moved away.
Some said to Memphis and some said to Leland, but I found her. I wanted her to cook me some
good Maxwell’s House. You understand, if I can get me just a spoonful of Maxwell’s House, do me much good as two or three cups this other coffee)
I’ve got to go to Memphis, bring her back to
Leland
I wanna see my baby ’bout a lovin’ spoonful
, my lovin’ spoonful
Well, I’m just got to have my lovin’
(spoken: I found her)
Good mornin’, baby, how you do this mornin’?
Well, please, ma’am, just a lovin’ spoon,
just a lovin’ spoonful
I declare, I got to have my lovin’ spoonful
My baby packed her suitcase and she went away
I couldn’t let her stay for my lovin’,
my lovin’ spoonful
Well, I’m just got to have my lovin’
Good mornin’, baby, how you do this mornin’?
Well, please, ma’am, just a lovin’ spoon,
just a lovin’ spoonful
I declare, I got to have my lovin’ spoonful
Well, the preacher in the pulpit, jumpin’ up and down
He laid his bible down for his lovin’
(spoken: Ain’t Maxwell House all right?)
Well, I’m just got to have my lovin’

That seems to make perfect sense, right?

So I’m going with a definite false to it being a drug reference.

The legend is…

STATUS: False

Thanks to Richie Unterberger’s great book, Turn! Turn! Turn!: The ’60s Folk-Rock Revolution for the quotes from Cavallo and Sebastian.

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future urban legends columns! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com

One Response to “Did The Lovin’ Spoonful Get Their Name From a Slang Term for Heroin?”

  1. Nice blog here! Also your site loads up fast! What web host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my site loaded up as fast as yours lol

Leave a Reply