The Name Game

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"The Name Game"
Single by Shirley Ellis
from the album The Name Game
Released 1964 (1964)
Genre R&B, Novelty
Length 2:39
Label Congress
Producer(s) Charles Calello

"The Name Game" is an American pop song written and performed by Shirley Ellis[1] as a rhyming game that creates variations on a person's name.[2]


It was written by U.S. singer Shirley Ellis with Lincoln Chase, and Ellis's recording, produced by Charles Calello, was released in late 1964 as "The Name Game." That record went to number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and number 4 on the magazine's R&B charts in 1965. The record was re-released in 1966 and again in 1973. While Ellis' stock in trade was novelty hits, she was not a one-hit wonder. A serious R&B singer for 10 years before that hit, Ellis also charted 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, appearing on her 1987 album Touch, features a classroom of third-grade schoolchildren singing along to the tongue-twisting game. Often covered by relative unknowns on collections of songs for children, other cover versions have been recorded by artists as diverse (and campy) as Dean Ford and the Gaylords (1965), Divine (1980), and Soupy Sales (2002). The Brazilian singer Xuxa recorded a song using the same play and 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. In 1982, Stacy Lattisaw took her "rap" recording of "Attack of the Name Game" to #79 on the Hot 100. In 1993, this song was used on television as an advertisement for Little Caesar's Pizza. 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)

Tom Hanks sang 'The Name Game' to pass the time while he was waiting to be rescued from the second story floor boards that had given way and left him dangling between floors in The Money Pit. 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]


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

Katie, Katie, bo-batie,
Banana-fana fo-fatie

A verse can be created for any name, 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)
Banana-fana fo-f (Y)
Fee-fy-mo-m (Y)

And 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 "banana fana fo-red"; Marsha becomes "Fee-fy "mo-arsha''"[2]

See also[edit]