‘nom de disc’: meaning and origin

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The phrase nom de disc denotes an assumed name under which a person records a disc.

This phrase occurs, for example, in the review of Adulthood (Moshi Moshi/Island), an album by CocknBullKid—review by John Aizlewood, published in the London Evening Standard (London, England) of Friday 20th May 2011:

ANITA BLAY, the 25-year-old Ghanaian east Londoner, could hardly have made things more difficult for herself with this childish nom-de-disc. Calling herself CocknBullKid may suggest she’s a novelty act ready for a McJob by the time she’s 26, but her debut album is the work of a woman with an exhilarating vision.

The phrase nom de disc was coined on the pattern of nom de théâtre, denoting an assumed name under which a person acts or performs on stage, and nom de plume, denoting an assumed name under which a person writes or publishes.

(The French masculine noun nom translates as name; the French preposition de translates as of; the French masculine noun théâtre translates as theatre; the French feminine noun plume translates as feather, quill.)

—Cf. also notes on phrases such as ‘nom de crinoline’ and ‘nom de freak’.

The earliest occurrences of the phrase nom de disc that I have found are as follows, in chronological order:

1-: From the Daily Herald (London, England) of Tuesday 20th October 1931:

Hidden Celebrity—for the Gramofan
by Sydney A. Moseley

Two new records deserve your very special attention. You remember I “tipped” you a hidden celebrity on a Winner record. She is back again on 5351, under the same “nom de disc.”
The Edison Bell people solemnly vow that she is not the person I think she is. Well, we shall see. . . .

2-: From Record Previews, published in The Age (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) of Thursday 1st August 1957:

Bright film music from the husband-wife vocal “team,” Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, dynamic vocals by Negro baritone Leslie “Porgy” Scott, and romantic singing by Patti Page, are in the vocal long-players.
Leslie Scott, a Negro with a rich baritone, attracted attention in Antwerp during a performance by his company of Porgy and Bess. Hence the nom-de-disc of “Porgy.”
So impressive was his stage performance that he was invited to record this recital with Jan Corduwener’s Orchestra (Philips, 10-inch l-p).

3-: From the column Diskords with Acord, by John Acord III, published in The Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA) of Sunday 2nd February 1958:

“Delirium in Hi-Fi” Elsa Popping and her Pixieland Band, which is a nom de disc for a partnership of musician Andre Popp (who in calmer moments writes gems like “Portuguese Washerwoman”) and sound effects wizard Pierre Fatsome. No cheap slapstick here—solid workmanship and elaborate tours de force—the simplest of which is singing and recording backwards.

4-: From the Birmingham Weekly Post and Midland Pictorial (Birmingham, Warwickshire, England) of Friday 7th February 1958:

Midland portrait
Organist on record

HARRY FARMER, Walsall-born cinema organist and recording personality, is a man of many aliases, among them Andreas, because the manager of the Regent Cinema, Ipswich, thought it more romantic, and Henry Farmer, because a London manager considered it more dignified.
Trying to break into recording after the war, Harry thought his name was becoming jaded, so chose Chris Hamilton—the Hamilton being acknowledgment of help received from Hamilton Kennedy of the B.B.C during the wartime “Trooper Smith Entertains” programme. A secretary’s error changed the name on one of his tentative discs to Chris Hamalton, who was at once acclaimed “a new discovery”.
“HamaIton” began recording for Decca in 1952 and soon there was a Chris Hamalton Fan Club in U.S.A. This left Harry Farmer, free-lance Hammond organist, bewailing the fact that he could not command fees consistent with Chris Hamalton’s fame, so he was allowed to make one Harry Farmer record a year until the nom-de-disc story was told three years ago.

5-: From Record Previews, published in The Age (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) of Thursday 26th November 1959:

Country and western singer Ferlin Husky uses the nom-de-disc of Simon Crum in a satirical double on country music—Country Music is Here To Stay, and Stand Up Sit Down Shut Your Mouth, a mild “send-up” of rock ‘n’ roll (Capitol).

6-: From Jazz for Easter, published in the Leicester Evening Mail (Leicester, Leicestershire, England) of Wednesday 11th April 1962:

U.S. Bonds is the “nom-de-disc” of Gary Anderson (22). former spiritual singer from Virginia.
He issued a challenge to disc jockeys in any town he visits in America to play him 18 holes at golf.
If he loses he gives the “dee-jay” a 100 dollar U.S. bond. If he wins the disc jockey must donate 100 dollars to the local police athletic league.

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