One of my favorite musicians is a singer/songwriter by the name of Slaid Cleaves. He’s got one of those rare voices that is simultaneously smooth as silk and rough as sandpaper. I stumbled upon his website tonight looking to see when he might be releasing his next album (May 23rd!), and while browsing around the site, I found this short essay he wrote about his relatively unusual name.
Apparently, people frequently ask him if “Slaid” is his real name. I guess I never thought about it. I just assumed it was too damn weird on its own to be made up.
As it turns out, it’s his middle name.
But as a guy who never really went by his given legal name until a couple of crotchety old teachers dictated otherwise, I can relate with his predicament. My first experience with the “is that your real name” conundrum was almost identical to his. He writes:
I’ve heard that question, oh, several hundred times I guess. The first time, the phrase was not in question form: “That’s not your real name; that’s your nickname. Richard is your real name.” This came from Mrs. McLean on the first day of first grade, and it pissed me off. It was my first encounter with fill-in-the-form bureaucracy. (How many times have you been asked for your middle name on a government or company form?) I had been writing S-l-a-i-d on all my drawings and finger paintings for about a year now, and I’d never been called Richard a day in my life. I didn’t know how to spell Richard, and I didn’t want to know. I knew what a nickname was, and I knew that Slaid was my real name.
If you just replace Mrs. McLean with Mrs. Patterson, that’s pretty much exactly how I remember it going down for me, too.
Anyway, I enjoyed reading his story and thought I’d share. (And conveniently plug one of my favorite artists.)
You can read the whole story here.