Def Leppard singer Joe Elliott spoke in an interview with “All Things Considered” and revealed the story about where the name “Def Leppard” came from. Here’s the statement:
“I came up with it in ’75 when I was still in school. It was in an art class… the great thing about art is it’s subjective, so you can talk to the teacher and go, ‘Look, I don’t want to do this bowl of fruit. Can I do a rock poster?’ I’d do that, and I spent the whole term just making up posters for bands that I’d like to see or wish I’ve seen.
Eventually, I just started making names up because I got bored, and one of them just happened to be Def Leppard. It was spelled correctly at the time. I just thought it sounded good — it had a nice phonetic sound to it, like Led Zeppelin or The Beatles. It rolled off the tongue well.
It was Tony [Kenning], our original drummer, who suggested we change the spelling… It wasn’t simply done to copy Led Zeppelin. When we first had it written out on the wall of our rehearsal room, it was spelled correctly.
Tony just drew a line through the A and stuck a line down the O so we could still see the original spelling, but he had graffiti on top. It wasn’t until maybe a month later when somebody wrote it out again that we noticed, ‘Well, it looks like Led Zeppelin,’ but at the time, we all went, ‘We’d rather look like them than The Flying Lizards, so stick with it.’ Silly name, really, but look at racehorses — I don’t think I’ve ever seen one that doesn’t have a silly name.
They all seem to work. I was probably 14 years old. It was just two words — it could have been anything. It’s become iconic now, but at the time, it was like, ‘Whatever.’ It just grew into itself. Happy accidents are always the best way.“
You can watch the entire interview from below.