When bands first started out, they were all named as collectives of individuals (e.g., Bill Haley and the Comets), but at some point it became more common to just have a singular name (e.g., Radiohead),These are the things we think about. (Also, my brother is a lawyer, which I think explains the use of "sui generis" in an email about band names.)
So my question: Who do you think was the first major band whose name was singular as opposed to plural? By the late sixties there was Buffalo Springfield. I can't decide if the Who counts, because it's kind of sui generis. I think the Grateful Dead is still plural. Whoever it was, they started a sea change, because now that's by far the more common type of name I think (with a brief resurgence in the early 2000s with the Vines, the Hives, the Strokes,etc.).
We're still not sure of the exact answer to his question - Cream was around by the mid-sixties, but chances are it was some small band someplace in England or the Midwest that actually started the phenomenon.
But the whole conversation made me think of something else: Restaurant names.
Here in Baltimore, at least, there's been a recent shift in the style of restaurant name - one that's similar to the band name change. Older restaurants were often named after families - Haussner's, Burke's, Busch's Chesapeake Inn - or had sort of broad, generic names - Chesapeake Restaurant, Sunset Restaurant.
Compare that to today's crop of new spots: Fork and Wrench, Of Love and Regret, Wit + Wisdom. Even Woodberry Kitchen and Kettle Hill feel totally different. They're conceptual, but sometimes the concept is pretty far removed from the food.
And the restaurants that are named after a family are often named for a child, or a dog - Ryleigh's, Maisy's, Kooper's Tavern.
When did this happen? I don't know. Why? I'm not sure about that, either. Is it that we started thinking more about our food and started expecting it to be a little less straightforward? Or maybe restaurateurs feel pressure to focus more on the experience vs. the food itself.
Whatever it is, it's happening. Just like in the music biz.