Emmaretta: Baby Name of the Day

by appellationmountain on December 5, 2012

1 - Deep Purple - Emmaretta -  US - 1968- Deep Purple – Emmaretta – US – 1968- (Photo credit: Affendaddy)

Emma is a huge hit, while this musical name is barely a whisper.

Thanks to E.W. for suggesting Emmaretta as our Baby Name of the Day.

If you’re a big fan of hard rock legends Deep Purple you might know that they recorded a single called “Emmaretta” early in their career.  It wasn’t a hit – the band’s label was nearly broke, and the original line-up disintegrated soon after.

What you may not know is that the song was written by original lead singer Rod Evans, in a bid to impress a singer-actress.

Emmaretta, did you get my letter
I sent it to you, oh Emmaretta

Emmaretta Marks was appearing in the musical Hair at the time, and working as a background singer.

Evans was replaced by Ian Gillan shortly after the song’s recording, and if Marks and Evans ever went on a date, that fact is lost to time.  In fact, Marks is missing from the history of rock and roll – and if her story is true, that’s a shame.  It’s said that she recorded the introduction to the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” but was not credited for her haunting oo, oo vocals.  Merry Clayton is well known as Mick Jagger’s collaborator on the track – and it is clear that her work is the bulk of the singing – but it’s possible there was more than one female voice.

So where did the lovely Ms. Marks get her name?

Emmaretta has never cracked the US Top 1000, but she appears in the census records with some frequency.  -etta endings had their day in the nineteenth century.  In 1898, Henrietta and Loretta were big, plus Etta stood on her own, too.  More obscure -etta names were heard: Rosetta, Marietta, Zetta, Concetta, Margaretta, Izetta, Gretta, Coletta, Metta, Lucetta, Arletta, Doretta, Floretta, Jetta, Louetta, Vietta.  The ending stayed in use for decades.  Etta James was born Jamesetta Hawkins in 1938.

Given that Emma was a popular name, too, it feels inevitable that someone would smoosh the two together.  After all, the elaborated Emmeline had a good run, too.

But how would Emmaretta wear today?

She’s in sparing use.  This Nameberry thread mentions a daughter named Emmaretta London, and British Baby Names found Emmaretta Silvia Ophelia in 1859.

On the negative side, I fret that Emmaretta would be heard as “amaretto” by most.  That’s not entirely negative – the Italian amoretto – cupid – comes from the Latin amor - love.  The liqueur gets its name from amaro - bitter, as in the bitter almond that gives the drink its distinctive flavor.

But on the plus side:

  • The wildly talented Etta James lends the name some swing.  Carson Daly welcomed a daughter named Etta this year, and Nameberry called her “The Most Surprising Comeback Name” for 2013 while noting that Emma and Ella lead logically to Etta.
  • Emmaretta plays it safe, serving as an elaboration of fast favorite Emma.  But she’s also an unusual twist on the name – something just a little different.
  • We love long names for girls: Isabella, Olivia, Samantha.

If you’re after a rarity with a vintage feel and a rock edge, Emmaretta might be a possibility to ponder.

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