What country singer has had a record 10 consecutive singles reach No. 1 on the charts?
Brad Paisley, who appears at Omaha’s CenturyLink Center on Thursday night.
Brad’s a short form of Bradley and Bradford. Bradley (“broad clearing”) and Bradford (“broad ford”) are common village names in England. Families with the surnames Bradley and Bradford have medieval ancestors from one of those places.
In 1620, William Bradford (1590-1657) arrived at Plymouth aboard the Mayflower. Bradford was the Plymouth colony’s governor for most of the next 37 years.
Bradford wrote the first history of the Pilgrims, and 19th century Americans revered him as a “Pilgrim father.”
That’s why Bradford was ahead of Bradley as a given name in the United States during the 19th century. The 1850 census, first to list all residents, included 1,684 men named Bradford and 1,095 named Bradley.
Bradley is much more common than Bradford as a surname. In the 2000 census, there were 131,289 Americans with the last name Bradley and 51,726 Bradfords.
Bradley has also always been ahead of Bradford as a first name in England. One literary example is Bradley Headstone, a schoolmaster who attempts to murder a romantic rival in Charles Dickens’s 1865 novel “Our Mutual Friend.”
By 1880, according to the Social Security’s yearly baby name list, Bradley was ahead in America, too.
Bradley sharply rose between 1895 and 1899, while William O’Connell Bradley was governor of Kentucky. Bradley was an anti-lynching crusader who pardoned George Dinning, an ex-slave convicted for shooting one of a mob trying to burn down his house. Births of Bradleys tripled during his term.
But Bradley’s big boom as a first name came in the 1940s. Part of this was in honor of Gen. Omar Bradley (1893-1981), who reporter Ernie Pyle famously dubbed “the GI’s general.” Bradley — whose friends called him “Brad”— later was first chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
A pop culture “feedback loop” then began boosting Bradley and Brad. In 1945, “Brad Spencer, Wonderman,” a comic book where Brad is turned “hard as steel” by “sizzling voltage of a super current,” appeared. Though the comic lasted only three years, the superhero and the general led to the number of babies named Bradley rising 81 percent and Brad 123 percent in 1946.
Another now-forgotten character who helped the name was Judge Bradley Stevens, long-suffering husband of ditzy blonde Joan Davis on television’s “I Married Joan” (1952-1955.)
Bradley hit the top 100 in 1960. It peaked at 47th in 1970 and then fell off. This reversed in 1973 when soap opera “The Young and the Restless” premiered, with actor Tom Hallick playing Brad Elliott, handsome mysterious stranger who becomes a newspaper reporter.
In 1975 the cult film “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” premiered, with Barry Bostwick as Brad Majors. At first a flop, “Rocky Horror” became an audience participation phenomenon where fans attend late night showings dressed as favorite characters. The fun of seeing up-tight straight-laced Brad and fiancée Janet transformed by manic alien transvestite Dr. Frankfurter has kept the film in release ever since.
The combo of “Rocky Horror” and “Y&R” coincided with the all-time peak of Brad as a separate name (ranking 98th in 1975). Bradley peaked at 47th again in 1979.
Today’s most famous Brad, film star Brad Pitt, was born William Bradley Pitt in 1963. Brad Paisley was born as Brad Douglas Paisley in West Virginia in 1972.
But these guys didn’t boost the name. That honor goes to Bradley Cooper.
Bradley bottomed out as a baby name at 201st in 2008. Cooper first broke out as a big star in 2009 with “The Hangover.” Since then, the name Bradley has risen 15 percent in baby names, ranking 169th in 2012.
It’s unusual for a name which peaked in the 1970s to be on an upswing today. Why did Cooper inspire this when Pitt and Paisley didn’t? That’s today’s biggest baby name mystery.