Behind the Band Name: Uriah Heep

In Charles Dickens’ 1950 novel, David Copperfield, the antagonist, Uriah Heep, was a bonafide sycophant. Using his innate flatterer to his advantage, Heep blackmailed lawyer and businessman Mr. Wickfield in the story.

The name was often referenced as a byword for a “humble hypocrite,” and the most detestable fictional character it was based on, inspired the band name of the British rockers Uriah Heep.
Originally formed in London in 1969 by guitarist Mick Box, along with operatic vocalist David Garrick (who later changed his surname to Byron), drummer Alex Napier and bassist Paul Newton, the band initially called themselves Spice.

“Basically, we used the name Spice, because we didn’t want our music to be just any one genre,” said Box in 2021. “There’s lots of spices, and that was our train of thought with the name of the band. That mindset kind of rolled over to Uriah Heep.”

Between the songwriting duo of Box and Garrick, the band was soon signed to Vertigo Records and needed a new name as they entered their next chapter.

Uriah Heep
Spice just naturally bled into the name Uriah Heep for the band, according to Box.

“If you look at the first album of Uriah Heep, ‘Very ‘Eavy…Very ‘Umble,’ there’s a lot of progressive rock, bluesy rock, and hard rock, even metal with songs like ‘Gypsy,’” said Box. “Once we got in the studio, as a four-piece, we started augmenting some keyboards. That’s when we got Ken Hensley involved.”

Hensley, who died in 2020, played slide guitar, organ, mellotron, and more in the band, along with writing or co-writing many of Uriah Heep’s songs, including “Easy Livin’,” “Stealin’,” “Look at Yourself,” ‘Free Me” and “Lady in Black,” which he sang lead vocals on.

“We thought with a musical change, maybe we should have a name change too, launch as a fresh entity,” said Box, “and that’s how we arrived at Uriah Heep.”

Box and the Band Today

Throughout their more than five-decade career, Uriah Heep has released 25 albums from their 1970 debut through Chaos & Colour in 2023. Uriah Heep has sold more the 40 million records worldwide and released a number of hits, including “Gypsy,” “Sweet Lorraine,” “The Wizard,” and “Easy Livin’.”

Transitioning through a number of lineup changes over the decades, Box remains the longest-running original member of Uriah Heep and continues to play with the band, consisting of vocalist Bernie Shaw, who has been with the band since 1986, along with bassist Dave Rimmer, keyboardist Phil Lanzon, and drummer Russell Gilbrook.

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