“You said if I slept with you, I wouldn’t have to touch the drunk.” – Titania
“Duffman says a lot of things! Oh, yeah!” – Duffman
In a Reading Digest last spring, I noted that Duff McKagan, bass player for (among others) Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver, and Loaded, had claimed that Duff beer was named after him. It came up again last summer, and has been bubbling up on-line ever since. In addition to it being noted in articles and the like about him, McKagan himself has mentioned it several times. In an ESPN.com column he wrote:
My name is Duff McKagan, and I play rock and roll music. The beer on "The Simpsons" show was named after me, and not the other way around. (I suppose it is a testament to how much alcohol I used to drink. Yeah, not too sexy really.)
In addition to that, one of those generically crappy radio station “blogs” quotes him in an (unlinked) interview:
”Our management for GN’R got a fax but it was from like an adult cartoon. Now there wasn’t any adult cartoons in 1988. There just wasn’t and like, ‘an adult cartoon?’ They want to use your name as the name of the beer on the thing and they just want your blessing. It’s not like I own the name Duff, I should’ve trademarked that thing on up if I would’ve known but yeah, that think took off, that Simpsons deal.”
And here’s how he put it in his autobiography:
When Guns N’ Roses began to break into the public consciousness, I was known as a big drinker. In 1988, MTV aired a concert in which Axl introduced me – as usual – as Duff “the King of Beets” McKagan. Soon after this, a production company working on a new animated series called me to ask if the could use the name “Duff” for a brand of beer in the show. I laughed and said of course, no problem. The whole thing sounded like a low-rent art project or something – I mean, who made cartoons for adults? Little did I know that the show would become The Simpsons and that within a few years I would start to see Duff beer glasses and gear everywhere we toured.
That last quote caused a brief stir on-line last fall when the book was released. The first eighty pages were put on-line for free, and that quote appears on page 9. Just about any time a celebrity puts out a book (or someone puts out a book about a celebrity), one fact/revelation will inevitably be used as the hook to describe it so that people can talk about it without actually having read it. In this case, that one thing was the Duff Beer-Duff McKagan connection, which was mentioned in articles about the book by everything from little blogs to The Los Angeles Times and The Huffington Post.
Now, I don’t particularly care about this. Whether or not McKagan’s drinking (at one point, he had a championship belt that had Budweiser caps instead of jewels on it) was a factor in naming Homer’s beer “Duff” doesn’t change Duff Gardens, Tartar Control Duff, or Duffman one bit. However, the internet has a way of mistaking repetition for confirmation, and in the last year this idea has become truthy enough that it gets included as a throwaway fact in semi-respectable publications like Business Week:
How he drank so much beer at one point that Guns N’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose introduced him as “The King of Beers” and a producer from The Simpsons called to ask if he could name the show’s beer, Duff, after him, which they did.
As well as independent blogs:
The name Duff comes from Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan, known for drinking lots of alcoholics.
And the world’s largest source of information, Wikipedia:
In an excerpt from his autobiography, former Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan said that the beer was named after him as the writers were fans of the band and he was known for his extreme alcohol consumption.
That citation, by the way, goes to Maxim’s website, where there’s an excerpt from the book that includes the paragraph I cited above. The sentence in Wikipedia is carefully worded, but that kind of caution has a way of washing out over time, and experience says that as more people read, write and rewrite the same claim, it’ll become more and more difficult for someone to trace it all the way back to its actual origin.
As near as I can tell, no one else from Guns N’ Roses has mentioned this story, nor has anyone from The Simpsons ever said anything similar. That doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t true, but right now “Duff Beer inspired by Duff McKagan” is a completely unsubstantiated claim by a single guy who freely admits he was drunk out of his mind during the period in question, put the word “Lies” in the title of his book, and wrote this in his Author’s Note:
My friends and old band members may remember some of the stories I recount differently than I do, but I have found that all stories have many sides.
In other words, it’s as far from confirmed as it is possible for something to be. Again, it could be true, but with the currently available information, there’s plenty of room for doubt. Maybe someone from The Simpsons did call (or fax) them, but was it one of the guys who came up with it, or was it some paranoid junior lawyer in the bowels of FOX? Maybe someone not from the show called him and told him about it, and over the years his memory changed that to someone from the show. Who knows?
McKagan is an extremely accomplished, financially secure guy; he has no reason to lie about this. However, and by his own admission, he does have a lot of reasons to be confused about it. Therefore, simple prudence says that it needs to be confirmed by one or more other sources before it’s generally accepted. Unfortunately, right now acceptance is running well ahead of confirmation. This post likely won’t slow that down, but it’s here if anyone cares to look.
[Note: I’m only about halfway done with the book (through the time period when this call/fax would’ve happened), but this post is already two days late and Google Book Search tells me that the Simpsons doesn’t get mentioned again for the rest of the text. If I come across something that changes any of the above, I’ll update this post.]