Greta Van Fleet couldn’t have imagined that in just a few years they’d be touring the world as rock’s new sensations when they decided on a whim to name their band after an elderly woman who resided in their hometown of Frankenmuth, Michigan. Despite the honor, the 88-year-old Gretna Van Fleet admits “it’s not my favorite music”, but has respect for the hometown boys who made it big.
When the band was just starting out, they lined up their first gig in Frankenmuth in 2012, when the youngest member was 13 years old. As bassist Sam Kiszka told the Detroit Free Press, “It was a pretty big deal. So we got to thinking: ‘We’re going to need a name.’ We were just playing in the garage day in and day out and hadn’t really been thinking about it.”
Their drummer at the time was Kyle Hauck, and when his grandfather dropped him off to band practice, he told the boys, “All right, have fun. I’ve got to go cut wood for Gretna Van Fleet. I’ll see you when practice is over.” Sam says that’s when one of his brothers in the band, singer Josh Kizska, said, “That’s a band name!”
The young musicians dropped the “n” from Gretna’s first name, and the rest is history.
In the same article, the Detroit Free Press caught up with Gretna last month, and she told the newspaper, “Every day, out in town, somebody will stop me. People are so excited to meet me.”
As far as what she thinks of the band whose name she inspired, Gretna said, “It’s not my favorite music, and the boys know that. But I think they’re very talented, and I support them.” She does add that her favorite GVF song is “Flower Power”.
Gretna is a retired medical secretary but is also a musician herself, who plays the dulcimer and the drums. In fact, when Greta Van Fleet first started playing gigs around town, people would often ask her if she was playing a concert, to which she replied, “If I am, I missed rehearsals,” adding that she “couldn’t figure out how there was someone else with a name so close to mine.”
She would eventually give the band her blessing to use the name moving forward, thinking, “I thought it was funny. I didn’t think it would last long — they wouldn’t hang on to this crazy name.”
Now, Sam Kiszka thinks the name gives the band a sense of home when they’re out on the road. “We’re off in the world, traveling all the time. We’re not really based out of anywhere now. So it’s kind of nice to bring that piece of home everywhere we go.”