His achy-breaky heart is celebrating 25 years as a pop culture phenomenon, thanks to the 1992 hit country song. And interestingly, after all these years, Billy Ray has announced that he's changing his name and will soon be known as simply "Cyrus."
"After August 25th, I will be the artist formerly known as Billy Ray. I'm just going by my last name Cyrus," he tells Rolling Stone Country. "I always went by Cyrus, and I begged Mercury Records to call me Cyrus in the beginning because that's what I was comfortable with. I'm going to the hospital where I was born in Bellefonte, Kentucky, and legally changing my name."
Billy Ray's story is a beautiful example of just how significant and personally meaningful names are. The fact that he has wanted to be known as Cyrus for so long, and that it still means enough to him to make a public change now speaks volumes about how important it is.
The Name and I helps folks with both personal and brand naming, so we know the ins and outs of what Billy Ray likely considered before deciding to make a change. From a personal perspective, this is a clear win. Being called what you're comfortable with is essential to a happy life. And hearing Billy Ray use the word "begging" to describe his early pleas to Mercury Records just makes you feel happy for the guy now that he can be called what he wants.
But from a branding perspective, it's a little more complicated. When a well-known brand changes its name, there's a risk that the public may not follow along in order to connect the new to the old. Billy Ray has been known as Billy Ray Cyrus for a really long time. Mercury Records no doubt poured a ton of resources into making a name for Billy Ray. People know him as Billy Ray Cyrus, and countless items from t-shirts to concert tickets to vinyl record labels bear the famous name. Billy Ray's famous singer-songwriter daughter Miley Cyrus is now well known too, which further complicates use of the Cyrus name in a business context.
There's also a very real risk of the public ridiculing the change. Remember all the jokes about Prince when he changed his name to a symbol? Remember how everyone called him "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince" for lack of a better way to refer to the man? Of course that's more dramatic and unusual than Billy Ray Cyrus switching to Cyrus, but the dangers to bottom line revenue are real.