Bruce Springsteen is one of the most celebrated stars in rock history, and his nickname – the Boss – is almost as universally recognized as the man himself. But how did the famous moniker come about?

Springsteen’s nickname can be traced back to his early days, long before he achieved fame and fortune. Around 1969, the aspiring rocker – then 20 years old – was just another musician cutting his teeth playing local New Jersey clubs. It was at this time that Springsteen befriended many of the musicians who would later join the E Street Band.

These friends bestowed a nickname on Springsteen, but it's not the one you'd think.

‘The Boss’ Wasn’t Bruce Springsteen’s First Nickname

Springsteen’s original nickname was far less catchy that the Boss. Among his friend group, the singer was known as the Gut Bomb King. The nickname emerged from late night hangs, when the friends would get together and play Monopoly at a house on the Jersey Shore. The games were intense, with lots of wheeling and dealing between rolls of the dice. Springsteen was one of the cagiest players, and had a distinctive method of persuasion. The future rock star would often bring bags of candy and junk food, which – as night turned into morning – he’d end up trading for valuable properties on the board.

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Springsteen’s Gut Bomb King title lasted until he bestowed another nickname upon himself, the Boss. Initially it was meant as a joke, especially considering Springsteen was the polar opposite of stuffy, corporate management types. He never expected the moniker would stick.

“I hate bosses,” Springsteen admitted in the book It Ain’t No Sin to Be Glad You’re Alive. “I hate being called the boss.”

Bruce Springsteen Was Reluctant to Accept 'The Boss'

“I remember people calling him that and not taking it seriously,” Stevie Van Zandt recalled in the 2012 biography Bruce. “Not ‘til I started calling him the Boss. Then they took it seriously because I was a boss, too. So when I started calling him the Boss, the vibe was, ‘If Stevie’s doing it, there’s something to this!’”

For a few years, the Boss was a title Springsteen was only called by his closest of friends. However as the rocker’s star began to rise, so too did awareness of his nickname. Fans would hear roadies occasionally call the rocker Boss, only to pick up on the pseudonym themselves. Buy the time Springsteen released his seminal third album, Born to Run, the Boss was one of the most well-known nicknames in rock.

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Despite the pseudonym's history and wide acceptance, Springsteen was wary of accepting the Boss as his title. He claimed that the only reason it only stuck in the first place was because he was in charge of doling out everyone's payments after a show.

“There was no exalted reason behind [the nickname],” Springsteen insisted. “That was just because I paid people’s salary and it was literally like, ‘What are we going to do? Hmm, I don’t know. Somebody better ask the Boss.’ So really, it was just a name you would use whenever you were working.”

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Gallery Credit: UCR Staff

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