Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan Really Wants Us to Think That He Inspired the Beer From ‘The Simpsons’

The ‘Simpsons’ writers say otherwise
Guns N’ Roses’ Duff McKagan Really Wants Us to Think That He Inspired the Beer From ‘The Simpsons’

Part of what makes the world of The Simpsons so rich is its many fictional brand names — from Krusty Burger, to Lard Lad donuts, to Malk, which is somehow an actual product now (how much “Vitamin R” it contains is unclear).

Speaking of fake beverages that became real, Springfield’s favorite beer, Duff, is so iconic that an upstart German brewery actually tempted the wrath of Fox’s lawyers by producing its own, unauthorized Duff beer for years. Fox later signed off on a Chilean take on Duff purely to combat “fake versions” of Homer’s go-to beer. Sadly it wasn’t popular enough to justify building a real-life Duff Gardens or employing a full-time gyrating mascot. 

But one aspect of Duff that has proven to be surprisingly controversial is its name. That’s because one rock star is claiming credit for having inspired the cartoon booze: Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan.

McKagan first made this claim in his 2011 autobiography It’s So Easy and Other Lies. Assuming that it wasn’t one of the titular “lies,” McKagan wrote that a “production company working on a new animated series” contacted him around 1988 to ask if they could “use the name ‘Duff’ for a band of beer in the show,” owing to his reputation as a “big drinker.” 

Believing that it was some kind of “low-rent art project,” McKagan laughed and said “no problem.” But he was seemingly a little ticked once The Simpsons took off and Duff merchandise started popping up all over the world. This trivia tidbit instantly became a part of the show’s lore, to the surprise of McKagan, who told Rich Eisen in 2019 that he “didn’t know it was going to be this huge revelation.”

In a recent interview with Stereogum, McKagan was once again asked about The Simpsons and doubled down on the story, adding that he was the self-proclaimed “King of Beers” at the time, and wore a Budweiser belt bearing that motto on stage. He also bemoaned that he didn’t have the business sense to ask for a cut of the profits at the time. “I didn’t know about branding or anything like that,” McKagan recalled. “And then they started selling merch and stuff. I never went after him, but I’m like, ‘Hey, motherfuckers,’ you know?”

Here’s where things get interesting: Writers for The Simpsons have repeatedly denied McKagan’s story. Creator Matt Groening reportedly called the idea “absurd” while former showrunner Mike Reiss explained that the beer was actually named by writer Jay Kogen. Of McKagan, Reiss wrote in his book Springfield, “We’d never heard of this guy. Have you?”

But even the Simpsons crew seems to have differing origin stories for Duff beer. Animator David Silverman claimed that the word was invented by Groening, who came up with it to complete the slogan “Can’t get enough of that wonderful…”

McKagan isn’t buying the denials, speculating that “it’s very probably business savvy of them to say that’s not true.” Of course, it’s also possible that both McKagan and The Simpsons writers are telling the truth. Perhaps a writer came up with the name independent of McKagan, but then someone involved in the production flagged the name for its association with a celebrity, and figured that it would be a good idea to clear it with McKagan just to avoid any potential legal issues?

At least Buzz Aldrin never went after The Simpsons for creating Buzz Cola.

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