George, John and Robby, all acquaintances through Buffalo State College and the local band scene, had gotten together over Memorial Day in 1986. George had rented practice space in a derelict building on Genesee Street near the end of Chippewa.
"My old band had crapped out and their old bands had crapped out," John says. "I showed them some riffs. George came up with words. And Robby put everything together. The landlord even came over and hung out with us." 
Robby, George and John called their band the Sex Maggots. A promoter had caught a performance at a local club and decided to book them. However he requested they had to change the name, as the local newspaper could not print their current name. One night before a performance and slightly under the influence, the boys flipped through the pages of a True Detective magazine and discovered an ad for a Goo Goo Doll. It caught their attention, enough to make it the new name of their band. "We were young and we were a garage band, not trying to get a deal. We had a gig that night and needed a name. It's the best we came up with, and for some reason it stuck. If I had five more minutes, I definitely would have picked a better name" John stated. Appealing at the time, Johnny has stated numerous times that he felt the name was a hindrance to selling records and that under a different title, they may have sold more.
Within a few months, the Goo Goo Dolls were favourites in Buffalo's club scene, but the band members were living life on the edge. In an interview John said: "We went through all the booze and drug experimentation, all that nonsense. People came to our shows just to see if one of us was gonna die on stage. Robby was still kind of metal, and I had this big blond fucking coif--like a blond Robert Smith! We'd get up on stage and play so fuckin' hard. We didn't know what we were playing half the time." Robby added: "We'd make up songs on stage. Just write some chords on a piece of paper and go out and play them".
The Goo Goo Dolls started out covering songs by artists as diverse as Prince, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and the Plimsouls, adding their own twist of homespun humor. The band had to rent performance spaces in order to play. Matt Ashare of the Boston Phoenix described their early original material as "loud, raucous songs that combined Ramones-style buzz-saw guitars with Cheap Trick hooks and a lot of rock-and-roll heart".
The band enjoyed playing together so much, that in November they entered a recording studio and produced the their first, self-titled album Goo Goo Dolls, which was released on the independent label Mercenary Records, on a $750 budget.
While Robby was the Lead Singer in the first few years, John had been writing songs since high school. About singing John says: "When the Goo Goo Dolls first started, I didn't sing. I wouldn't sing. I was incredibly crippled by shyness when I was younger. I couldn't even talk to people without my hand in front of my face to hide behind. Robby really helped me to bring me out of my shell. He encouraged me to sing. He may have created a monster".