Aggie War Hymn
It was written by J.V. "Pinky" Wilson, one of many Aggies who fought in World War I. Wilson combined several Aggie yells then in use at the time into a song called "Good-bye to Texas University." He wrote the lyrics in 1918 on the back of a letter from home while holed up in a trench during a battle in France. He later put the words to music after Armistice was signed and before he returned to the United States. Upon returning to Texas A&M in 1919, the song was frequently performed by a quartet that Wilson had organized, called the "Cast-Iron Quartet."
One night in 1920, several of the Aggie Yell Leaders heard Wilson's quartet singing the song at a Bryan,TX theater during the intermission of a movie and they asked him to let them submit it in a contest for a new fight song to be held that fall. Wilson agreed, and the song was performed by the quartet during a yell practice. No midnight yell was occurring at this point in time. It was held outside Sbisa Hall after the evening meal . It became such a success that the song was officially adopted that fall under its current title.
The song is noted for beginning with Recall, an old bugle call, in two different keys. These are the keys of the bugles in use by the US Army during World War I, the M1894 Field Trumpet in B-flat (aka, the "Trench Bugle") and the M1896 Field Trumpet in G, which is the "bugle" still in use today. This is a nod to Texas A&M's past as a military school. Indeed, for many years, the Fightin' Texas Aggie Band's halftime show has begun with the drum major shouting "Recall! Step off on 'Hullabaloo!'"
The starting phrase of the song, "Hullabaloo, Caneck! Caneck!" was widely thought to originate from an Old Army Aggie yell written in 1907, though other uses of the phrase have been recorded as early as 1889 at Johns Hopkins University. The Hullabaloo is also the "Varsity Yell" for the Tulane University Greenwave.[permanent dead link] Texas A&M University president Jack K. Williams jokingly defined the phrase as Chickasaw Indian for "Beat the hell out of the University of Texas".
The original song is actually the second verse of the hymn; in 1938, Wilson wrote another verse at the request of several Aggie students who thought the original was too focused on the Aggies' rivalry with the University of Texas. The additional lyrics comprise what is now the first verse of the song. However, the first verse has never caught on, in part because many felt it sounded too much like an Ivy League song. Thus, in practice, the second (original) verse is usually sung twice.
The second verse opens with "Goodbye to texas university"; these words were chosen since Aggies refer to their principal athletic rival, Texas, as "texas university", or "t.u.", rather than "U.T.". Also, in practice, the phrase "sounds like hell" is inserted after the line "that is the song they sing so well"; however, the phrase is not officially part of the song.
After the second verse is sung twice, Aggie fans link their arms and legs, and sway left and right to replicate the motion of a saw blade; this is called "sawing Varsity's horns off" (before the Texas football team adopting the Longhorn as the official mascot, the team was simply known as "Varsity"). For years, when this happened during football games at Kyle Field, this caused the entire west upper deck, including the press box, to sway. This often unnerved sportswriters who haven't covered an Aggie game before, even though a sign in the press box warned that "the press box will move during the Aggie War Hymn." Renovations after the 2014 season lessened the swaying effect somewhat.
The song concludes with the chorus of There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight.
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|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Editorial on War Hymn in The Battalion, the school newspaper at Archive.is (archived September 11, 2012)
- Sound file (from Association of Former Students web site)
- description in Kingman Daily Miner
- ESPN column on the wording