Hail to the Redskins

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"Hail to the Redskins" was the fight song of the Washington Redskins, an American football team belonging to the National Football League (NFL) and now known as the Washington Football Team. The song was performed after the team scored touchdowns from the 1938 season until 2019. The music was composed by the team's band leader, Barnee Breeskin, and the lyrics were written by Corinne Griffith, the wife of Washington founder and owner George Preston Marshall.[1]


In 1937, Marshall moved the team from Boston to Washington. With this move and the introduction of his team to the nation's capital, Marshall commissioned a 110-member band to provide the new fans with the "pomp and circumstance" and "pageantry" of a public victory parade. Marshall stated that he wanted his team and their games to emulate the spectacle of the Roman Gladiators at the Coliseum. He also wanted to incorporate elements of the college football experience into the pro game. He outfitted the band with $25,000 worth of uniforms and instruments and asked the band leader, Barnee Breeskin, to compose a fight song worthy of such a team of gladiators and warriors.

The original lyrics were written to reflect the Native American warrior imagery of the team as the "Redskins." The lyrics were later reworked to be less offensive to contemporary sensibilities, although the Redskins name became increasingly criticized as a racial slur (explaining the 2020 name change to Washington Football Team). Nonetheless, the fight song is one of the oldest football fight songs in all of American professional football.

"Hail to the Redskins" is the second oldest fight song for a professional American football team; the oldest fight song is "Go! You Packers! Go!", composed in 1931. During the 1938 season Washington played their new fight song for fans in attendance at the games as they played the Philadelphia Eagles, the Brooklyn Dodgers, the Cleveland Rams, the New York Giants, the Detroit Lions, and the Chicago Bears football teams.

In 1974, Washington, D.C. singer Beryl Middleton recorded "Hail to the Redskins", backed up by members of the team's singers. Barnee Breeskin declared this the finest recording of his song.[2]

The most widely recognized recording, which as of 2015 was still in use at Washington home games, features the Redskin Show Orchestra and the team's singers. The music was arranged and conducted by the orchestra's longtime leader Sam "Sammy" Shreiber, the team's singers were directed by Don Lichty and William "Billy" Ball and it was recorded at JRB Sound Studios in Washington, D.C.. Some 45 rpm copies were released with a gold label and incorrectly spelled "Shreiber" as "Streiber" on both the A and B sides.


Hail to the Redskins!
Hail Victory!
Braves on the Warpath!
Fight for old D.C.!
Run or pass and score—We want a lot more!
Beat 'em, Swamp 'em,
Touchdown! -- Let the points soar!
Fight on, fight on 'Til you have won
Sons of Wash-ing-ton. Rah!, Rah!, Rah!
Hail to the Redskins!
Hail Victory!
Braves on the Warpath!
Fight for old D.C.!

Changes to lyrics, performance[edit]

The song's original first stanza is often mistakenly thought to have ended with the line "Fight for old Dixie", but in fact this line was only used between 1959 and 1961,[3][4] as a glance at contemporary game day programs will verify. Each of these programs printed the lyrics, and "Old D.C." can be seen in all years except 1959 through 1961. This phrase then returned to "Fight for ol' D.C.!"

Several other lines found in the original were, however, altered. The original version included lines referring to the practice of scalping and featuring non-standard grammar, apparently in imitation of Native American speech:

Scalp ’em, swamp ‘um
We will take ‘um big score
Read ‘um, Weep ‘um,
Touchdown! — We want heap more [5]

The early arrangements of the song also closed to the opening of the well known southern folk song, "Dixie" played as a counter-melody. In July 1965, a black Washington fan wrote to the owner of the team, describing the racial unrest that Dixie caused and asking for it to be stopped.[6] According to an article in The Washington Afro-American of October 23, 1965, Dixie was no longer played as a counter-melody starting that year.[7]

Dallas Cowboys incident[edit]

The Redskins played south of the Mason-Dixon line and as there were no established NFL teams in the Southern United States until the 1960s, Marshall aggressively marketed his franchise as the South's team and built a significant fan base there. He would recruit players from Southern schools,[8] feature Southern bands at halftime,[9] and sign contracts to feature the team on Southern radio networks and television networks.[10][11]

When the NFL began considering expansion to Texas, Marshall strongly opposed the move, as it would threaten what had been essentially a three-decade monopoly in the South. Potential owner Clint Murchison, who was trying to bring the NFL back to Dallas, bought the rights to "Hail to the Redskins" from a disgruntled Breeskin and threatened to prevent Marshall from playing it at games. Marshall agreed to back Murchison's bid, Murchison gave him back the rights to the song, and the Dallas Cowboys were born.[12]

Other usage[edit]

The LG Twins of the Korea Baseball Organization use the tune of "Hail to the Redskins" in their own fight song.[13]


  1. ^ Mooshil, Maria (2006-12-01). "10 more things to know about Bears fight song". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2013-04-09.
  2. ^ "The Redskins Blog". Blog.redskins.com. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  3. ^ King, C.Richard (2016). Redskins: Insult and Brand. U of Nebraska Press. p. 37. ISBN 978-0803288454.
  4. ^ O'Toole, Andrew (November 2016). Fight for old DC : George Preston Marshall, the integration of the Washington Redskins, and the rise of a new NFL. p. Chapter 5. ISBN 978-0803299467.
  5. ^ Richman, Michael (2009). The Redskins Encyclopedia. Temple University Press. p. 18. ISBN 978-1592135448.
  6. ^ video of letter
  7. ^ Garnett, Bernard (23 October 1965). "The Afro American - Google News Archive Search". The Afro American. p. 5.
  8. ^ Loverro, Thom (25 August 2006). Hail Victory: An Oral History of the Washington Redskins. John Wiley & Sons. p. 37. ISBN 9780471725107.
  9. ^ Richman, Michael (21 August 2009). The Redskins Encyclopedia. Temple University Press. p. 45. ISBN 9781592135448.
  10. ^ Thomas, Evan (4 December 2012). The Man to See. Simon and Schuster. p. 168. ISBN 9781439127964.
  11. ^ "Washington Redskins Team History | Pro Football Hall of Fame Official Site". www.profootballhof.com.
  12. ^ "ESPN.com – Page2 – A rivalry for a song ... and chicken feed". Espn.go.com. Retrieved 16 December 2014.
  13. ^ "LG Twins Fight Song". YouTube.com. Retrieved 16 December 2014.

External links[edit]