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Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech

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"Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech"
Rambling Wreck Sheet Music.jpg
Mike Greenblatt's 1911 arrangement
Song by Georgia Tech students
Published1908, 1919 (copyrighted)
GenreFight song
Composer(s)Frank Roman, Michael A. Greenblatt, Charles Ives
Lyricist(s)Billy Walthall[1][2]

"(I'm a) Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech" is the fight song of the Georgia Institute of Technology, better known as Georgia Tech. The composition is based on "Son of a Gambolier", composed by Charles Ives in 1895, the lyrics of which are based on an old English and Scottish drinking song of the same name.[3] It first appeared in print in the 1908 Blueprint, Georgia Tech's yearbook. The song was later sung by the Georgia Tech Glee Club on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1953, and by Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev during the 1959 Kitchen Debate.[4][5][6][7]

"Ramblin' Wreck" is played after every Georgia Tech score in a football game, directly after a field goal or safety, and preceded by "Up With the White and Gold" after a touchdown. It is also frequently played during timeouts at the team's basketball games.[4][8][9]

The term "Ramblin' Wreck" has been used to refer to students and alumni of Georgia Tech much longer than the Model A now known as the Ramblin' Wreck has been in existence.[10] The expression has its origins in the late 19th century and was used originally to refer to the makeshift motorized vehicles constructed by Georgia Tech engineers employed in projects in the jungles of South America. Other workers in the area began to refer to these vehicles and the men who drove them as "Rambling Wrecks from Georgia Tech."[10]


Six women, wearing a uniform of a white skirt and a white and gold cropped top with the word "Tech" on the front, ride onto the football field on the running boards and rear seat of a white-and-gold-painted antique car.
A nickname for students at Georgia Tech is "Ramblin' Wreck," after the vehicle and school mascot shown here.

I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech, and a hell of an engineer—
A helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, hell of an engineer.
Like all the jolly good fellows, I drink my whiskey clear.
I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech and a hell of an engineer.

Oh! If I had a daughter, sir, I'd dress her in White and Gold,
And put her on the campus to cheer the brave and bold.
But if I had a son, sir, I'll tell you what he'd do—
He would yell, 'To hell with Georgia!' like his daddy used to do.

Oh, I wish I had a barrel of rum and sugar three thousand pounds,
A college bell to put it in and a clapper to stir it round.
I'd drink to all the good fellows who come from far and near.
I'm a ramblin', gamblin', hell of an engineer!

Previous adaptations[edit]

The earliest rendition of the song is "Son of a Gambolier" (also known as "A Son of a Gambolier" and "The Son of a Gambolier"), which is a lament to one's own poverty; a gambolier is "a worthless individual given to carousing, gambling, and general moral depravity."[11] The chorus goes:[12]

Like every jolly fellow
I takes my whiskey clear,
For I'm a rambling rake of poverty
And the son of a gambolier.

The tune was first adapted as a school song by Dickinson College in southern Pennsylvania in the 1850s.[11] Students at the college modified it to include a reference to their college bell by adding the following lyrics:[11]

I wish I had a barrel of rum,
And sugar three hundred pounds,
The college bell to mix it in,
The clapper to stir it round

In 1857, the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity published a songbook that contained a heavily modified version of the song.[13] The adapted chorus used the following lyrics:[14]

I'm a son of a, son of a, son of a, son of a, son of a DKE!
I'm a son of a, son of a, son of a, son of a, son of a DKE!
Like every college fellow, I like my whiskey free,
For I'm a rambling rake of a college man,
And the son of a DKE!

The song was subsequently adapted by the Colorado School of Mines in the late 1870s[11] and entitled "The Mining Engineer."[11][15] This version is the closest adaptation to "Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech."[16]

Like every honest fellow,
I take my whisky clear,
I'm a rambling wreck from Golden Tech,
a helluva engineer.

The Mines version also includes:

Oh, if I had a daughter
I'd dress her up in green,
And send her up to Boulder
To coach the football team
But if I had a son, sir,
I'll tell you what he'd do—
Like his daddy used to do.

The song is also used by the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, entitled "Ramblin' Wreck" although on campus it is referred to simply as the "School Song." This version is almost identical to the first four lines of "Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech."[citation needed]

I'm a rambling wreck from Rapid Tech, and a helluva engineer.
a helluva, helluva, helluva, helluva, hell of an engineer.
Like all my jolly good fellows, I drink my whiskey clear,
I'm a rambling wreck from Rapid Tech, and a helluva engineer. Hey!

In the early 1890s, Ohio State University adapted it and called it "If I had a Daughter". At the time Ohio Wesleyan University was their archrival, hence the references to Delaware, Ohio and Methodists. One verse follows:[11][17]

If I had a daughter, I'd dress her up in green,
I'd send her on the campus to coach the Freshman team;
And if I had a son, I tell you what he'd do
He would yell "To Hell" with Delaware"
And yell for O. S. U.

In 1895, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute adapted it and called it "A Son of Old R.P.I." This version includes the lyrics:[11][18]

Like every honest fellow,
I drink my whiskey clear,
I'm a moral wreck from the Polytech
And a hell of an engineer.

The Clemson University Tiger Band's rude songbook, The Unhymnal", has a four-verse parody of the fight song which is distinctly un-politically correct which derides the Georgia Tech coach, football team and cheerleaders.[19]

In 1929 Norwegian University of Science and Technology adapted it and called it "Nu klinger".

Studenter i den gamle stad, ta vare på byens ry!
Husk på at jenter, øl og dram var kjempenes meny.
Og faller I alle mann alle, skal det gjalle fra alle mot sky.
La'kke byen få ro, men la den få merke det er en studenterby!
Og øl og dram, og øl og dram, og øl og dram, og øl og dram.

Two different sources are claimed to have been the origin for the song's music. The first is the marching tune "The Bonnie Blue Flag", published in 1861 by Harry McCarthy.[20][21] The second, and more widely cited, is Charles Ives' composition of "Son of a Gambolier" in 1895.[22][23]

Creation at Georgia Tech[edit]

A white page with black text. "What Causes Whitlock to Blush" is written across the top.
The first publication of "Ramblin' Wreck" was in the 1908 Blue Print, entitled "What Causes Whitlock to Blush". The words "hell" and "helluva" were too hot to print: at the bottom, it explains that "Owing to the melting of the type, it has been impossible to print the parts of the above song represented by blank spaces".

Georgia Tech's use of the song is said to have come from an early baseball game against rival Georgia.[3][24][25] Some sources credit Billy Walthall, a member of the school's first four-year graduating class, with the lyrics.[1][2] According to a 1954 article in Sports Illustrated, "Ramblin' Wreck" was written around 1893 by a Tech football player on his way to an Auburn game.[1]

The "Rambling Wreck" had its beginning during the first year or two after Tech opened. Some of the frills were afterward added. We had no football team during the early days, but football was played on the campus. A round rubber ball was used and it was strictly football-no holding the ball and running with it. We had a good baseball team and I remember on one occasion almost the whole school went over to Athens to play Georgia. Duke Black of Rome pitched and we brought home the bacon. This was the beginning of the Rambling Wreck.[24]

— H. D. Cutter, ME 1892

In 1905, Georgia Tech adopted the tune as its official fight song, though it had already been the unofficial fight song for several years.[3][11] It was published for the first time in the school's first yearbook, the 1908 Blueprint.[3][4][26] Entitled "What causes Whitlock to Blush",[21] words such as "hell" and "helluva" were censored as "certain words [are] too hot to print".[25][27]

After Michael A. Greenblatt, Tech's first bandmaster, heard the Georgia Tech band playing the song to the tune of Charles Ives's "A Son of a Gambolier",[3] he wrote a modern musical version.[2] In 1911, Frank Roman succeeded Greenblatt as bandmaster; Roman embellished the song with trumpet flourishes and publicized it.[3][4] Roman copyrighted the song in 1919.[1][2][6][28]

Rise to fame[edit]

There are four separate scenes portrayed, on in each corner, all in black and white. In the top-left picture, there are many people with brass musical instruments standing in front of a brick building. On the bottom-right corner of that scene, there is a large drum. In the top-right picture, there are many dancing men and women in suits and dresses, and the viewer appears to be slightly above them. In the bottom-left picture, a woman and a hat and a jacket is standing. There is a man and some children behind her. In the bottom-right picture, many people wearing headphones are surrounding some electronic equipment sitting on a table.
Arthur Murray's 1920 Radio Dance, as portrayed in the 1920 Blueprint; "Ramblin' Wreck" was one of the songs played that night.

In 1920, dance instructor Arthur Murray organized the world's first "radio dance" while he attended Tech. A band on campus played "Ramblin' Wreck" and other songs, which were broadcast to a group of about 150 dancers (mostly Tech students) on the roof of the Capital City Club in downtown Atlanta.[29] Murray also opened the first Arthur Murray Dance Studio while in Atlanta. It was located at the Georgian Terrace Hotel.[30] In 1925, the Columbia Gramophone Company began selling a recording of Tech songs (including "Ramblin' Wreck"); Tech was one of the first colleges in the Southern United States to have its songs recorded.[1][2] The song became immensely popular and was known nationally because of its extensive radio play.[3] In 1947, the song was performed by The Gordonaires in a Soundie entitled "Let's Sing A College Song".[31][32]

On October 11, 1953, the Georgia Tech Glee Club sang "Ramblin' Wreck" on Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town" program (later known as The Ed Sullivan Show) on CBS.[5] The performance reached a television audience of approximately 30 million viewers.[33] Because only 28 seats were available on the train to the show, Glee Club members auditioned for the available spots. The group prepared three songs—"Ramblin' Wreck," There's Nothin' Like a Dame, and the alma mater.[33] Sullivan made them sing "heck" and "heckuva" instead of "hell" and "helluva," and would not let them sing "dames." According to The Technique, "The club sang 'Dames' at rehearsal and brought down the house, only to have Sullivan give it the axe."[33]

Then-Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev sang the song together when they met in Moscow in 1959 to reduce the tension between them during the Kitchen Debate.[3][4][34][35] As the story goes, Nixon did not know any Russian songs, but Khrushchev knew that one American song as it had been sung on the Ed Sullivan show.[4]

"Ramblin' Wreck" has had many other notable moments in history. It has been reported to be the first school song played in space.[36][1] Gregory Peck sang the song while strumming a mandolin in the movie The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. John Wayne whistled it in The High and the Mighty. Tim Holt's character sings a few bars of it in the movie His Kind of Woman. Gordon Jones sings a few stanzas several times in the movie My Sister Eileen. There are numerous stories of commanding officers in Higgins boats crossing the English Channel on the morning of D-Day leading their men in the song to calm their nerves.[1]

Modern history[edit]

The Edwin H. Morris & Company obtained a copyright to Roman's version in 1931.[37] The copyright to that version expired in 1952, so Greenblatt wrote a new arrangement and applied for a new copyright. In 1953, Greenblatt sold the copyright for the new version to Georgia Tech for one dollar.[3] There was some controversy when MPL Communications acquired the old copyright; a law firm commissioned by Georgia Tech in 1984, Newton, Hopkins & Ormsby, concluded that while there were copyrighted versions of the song, the version used by the school was not copyrighted and falls in the public domain.[1][3]

Over the years, a few variations of the song have been created at Georgia Tech. In 1998, a 19-member "Diversity Task Force" proposed that changes be made to the song because it discriminated against women.[21] The proposal was widely and strongly opposed by students and alumni,[38][39][40][41] and it was dropped.[42] A different request to change the word cheer to join with respect to alumni daughters surfaced in 2015.[43] At the conclusion of the song there is a call of "Go Jackets!" responded to with "Bust their ass!" Following three of these calls and responses, the song was ended with a call of "Go Jackets! Fight! Win!" Recently, however, the student body has yelled "Fight! Win! Drink! Get Naked!"[16]

On March 28, 2018, a German version of the song premiered during the Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Alumni Awards event. The German version, written and arranged by Stephen C. Hall (Industrial Management, 1967), Jerry A. Ulrich (School of Music), and Richard Utz (School of Literature, Media, and Communication), was performed by the Georgia Tech Glee Club in honor of the awarding of the College's Dean's Appreciation Award to Barry (Mechanical Engineering, 1965) and Gail Spurlock, in recognition of their support for program initiatives in Germany, specifically Georgia Tech’s German and German Languages for Business and Technology (LBAT).[44]


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  2. ^ a b c d e "History". Georgia Tech School of Music. Archived from the original on February 6, 2011. Retrieved May 15, 2011.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "Georgia Tech Traditions". Georgia Tech Athletic Association. Retrieved February 12, 2007.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Edwards, Pat (August 25, 2000). "Fight Songs". The Technique. Archived from the original on November 13, 2004. Retrieved July 29, 2009.
  5. ^ a b McMath, p.276
  6. ^ a b Wallace, p.106
  7. ^ Georgia Tech - Official Student Handbook Archived September 3, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Edwards, Pat (October 2, 1995). "Ramlin's". The Technique. Retrieved June 27, 2007.
  9. ^ Rottmann, David (September 6, 2002). "New NCAA Football raises bar". The Technique. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved June 14, 2007.
  10. ^ a b Shaw, Jody (August 23, 2002). "Music tradition alive today" (PDF). The Technique. p. 2. Retrieved April 30, 2007.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h "Coast Survey Song". NOAA History. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved February 6, 2007.
  12. ^ "The Son of a Gambolier". Digital Tradition Mirror. Archived from the original on September 26, 2008. Retrieved June 11, 2007.
  13. ^ "DKE History, Founding to the Present". Delta Kappa Epsilon. Archived from the original on July 26, 2011. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
  14. ^ "The Son of a DKE Lyrics". The Jack Horntip Collection. Archived from the original on January 12, 2016. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
  15. ^ "The Mining Engineer". Colorado School of Mines Alumni and Friends. Archived from the original on February 13, 2008. Retrieved July 29, 2009.
  16. ^ a b Guyton, Andrew (June 8, 2007). "Ramblin' Wreck proves helluva song". The Technique. Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved June 8, 2007.
  17. ^ "Songs of The Ohio State University". Nick Metrowsky. Retrieved May 15, 2011.
  18. ^ "Rensselaer Songs". Institute Archives and Special Collections. Rensselaer Research Libraries. Retrieved February 12, 2007.
  19. ^ The Unhymnal - Unofficial songbook of the Clemson University bands, various editions, 1974-1995, Clemson University, Clemson, South Carolina.
  20. ^ Medevic, Lois (2002). "Song Activity: Bonnie Blue Flag and Battle Cry of Freedom". Voices Across Time. Archived from the original on September 27, 2008. Retrieved February 9, 2009.
  21. ^ a b c Lange, Scott (February 6, 1998). "'To hell' with it: Diversity movement talks of change in Georgia Tech song". The Technique. Retrieved May 20, 2007.
  22. ^ Wallace, p.104
  23. ^ "The Music of Charles Ives: IV. Works for Piano". A Descriptive Catalogue of The Music of Charles Ives. Irving S. Gilmore Music Library of Yale University. hdl:10079/fa/music.mss.0014.1.
  24. ^ a b Cutter, H. D. "An Early History of Georgia Tech". Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine Online. Georgia Tech Alumni Association. Archived from the original on June 4, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
  25. ^ a b Stevens, Preston (Winter 1992). "The Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech". Georgia Tech Alumni Magazine Online. Georgia Tech Alumni Association. Archived from the original on May 18, 2006. Retrieved June 5, 2007.
  26. ^ Wallace, p.105
  27. ^ "What causes Whitlock to Blush". The Blueprint: 138. 1908.
  28. ^ Fuld, James J (2000). The Book of World-Famous Music: Classical, Popular and Folk. Courier Dover Publications. p. 516. ISBN 978-0-486-41475-1. Retrieved May 30, 2007.
  29. ^ Wallace, p.155
  30. ^ "Arthur Murray Taught the World to Dance". Tech Topics. Georgia Tech Alumni Association. Summer 1991. Archived from the original on January 17, 2004. Retrieved June 11, 2007.
  31. ^ "Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech". Troynovant. Retrieved May 15, 2011.
  32. ^ "Soundie - Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech". Internet Archive. Retrieved May 15, 2011.
  33. ^ a b c "Century of Singing". Tech Topics. Georgia Tech Alumni Association. Spring 2006. Archived from the original on October 31, 2007. Retrieved June 7, 2007.
  34. ^ "Who's No. 1? Fighting Words About Battle Hymns". Tech Topics. Georgia Tech Alumni Association. Summer 1991. Archived from the original on May 22, 2006. Retrieved May 20, 2007.
  35. ^ The Insider's Guide to the Colleges, 2005. Yale Daily News. July 2004. p. 268. ISBN 978-0-312-32384-4. Retrieved June 13, 2007.
  36. ^ History of Georgia Tech Songs and Music
    "It has also been reported to be the first school song played in space."
  37. ^ "Abe Olman Publisher Award: Buddy Morris". Songwriters Hall of Fame. Retrieved June 10, 2007.
  38. ^ Faris, Steve (February 13, 1998). "Alum pronounces verdict on fight song changes". The Technique. Retrieved May 20, 2007.
  39. ^ Daws, Josh (February 27, 1998). "Apology to the Diversity Task Force". The Technique. Retrieved May 20, 2007.
  40. ^ Godfrey, Anthony (February 27, 1998). "Does Task Force represent students?". The Technique. Retrieved May 20, 2007.
  41. ^ Ebbs, Arthur (February 13, 1998). "Revised "Ramblin' Wreck" versions". The Technique. Retrieved June 5, 2007.
  42. ^ Wiggins, Mindy (February 13, 1998). "Ray: changing song low on list of priorities". The Technique. Retrieved May 20, 2007.
  43. ^
  44. ^

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]