The Eyes of Texas

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UT Students and Football players singing The Eyes of Texas after a win versus Nebraska

"The Eyes of Texas" is the school spirit song of the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Texas at El Paso. It is set to the tune of "I've Been Working on the Railroad." Students, faculty, staff, and alumni of the University sing the song at Longhorn sports games, before the fireworks and other events.


The Eyes of Texas at a University of Texas basketball game
The Eyes of Texas after a University of Texas baseball game

John Sinclair wrote the Texas-specific song lyrics in 1903 to the tune of the original folk song, "I've Been Working on the Railroad," that was published nine years earlier in 1894. Sinclair was the editor of the Cactus yearbook and a UT band member, and he wrote the lyrics per the request of band member Lewis Johnson. Johnson was also the program director of the Varsity Minstrel Show that raised funds for the university track team. He debuted the song at the minstrel show, also known as a blackface performance. [1]

The lyrics are said to be intended to poke fun at University President Colonel Prather. Prather had attended Washington College, now Washington and Lee University, whose president, Robert E. Lee, would frequently tell his students, "the eyes of the South are upon you." Prather was known for including in his speeches a similar admonition, "The eyes of Texas are upon you," meaning that the state of Texas was watching and expecting the students to go out and do great things. Prather enjoyed the song and promoted its usage. He died not long thereafter, and the song was played at his funeral.

The song is sung at momentous occasions such as graduation and even solemn occasions such as funerals. Led by the Longhorn Marching Band, it was sung at the July 14, 2007 funeral of First Lady Lady Bird (Claudia Taylor) Johnson, an alumna of the University of Texas.[1][2] When singing the song, participants generally raise their right arm with their hand making the Hook 'em Horns symbol of The University.[2] A recording of "The Eyes of Texas" was played over the Rose Bowl public-address system when the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Buffalo Bills to win Super Bowl XXVII, while Madison Square Garden organist Ray Castoldi played it when the Houston Rockets defeated the New York Knicks in the seventh game of the 1994 NBA Finals to clinch Texas' first NBA championship.

Highway rest stops through the state feature road signs stating that "The Eyes of Texas are upon You!" These signs feature a silhouette of a Texas Ranger, encouraging motorists to call 9-1-1 to report criminal activity.

The Eyes of Texas is also the alma mater of the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP). At the time, UTEP was called Texas College of Mines and Metallurgy (TCM). It was adopted in 1920 by the student body after UT (Austin) had declared it their school anthem. UTEP is the second oldest academic component of the U.T. System, having been founded in 1914.

The Eyes of Texas is also sung at the graduation of University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB). UTMB is the first, but not the only state medical school. [2]

The song originally appeared in the "Carmina Princetonia: The Princeton Song Book" as "Levee Song." It combines both the "Eyes of Texas" and "Texas Fight".


The wording of the song is as follows.[3]

"The Eyes of Texas are upon you,

All the livelong day.

The Eyes of Texas are upon you,

You cannot get away.

Do not think you can escape them

At night or early in the morn --

The Eyes of Texas are upon you

Til Gabriel blows his horn."

As stated, the lyrics are set to the tune of "I've Been Working on the Railroad." It is common practice that the last line, "Til Gabriel blows his horn," is sung and played to a slightly slower beat than the rest of the song. Students, faculty, staff, athletes, and alum punctuate each beat of the last line with a small chopping motion of their right raised arm and "Hook 'Em" hand sign.

Usage in popular culture[edit]

Appearances in film[edit]

Other Uses[edit]

  • Sung at Texas Bluebonnet Girls State, as part of the flag ceremony medley.

Appearances in other songs[edit]

  • The song forms the chorus portion of "VI. Chorale and Finale" from Oedipus Tex and Other Choral Calamities.[5]
  • The rock group Masters of Reality uses the title in the lyrics of their song "The Eyes of Texas", on their 1989 self-titled debut album.
  • The Aggie War Hymn references the song with the lyrics "'The Eyes of Texas are upon you', that is the song they sing so well (sounds like hell)".
  • The opening fanfare of "If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)" features Alabama's vocalists – accompanied by just a piano – singing a few bars of "The Eyes of Texas." This introduction leads into the single's opening, which suddenly picks up the tempo to a quick duple-meter.
  • The Christmas song "Santa Got Lost In Texas" is based on the melody, with lyrics rewritten by Ken Darby. It was introduced by Michael Landon in the LP "Bonanza - Christmas On The Ponderosa" in 1963. The Jeff Carson version became a national chart record in early 1996.
  • Walker, Texas Ranger uses a rewritten version in the opening credits " the eyes of the Ranger are upon you every wrong you do he's gonna see"


  1. ^ Holley, Joe (July 15, 2007). "Lady Bird Johnson is remembered". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-08-03.
  2. ^ a b "Lady Bird Johnson Funeral - The Eyes of Texas". Retrieved 2007-08-03.
  3. ^ "Texas Longhorns Athletics - Traditions: 'The Eyes of Texas'". Retrieved 2016-02-12.
  1. ^ "It's a Century Later, and the Eyes of Texas are Still Upon You" Support UT news story from March 2003 concerning the centennial of The Eyes of Texas
  2. ^ Film review of "Giant" - Accessed 20 March 2006
  3. ^ The Alamo - Accessed 20 March 2006
  4. ^ "The Eyes of Texas Are Upon Excellence Award Winners"
  5. ^ P.D.Q. Bach. "VI. Chorus and Finale". Oedipus Tex and Other Choral Calamities. CD. Telarc CD-80239, 1990.

External links[edit]