We Are the Boys from Old Florida
There are several claims to authorship of this song. In Gainesville, Florida, the traditional story is that it was written in 1919 by Robert Swanson and John Icenhour, two University of Florida students, for their barbershop quartet or dance band. However, several other universities across the United States—including the University of Chicago, the University of Nebraska, and the Toledo, Ohio public school system—have very similar tunes, often with very similar lyrics.
An obituary in a Toledo newspaper from 1953 claimed that a local man named Joseph Murphy had written the tune as "We're Proud for Toledo" in 1906. The University of Nebraska's records indicate that their version, "Dear Old Nebraska U", was composed by Harry Pecha in 1924. And a collection of University of Florida songs from 1941 attributes the Florida version to Thorton W. Allen, a prolific composer and arranger of band music in the early 20th century. As former University of Florida band director Harold Bachman wrote in a published history of the school's band, "No one seems to know for sure who composed 'We Are the Boys From Old Florida.'"
Whoever initially composed it, "We Are the Boys" has been a popular pep song with UF students and fans since at least the 1930s. Traditionally the song was played at every football game since the 1930s by the school's marching band, The Pride of the Sunshine, while Gator fans stand, lock arms, sway, and sing in unison. It was played at random times whenever the band felt like playing it. This would sometimes cause confusion; with the fans since they did not know when it was going to be played and wouldn't quickly join in and at times with the cheerleaders who would be about to start a cheer. In the early 1970s two of the Florida Cheerleaders, Peter Aliberti and Bruce Bradburn went to then band director Richard W. Bowles and suggested that it be played at every game between the third and fourth quarter so that the fans would know when to expect it. This began one of the great traditions of college football. In recent years, UF bands have also played a faster march version of the tune at various sporting events.
Traditionally, Gator fans lock arms and sway back and forth on the first beat of every measure during the waltz-time song. A shouted "Hey!" is added to the end of the first stanza and a shouted "Go Gators!" is inserted after the line "Down where the old Gators play." During the line "we'll all stick together," the word "together" is drawn out for two or three seconds while everyone holds their lean.
We are the boys from old Florida,
Where the girls are the fairest,
The boys are the squarest …
Of any old state down our way.
We are all strong for old Florida
Down where the old Gators play.
In all kinds of weather …
We'll all stick together…