college football
Welcome to Fight Song Lyrics

Hundreds of colleges have fight songs, some of which are over a century old. The oldest collegiate fight song in the United States is Boston College's "For Boston", composed by T.J. Hurley in 1885. Many other songs are long established classics of American culture. John Philip Sousa, an American composer and conductor of the late Romantic era, famous for American military and patriotic marches, had called Michigan's The Victors "the greatest college fight song ever written." Fight songs are laden with history; in singing a fight song, fans feel part of a large, time-honored tradition. Today, over 1,200 teams play in the NCAA, and each has a glorious story to tell in the form of a fight song.

Below are the lining notes of a vinyl record released several decades ago by Vanguard Recording Society.  The text is unedited, as it originally appeared on the record.

Fight Songs

Behind these stirring marches and rousing performances by the outstanding university band in the United States likes a current of American history that can be traced at least as far back as the end of the American War of Independence.  When the Treaty of Paris in 1783 declared that the Northwest Territory was a national territory of the United States, little did the canny New Englanders who had fought at Bunker Hill and the New Jersey men who had fought at Trenton realize that they were laying the ground for the “Big Ten” which, a century and a half alter, would challenge the supremacy of Yale, Harvard and Princeton on the football field.  Out of the territory in which George Rogers Clark moved his rangers were eventually carved Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota.  Add Iowa from the corn belt across the Mississippi, and we have the states from which the “Big Ten” universities send out beams of intellectual light and awe-inspiring demonstrations on the gridiron of the clash of irresistible forces with immovable objects.  And in the special case of Michigan, the old Northwest Territory has produced the best university band music which it is anybody’s privilege to hear.

The University of Michigan, oldest of the “Big Ten” universities, has produced its full quota of scholars, scientists, writers, teachers, artists, and leaders in the nation’s political life.  And in the realm of band music, its supremacy is unquestioned.  The University of Michigan Band has won a summa cum laude within the country’s borders and the highest honors on the international music scene.  The first major university band to give extensive nation-wide concert tours, its magnificent of sound, ensemble and musicianship have aroused the kind of critics’ superlatives usually reserved for the world’s top symphony orchestras.  In the spring of 1961 the band embarked on a fifteen week tour of Eastern Europe and the Middle East, sponsored by the United States Department of State as part of the President’s International Cultural Exchange Program.  Eight weeks were spent in the Soviet Union, and the other seven in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Rumania and Poland.  Each of the band’s eighty-eight concerts aroused wild and joyous enthusiasm, and left fond memories with invitations to return.

The band itself has more than a century’s history behind it, starting at abound 1854.  The University was founded before there was a Michigan.  It was chartered in 1817, as the University of Michigiana.  In 1837 Michigan became the 26th state of the Union, in 1841 the University moved from Detroit to its present home, Ann Arbor, and in 1844 occurred the first known mention of the band, as a group of nine players who “assisted to a great extent in the singing at the chapel services.”  In 1859, a group of fifteen music-minded students organized themselves as The Michigan Marching Band.  For about forty years after this the band grew slowly as an extra-curricular student activity.  Then in 1895 it received official status from the Board of Regents, in 1898 the musicians acquires uniforms, and in 1915 the band acquired its first permanent conductor.  It grew to a contingent of seventy players.  Then after 1935, under the leadership of Dr. William D. Revelli, it took many leaps forward arriving at its present pre-eminence among world bands. 

Today, what are known as the “University of Michigan Bands” comprise more than 350 players, all of them students at the University.  There are three musical divisions.  One is the University of Michigan Marching Band, which plays at all of the home football games and travels with the team to off-campus games.  Another is the Varsity Band, which plays at basketball games and other campus functions.  Third is the University of Michigan Symphony Band, which is the concert band that has won international fame in its tours at home and overseas.  It is this band which is heard on the present program.


Dr. William D. Revelli is one of the truly notable figures in the concert band world and has appeared as guest conductor in nearly every state in the Union.  He studied at the Beethoven Music Conservatory at St. Louis, the Columbia Music School, the Chicago Musical College and the Vandercook School of Music.  In 1925 he was appointed Music Supervisor in the Public Schools of Hobart, Indiana, and the High School Band under his supervision wan five consecutive national championships.  In 1935 he was appointed head of the Wind Instrument Department at the University of Michigan, and the Conductor of Bands.  Under his inspiring leadership, the Wind Instrument Faculty grew from one to sixteen members, including outstanding instrumentalists and composers, and the University of Michigan Bands attained their present numerical proportions and international celebrity.  In 1947 the Chicago Musical College conferred on him the honorary degree of Doctor of Music, and he has been awarded several other honors.  He is the Founder and served as first president of the College Band Director’s National Association, and is a central figure wherever there is discussion of band music and musical education.


Side One of the present program contains classic versions of football marches representing each of the “Big Ten” universities.  Side Two offers seven other famous football marches, and closes with two American march classics, Alexander’s Colossus of Columbia and Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever.  Most of the college marches on this program date from the end of the 19th century and first two decades of the 20th, the period in which football rose to become a major nation-wide scholastic sport, with all the natural accompaniments of music, pageantry and college spirit.  Among the composers were students, alumni and faculty members, some of whom became esteemed musicians while others became their most lasting musical achievement in their inspired expression of love for their school.

The composers are as follows: Across the Field (Ohio State), W. A. Dougherty, ’17; Illinois Loyalty, T. H. Guild; Minnesota Rouser, Floyd M. Hutsell; Indiana, Our Indiana, Russell P. Harker and K. L. King; Iowa Fight Song, W. R. Law, ’04; On, Wisconsin, W. T. Purdy; Go, U Northwestern, Theo C. Van Etten, ’16; M.S.U. Fight Song (Michigan State), F. I. Lankey, ’16; Hail Purdue, E. J. Wotawa, ’12; The Victors (University of Michigan), Louis Elebel, ’00; On, Brave Old Army Team, Philip Egner; Down the Field (Yale), Stanleigh B. Friedman; Princeton Cannon Song, J. F. Hewitt, ’07, and A. H. Osborn, ’07; Notre Dame Victory March, Rev. Michael J. Shea, ’04; Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech, Frank Roman; Anchors Aweigh (Navy), Charles A. Zimmerman, who was Musical Director of the U.S. Naval Academy; Mr. Touchdown, U.S.A., Bill Katz, Gene Piller and Ruth Roberts.

The highly creative arrangements of the marches are largely the word of Jerry H. Bilik, who holds the degrees of B. Mus. and M. Mus. from the University of Michigan.  He has been arranger for the University of Michigan Bands from 1953 to the present day.  He was also arranger for the U. S. Military Academy Band at West point from 1955 to 1958, has arranged for musical shows, and has published a number of serious musical works for concert band.  The arrangements of all the “Big Ten” marches on Side One, except the last, are his, and also the arrangements on Side Two of On, Brave Old Army Team, Down the Field, Princeton Cannon Song, Notre Dame Victory March, and Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech.

Acknowledgements are gratefully made to the University of Michigan, to Dean James B. Wallace of the University School of Music, and to Frank J. Ortman, President of the Alumni Association, for their cooperation in the creation of this record, and to the American Federation of Musicians for making this recording possible.

Critics and Composers on the University of Michigan Band

“The University of Michigan Symphony Band, under the leadership of William D. Revelli, last night gave a concert in Carnegie Hall. . . . The University of Michigan Band is without doubt one of the finest in the country, if not the entire world.”     

                        New York Herald Tribune

“The University of Michigan Band, according to my judgment, has no superior among University Bands, and is truly outstanding in its achievements.” 

                        Dr. Edwin Franko Goldman

“It’s the finest band I ever heard.”

                        Robert Russell Bennett

“One of the finest bands in the nation.”

                        Ferde Grofe

“The University of Michigan Band is one of the best I have ever heard.”                            Henry Cowell


This is a Vanguard Quality Control recording, employing especially designed tape recorders, microphones and amplifiers to produce masters which embody a frequency response covering the entire range of human hearing and embrace the full gamut of instrumental and vocal sonorities.  Those with wide range playback systems should compensate for the RIAA curve.  Although a single channel recording, this disc is also playable with any stereophonic cartridge, and its richness of sound is further enhanced when played on a stereophonic system.  Vanguard quality control recordings are designed in music, performance and recorded sound to be permanent and lasting treasures of any record library.