Without a doubt…..there is no better military marching band in the world than the Texas A & M Fighting Aggie Band….comprised completely of the Corp of Cadets at the University of Texas A & M….for this 400 member band can perform more intricate marching moves chocked full of “right and left oblique march” and “to the rear march” than you could ever imagine….and to watch and hear this massive military band break into “The Texas A & M War Hymn” is a memorable sight to behold in and of itself.
The Aggie War Hymn is the war hymn of Texas A&M University….of which officially, the school does not have a fight song…..as J.V. “Pinky” Wilson….who was one of many Aggies who fought in World War I….is attributed as the primary author of the song…..when he combined several Aggie yells into a song called “Good-bye to Texas University”….when he wrote the lyrics in 1918 on the back of a letter from home while holed up in a trench during a battle in France…..as he later put the words to music after Armistice was signed and before he returned to the United States. Upon returning to Texas A&M in 1919, the song was frequently performed by a quartet that Wilson organized, called the “Cast-Iron Quartet.”
According to Aggie tradition, on one night in 1920, several of the Aggie Yell Leaders heard Wilson’s quartet singing the song at a Bryan, TX theater during the intermission of a movie….and they were so impressed by the tune that they waited until after the regular show to meet him. During the meeting, they asked him to let them submit his work (the War Hymn) into a contest for a new fight song held in the fall. Wilson and his quartet quickly agreed to perform the Aggie War Hymn in the contest. They honed their skills for the contest over the summer….when they met after working cattle in the evenings. While unofficial ceremonies were held before games during this time, they were still not University sanctioned activities. The contest for the fight song occurred during one of these unofficial midnight yells. It was held outside Sbisa Hall after the evening meal…..and it became such a success that the song was officially adopted that fall under its current title.
The starting phrase of the song, “Hullabaloo, Caneck! Caneck!” is widely thought to originate from an Old Army Aggie yell written in 1907….as past Texas A&M University president Jack K. Williams jokingly defined the phrase as Chickasaw Indian for “Beat the hell out of the University of Texas”.
The song opens with “Goodbye to texas university”….as these words were chosen since Aggies refer to their principal athletic rival, Texas, as “texas university” or “t.u.” rather than “U.T.”….plus in practice, the phrase “sounds like hell” is inserted after the line “that is the song they sing so well”….however, the phrase is not officially part of the song…..and after this verse is sung twice, Aggie fans link their arms and legs….and sway left and right to replicate the motion of a saw blade….which is called “sawing Varsity’s horns off” (before the Texas football team adopting the Longhorn as the official mascot, the team was simply known as “Varsity”). The song concludes with the chorus of “There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight”.
In 1997, the Aggie War Hymn was rated as the # 1 college fight song by USA Today…..and it was also used by NASA Flight Director Gerry Griffin to wake up astronauts in space from 1983 to 1995…..plus, it was used as a wake-up call on Day 11 of space mission STS-121 for Texas A&M former student and mission specialist Mike Fossum…..and as seen in this video herewith….The Aggie War Hymn is performed at 1985 SWC game verses the Texas Longhorns.