Alabama Fight SongYea Alabama Yea, Alabama! Drown ‘em Tide! Every ‘Bama man’s behind you; Hit your stride! Go teach the Bulldogs to behave, Send the Yellow Jackets to a watery grave! And if a man starts to weaken, That’s a shame! For ‘Bama’s pluck and grit Have writ her name in crimson flame! Fight on, fight on, fight on, men! Remember the Rose Bowl we’ll win then! Go, roll to victory, Hit your stride, You’re Dixie’s football pride, Crimson Tide!
Following Alabama’s 1926 Rose Bowl victory over Washington, a contest was held by The Rammer-Jammer, a student newspaper, for the composition of a fight song. Several entries were submitted to a panel overseen by the Music Department, and the winning entry, “Yea Alabama”, was adopted.
The composer, Ethelred Lundy Sykes, a student in the School of Engineering, was the editor of The Rammer-Jammer, and played piano in a jazz ensemble, The Capstone Five. He won the University’s Pan-Hellenic Cup in 1926 for overall achievement, academically, athletically, and in student affairs. The song achieved considerable popularity during the 20s and 30s. Sykes went on to become a Brigadier General in the U.S Air Force, and donated the copyright and future royalties to the University in 1947.
The Crimson Tide
Early newspaper accounts of the University’s football squad simply referred to them as the “varsity” or the “Crimson White.” The first nickname popular with the media was the “Thin Red Line,” which was used until 1906. Hugh Roberts, former sports editor of the Birmingham Age-Herald, is credited with coining the phrase “Crimson Tide” in an article describing the 1907 Iron Bowl played in Birmingham. The game was played in a sea of red mud with Auburn a heavy favorite to win. Alabama held Auburn to a 6-6 tie, thus graduating to their newfound nickname.
The elephant’s association with Alabama dates back to the 1930 football season when the Crimson Tide was led by Coach Wallace Wade. There are two stories about how Alabama became associated with the elephant.
Officially, following the 1930 game versus Ole Miss, Atlanta Journal sports writer Everett Strupper wrote:
“At the end of the quarter, the earth started to tremble, there was a distant rumble that continued to grow. Some excited fan in the stands bellowed, ‘Hold your horses, the elephants are coming,’ and out stamped this Alabama varsity. It was the first time that I had seen it and the size of the entire eleven nearly knocked me cold, men that I had seen play last year looking like they had nearly doubled in size.”
Sports writers continued to refer to Alabama as the “Red Elephants” afterwards, referring to their crimson jerseys. The 1930 team shut out eight of ten opponents, allowing a total of only 13 points all season. The “Red Elephants” rolled up 217 points that season, including a 24-0 victory over Washington State in the Rose Bowl.
Another account attributes the Rosenberger’s Birmingham Trunk Company for the elephant association. Alabama used the Birmingham Trunk Company’s luggage to travel to the 1930 Rose Bowl. The luggage company’s trademark was a red elephant standing on a trunk. When the football team arrived in Pasadena, the reporters greeting them associated their large size with the elephants on their luggage.
Despite these early associations of the elephant to the University of Alabama, the university did not officially accept the elephant as university mascot until 1979.
Alabama’s elephant mascot is known as “Big Al.”
The Million Dollar Band
W. C. “Champ” Pickens bestowed the name “Million Dollar Band” after the 1922 football game against Georgia Tech. Though accounts vary, it is reported that in order for the band to attend the game they had to solicit funds from local businesses. They were able to collect enough funds to ride in a tourist sleeper to the game. After the game, which Alabama lost 33-7, an Atlanta sportswriter commented to Pickens, “You don’t have much of a team; what do you have at Alabama?” Pickens replied, “A Million Dollar Band.”
Like many college alma mater songs written around the turn of the 20th century, the Alabama Alma Mater is set to the tune of “Annie Lisle”, a ballad written in the 1850s. The words are usually credited as, “Helen Vickers, 1908″, although it is not clear whether that was when it was written or if that was her graduating class:Alabama, listen, Mother, To our vows of love, To thyself and to each other, Faithful friends we’ll prove. Faithful, loyal, firm and true, Heart bound to heart will beat. Year by year, the ages through Until in Heaven we meet. College days are swiftly fleeting, Soon we’ll leave their halls Ne’er to join another meeting ‘Neath their hallowed walls. Faithful, loyal, firm and true Heart bound to heart will beat Year by year, the ages through Until in Heaven we meet. So, farewell, dear Alma Mater May thy name, we pray, Be rev’renced ever, pure and stainless As it is today. Faithful, loyal, firm and true Heart bound to heart will beat Year by year, the ages through Until in Heaven we meet.
The Capstone is a nickname for UA coined by former UA President G. H. Denny in 1913 when he referred to the University as the “capstone of the public school system of the state.” Capstone means “the top stone or high point.”
The Rammer Jammer Cheer
The “Rammer Jammer Cheer” is a traditional and controversial cheer. The university briefly forbade the Million Dollar Band from playing it, on account of its taunting nature and its use of the word “hell”. The move was met with a significant amount of criticism. In a vote at Homecoming 2005, the question was posed to students of whether the cheer should be banned – 98% of students voted in favor of keeping the cheer. Before the university’s attempt to remove the cheer, it was played before kickoff and at the end of the game. The cheer is now only played in the closing minutes when victory is certain, and is traditionally chanted twice. On at least one occasion (during Alabama’s victory over Auburn in the 2008 Iron Bowl – Alabama’s first in the series since 2001) it was repeated an additional three times.
Fans cheer:Hey Vols! (Substitute nickname of other opponent) Hey Vols! Hey Vols! We just (or “gonna’) beat the hell out of you! Rammer Jammer, Yellowhammer, give ‘em hell, Alabama!
The lyrics originate from “The Rammer-Jammer,” a student newspaper in the 1920s, and the yellowhammer, Alabama’s state bird. The cadence of the cheer was adapted from the Ole Miss cheer “Hotty Toddy” after then Ole Miss marching band director Dr. James Ferguson was appointed director of the Million Dollar Band.
Author Warren St. John titled his 2004 bestseller about obsessive sports fans “Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer” after the cheer.
Some information based on Wikipedia article on “University of Alabama Traditions.”