Songs of the Past and Present: Baylor Sheet Music at The Texas Collection

December 8, 2017 leanna_barcelona

by Joseph Lipham, Student Assistant

In 1930, the illustrious Baylor University became officially accredited as a School of Music by the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). Under the guidance of the School of Music director, Roxy Grove, who was granted the position in 1926, the Baylor School of Music would have quite the pivotal impact on the university. Grove, being a proud Baylor alumna, noticed that the university lacked a solidified alumni song. In 1928, Grove put her ideas to paper and music, and thus, “Alma Mater” was born. Her take on an alumni song for Baylor is quite powerful and somewhat poignant; perhaps the most pervasive line of the tune being, “…All hail Alma Mater, all hail to thee thou guiding star of our destiny…”. Lyrics like these make it undoubtedly evident that Grove, like thousands of Baylor alumni, held the school in the highest of regards. While this song was quite the powerful homage to the beloved alma mater, it did not stick around long; the song would be completely replaced in 1931 by another Baylor alumna, Enid Eastland Markham.

Enid Eastland Markham, wife of Robert Markham, a senior professor of music at Baylor, can be credited for one of the most beloved pieces of Baylor music. In 1931, a large gathering of Baylor exes (also known as alumni), flooded through the doors of the newly constructed Waco Hall. This tradition of Baylor exes meeting to relive the euphoric splendor that was college, was nothing new to Baylor University, as the first such tradition began nearly 22 years prior. However, something was quite different this time; Markham, playing the organ and leading the exes in singing of one of Baylor’s most well-known songs, “That Good Old Baylor Line”, was quite shocked. The origins of “That Good Old Baylor Line” can be traced all the way back to 1907 when a young student named George Baines Rosborough jokingly pinned lyrics for a song based off the Broadway hit, “In the Good Old Summertime.” Rosborough, clamoring for a song to sing at Baylor Bear football games, sat and wrote lyrics that mocked Baylor’s then crosstown rival, Texas Christian University (TCU). The original parody lyrics spoke of the Baylor football team doing the opposing team “…up in turpentine…”. Markham, in one of her correspondences regarding her version of the song, claimed the words “…remained inadequate and even absurd…”. Markham even went as far as to say “…I was struck anew with their utter unworthiness as I watched a group of dignified, middle-aged Exes solemnly intoning the ridiculous little turpentine words…”

Although, the song was originally meant to serve as a fight song to chant during sporting events, many Baylor exes loved the song so dearly that they sang it with all their heart as if it were their Alma Mater, Markham recognizing this, put more dignified lyrics to paper. Seeing most of the song as rather inadequate, one line did stick out to Markham, “…Our stars begin to shine…”, she incorporated them into her tune. Finishing the song in less than a week’s time, Markham premiered her new lyrics for “That Good Old Baylor Line.” Since the modification of the lyrics in 1931, Baylor’s official Alma Mater song has remained relatively unchanged and is sung with the utmost regard by Baylor students new and old; this glimmering new version of the Baylor “fight song” slowly replaced the song written by Roxy Grove in 1928, becoming Baylor’s officially recognized Alma Mater.

After 1931, it appeared that Baylor University had nearly everything: newly constructed buildings, a gorgeous campus, a wholesome Christian environment and songs that embodied the love students had for their University. However, the one thing Baylor lacked was a truly solidified fight song. Since 1898, Baylor had engaged rival schools of the gridiron and students had been parodying popular songs of the day, but they lacked a song they could truly claim as their own. Realizing this problem, the Baylor Chamber of Commerce sponsored a competition held in the fall of 1940, in which multiple Baylor organizations wrote to famous musicians imploring them to write a fight song for Baylor. Fred Waring, a popular singer and bandleader of the day, being dubbed “The Man Who Taught America How to Sing”, decided to undertake the task of writing a new fight song. Alongside his brother Tom Waring, Fred finished writing the new piece by December 20,1940. Waring premiered the song on his NBC radio show,“The Chesterfield Pleasure Time Radio Show.” Taking grasp of Baylor students immediately, the song was sung at nearly every Baylor sporting event until the fall of 1947, when fellow roommates, Frank Boggs and Dick Baker, wrote their own version. On an eerily quiet fall evening, Boggs and Baker, unable to attend the football game in Lubbock, Texas against rivals Texas Tech, sat in their room listening to the football game on the radio.

Hearing the Baylor fight being sung, Boggs and Baker both agreed that the song was rather difficult to sing, as the words were quite lengthy and hard to sing in tune. By the end of the night, Boggs and Baker had finished their own version of the Baylor fight song, simply titling it “New Fight Song”. The original fight song, “Bear Down Baylor Bears”, became essentially forgotten after Baker and Boggs unveiled their new song outside the new Brooks Hall the following week. Baylor’s bandleader of the time happened to be in attendance, absolutely loving the song, he completely endorsed Boggs and Baker; printing several copies of the lyrics and disbursing them to every student, Baylor’s bandleader began playing “New Fight Song” at every sporting event. Officially becoming Baylor’s fight song the following year, “New Fight Song”, even to this day, remains Baylor’s official fight song. The tune is sung at every student gathering, pep rally and sporting event. Furthermore, the lyrics to the song have remained unchanged since they were to put to paper by Boggs and Baker in their dorm room on that fall evening in 1947.

While the Texas Collection holds several more pieces of Baylor sheet music, these three stand out more than, perhaps, any other pieces. The reason for this is that all three of these pieces were written by not only Baylor alumni, but even by Baylor students. This goes to show that students past and present, can leave a lasting impact on their beloved university. Roxy Grove, not only sought out gaining accreditation from the prestigious NASM, but put her love of her alma mater to paper. Much like Grove, Enid Eastland Markham seeing Baylor as a truly dignified university, re-wrote the lyricsto a song nearly every Baylor Ex knew and loved. In doing so, Markham created a song that would last the test of time and bond every Baylor student and Exes for life with its lyrics. Less than 10 years after Markham, Frank Boggs and Dick Baker cemented their legacy in the halls of Baylor history. Although 7 years prior, a competition had been sponsored to ask celebrities to write a Baylor fight song, the song that would prevail and endure time, was written by two Baylor students who happened to be roommates. It’s quite incredible to think that students can have such a lasting impact not only during their generation at college, but even the generations that follow.

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