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Old maroon-tinted photo of the Aggie band.

Time Capsule

Behind the Music

Remembering the origins of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band’s five most frequently played songs.

By Bailey Payne '19

A Hymn From the Trenches

“The Aggie War Hymn” | J.V. “Pinky” Wilson ’20 | 1918

I N FALL 1918, 1.2 million American soldiers fought in the largest, bloodiest campaign in U.S. military history: the Meuse-Argonne offensive. It was in the trenches during and after this terrifying battle for France—which helped end World War I at the cost of 26,277 American lives—that J.V. “Pinky” Wilson ‘20 wrote the immortal words of “The Aggie War Hymn” on the back of a letter to his folks back home.

“Good-bye to Texas University / So long to the orange and the white”. Wilson was obviously homesick and eager to get back to his alma mater, but why the fixation on its rival? Well, he wrote his lyrics to the tune of the barbershop classic “Goodbye, My Coney Island Baby,” and the opening line may well have been the first phrase he thought of that matched the original song’s meter.

After Wilson’s version caught on in College Station, he wrote an alternate first verse in 1928 that focused more on school pride. But nearly a century later, Aggies still “saw ‘em off” by belting the glorious hymn just as it was written on the battlefield. Just don’t call it a fight song.

A vinyl record.

"The Aggie War Hymn"
J.V. "Pinky" Wilson ’20



An Original Spirit

“The Spirit of Aggieland” | Marvin Mimms ’26 & Col. Richard Dunn | 1925

W HILE THE WAR HYMN provided a rousing singalong for athletic events, it didn’t serve well for more somber gatherings like Muster or formal ceremonies like commencement. So, in 1925, a junior cadet named Marvin Mimms ’26 spent part of his summer vacation writing his own heartfelt tribute to the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. Upon returning to campus, he submitted his lyrics to Col. Richard Dunn, the innovative band director credited with putting the “nationally famous” in “nationally famous Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band.”

When he received Mimms’ verses, Dunn relished the opportunity to compose an alma mater with original words and music since most schools simply adapted popular tunes as the War Hymn had. He quickly rewrote some lines, tweaked others and added a series of Aggie yells at the end. Just a week after Dunn received Mimms’ first draft, “The Spirit of Aggieland” saw its inaugural performance at the first yell practice of the 1925 season. Its invocation of a “spirit can ne’er be told” continues to shape Texas A&M University’s identity today.

A vinyl record.

"The Spirit of Aggieland"
Marvin Mimms ’26 & Col. Richard Dunn



A Colonel’s Contribution

“The Noble Men of Kyle” | Col. Joe T. Haney ’48| 1972

S HORTLY BEFORE TAKING UP the band director mantle from the retiring Col. E.V. Adams ‘29 in 1972, Col. Joe T. Haney ’48 (known as “The Colonel”) penned “The Noble Men of Kyle,” a triumphant musical tribute to the players on the field, the thousands of fans who call themselves the “12th Man,” and the band’s own legacy.

Taking full advantage of a booming brass section, Haney’s march sees high-frequency trumpets and trombones trading phrases with sonorous brass horns and tubas above the steady crashing of cymbals. After running the song’s inspiring melody up and down its scale, the band goes quiet before building intermingling triplets and quarter notes up to a climactic crescendo—a characteristic finale from a man remembered for his pride in a performance.

A vinyl record.

"The Noble Men of Kyle"
Col. Joe T. Haney ’48



A Warrior’s Tribute

“The Ballad of the Green Berets” | Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler | 1966

P ERHAPS THE CLOSEST the Fightin’ Texas Aggie Band will ever get to a contemporary pop hit in their repertoire, “The Ballad of the Green Berets” topped the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks when it hit the airwaves in early 1966, beating out Nancy Sinatra’s rendition of “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” and “California dreamin’” by The Mamas and the Papas.

Its co-writer and original performer, Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler, worked on the song while serving in Vietnam as a U.S. Army Special Forces medic and finished it as he recuperated from a punji stick wound. Its patriotic lyrics set it apart in an era of protest and paid homage to Specialist Five James Gabriel Jr., a native Hawaiian Green Beret killed by Veit Kong gunfire during a training mission.

A vinyl record.

"The Ballad of the Green Berets"
Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler



A Call To War

“Patton (Theme)” | Jerry Goldsmith | 1970

N O FILM CAN TRULY CAPTURE a life as rich as Gen. George Patton’s, but the 1970 three-hour epic “Patton” certainly made an impact in trying, earning three Oscars and launching the career of its then-unknown co-screenwriter, Francis Ford Coppola. Its memorable opening, in which actor George C. Scott re-creates the general’s impassioned speech to the Third Army before a wall-sized American flag, turned the firebrand leader known as “Old Blood and Guts” into a World War II folk hero overnight.

As that scene fades out, composer Jerry Goldsmith’s acclaimed theme begins with a haunting echoing trumpet phrase representing the “call to war,” which itself has regularly appeared in Kyle Field’s pregame soundtrack. When the band plays the “Patton” theme, this phrase quickly launches into a galvanizing march with all the gusto and glory of the man who led 300,000 soliders into hell and back.

A vinyl record.

"Patton (Theme)"
Jerry Goldsmith



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