Earlier this spring, my friend Jennifer Duncan was browsing through one of the vast Austin City-wide Garage Sales, held every other month at the Long Center downtown. At one of the booths, she spied a copy of “Songs of the University of Texas,” a three-record set of UT tunes produced in the 1940s. Jennifer purchased it and kindly presented it to me. (Thanks, Jennifer!) Though I already have a copy (which has been digitized and uploaded to the UT History Corner – you can listen to it here), it’s always great to have a “back-up” of these items as they become more rare. Besides, the front cover was much better preserved!
Jennifer and I opened the set to inspect the contents. The first record was just as expected, a fine copy of The Clock on the Varsity Tower on one side, and Hail to Thee, Our Texas on the other. But the remaining two records didn’t belong to the collection at all. Instead, they were a great discovery. The two records were identical: copies of a 1928 Victor 78 rpm recording of The Eyes of Texas and Texas Taps ( better known as Texas Fight!), meant to be played on a Victrola. They’re also the earliest recordings we have of these traditional songs.
Above: The two sides of a 1928 Victor recording of The Eyes of Texas and Texas Taps. Listen to the songs here!
According to articles found in The Daily Texan student newspaper, after days of rehearsal, members of the Longhorn Band and the University Men’s Chorus boarded a train on Sunday morning, May 20, 1928, bound for San Antonio. They recorded the songs for the Victor Company in a downtown hotel, then returned to Austin the same evening. The performance was made only a few days after the 25th anniversary of The Eyes of Texas – which debuted on May 12, 1903 – and may have been the motivation behind the recording. Texas Taps was first heard at the Thanksgiving Day Texas vs. A&M football game in 1923, and so was not yet five years old.
The songs from the record have now been posted under the “Audio” menu of the UT History Corner, and you can listen to them by clicking here.
Before each song is a college yell. Though the words are sometimes hard to understand, one of the cheers is a variation of the Rattle-de-Thrat yell written in 1896. I’ve figured out what was said and it’s included on the same page.