CLEMSON — It’s “the song that shakes the Southland.”
It’s the song that shakes Death Valley as members of an orange sea triumphantly thrust their fists in the air while spelling out “Clemson.”
It’s “Tiger Rag.”
The 2017 football season marks the 75th anniversary of the use of the tune as the official Clemson fight song.
It wouldn’t be game day without the Tiger Band leading the “C-L-E-M-S-O (wait for it) -N” chant and playing “Tiger Rag,” but the song wasn’t always a Clemson University staple.
A failure in 1917, the original recorders of “Tiger Rag,” the Original Dixieland Jass Band, decided to try recording again in 1918.
In 1941, cadet bandmaster Robert Dean Ross of the Clemson Corps band hitchhiked to Atlanta to try to find a worthy fight song. Ross bought the “Tiger Rag” score for $1.50 from the Old Southern Music Company.
The band played the tune after every touchdown throughout the 1942 season and the practice became ingrained into Clemson tradition.
In 2003, band director Mark Spede added “Tiger Rag’s” ninth variation, called “Tiger Fanfare.” Other versions include “Short Rag,” “Gliss Rag,” “Trio Cheer” and “First Down Cheer.”
The song’s famous introduction was coined by Nick Peck, a Tiger Band announcer in the 1960s-70s.
At Saturday’s Homecoming game against Wake Forest, the Tiger Alumni Band will join Tiger Band on the field before the game to experience yet again “the most exciting 25 seconds in college football.” This is the 35th year for the tradition.
The band’s halftime performance will start with the “Back to the Future” movie theme song and will continue with Glenn Miller’s rendition of “Tiger Rag.” Finally, the Homecoming queen and court will be presented to an original composition by band student Stephen Hill called “Memories of Clemson.”
“Clemson has so many great traditions, and ‘Tiger Rag’ is near the top,” Spede said. “The casual fan may not realize, but our version is one of the most difficult fight songs to play. We are indebted to Robert Dean Ross for bringing us ‘the song that shakes the Southland’ and to all Tiger fans who have embraced it for generations!”
Olivia Dubro is a member of the Class of 2019 at Clemson University and works in Clemson University Relations.