What is True Maroon?

2010-2011 “Hail State” is True Maroon

Hail State artwork

“For 73 years, Hail State has been the battle cry for our loyal fans and a warning for all those who invade Bulldog Territory…That’s True Maroon”

Hail dear ‘ole State!
Fight for that victory today.
Hit that line and tote that ball,
Cross the goal before you fall!
And then we'll yell, yell, yell, yell!
For dear 'ole State we'll yell like H-E-L-L!
Fight for Mis-sis-sip-pi State,
Win that game today!

A History of “Hail State”

’Hail State’, Born in the 30’s, Still Thrilling MSU Fight Song

By: Virginia Nash – November 26th, 1969 Starkville Daily News
These are the words to Mississippi State University’s spirited fight song, ‘Hail State’ and it’s hard to imagine a State football game without the Maroon Band playing it, accompanied by cheering and dedicated State students and fans. But prior to 1937 the song just did not exist. Unless, that is, its words and stirring melody were running around in the brain of a young Meridian Mississippi man , who, graduating from high school in the midst of the depression, never attended Mississippi State or any other college.

But that’s getting ahead of my story.

DAWGS Flags leading the football team out

Let’s go back to the 1930’s when the enrollment at Mississippi State College was only several thousand men and a mere sprinkling of coeds. When girls’ dresses were long and men’s suits doubled breasted. When big name bands such as George Olsen, Kay Kyser, Herbie Kaya and Art Kassels came to State to play for dances which were held in the college cafeteria. When the Blue Goose was where the crowd went, and when at the close of semesters and on holidays students lined up at the YMCA on campus to board Tri-State buses for their homes.

In the fall of 1936 Major Ralph Sasse’ (they say he was superstitious and always put on his left shoe first) was predicting the greatest year in State’s football history after his team beat Alabama and Army the previous season.

G. D. Humphreys was president of Mississippi State College, and three seniors—Sherill Nash of Starkville, Lonnie Davis of Laurel, and P. R. ‘Bobby’ Davis of Shreveport – launched a campus humor magazine which they named the Mis-A-Sip.

The new magazine carried advertisements of Starkville business firms, and revealed the price of admission of the new State Theatre was only 30 cents and at the Rex only 22 cents. The owners, Raymond and Arthur Goodman (classes of 1906 and 1908) announced in their ad that there would be a free show for the student body “if State beats Ole Miss on November 21.”

The rivalry between the two Mississippi football teams had existed since 1901 when the teams first met. In that memorable year the Ole Miss Mudcats invaded the Bulldog campus to receive their unbearable defeat of 17 to 0. By the fall of 1936 State had chalked up 17 wins to the 14 of Ole Miss, with two of the 33 games played ending in a tie for the Thanksgiving Day classic. From the very beginning school spirit was high at both schools for the harvest season game, and State students felt it keenly that Mississippi State lacked its own pep song.

It was reported in the Mis-A-Sip that during the previous summer at ROTC camp, the orchestra went into a medley of college songs in honor of the institutions represented in the ROTC unit then on duty. The Citadel had its Victory Song; Georgia Tech, its Ramblin’ Wreck; Alabama, its Corn Song; but when State’s time came, the orchestra went into Turkey In the Straw for want of a better tune.

Sherill Nash, Suzanne Nash, Robert J. Bob Peavey, Henry E. Wamsley

Sherill Nash, seated, looks back at a copy of a 1936 MIS-A-SIP that announced the contest that produced ’Hail State’. Looking on, from l to r, are Suzanne Nash, Robert J. ’Bob’ Peavey, and Henry E. Wamsley.

As soon as the State men got back to school, they started right away to do something about the jokes of this sort. In its October, or second issue, the staff of the Mis-A-Sip announced it would sponsor a contest to obtain a new school pep song, offering a $10 cash prize to the one submitting the best lyric or tune. The contest was to run to Jan. 15, 1937, and was open to all persons whether students or alumni, amateur or professional. Entries were to be judged by a committee composed of musicians and members of the English Department faculty.

The winning entry was to be turned over to the Student Association to be copyrighted and would become the official property of Mississippi State College.

The college’s official orchestra, Mitt Evans and his Collegians, together with the best voices on the campus, were to present the best of the songs submitted to an audience of students, alumni and others who cared to attend. Final selection was to be made through this audience by secret ballot.

By December the prize money totaled $55, additional contributions coming from the Student Association, the Reflector, the Alumni Association, and the college.

In January the deadline was extended to Feb. 1 and the Mis-A-Sip announced the contest judging committee would be headed by Prof. H. E. Wamsley, leader of the famous Maroon Band and Director of Music at Mississippi State. Prof. Wamsley was to be assisted by Prof. Walker Kinkaid, Head of the Physics Department and himself an accomplished musician. Prof. T. T. Brackin and Prof. H. P. Cooper, both of the English Department, would also serve as judges.

In the meantime, Mitt Evans who lived in Meridian, stopped by the music store there owned by Joseph Burlison “Mutt” Peavey and informed him of the contest for a new school song for which first prize would be $50.

According to a recent correspondence from Peavey, who still resides in Meridian, Mitt agreed that if Peavey wrote a song and it was good, and if Peavey would make an arrangement for the Collegians, he (Mitt) would plug it at State dances.

Cover of Mis-A-Sip magazine

Peavey subsequently wrote the music and lyrics [to what is known now as “Hail State”]. Because the tune was simple and the words so exactly expressed the spirit of the student body, the song caught on immediately when it was played by the Collegians at frequent student gatherings.

Peavey said in his letter “I don’t suppose this was really fair to the other songs submitted, as everyone was thoroughly familiar with the words and joined in singing ‘Hail State’ when the song was played at the judging in late February.”

Reflecting on the contest of more than thirty years ago, Prof. Wamsley said last week it was that phrase, “We’ll yell like hell!” that the students really liked. In his opinion ‘Hail State’ is one of the finest college pep sons in the nation.

The March 1937 issue of the Mis-A-Sip evidently went to press before the song contest was judged. However, a copy of the March 3 Reflector gave full details of the results.

“The song that was adopted as the official Mississippi State pep song at the recent poll was ‘Hail Dear Old State’, submitted by J. B. ‘Mutt’ Peavey of Meridian. For this a prize of $50 was given.

“Copyrights were recently secured by the student body on the second and third place winners in the pep song contest sponsored by the Mis-A-Sip.

“These songs in the order of their placing at the recent poll conducted here are the ‘Mississippi State Fighting Song’ composed by James A. Harvey of Drew, and ‘The Maroon and White Marching Song’, with the words being composed by Miss Betsy Stark of Starkville and the music by Theodore Russell of Columbus”.

Each of these winners received a $10 prize, it was noted.

Harvey, class of 1928 and a member of the Maroon Band, now lives at Hollandale. Miss Stark who resides in Starkville, collaborated with Ted Russell, who was head of the Music Department at MSCW.

Words of the newly-adopted pep song were allocated a page to themselves in the April Mis-A-Sip.

There seems to be much doubt if the song ‘Hail Dear Old State’ with lyrics as originally written by Peavey, was ever copyrighted.

According to Peavey, Thornton W. Allen, who composed the famous ‘Washington and Lee Swing’ and specialized in publishing college songs, obtained Peavey’s permission to change the name of the song to ‘Men of State’ and to write new words. That’s the title under which Peavey’s song was published, but it never caught on with the students. The original words, as submitted to the song contest in 1936, are the ones familiar to students and alumni…

Courtesy of University Archives