“Yes,” associate director Ed Greene said. “Yes, yes, yes.”
The storied group had its groove back after finally getting its old fight song back.
For weeks this season, as the Redskins piled up points and wins, the band that began the year after the team arrived in Washington was forced to sit out its own tradition: Each time the team converted a point-after-touchdown kick, a recorded version of “Hail to the Redskins” played over the FedEx Field sound system. The team told the musicians not to play the big, brassy song that the band’s founding director had co-written 75 seasons earlier, in the leather-helmet era.
For some fans and band members, it was a personal foul. The musicians were still performing the song before games and after field goals, but they wanted their touchdown tradition back.
“That’s what so many Redskins fans grew up with: hearing the marching band play ‘Hail,’ ” drum major John Carpenter said.
Now “Hail” has come home.
After the Hogs Haven Redskins blog urged the organization to reconsider, the team struck up the band: Shortly before last Sunday’s season-deciding game against the dreaded Dallas Cowboys, team officials asked the Redskins Marching Band to play along with the old recording, made more than a decade ago by a different group of musicians and vocalists.
“Everybody was excited,” Carpenter said. They played the instrumental parts of the fight song four times, after every one of kicker Kai Forbath’s extra points.
The Redskins won the game, advancing to the playoffs after a long stretch of misery. They will play the Seattle Seahawks at FedEx on Sunday; the NFL’s oldest marching band will play, too.
The team did not make any officials available for comment.
The Washington Redskins Marching Band was created by franchise founder George Preston Marshall, who wanted to ramp up the game-day experience in part to attract female fans to old Griffith Stadium.
“Hail to the Redskins” was composed by band leader Barnee Breeskin; Marshall’s wife, silent movie actress Corinne Griffith, wrote the lyrics, which originally included an exhortation to “fight for old Dixie” and the line “scalp ’em, swamp ’em.” The first lyric has since become “fight for old D.C.” (though some fans have taken this season to shouting “fight for RGIII,” for the team’s star quarterback); “scalp ’em” was changed to “beat ’em.” (The Redskins, however, remain called the Redskins.)
The Green Bay Packers have an even older fight song than “Hail to the Redskins” (#HTTR on Twitter), but there’s no band to play it in Green Bay. In fact, the NFL is hardly a marching-band hotbed. The only other one is Baltimore’s Marching Ravens, who began as a Baltimore Colts band in 1947 and stayed together as the city twice lost its football franchise.