"Tiger Rag" joins first class of songs in national registry
University fight song was groundbreaking jazz tune in early 1900s.
This article originally appeared in The Tiger on March 7, 2003 | PRINT

As the Tigers rub Howard's Rock and 80,000 crazed fans scream in anticipation of the "25 most exciting seconds in college football," Tiger Band is certainly playing the song that gets Clemson fans on their feet, "Tiger Rag." And now people outside the University are recognizing the significance of the famous fight song.

The Library of Congress recently announced that this familiar Clemson University fight song has been chosen as one of the first 50 recordings in the National Recording Registry.

The National Recording Preservation Act of 2000 granted Librarian of Congress James H. Billington and his staff the unique responsibility of annually selecting some recordings to be included in the U.S. National Recording Registry.

Acknowledging the challenge of reviewing more than 100 years of American music, Billington decided to focus on "recognizing important firsts in the history of recording in America: technical, musical and cultural achievements." The original recording of "Tiger Rag" in 1918 stood out as one such piece.

Composed in 1904 in New Orleans and first performed by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, an all-white New Orleans-style group from Chicago that featured cornetist Nick LaRocca, "Tiger Rag" immediately caught the attention of the National Recording Preservation Board for "initiating a craze for the new art form of the age, jazz."

Over 60 years ago, in 1942, 1948 University alumnus Robert Dean Ross, then a Clemson band member, purchased "Tiger Rag" sheet music from the Old Southern Music Company in Atlanta. Never did he imagine the power of such a piece.

While Ross and his band mates were apprehensive about playing the song at any time other than when the team scored for fear of overplaying it, "The Song that Shakes the Southland" is now played about 500 times during football season alone. That count does not even include the innumerable times "Tiger Rag" can be heard as the beep of someone's car horn or the ring of a cellular phone.

"Tiger Rag" has represented not only the dawning of the jazz era but also the spirit of Clemson. As Clemson historian Jerry Reel pointed out, the Encyclopedia of Popular Culture identified the Clemson arrangement as one of the most rousing college songs, along with Georgia Tech's "Ramblin' Wreck," University of Michigan's "Hail to the Victors," and "Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame."

Twin sisters Leslie Browne, a junior financial management major, and Lauren Browne, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, have driven up for as long as they can remember from Moncks Corner, S.C., for football games along with their parents, 1978 alumna Debbie Browne and 1980 alumnus Kenny Browne. These girls literally have grown up listening to the "Tiger Rag."

When asked of her experiences with "Tiger Rag," Lauren responded, "When I was younger, I really don't remember thinking it was anything special. But now, every time it is played, I think about the fact that 20 years ago, my parents were in the same stadium doing the same cheer. It is just one way we all show pride for Clemson."

Her sister, Leslie, agreed and said, "The song, orange and all the Clemson traditions are definitely important to me, especially because its a family thing. I can't explain it, and my parents couldn't explain it to me either before I came to Clemson, but there is just something indescribable about being here, hearing 'Tiger Rag' and going to Saturday football games."

Sophomore chemical engineering major Kimberly Busam added her thoughts on the historic fight song when she commented, "I love the song when I hear it now. I dance around and don't care where I am either because it's our song! My favorite part of the whole 'Tiger Rag' is when you look out into the stadium -- whether it be Death Valley or Doug Kingsmore or Historic Riggs Field, and you see all the arms waving in the air --the support and pride is overwhelming."

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