Good morning, Boilers! And, on this fine morning, I must say that damn, it feels good to be a Boiler.
My post earlier this week about Hail Fire and the accompanying dance and cheer generated some good feedback in the comments, and I really appreciate that. The most amazing feedback, though, arrived in my inbox last night. I received an e-mail from the actual composer of the piece we love and our opponents love to criticize. The story behind the piece is pretty cool. Take a jump with me?
So the following email arrived from fellow Boilermaker and friend of the site Jim last night, and he tells quite a tale about the origins of the tune. I think we can definitively say, after having this e-mail on record, that we know the entire history of this budding Boilermaker tradition. Below is the message in its entirety, save for removal of the author’s last name for privacy. Give it a quick read, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.
First of all, let me say that I'm a proud Purdue alum that attended THE Indiana University from 1989 to 1995. I was fortunate enough to be at Purdue at the beginning of the three-peat in men's basketball and at the beginning of the national emergence of the women's basketball program. However, football has always been my first love and it was very tough for me during the Akers and Colleto eras.
Anyway, I was a trumpet player in the All-American Marching Band. Since the football team was a little hard to watch, the members of the band typically had to find ways to keep their spirits up. We did mostly silly things because it kept things fun and light-hearted. We often had competitions between sections and even tried to come up with creative ways to show our Purdue spirit. Long story short, at the beginning of the 1993 football season, I was inspired to give something back to the band and the school, so I composed Hail Fire. We debuted it that Fall at a home game during the Big Ten season. It was met with a lot of excitement by the band (especially the trumpets and mellophones), but it didn't receive a very warm response by the student section. I expected it to take some time to catch on, and it did.
The dance was started by a few members in the percussion section. If you go to YouTube and type in "Three Amigos Salute", you will see where they got "the moves". They took a few liberties, but that's where it started ... and it has actually changed quite a bit over the years (improving as you would expect). Anyway, the dance caught on with the rest of the band, and the rest is history ... except for the "IU Sucks" part. Reading your article was the first I had heard about the evolution of that tradition.
It is truly funny how some traditions get started. Being the composer, I would have been crushed if the University would have made the band stop playing Hail Fire, but now that I know that the reason for trying to kill it was the dancing, I feel better. I admit, I'm not a dancer and the choreography is a little silly. However, when anything is done by a large group in unison, it is impressive. I went to Ann Arbor with the marching band in 1989, and the Michigan band played the theme song from Rocky and Bullwinkle. Now picture roughly 100,000 students/fans holding their hands by their ears in the shape of moose antlers and dancing around like idiots. Silly-looking? You bet. Juvenile? You bet. Impressive? You bet.
Anyway, thanks for the history lesson. This article and writings like your "Badassery" columns are those extras that make being a Boilermaker exceptional. Thanks for all of the work you guys do to keep the spirit alive and teach us a little about ourselves as well.
Purdue AAMB Trumpet '89-'93
Purdue BSCE '93, MSCE '95
Thanks so much for the contribution of Hail Fire, Jim, and thank you also for sharing your story.