On, Brave Old Army Team, or as we here at the West Point Band lovingly call it, “OBOAT,” is one of the songs that is nearest and dearest to the Corps of Cadets here at West Point, but it didn’t exactly have an auspicious beginning. Though it’s now the academy’s official fight song and a rallying cry sung out by thousands of impassioned Army fans at every football game, in truth, the composer of OBOAT wasn’t originally too keen on writing it.
Here’s the story:
The year was 1910. The place, West Point. A dashing young lieutenant by the name of Philip Egner had just begun a promising career as music teacher and band commander at the United States Military Academy. When approached by an even younger, even more dashing cadet cheerleader with lyrics for a new cheer, Lt. Egner was initially… unimpressed.
But one day, as he was walking back to his home quarters after a hard day’s work, inspiration struck! Music for the cadet’s lyrics had sprung into his head. Worried he’d forget the melody by the time he got home, Lt. Egner hurriedly jotted down the notes on his stiffly-starched shirt sleeve. Thank goodness for a nice assertive laundering!
Not too long after the composition of OBOAT, the Army team rose to football dominance, losing fewer than 10 games total between 1944 and 1950 and winning three consecutive national championships. The success of the team caught the attention of the entire nation, and the strains of Lt. Egner’s composition could be heard all across the country. Even jazz legend Glenn Miller paid tribute to OBOAT by recording a big band version of the song. During this heyday of Army football, On, Brave Old Army Team was deservingly granted a place among the most beloved college fight songs of all time.
Today, though the Black Knights may not have quite the same record they held in the ’40s, cadets and Army fans alike still use OBOAT to cheer their team on to victory. OBOAT is played many times throughout each and every Army football game — at the start of the game, after an Army touchdown, during the band’s pre-game marching show, and whenever the spirit of the moment takes over and calls the Corps to song.
Make sure to catch the West Point Band performing On, Brave Old Army Team this Saturday, October 15, as the Army team takes on Lafayette College! We’ll be performing our signature rendition of OBOAT at the pre-game football review (9:00 a.m. on The Plain at West Point) and throughout the big game (12:00 p.m. at West Point’s Michie Stadium). Join us and help cheer the Army team “on to the fray!”
If you liked learning a bit about OBOAT, stay tuned for a whole series of videos and blogs in the upcoming months about the songs of West Point!