Strike up the band! Time to play Exodus is not set in stone

BILL MARTIN

I n recent weeks, there have been some grumblings from a small faction of people about the appropriate time to play the Rockdale Tiger football anthem song, Exodus.

It has even spawned a (gulp) Facebook page. As I have stated here before, I don’t do Facebook.

There seems to be some confus ion as to when and where and under what circumstance s t he s ong should be played.

As a former Tiger athlete and student myself, I am ashamed to say that I know absolutely nothing about the tune’s RHS origins or history other than it comes from a movie and is played at the end of football games.

So, with help from Reporter Editor Mike Brown, I started to do a little digging.

Initiated in 1962 by thenband director Bill Grusendorf, the theme comes from the 1960 Paul Newman film of the same name, Exodus.


Grusendorf Grusendorf The song was written by 1950s heartthrob Pat Boone and film composer Ernest Gold and recorded by classical piano players Ferrante & Teischer when the movie came out in 1960 and went straight to No. 2 on the Billboard charts.

Known for their easy listening instrumental, they also had a smash with the theme from Midnight Cowboy.

Gold won an Academy Award for the music from the Exodus film.

The song is based on the writings in the book of Exodus.

Grusendorf, here from 1958 to 1972, started that tradition by playing Exodus when at a Cameron game, Yoe fans realized they weren’t going to win and got up to leave.

“We were beating Cameron, handily, for the first time in years,” Grusendorf said. “After that game, it became a second school song.”


Paul Newman starred in the movie Exodus from which the Rockdale anthem is drawn. Paul Newman starred in the movie Exodus from which the Rockdale anthem is drawn. He originally bought the music for a marching contest and he also played it coming off the field at halftime.

It’s been a tradition for nearly 50 years, but delving into the past proves that when is the right time to play the song is a little murky.

Coming out of the golden age of Rockdale athletics, there were a lot of victories, it was played all the time, so it was never an issue when or when not to strike up the band when I was in school.

I know it was played at the end of our graduation in 1976 and I got a lump in my throat.

I asked fellow press box gargoyle Joe Wayne Cleveland, who was a ball boy for the football team as a kid, a standout Tiger football player in the late 60s and has been filming every Tiger football game for the past 30 years about the controversy. He explained Exodus can only be played after a win.

“It’s supposed to pull everyone together so you can end the game on a high note,” he said.

According to former RHS band directors, there are no hard and fast rules as to when it is appropriate to play Exodus. “Yes and no,” says Jim Perry, who was assistant band director from 1975 to 1981 and then director from 1981 to 1985.

“Yes, the original tradition was as you say, at the end of a win and serenading the exiting opposing fans, and it was still used that way when I first got to Rockdale in 1975,” Perry remembered. “During my years there with Don (Theode), fans wanted to hear it at the end of a game whether we won or not, plus we used it for our halftime closer for years, instead of the fight song, because fans wanted it and because it got so much reaction from fans when played.

“During my years as high school director, I think we had five straight 3-7 seasons, so there was not much playing of it as a win, so we just played it at the end of the game as a matter of pride.”

Don Theode, who started out as Grusendorf’s assistant, became director from 1972 to 1981 and remembers playing it mostly after Tiger wins, which were plentiful in his tenure as director in the 1970s.

“If my memory serves me correctly, we used to play Exodus on the field at halftime rather frequently,” he said. “I don’t recall it being something we had to do, just something we wanted to do because the crowd, and the band, loved hearing it. “It seems to me that we played it at football games only at the end of the game, if we won the game. If we lost, we did not play it.

“That is how I remember it, but my memory is not as good as it once was.”

Perry understands what the song means to Rockdale.

He recalls a few occasions when Cameron and Taylor bands played it when their respective teams won, just to rub it in.

“I managed to trade other music for their original copies of Exodus so that should never be a problem again.”

“As I said to someone else, if ever there was a song that represented a community’s identity, Exodus was it.”

“If playing Exodus is expected by the crowd at football games, give it to them!” says Theode.

The man who started it all, disagrees with his former assitant.

“It should be played at the end of the game when we win,” Grusendorf said empathically. “That’s the only time.

“It’s a victory song.”

Now if the football team would just cooperate, Grusendorf and Tiger fans would get their wish to hear it all the time.

EXODUS

In case you are interested in singing along at the next football game, here are the lyrics: This land is mine, God gave this land to me This brave and ancient land to me And when the morning sun reveals her hills and plain Then I see a land where children can run free. So take my hand and walk this land with me And walk this lovely land with me Though I am just a man, when you are by my side With the help of God, I know I can be strong. Though I am just a man, when you are by my side With the help of God, I know I can be strong To make this land our home If I must fight, I’ll fight to make this land our own Until I die, this land is mine.


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