The University Record, September 30, 1998

Elbel, inspired by Chicago win, penned 'Victors' on trip home

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

With the opening of the 1998 football season, the Marching Band celebrates its 100th year of performances at home games. It was also in 1898 that Louis Elbel wrote "The Victors" after a U-M football win in Chicago.

Formed in 1844 with nine men, the Michigan Marching Band has grown to a corps of 225 men and women appearing at home and bowl games. The band has performed in every Michigan bowl game since 1948 and was dubbed "The Transcontinental Band" after appearing at both Yankee Stadium and the Rose Bowl during the 1950 season. It was the first to perform at a Super Bowl, and a decade later became the first recipient of the 1983 Sudler Trophy, given annually to the college marching band of particular excellence.

The Michigan band originated and was the first to perform the "Script Ohio," honoring its opponent in a 1932 game at Columbus, and was the first Big Ten band to travel to California for the Rose Bowl. The band marked the 50th anniversary of this event with a return trip to Pasadena in 1998 to cheer the U-M football team on to a National Championship.

In 1898 the football team won its first conference championship by scoring one more point than the Chicago Maroons, then the heaviest team in college football history. So impressed was Louis Elbel that after celebrating with other U-M fans in Chicago's streets, he realized that the University did not have the "right" celebration song. On the train back to Ann Arbor, Elbel took his original melody jottings and turned them into a march. An arrangement for 23 instruments resulted.

The song premiered in April 1899 and was conducted by no less than the "March King," John Philip Sousa, and his band who were appearing on the Ann Arbor campus. The words were sung for the first time in public at a Minstrels concert two nights later. "The Victors" continues to be played worldwide, consistently ranked among the best and most recognized of college fight songs.

Hail! To the victors valiant

Hail! To the conqu'ring heroes

Hail! Hail! To Michigan

The leaders and best

Hail! To the victors valiant

Hail! To the conqu'ring heroes

Hail! Hail! To Michigan,

The champions of the West!


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