Bandmaster Michael Greenblatt arranged the music and a football player wrote the lyrics on a train ride to play Auburn. Now, more than 100 years later, some campus leaders believe Georgia Tech coeds would be more comfortable if a single word was changed in that iconic fight song.
At a time when the Yellow Jackets ought to be doing something about their struggling football program, students and alumni are being asked their opinion of a tradition that dates back to an era when women weren’t allowed to vote, much less attend Georgia Tech.
“Ramblin’ Wreck” is one of the country’s most recognizable fight songs. Music was lifted from a British/Scottish drinking song called “Son of a Gambolier.”
It was sung on screen by actors John Wayne and Gregory Peck and was heard on a broadcast from outer space. When Richard Nixon and Russian Premier Nikita Khrushehev met in 1959, they did a version of the spirited fight song.
Overlooked are the contributions of Greenblatt, whose descendants still run Copaco, formerly known as the Columbus Paper Company. He was Tech’s first bandleader and he heard his musicians playing the rowdy pub song.
Greenblatt composed his own arrangement, and in 1905 it was formally adopted as Tech’s fight song. It was copyrighted in 1919 by his successor, Frank Roman.
Mike Greenblatt was in the paper business in Atlanta by 1952 and, when he heard the copyright had expired, he tweaked his original music and was granted a second copyright. He sold it to Georgia Tech for a dollar.
Greenblatt died in 1955, and two years later his son Benjamin took over Columbus Paper Co., which his grandson still operates. Sixty years after the retired bandleader’s death, campus leaders want one word changed.
Traditional lyrics say “Oh! If I had a daughter sir, I’d dress her in White and Gold, and put her on the campus to cheer the brave and bold.” If the resolution passes the daughter would “join the brave and bold.”
Greenblatt might not understand the proposal to alter the lyrics, but he would recognize the changes on campus. Women weren’t admitted to Tech until 1952, but this year’s freshman class is 41 percent female. And when that 1930 Model A leads the football team on to the field, the driver is a Tech coed.
And she’s a helluva engineer, too.
— Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.