The Fightin' Spiders of Richmond music score


Golden oldie

The original sheet music for a previous version of the University of Richmond fight song surfaced in the music library, sending head music librarian Linda B. Fairtile down a research rabbit hole.

Where do college fight songs come from? For over 60 schools across the country in the early 1940s, including the University of Richmond, the answer was the same: Fred Waring. The popular bandleader offered to compose a song for any college that asked for one, as long as its students expressed enthusiasm for it. Because Waring’s radio show was sponsored by a tobacco company, one school included signed cigarette packages in its appeal.

Richmond took a more traditional approach. Under the leadership of freshman Bob Cotten, R’42, UR students mailed some 900 postcards to Waring’s office. Cotten soon received word that the campaign had succeeded — it may have helped that Waring’s newest featured singer, Patsy Garrett, had attended Westhampton College.

On May 10, 1940, Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians debuted “The Fightin’ Spiders of Richmond” on the Chesterfield Pleasure Time radio show. More than 500 students packed Cannon Memorial Chapel to hear the broadcast, and loudspeakers relayed the performance to others rallying outside. According to The Collegian, “At the close, a tremendous ovation started in the rear, rushed to the front, and then continued to mount — and new school spirit was born with the song.”

In addition to writing and broadcasting “The Fightin’ Spiders of Richmond,” Waring arranged for sheet music to be printed and sponsored a contest for the best performance of the song on campus. Although “The Fightin’ Spiders of Richmond” is no longer sung at athletic events, a copy of the sheet music made its way to Parsons Music Library and is now part of the UR Songs and Music special collection.