By 1812Blockouse

As Mansfield is a member community in the network of campuses of The Ohio State University, we take a moment from time to time to celebrate all things OSU. This time, we look at a campus tradition that is relatively recent but still popular.

In 1965, a simple rock and roll tune climbed the charts to become a number one hit. That song was “Hang on Sloopy” by the McCoys, a song that, despite its humble beginnings, would embed itself deeply into the cultural fabric of The Ohio State University and beyond. Initially just another pop song, it was the OSUMB Marching Band that transformed “Hang on Sloopy” into an enduring anthem, resonating through the stands of Ohio Stadium for over five decades.

The Origins of “Hang on Sloopy”

Before it became a Buckeye symbol, “Hang on Sloopy” had roots in rhythm and blues. Originally titled “My Girl Sloopy,” it was recorded by the Vibrations in 1964, a year before the McCoys made it famous. The song emerged in a time when segregation marked the music industry—songs recorded by black artists often found success only when covered by white bands. Carl Fisher of the Vibrations recalled the era’s challenges, noting the disparity in recognition and airplay between original R&B versions and their pop covers.

From Student Arrangement to Stadium Anthem

The journey of “Hang on Sloopy” into Ohio State lore began unexpectedly with John Tatgenhorst, a music major who saw potential in this pop tune for the marching band’s repertoire. Despite initial reluctance from Charlie Spohn, the band director, persistence paid off. Spohn’s eventual approval led Tatgenhorst to arrange the song, infamously deciding to do so in the key of G Flat, which includes six flats—a challenging choice for any arranger. His effort was rewarded when the band’s rendition was met with overwhelming enthusiasm from both the musicians and the audience. Fred Dart, the assistant band director at the time, noted how the students and fans adored the arrangement.

Cultural Impact and Educational Influence

The song’s popularity extended beyond football games. It played a significant role in music education across Ohio, becoming a standard piece taught to students from a young age. The affinity for “Sloopy” echoed through various levels of musical instruction, further cementing its place in Ohio’s cultural landscape. In 1985, it was recognized officially, being named the state’s rock song, a testament to its widespread acceptance and beloved status.

Enduring Legacy and Tradition

Today, “Hang on Sloopy” continues to be a pivotal part of Ohio State traditions, played at the end of every third quarter at football games. It is a musical thread that connects generations of Buckeyes, evoking nostalgia and school pride. John Tatgenhorst, reflecting on his contribution, expressed a humble satisfaction in knowing the song’s enduring impact, hopeful that future generations will continue to keep the music alive.

This story of a rock and roll song becoming an integral part of university tradition and state identity is a vivid illustration of how music can transcend its origins to become a symbol of community and continuity.

Photo: Creative Commons License

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