Tom Kacich: 'War chant' rooted in theme song of 1950s cartoon

Tom Kacich: 'War chant' rooted in theme song of 1950s cartoon

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That so-called "war chant" that has so many Illinois sports fans emotional is time-honored, but perhaps not in the way you think.

The simple drumbeat isn't from Native American lore or even from a John Wayne Western, but from a children's cartoon segment that ran 60 years ago on the venerable "Captain Kangaroo" television show.

The "chant" music played by the Marching Illini and its pep bands and that some Illini fans contend gives them chills is from a song called "Pow Wow the Indian Boy," which introduced a simple black-and-white cartoon called "Adventures of Pow Wow."

I remember "Pow Wow" and the lyrics just as I can recall "The Adventures of Tom Terrific," another cartoon segment on "Captain Kangaroo."

Pow Wow, the Indian boy,
Loved all the animals and the woods;
Pow Wow, the Indian boy,
Loved all the animals and the woods;
Pow Wow was a friend
Of all the animals in the woods;
If there was any trouble,
He would help them if he could;
If Pow Wow couldn't help them,
He would go to the Medicine Man,
And he would tell them stories
Just how it all began, all began, all began ...

The song — which is about as authentic as a 1950s television Western filmed in a studio — was written by Monty Kelly, a prolific Oakland, Calif.-born composer who also wrote for albums, movies and other television shows. Listen to it below:

The "war chant" drum beat was first used by the Marching Illini in the 1970s, which would have placed it at about the time of the baby boomers who watched "Captain Kangaroo" and later on other children's television programs broadcast on Chicago and St. Louis stations.

One episode, titled "The Magic Spigot," which has the theme song at the beginning, can be found on YouTube:

Surely there's another old TV show or cartoon theme song that the band can use to fire up fans when it's first and goal from the 3-yard-line.

How about the old "Mighty Mouse" theme song? Or the openings from "Bonanza" or "Gunsmoke"?

Send your suggestions and we'll compile a list sure to give you goose bumps.

Ammons vote on school funding

State Rep. Carol Ammons, D-Urbana, was one of three House members to vote "present" Monday on the school funding reform plan that she earlier had endorsed.

Why? She didn't like two provisions in the deal that had been negotiated by Democratic and Republican legislative leaders, and endorsed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

One part allows the Chicago school board to raise property taxes an estimated $120 million annually to cover pension costs. The second provides state tax breaks to people who contribute to an approved non-profit "scholarship granting organization," not to parents who send their children to private schools.

Individuals or businesses who contribute to such organizations would receive a 75 percent tax credit for each dollar donated. Donors would be able to direct their contribution to a specific school but not to a particular student. A maximum of $75 million in credits would be awarded annually during the five-year life of the pilot program.

"Although I wanted the schools to be funded and open without interruption, I was really disappointed that the only way that we could get our schools funded was for us to provide tax breaks for the wealthy to do it," Ammons said. "It would be different for me if the credit was going to the parents, and they would be getting a credit for their children going to these schools in their community. But that's not what this tax credit is.

"This tax credit goes to big donors, who would not be public, yet they would get a tax credit which is essentially public dollars."

Ammons said the state Constitution says "you cannot use public dollars for private or parochial. But that's what we just did, in exchange for funding for public education, which is the responsibility of the state."

The program will be run by the state Department of Revenue, "and there is no obligation for transparency," Ammons said. The list of donors and how much they gave would not be public information, she said.

She said the language of the tax credits measure matches language from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Public Schools system stands to gain about $450 million out of the deal with increased state funding and higher property taxes included.

"The Republicans and the governor spent a lot of time suggesting to downstate school districts that they would lose big in Senate Bill 1, and then they turned around and what was passed would almost double the amount going to Chicago," she said. "This bill is even better for Chicago."

Congressional forum

The forum featuring the five Democratic candidates for the 13th Congressional District seat will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Noyes Lab Room 100 on the University of Illinois campus.

It is sponsored by the Illini Democrats.

The forum will feature candidates Dr. David Gill of Bloomington, Ben Webb of Normal, Betsy Dirksen Londrigan of Springfield, Erik Jones of Edwardsville and Jon Ebel of Urbana. All five intend to be candidates in the Democratic Party primary next March and hope to run against U.S. Rep. Rodney David, R-Taylorville.

Harold contributions

The first itemized contributions to Urbana Republican Erika Harold's campaign for attorney general were reported last Friday: $5,600 from Winnetka attorney Richard Porter and $1,000 from Sonia Carringer of Seymour.

Porter's contribution is especially notable because he is Illinois' Republican National Committeeman, he worked in the White House under President George H.W. Bush, and he is a partner at the Chicago law firm of Kirkland and Ellis.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette reporter and columnist. His column appears on Wednesdays and Sundays. he can be reached at 351-5221 or at

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Illinimac wrote on August 30, 2017 at 8:08 am

Given the current struggles of our football team - which is improving but still young - the theme from "Underdog" would be appropriate. wrote on August 30, 2017 at 8:08 am

Since some seem to spend most of their time behind bars............


Jail house Rock...............

Objective Reporter wrote on August 30, 2017 at 9:08 am

To whom are you referring, cjw? wrote on August 30, 2017 at 9:08 am

Oh the 3 football players for remember......... armed robbery, home invasion  from last spring..............  the various bb players and soft ball players who have been arrested in the past year on felonies  and misdomeners........ I mean we can go back 40 + yrs and see the number of players who have been favorite was the fencing team who broke into memorial stadium, took gasoline, tried to write the word "foo:" in the astro turf, then set it on fire................... of course they failed to take into account the 15mph wind from the south which then torched the field for about 50 yards.. They got arrested, but the U of I screwed up the arrest and the charges were dropped.


They did manage to get the fencing team kicked off campus......................happened right before a U of I home game.......... had to replace the turf in like 38 hours.................


This from a DI article a year ago...........

nschne393 wrote on August 30, 2017 at 10:08 am

The good old yellow button, I agree with some and disagree with other parts.   Being a legislator requires picking a lane, Carol.  Green or red, and stand behind your vote.

GLG wrote on August 30, 2017 at 2:08 pm

She voted  "present" just like Boss Madigan told her to do!

zuppke wrote on August 30, 2017 at 11:08 am

This is how we all get in trouble when looking for a solution designed to be inclusive. How could Mr. Kacich be so insensitive as to suggest theme music from a TV series where the very land featured was taken away from indigenous or relocated Native Americans?

Please remove his statue immediately.

catsrule wrote on August 30, 2017 at 3:08 pm

I remember Hamm's Beer commericals from the 60s and 70s using nearly the same war chant drum beat.

Annotator wrote on August 30, 2017 at 4:08 pm

My favorites!  The bear was especially funny.  Hmmm, I wonder if that was the origin instead of Cpt. Kangaroo?  Given the Illinois students fondness for beer and pot in the '60s.

CallSaul wrote on August 30, 2017 at 5:08 pm

And yet, according to some of the triggered rubes frothing at the mouth in the comment sections of recent sotries about this, the Capt Kangaroo 'war chant' is such a deeply held tradtion so full of respect and honor and dignity etc that they're ready to cut all ties --- such as they might have been --- to the school because this silly fake Indian music won't be played during ball games anymore.

At least they make such threats when they're not sputtering racists attacks against Chancellor Jones --- y'know to prove how Not Racist they and the moldy old racist chicken feather 'chief' mascot are...


GLG wrote on August 30, 2017 at 8:08 pm

Your juvenile name calling says a lot more about you than it does about who you are bad mouthing !

Grow up!

CallSaul wrote on August 30, 2017 at 9:08 pm

Your 'civility' policing would be a lot more credible if it wasn't so selectively applied...

Illiniwek222 wrote on August 31, 2017 at 1:08 pm

More like "appropriately" applied...y'know.

GLG wrote on August 31, 2017 at 7:08 pm

When someone starts name calling I will call them out!  Up to now you are the only one.



CallSaul wrote on September 01, 2017 at 12:09 am

Ah...'the only one'...

Okay, then...

NTJA QUEEN BEE wrote on August 30, 2017 at 6:08 pm

In the spirit of INCLUSION, so all can feel comfortable at Illini sporting events, I suggest that we adopt the theme song from a popular Walt Disney World ride, It's A Small World.  If you are familiar with the WDW version you know the song is played on a continuous loop as you float around looking at dolls representing all nations and nationalitites.  I HATE THE DARN SONG IT DRIVES ME CRAZY, so maybe it would do the same for the opposing team.  But more importantly, everyone would feel welcome and comfortable (except me and I hate that darn song)!