Illini Legends, Lists and Lore: March 3, 2019

Illini Legends, Lists and Lore: March 3, 2019

One hundred thirteen years ago today, a song that fans and alumni have heard hundreds of times debuted before the University of Illinois student body.

"Illinois Loyalty" was a work that composer/lyricist Thatcher Howland Guild began when he was a student at Brown University.

Hired by the U of I as a 27-year-old English instructor, Guild perfected the melody of the tune with fellow cornet player and future band director Albert Austin Harding. It was at Harding's very first concert program on March 3, 1906 that "Loyalty" was debuted.

The Illini, UI's student-published newspaper, described the event that night at what is now recognized as Kenney Gym:

The large and formal audience that filled the Armory last night was many times stirred to great enthusiasm by the numbers rendered at the annual band concert.

It was a gala night. Society turned out in full force to hear the program given by the large band of fifty pieces. It was a program that contained not only old and worn pieces, but numbers which made their first public appearance.

There were several times when the audience gave vent to their enthusiasm most freely.

Works by two local composers, Mr. T.H. Guild and Mr. B.E. McCoy, were among the principal selections that received a large share of applause. Mr. Guild's song, "We're loyal to thee, Illinois", was a work which deservedly demanded a good reception.

The main theme is indeed pleasing, and the spirit of the music and words is the spirit of Illinois.

It is a song that could well be included among the few songs that Illinois can call her own. It should undoubtedly be included on the repertoires of future bands and glee clubs just as Illinois now is. Mr. Guild has produced a work which "takes", and it will certainly find a place in our college music.

Guild would enjoy his personal fame as the composer of "Illinois Loyalty," for only eight more years, dying from a heart attack during a summer tennis match at the age of 35 in 1914.

The song wouldn't actually be recorded until Nov. 1, 1925 when, the day after Illinois' football game at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Harding took his band to a studio at the Victor Talking Machine Company in Camden, N.J.

At last count, 36 high schools around the nation use the melody of "Illinois Loyalty" as their school song.

The words of the song as listed in the 1906 program are:We're loyal to you, Illinois,

We're Orange and Blue, Illinois;

We'll back you to stand

'Gainst the best in the land,

For we know you have sand, Illinois,

Rah! Rah!

So crack out that ball, Illinois,

We're backing you all, Illinois,

Our team is our fameprotector,

On! boys, for we expect a

Victory from you, Illinois.

Che-he, Cheha, Chehahaha! Chehe, Cheha, Chehahaha!

Illinois! Illinois! Illinois!

Fling out that dear old flag of Orange and Blue

Lead on your sons and daughters, fighting for you,

Like men of old, on giants placing reliance, shouting defiance—


Amid the broad green fields that nourish our land,

For honest Labor and for Learning we stand,

And unto thee we pledge our heart and hand,

Dear Alma Mater, Illinois.

Illini Birthdays:

Today: Ra'Von Bonner, football (20)

Monday: Mike Small, golf (53)

Tuesday: Megan Cooney, volleyball (20)

Wednesday: Cassie Hunt, track & field

Thursday: Justice Williams, football (22)

Friday: Katherine Ratz, soccer (23)

Saturday: Reggie Corbin, football (23)

By Mike Pearson, author of Illini Legends, Lists & Lore (Third Edition now available in stores). Get more Illini birthdays, trivia and historical tidbits daily on Twitter@B1GLLL. His website is