March 27, 2017
Old school: U-M in History
Albert Ahronheim was drum major of the Michigan Marching Band before he wrote the arrangement for "Let's Go Blue!" (Photo courtesy of Jackson Citizen Patriot; available online MLive.com)
The history behind the iconic "Go Blue" jingle is not as simple as one might predict. Former U-M student Ken Burke remembers the jingle started with tuba players in the University of Wisconsin band. In the 1970s, Burke's friend, Robbie Moore, the All-American goalie on Michigan's hockey team, told him about a "cool thing the Wisconsin hockey band does." He then sang a little tune, with three staccato notes at the end. Several months later, at a Yost Arena hockey game, Burke asked a tuba player in the pep band named Joe Carl to hand him his horn, and he played the same tune. He then allegedly told Carl to play the tune, and after the staccato notes, Burke advised they could shout "Let's Go Blue!" But according to Carl, the story is a little different. Carl said the hockey band heard those similar staccato notes from the Wisconsin band at a football game in the Badger State. Then at the hockey game at Yost, a similar tune came out of the Michigan tubas, and after the staccato notes, an alto horn player named John Endahl yelled "Let's Go Blue!" Some time later, George Cavender, director of U-M bands, instructed Albert Ahronheim, a former Marching Band drum major and his graduate assistant, to create a full arrangement for the "Let's Go Blue" tune-and-cheer. Once he got it down on paper, Cavender scribbled in "Yell let's go blue" at the appropriate moment.
— Adapted from "Rhapsodies in Blue," by James Tobin. To read more, go to heritage.umich.edu.