Tiger Rag

Here is Louis Armstrong and his orchestra on the Tiger Rag, which, although I have never been to a football game, is the LSU fight song from what I understand. (The school mascot is a real Bengal tiger, now housed in a better cage than formerly due to public outcry. The current tiger died recently and a new one is expected any time. The tiger is always named Mike. The opposing football team files into the stadium through an opening known as Death Valley, where Mike the Tiger roars as the band plays the Tiger Rag.)

When Armstrong was filmed playing this version of the Tiger Rag in 1933, sound film had only existed for three years. That is very interesting right there. Yet more interesting is that Armstrong refers to this song as “one of the good old slave numbers.” The plot thickens.


11 thoughts on “Tiger Rag

  1. I think I know where your going with this, and if we are thinking the same thing, I agree with you 100%.

  2. XP, I’d love to hear your theory. I am not going in a single direction with this, although I do think it is an odd set of facts, having to do in large part with subordinated cultures and appropriations.

  3. good old slave numbers as oppose to the good old boy politicing going on in Nola at the time (and now)…weren’t they still recovering from the mississippi flood in ’33?

    on another note. i read that louis was given his first horn by a the poor immigrant jewish family he worked for as a boy. he would help deliver coal by blowing a big horn that signaled the coal merchants were on the block. because of this, he worn a star of david around his neck until the day he died. his bio is amazing. i hear there is a museum that has the voice recording he made everyday–it was like his diary–he talked about the day kennedy was shot, about racism, about love. i’d love to get my hands on those records.

    *watching that made me realize how youtube has changed our lives (and even the prez debate questions being youtubed didn’t do that!) what an awesome old clip. 1933…

    thanks cero.

  4. Luisa – what a great story – where is the museum ???
    I thought I knew some things about Louis A. but obviously, not nearly enough.

  5. I do find it interesting that the school fight is based on a slave song. This sort falls along the same lines as colleges using Native Americans as their mascots.

    Especially in today’s society where many inner city youths are given a sense of false hopes with the idea they will have a shot at fame and glory in the best colleges without learning anything in high school, which consequently, leading many to focus more on developing their athletic prowess than their minds. Many of them never make.

    Those who do play in college to serve the institution by generating revenue. Now a days, college athletic programs hire honor students and tutors to do most of their work for them because their schedules because they have to go practice, conditioning, and sporting engagements, so when do they have time for their studies?

    BTW, the original name of “Tiger Rag” is “Praline” which was a dance song based on the quadrille form as danced by black New Orleanians.

  6. XP – all true, and worth unearthing, although I know the standard defense would be that the Tiger Rag was so famous by the time LSU picked it up, it was just in the air, and using it as the fight song isn’t as direct and blatant as having Chief Illiniwek as a mascot was at UIUC (for example). STILL … especially when LSU was segregated until the late 60’s sometime if I am not mistaken … !!!

    That is *fascinating* about Tiger Rag, Praline, and the quadrille. Fascinating.

  7. Isn’t it funny the type of excuses we can come up with just to justify these type of actions.

  8. LSU does have two other fights songs other than Tiger Rag – Fight for LSU; Hey and Fighting Tigers.

    Isn’t the say question whites ask regarding having an white only group. I know what your asking, and that is a good question you are asking, we simply can not just throw the baby out with the bath water as well. I think we investigate the history and how it got incorporated into LSU tradition. Each school fight song has a history. LSU is not the only one that uses Tiger Rag, Clemson University does too. For Clemson it was adopted in 1948, the question is why and what was the purpose. I can tell you this, after trying to search either Clemson and LSU history into the adoption of Tiger Rag is very difficult.

  9. Oooh interesting. My bet re LSU’s choice: it was jaunty and it was from Louisiana and it was about a tiger and so … . Still, the actual origin of the song is very interesting and fits with all sorts of patterns of appropriation.

    Light note: I know of an anti-LSU fight song, I think it is from Tulane but it might also be from Mississippi. Some fragments:

    “By the mighty Mississippi
    Standing in plain view
    There’s an old abandoned outhouse
    Known as LSU.”

    How her banks do swell
    Before I go to LSU
    I will go to Hell.”

    (That was written when Hell was a very dirty word.)

  10. 0,

    i don’t know where the museum is. I saw a show about the Armstrong voice recordings on PBS or the History channel years ago. I can’t remember if it mentions what museum in the book either…

    I’ll look around the net thu. Maybe they have been digitized since then…and I can download them as MP3s (*luisa is attempting to crosss fingers and tyype at the same time*)

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