The obscure fight song Bing Crosby inspired for his alma mater in 1937 has found a home at the Knothole Tavern in Lake Wylie, S.C.
“Bulldogs of Gonzaga” is a long, long way from “White Christmas,” but then so is Lake Wylie from Spokane.
The good ol’ boys and girls who bend their elbows at this Southern pub don’t much care.
They say they’ll raise the rafters with the song tonight when the Bulldog basketball team makes its NCAA tournament debut.
“We even have a piano player, if he’s sober enough to play it,” says Ancil Garvin, 53, the retired U.S. Marine lieutenant colonel who owns the Knothole.
Bull-dogs of Gon-zag-a,
Ready to sink their teeth and bite.
Bull-dogs of Gon-zag-a,
Guarding the fame of the blue and the white.
Such a musical tribute is downright heartwarming, especially when you consider that the Knothole gang didn’t even know what city or state Gonzaga was located in.
“We thought it was in Portland,” snorts Bruce Gislason, 53, a Knothole bubba who is almost proud in his ignorance about the private Catholic school.
“Gon-zag-ah,” he adds. “We just like the name.”
Adopting a tournament underdog is a Knothole tradition, says Garvin. But Gonzaga’s status was doubly assured when the announcement came that the Bulldogs would take on the University of Maryland in their first-round game at Salt Lake City.
Be-ware - when they begin to growl,
Be-ware - it isn’t safe to prowl.
These South Carolinians can be cantankerous folks. (They started the Civil War, after all.)
Their hatred for the No. 10-ranked Terrapins and their 6-foot-10 powerhouse, Joe Smith, is intense. This may be because Lake Wylie (pop. 1,300) is within spitting distance of North Carolina, where the Knothole’s college team allegiances may reside.
Whatever the convoluted reasons, Maryland is the enemy.
“If the Bulldogs beat Joe Smith, we won’t be able to contain ourselves,” drawls Garvin.
When they meet the foe,
They tear and they rip,
And get a good grip,
And then they never let go.
Besides creating a tequila-based drink called the “Bulldog slammer,” the Knothole’s owner figured getting a copy of the fight song would be the secondbest way to cheer the Bulldogs to an upset.
And so the search was on.
Once it had been established that the university was in Eastern Washington, Garvin’s quest got considerably easier.
What the Knotholers didn’t know was that the fight song is a rarely performed relic. It’s tucked away in the school archives along with ol’ Bing’s toupees and other sacred objects.
The legend is that Bing, troubled that his school didn’t have a proper ditty, got two songwriting buddies to collaborate on one.
Bing had attended Gonzaga in 1926 before leaving for Hollywood’s bright lights and attaining that singlenamed star status that few besides Elvis and Madonna ever have reached.
In 1937, John Burke and James Monaco put their heads together. The result was “Bulldogs of Gonzaga,” an oddly worded song in B-flat and 6/8 tempo.
Not much is known about why or when the song was phased out. But Pete Tormey, who works in the school’s public relations office, says he’s thrilled that Lake Wylie is willing to revive it.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Tormey wisely sent a fax of a copy of the song to Garvin. Facing a formidable opponent in Maryland, “we can use all the support we can get,” says Tormey.
Bull-dogs of Gonz-aga,
Snarling their way to victory,
Wait till you see;
When the game is in the bag,
Who will have a right to brag?
The Gon-zaga Bull - dogs!