“Hey! Baby” I wanna know … how many of you have played this tune?
Chances are: Many of your marching bands perform this Bruce Channel song at every pep rally and every sporting event.
I played it with the Northwestern University Marching Band almost 20 years ago, and it’s one of the only pep tunes from back then that is still performed by the ensemble today.
Just why is this 1961 song, written by Channel and Margaret Cobb, so pervasive among marching bands for so many generations while other popular tunes come and go quickly?
The answer is simple: It’s fun! But it’s also much more than that.
It’s Interactive. In many marching band arrangements of the tune, woodwind players sing the chorus part of the lyrics, enticing everyone else in the stands to sing along. Northwestern even includes a call-and-response portion during the rests. In addition, marching band members incorporate movement with clapping and/or swaying, which fans also emulate. Whenever a song can involve the audience, it’s a keeper.
It’s Clean. The lyrics are playful and non-offensive. Let’s face it: Some recent controversial performances have gotten directors reprimanded, instructors fired, and bands banned. No one will be fired for playing this song.
It’s Short. With the original piece at 2 minutes, 27 seconds, it’s a great length to play at quarter breaks. No page turns necessary.
It Has Unexpected Instrumentation. The original version features the harmonica. The marching band version features the low brass section, which enjoys the opportunity to be in the limelight.
Last but not Least, It’s Easy. The piece is written in a moderate tempo in a comfortable register. With so many other songs to practice, it’s great to have something simple yet enjoyable in your back pocket.
For all of these reasons, it’s not surprising that “Hey! Baby” has stolen our hearts.
Whether or not you’ve played this particular popular pep tune, see if your favorites are included in our feature, “Make Some Noise,” on the important role of stand tunes at sporting events. We hope it inspires you as you head into band camp and learn how to pump up the crowd this fall!
Christine Ngeo Katzman
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief