Bud Kennedy

Ice Bowl-era Cowboys rode to the sound of ‘Stampede March’

The Cowboys’ “fight song” includes a trumpet Charge fanfare. Coach Tom Landry, Robert Newhouse and Butch Johnson are shown here at a 1978 game.
The Cowboys’ “fight song” includes a trumpet Charge fanfare. Coach Tom Landry, Robert Newhouse and Butch Johnson are shown here at a 1978 game. Star-Telegram

For their first 30 years, the Dallas Cowboys marched to the tune of what amounted to a glorified radio jingle.

But it remains the “fight song” remembered from the team’s early championship days: the Cowboys Stampede March.

From rock bands to King of the Hill’s Hank Hill, musicians today hark back to Cowboys history by imitating a trumpet “charge” fanfare and singing: “Stampede! Go you Dallas Cowboys, go!”

Turns out the song has a full set of lyrics, and some of them make absolutely no sense.

I mean, does anybody know what late Dallas radio jingle composer Tom Merriman meant with: “It’s the go team of the senior pro”?

From 1961, when the Cowboys’ radio broadcasts moved from another station to the then-KLIF/1190 AM broadcast empire of Dallas’ Gordon McLendon, the games and the Tom Landry Show opened with the march.

The song is credited to the “Tom Merriman Big Band.”

Most likely, Merriman’s band was the same he gathered for studio production of some of the most famous radio commercials and music jingles of the 1960s, for Dallas advertisers including Frito-Lay, 7-Eleven and Mary Kay Cosmetics.

The voices may or may not be those of the Dallas Civic Chorus, which sang for other Merriman jingles and sang the national anthem and Stampede March at Cowboys home games in the Cotton Bowl.

You can read about Merriman online in a biography and tributes. But there is no mention of the Stampede March.

His most enduring composition is a 7-Eleven Slurpee ad: Dance the Slurp.

We learn he was a founder of Commercial Recording Corp., later TM Studios. TM became one of two major commercial music studios based in Dallas that produced many jingles for KLIF and other top 40 radio stations and also music for Vegas and Hollywood attractions, hotels and theme parks.

Oh, yes — and the composer of the unofficial Cowboys “fight song” was also a music teacher at Hockaday School and the voice of Orkin Pest Control commercials’ “Otto the Orkin Man.”

Early in his music career, he also arranged Louis Armstrong’s hit rendition of Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?

Current executives at TM Studios, now part of Cumulus Media’s Westwood One network, could find no information besides sound files of the original song, with lyrics or as an instrumental (and also a version pitched as a Frito-Lay commercial).

Ken Justiss, a former TM staff member, couldn’t remember the Cowboys song.

But he did remember another similar Merriman march with a men’s chorus: 1968 Dallas gubernatorial candidate Eugene Locke’s jingle, which began, “Eugene Locke should be governor of Texas.”

Fort Worth product and Cowboys historian Joe Nick Patoski, author of the 2012 book The Dallas Cowboys: The Outrageous History of the Biggest, Loudest, Most Hated, Best Loved Football Team in America, recognized the musical connection to Locke and other jingles.

The Stampede March was a “wicked combination,” he wrote by email: It combined the basics of a radio jingle, “of which Dallas was the world capital, and the simple lyrics ‘Go’ and ‘Dallas Cowboys.’”

But those are simply the lyrics we remember.

The first stanza begins:

Dallas Cowboys stampede down the field

See the defense reel and watch ’em fall,

Blockers out in front to clear the way,

Show ’em how to win ’em all.

You get the idea.

By the 1990s, the march had gone the way of Cotton Bowl games, high school cheerleaders and the men’s chorus.

So far, there is no dance remix of the Stampede March.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @BudKennedy