Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech
  

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Director: Harold Moore
Music: traditional
Lyrics: accounts vary
Cast:

  • The Gordonaires — lead vocals
  • The Rhythm Masters — additional vocals

excerpted from 10-minute soundie —
"Let's Sing a College Song"

Universal: 1947

black & white
2 minutes (excerpt)
August 2010

  
A college belle to put it in

"Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech" is one of the most famous of American beer-drinking or collegiate songs, and in fact it combines both themes. Now, for you to appreciate my liking for such a song, I must state that I am neither a beer-drinker nor a collegian. As with Henry Kuttner's novel The Proud Robot with its drunken-genius inventor, my praise is despite the imbibing, not because of the joys of drink — nor due to past or present collegiate intoxications of my own.

I'm a Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech,
and a hell of an engineer —

I'm not even an engineer, unless you count software engineer, a specialization that didn't exist when this song hit the beer halls; and I've never held that precise title anyway.
  

The song has quite a history. It's the game-fighting song of the Georgia Institute of Technology, familiarly Georgia Tech. A slight variant of the title is "Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech", and there are others; or simply "Rambling Wreck". There are variants in the wording or spelling and also some apocryphal verses, and the traditional music has had lyrics adapted by or from other colleges. The sources below variously disagree, but they're fun browsing:

The two songs embedded here comprise an excerpt from a 1947 soundie titled, "Let's Sing a College Song". Like most soundies, it's a staging for a musical performance: not complex, but of professional quality with the Gordonaires happily singing the lead vocals. The first half of this excerpt is another famous college-hoister, "The Maine Stein Song", which then flows or streams into "Rambling Wreck". The first song is done nicely, but it's "Rambling Wreck" that holds my affections.

The history of the lyrics is interesting, as is often the case with songs which have evolved variants for different times and places. I note the old-fashioned folk-structure of the first couple of lines below:

Oh, I wish I had a barrel of rum and sugar three thousand pounds,
A college bell to put it in and a clapper to stir it round.
I'd drink to all the good fellows who come from far and near.
I'm a ramblin', gamblin', hell of an engineer!
  

Give it a listen, but be sure to watch, too:
  

  

American Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev sang "Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech" during their "Kitchen Debate" in 1959. A rare distinction.

  

© 2010 Robert Wilfred Franson


  
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