Bayou City

Houston Sports Fight Songs: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Inspired by the Houston Astros’ win over the New York Yankees in last week’s American League Wild Card Game, rapper/legend Bun B hit the studio and recorded “Crush City,” a rally rap that finds the Trill OG donning orange and blue, name-checking Tony Sipp and George Springer, and putting on a fake beard to perch in Kuechel’s Corner. Bun also joined a proud tradition — that of Bayou City performers pumping up fans with songs tailor-made to whatever team had managed to slip the boundaries of mediocrity for the moment. Some songs may work better aesthetically than others, but as seldom as the playoffs come around in Houston, they’re all worth celebrating.

Jones gets credit for delivering an anthem devoid of the roll call of players’ names that frequently fill lines in these homages, though he does give a shout-out to Robertson Stadium, which the Dynamo would eventually flee for proper digs at BBVA Compass. In fact, the Dynamo who gets the most love from Mike Jones is Diesel, the team’s mascot. This ditty might be ranked higher — and could be a marketer’s dream come true — had Jones rap-chanted “7-1-3-2-7-6-G-O-A-L” in it, which is the team’s ticket line.

Everybody had disco fever in 1979, including TSU alum and All-Pro Oilers wide receiver Kenny Burrough, who got into the Luv Ya Blue spirit with this thinly disguised remake of “The Hustle.” The song even drew the attention of the Washington Post, which noted that Earl Campbell “carries a tune almost as well as he carries a football.” Stretching past four minutes and complete with female backup singers, “Super Bowl Itch” reveals double-zero’s biggest talents definitely lay on the gridiron, but it remains a fascinating and perhaps even danceable product of the times.

Best Line:
There are many, but “must be some kind of curse/ Scratchin’ only makes it worse” is pretty far up there.

The Astros made their first and (to date) only World Series run the same year H-Town rappers like former Get Ya Mind Correct partners Chamillionaire and Paul Wall were living large in the national spotlight, and both men were only too happy to celebrate the team’s success in song. The Mixtape Messiah’s heart is in the right place, but the lines in the remix of his Sound of Revenge single are a little generic — stuff like “Knock it way into the sky, watch how high up that it fly/ Houston Astros is the truth and you're a lie.” The Slab God, though, has no problems dropping names, even the team’s owner and the Astros superfan who happened to be the then-sitting president’s father: “George Bush is at every game to see them Astros do their thing/ This year we at the World Series/ Congratulations to Drayton McLane.”

Best Line:
Wall, “These boys some legends of the game/ When Lance Berkman step up and swang he hit the ball straight out the park/ A home run, start up the train.”

Mr. Luke is a perennial contributor to our Texans rapper tweets blog, but back in 2008, his mind was on a rocketing Houston Rockets group, which included Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming. The team won 55 games that season under coach Rick Adelman and had enough momentum to inspire rap shout-outs to players like Luther Head. In spite of Mr. Luke’s recorded promise that “whoever in the way getting crushed,” the team bowed out to the Utah Jazz in the first round of the playoffs that season.

Despite the team’s recent backslide into a shambles of a professional sports outfit, Clay Walker’s original, modern-country ode to the Houston Texans holds a special place in the hearts of local football fans. Still the team’s official song, it debuted the same season as the return of professional football to a city enamored of it, following a stint with no pro football at all thanks to the Oilers’ departure. It literally was football time in Houston again when the Texans first suited up, and hundreds of consecutive sellouts later, not much has changed. The team is still routinely mediocre or flat-out bad — and it’s still football time in Houston.

Minimalist with the slightest hint of menace, “Crush City” (mayne) rides the wave of orange enthusiasm that started when the Astros “sent the Yankees packin’” all the way to Keuchel’s Corner. In between, the Trill OG runs through most of the team’s starting lineup — and even a couple of bench players — as the snappy quips outweigh awkward lines like “It’s the payoff, playin’ in October/ if you up against us, then it’s over.” Besides, one of Bun’s greatest strengths as an MC, his unambiguity, is in peak form here: “Show some respect, we came to lay the muscle down/ So turn it up in Club Astro for Hustletown.” Put those H’s up.

Best Line (tie):
“We keep it 200 like the hits from Altuve” and "Hey Colby, don’t dry your hair, bro”

Admittedly, there’s the scent of Wiz Khalifa’s “Black And Yellow” in Dre LaDon’s “Red, White & Blue,” but the local rapper doesn’t wander tangentially like Pittsburgh’s Khalifa. LaDon’s red, white and blue is decidedly about the Houston Texans and only the Houston Texans. The song is catchy and is accompanied by a fun video of the rapper at the Texans’ tailgate proceedings. His follow-up effort, “H Up For Dem Texans” wasn’t bad, either, and came the next year. Both were playoff seasons for the team. If LaDon plans to release a new Texans single only during playoff campaigns, it could be a long wait till his next jam.

Earl Campbell wasn’t a freight train, but he ran through so many opposing NFL defenders in the late ‘70s that one of the northeast Texas native’s nicknames was “the Tyler bowling ball.” Clearing the way for him was Carl Mauck, the Oilers’ center and a locker-room leader during the “Luv Ya Blue” years, and also a country-music fan. Hoping to psych up the team before a 1978 playoff game against the Patriots, aspiring songwriter Mauck adapted the tune of “Wabash Cannonball,” the archetypal country song also recorded by the Carter Family, Roy Acuff and a host of others; the song worked, as the Oilers pasted the Pats only to fall to the Steelers in the AFC Championship. Besides Campbell, the off-color lyrics celebrate other Oilers greats like the “fancy passin’ Dago,” quarterback Dan Pastorini, and coach Bum Phillips, of whom Mauck sang, “May his name forever stand, and always be remembered through fans throughout the land.” This song takes it to the house.

(Other) Best Line: “Listen to the blocking, the ramblin’ and the roar/ As he glides along the sideline, by the hash marks in to score”

The AFC playoffs air on CBS, but DJ Mr. Rogers borrows the familiar NFL on FOX fanfare as the hook for the opening track to Boss Hogg’s late-2011 mixtape, Houston, a typically swaggering salute to the Texans’ first-ever playoff appearance. Director Michael Artis recruited J.J. Watt, Duane Brown, Brian Cushing and several other players to glare at the camera in the video, which also features lots of tailgating footage, Ciroc bottles outfitted as sparklers and Paul Wall rolling through the NRG (then Reliant) Stadium parking lot in a jet-black slab. Confidence was high.

Best Line: Z-Ro, “Andre Johnson and Jacoby Jones could catch anything except a damn disease”

Two of the most iconic Houston sports anthems were written by the same artist, local songwriter Mack Hayes, who has had singles on the Billboard Top 100 and performed in Liza Minnelli’s touring band.  “Luv Ya Blue” still elicits memories of crazed Houston Oilers fans waving Columbia blue pompons during the Bum Phillips-Earl Campbell era. Hayes was kind enough to share his thoughts on “Luv Ya Blue,” as well as “Go Go Astros,” the “breathin’ orange fire!” song 1980s Astros fans know and love. The latter is a "spanthem." Since it doesn't name-drop Jose Cruz, Nolan Ryan or others, it's timeless and has made a welcome reprise during the team’s current surge.

Hayes made occasional appearances on Good Morning Houston with Don Nelson and Jan Glenn.  He was asked one December to perform a Christmas song and “Oilermania” was at such a fever pitch, he thought it would be funny to do an Oilers Christmas song.  He and his wife, Sandra, wrote and performed  "The Twelve Days of Oiler Christmas" for the show. Hayes said that before the show ended, KTRK’s switchboard was flooded with calls for the song. He recorded it that same afternoon and a day later, he was playing it in a meeting for Oilers owner the late Bud Adams. In his own words:

“At that meeting, general manager Mike McClure walked out with me and told me that they had a new promotion called ‘Luv Ya Blue’ and asked if I could write and record a song for it.  I wrote ‘Luv Ya Blue’ the next day, doing a takeoff on the chorus of the Beatles’ ‘Love Me Do.’  They liked it, and I flew in from a Colorado ski trip to introduce it at the big pep rally following the loss to the Steelers, performing it several times with the Derrick Dolls.  We then made a deal to perform on the sidelines the following season at every home game with my ‘Luv Ya Blue Band.’  The Oilers continued to use the song throughout most of the ’80s. Those were really fun times, and Mr. and Mrs. Adams were so kind and gracious to me and my wife.

“As a result of all this, I thought maybe the Astros would consider a fight song.  So I wrote and recorded ‘Go Go Astros,’ which they liked and used through much of the ‘80s.  When we recorded ‘Go Go Astros,’ we decided to do the flip side in Spanish since they have such a huge Hispanic fan base.  Except I don't speak Spanish.  However, one of the guys in the studio knew a waiter that could help us.  We called the waiter, and he translated the song on the phone and I sang it phonetically. Thus, ‘Vamos Vamos Astros’ was born.  Still not sure if I got it right, but everyone seemed to enjoy it.

“It has all been great fun for me and I still hear from folks around the country about the songs, and still get requests to play them at some of my gigs.”

By the mid-‘70s, Houston pro sports teams had been so sorry for so long that, because they managed to reach the playoffs a couple of times, the Oilers created a tidal wave of goodwill among Houstonians not seen again until the Rockets’ Clutch City runs 20 years later. Helping out were a colorful cast of characters straight out of a Dan Jenkins novel — led of course by beloved tobacco-dipping coach Bum Phillips — and their rah-rah sis-boom-bah “Fight Song,” the original version of which sounds like something you’d hear at a Munich beer hall at the height of Oktoberfest. The song actually has a couple of verses, but that doesn’t matter: The only words people ever bothered to learn were “Houston Oilers, Houston Oilers, Houston Oilers No. 1” — a refrain the whole city chanted like a mantra, and that stuck around long after the Luv Ya Blue era yielded to some truly awful teams. Many years later, cartoonish rapper T-Pain changed the titular team to the Miami Dolphins and dipped the song into a bunch of Autotune, leading to priceless YouTube comments like “This song makes me embarrassed to be a Dolphins fan.”

Best Line: “Houston has the Oilers, the greatest football team/ We take the ball from goal to goal like no one’s ever seen”
KEEP THE HOUSTON PRESS FREE... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray
Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.