So I was at the Astros game the other night, enduring my second straight night of punchless baseball against the feeble Cincinnati Reds, when suddenly I was jerked out of my bad mood and fuming screeds. Between innings, the loudspeakers launched into the rousing strains of “Go Go Astros
,” the Houston nine’s fight song from about 1979 to 1986, and a voice-over announced that the song was available as a ringtone in Minute Maid’s gift shop.
Not three weeks ago, I had fruitlessly sought an MP3 of the tune online, although I did see that 45s of the tune did appear on Ebay from time to time. Then, today, I finally hit the jackpot. You can find it here, alongside memorable radio play-by-plays of the team’s ups-and-downs and a few other Astros / Colt 45s anthems, from the cheesy march that the franchise used in its initial onslaught on the baseball world in 1962 right up to the rewritten Chamillionaire and Eminem raps the ‘Stros employed in their fruitless tussle with the Chisox in ’05. It was there that I discovered that “Go Go Astros” was penned by Mack Hayes, a former Galveston-based garage rocker in the band The Countdown 5 and Liza Minelli sideman who is alive and well and still in the business, running a talent agency in the Clear Lake area. Hayes is also the man behind the Oilers much more famous “Luv Ya Blue” fight song, and as I suspected, “Go Go Astros” was an outgrowth of that success. It was, but what’s a surprise is how Hayes’s career as the first and so far most successful king of Houston sports anthems began as a lark.
As November became December in 1978, Houston was in the grip of severe Oilermania. The team had never had much success since the AFL-NFL merger until Bud Adams traded for Earl Campbell, and the Texas-bred juggernaut had carried the team to the playoffs for the first time on his two 34-inch thighs. The city was also then basking in the limelight from the success of Urban Cowboy – Pasadena chic was sweeping the nation. It was in this supercharged environment that Hayes was invited to perform one morning onGood Morning Houston
by co-host Jan Glenn. “She had called me about coming in and doing a couple of songs, and one of them had to be a Christmas song,” Hayes remembers. “I balked and bitched about it and everything, but that was back whenUrban Cowboy
was big, and she told me that Mickey [Gilley] and Johnny [Lee] were coming in that week, and she said they were all gonna do it, so I had to as well.”
Hayes committed to do the show, but was still reluctant to do a Christmas tune at the last minute. Then, he had an inspiration. “The night before my wife and I were sitting in a club where I was playing, and I said, ‘You know, Oilermania is such that I ought to write an Oiler Christmas song,’” he remembers. “That way, no matter how bad it was, everybody would think it was cool.”
And thus was born “12 Days of Oiler Christmas.” “I did it as a joke, and I did it live the next morning just to watch Don’s reaction,” Hayes recalls. “Which was great, he fell on the floor, said he was humiliated and that I should be humiliated too.”
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But playoff-starved Oilers fans weren’t. Hayes says that by the end of the show, every TV and radio outlet in town wanted a copy of the tune to play. Trouble was, no recording of the song existed. Hayes scrambled over to a recording studio and banged out a tape of the tune that afternoon. Friends and family took the cassettes to every outlet in town, and by that evening, as Hayes recalls, “It was playing 24/7 on every radio station in town.”
There were other Oilers songs, but Hayes thinks he knows why his especially favored by the Oilers brass. “Mine was the only one that mentioned Bud, and it repeated every line. (Singing) “On the first day of Christmas, Bud Adams gave to me, Second day of Christmas, Bud Adams gave to me…” Hayes says that Bud’s wife asked him to come play it for the man himself, and Bud dug it. So did his flunkies. “Mike McClure was the GM at the time and he said ‘You know, we’ve got an idea for this Luv Ya Blue thing, we’re gonna make it the spearhead for this playoff thing, could you write me a song about it?” Hayes remembers. “So I did it the next day, and they bought it, they liked it. So to make a long story short, I thought well, heck, why not do something for the Astros too? So that’s when I wrote ‘Go Go Astros,’ and I guess they played that pretty much through the ‘80s.”
There’s also a Spanish version, called “Vamos Vamos Astros.” (And for that matter, there’s “Los Queremos Azules” too – that’s “Luv Ya Blue” en español.)
“To this day, I don’t know what I’m singing there,” Hayes says. “We thought it was a good idea to do a Spanish version because of all the Hispanic fans, but none of us spoke Spanish. My buddy knew a waiter at a Mexican restaurant who was bilingual, so we got him to translate the lyrics for us and then I sang ‘em phonetically. They must be okay, because I haven’t gotten sued yet.” – John Nova Lomax