It's not even the official school song, yet it's right at the top of the list of music you identify with Universities. And it's really not even close.
When you hear Rocky Top, you think of the University of Tennessee. And when you think of the University of Tennessee, you think Rocky Top. Which is as it should be.
You know the story. Married songwriters Boudleaux and Felice Bryant wrote the song in ten minutes as a diversion from a gig in Gatlinburg writing a bunch of slow songs for Archie Campbell (of Hee Haw's Rindercella fame, for which we have a peculiar affection around here) and Chet Atkins (also of Hee Haw, of course). You don't need me to tell you the lyrics, nor do you need me to explain to you that part of the song celebrates the mysterious disappearance of federal agents on an ill-advised trip into the hills of Tennessee looking for moonshiners. So yeah, we hated the IRS before it was cool to hate the IRS.
The University of Tennessee's Pride of the Southland Marching Band didn't play the song until 1972, and they haven't stopped playing it since. Need a pick me up? Here you go, all fully sanctioned and everything.
UT football is many things, but few things bring it all together like hearing the band play Rocky Top. And yet, like any great thing, it continues to spawn copies and tributes and spinoffs. Search YouTube for the song, and you'll not only find the Osbourne Brothers and the Pride of the Southland, you'll find Dolly Parton and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. And Charlie Daniels.
And a bunch of African schoolchildren. And a Spanish-singing country artist. And Phish. Phish? Yes, Phish. Many of the links are now broken, but we even did an "X Days of Rocky Top" series back in 2010 and had to cut ourselves off at 16.
The list goes on and on. Just like the song on Gamedays.