“Hail To The Chief” Arranged by Jari Villanueva, played by the USAF Band
HISTORY OF “HAIL TO THE CHIEF”
Hail to the Chief, with its preceding Ruffles and Flourishes, is traditionally played to announce the arrival of the president at state functions and events. Derived from an old Gaelic air, Hail to the Chief was used in James Sanderson’s musical play of 1812, “The Lady of the Lake.” The song was already very popular when the Marine Band played it from a barge for the opening of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal on July 4,1828, in the presence of President John Quincy Adams. A production of “The Lady of the Lake” debuted in New York May 8, 1812, and “Hail to the Chief” was published in Philadelphia about the same time, as ‘March and Chorus in the Dramatic Romance of the Lady of the Lake’. Many parodies appeared, an indication of great popularity.
Two First Ladies are credited with first instructing the Marine Band to play “Hail to the Chief” at a Presidential appearance. Julia Tyler, the vivacious young second wife of President John Tyler, was an amateur composer. The Tylers entertained frequently and it was at these parties that she reportedly asked the Marine Band to announce the President’s arrival by performing “Hail to the Chief.” First Lady Sara Polk is also credited with using “Hail to the Chief” to announce the arrival of the President. President James. K. Polk was an unassuming man of slight stature, and his arrival at large functions frequently went unnoticed. To avoid this embarrassment, Mrs. Polk reportedly asked the Marine Band to play “Hail to the Chief” to announce him. The night of Lincoln’s assassination, he was greeted with the tune as he entered the box seat at Ford’s theater.
Over the years the tradition of playing“Hail to the Chief” to announce the president continued, and in 1954 the Department of Defense established an official policy making “Hail to the Chief” a musical tribute to the President of the United States.
Not every president was in love with the song. President Chester A. Arthur, who served from 1881 to 1885, directed the leader of the Marine Band, a young man by the name of John Philip Sousa, to compose a new one to replace it. He came up with a new tune called “Presidential Polonaise.” Unfortunately for “Presidential Polonaise,” it never caught on, and “Hail to the Chief” made a return.
Sousa was undeterred; he would go on to write more great music. President Jimmy Carter, in seeking to make the trappings of his presidency a little less regal, asked that “Hail to the Chief” not be played when he made public entrances. This turned out to be a highly unpopular decision. “Hail to the Chief” returned and has been in use since.
The lyrics written by Albert Gamse (in case you ever wish to sing them) are:
Hail to the Chief we have chosen for the nation,
Hail to the Chief! We salute him, one and all,
Hail to the Chief, as we pledge cooperation
In proud fulfillment of a great, noble call.
Yours is the aim to make this grand country grander,
This you will do, that’s our strong, firm belief.
Hail to the one we selected as commander,
Hail to the President! Hail to the Chief!
The original lyrics, written by Sir Walter Scott, read:
Hail to the chief, who in triumph advances,
Honour’d and blest be the evergreen pine!
Long may the tree in his banner that glances,
Flourish the shelter and grace of our line.
Heaven send it happy dew,
Earth lend it sap anew,
Gaily to bourgeon and broadly to grow;
While every highland glen,
Sends our shout back agen,
“Roderigh Vich Alpine Dhu, ho! i-e-roe!”