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Bow Down to Washington

Bow Down to Washington, the official fight song of The University of Washington, was written in late October of 1915 with words and music by Lester J. Wilson (of the class of 1913)1 as part of a University of Washington Daily sponsored contest requiring that all entries must make reference to the rivalry with the California Golden Bears. For his efforts, he was awarded a $25 prize.  The song was first played at Washington’s home field of that day, Denny Field, against Whitman College on October 30, 1915, a game won by UW 27-0 (Daily, Nov. 1, 1915, “Daily Song Contest Yields Peppy Chant”). The second public airing of the fight song was at the California game of Nov. 6, 1915, won by Washington 72-0 and was first used as the football "fight" song at the Cal-UW game on November 6, 1915. The song was first published for the Class of 1916 by Echo Music Publishing of Seattle.


Here are seven recorded versions of Bow Down to Washington:

Sheet Music

The music for Bow Down to Washington was published by West Coast Music Publishers, Seattle, 1928.


Lyrics to Bow Down were first published in the football program for the November 1, 1915 game of the University of Washington vs. University of California.  The lyrics were revised a year later with a freshly composed first verse.  For the 1920 opening of Husky Stadium, new lyrics were published in the program as well as in the Second Edition of University of Washington Songs, published in 1924, which also incorporated the 1915 second verse. By the publication of the 1936–1937 Student Handbook, the lyrics of Bow Down had undergone a dramatic change: parts of the newer verse were combined with earlier text to form a single verse, and the references to the earlier bitter rivalry between the UW and Cal were omitted completely. These changes were made as new rivalries were formed between the UW and other schools of the PAC-12 (especially Washington State University and University of Oregon) which reduced the importance of the UW/Cal rivalry (which was also lessened by Cal’s major rival, Stanford, resurrecting its football team in 1919). Minor changes to the lyrics have been noted since 1937. Words have been added for pick up notes and there is an ongoing debate whether it is “loyal” band or “joyous” band. Below we have compared the lyrics of earlier versions and the present day version so that you can easily see the differences and similarities.


  • 1. An interesting side note:
    Lester J. Wilson also penned Bow Down to Uncle Sam during the First World War, using the same melody as Bow Down to Washington, but different lyrics.
  • 2. The 1943 lyrics quoted the phrase as "joyous band" rather than "loyal band". Most everyone who sings Bow Down today sings the words "loyal band", but in the words listed in the game day program, the word "joyous" still appears.
  • 3. In the 1916 edition (Echo Music, Seattle):
    "Dobie, Dobie pride of Washington.
    Leather lungs together with a Rah! Rah! Rah!"
    This reference is to the great Robert Gilmour "Gil" Dobie, Husky coach 1908-1916 (won-lost record of 59-0-3). The original lyrics were changed when Dobie left the University of Washington after the 1916 season to coach at the University of Detroit, later at Cornell, Navy and Boston College.
  • The 1928 edition (West Coast Music, Seattle) has:
    "Baggie, Baggie pride of Washington."
    The reference this time is to Enoch W. Bagshaw, coach 1921-1929 (63-22-6).
  • 4. The 2018 version:
    Historically, the original "boys" referred to rooters in the stands who were mostly male students. Husky alumnus and historian Lynn Borland ’66 has recommended that “fans” rather than “teams” more accurately describes the original intent of this phrase.


  • Mary Paynton with additions by John Gibbs
  • Updated 2012, 2018, and 2019, thanks to Lynn Borland, class of 1966 and Dylan Majewski, class of 2020