Hey Hey Tampa Bay
What do you think of when you ponder late 1970’s pop music? Chances are you shudder a little bit as you recall the era of disco. The Knack’s “My Sharona” or anything by Styx might cause you to break out in a cold sweat. If you were in the Tampa Bay area in 1979 chances are you were singing along to a song that has become the anthem of the first playoff team in franchise history.
Do these lyrics ring a bell (no pun intended)?
B-U-C-C-A-N-E-E-R-S! GO BUCS!
Those are the opening lyrics to “Hey, Hey Tampa Bay the Bucs Know How to Shine.” This song took the Tampa Bay area airwaves by storm in the fall of 1979. Tampa jingle writer Jeff Arthur created “Hey, Hey Tampa Bay”. It was a long way for Arthur to move from recording artist to writer of a song that has come to be synonymous with the 1979 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I was a recording artist in the early seventies and did two albums,” said Arthur in a recent interview for Bucpower. “I traveled with Jimmy Buffett and played with John Lennon and I was on the Mike Douglas Show. The band’s name was Arthur, Hurley and Gottlieb.”
“We were never a commercial success,” Arthur continued. “So I moved back to Tampa. I didn’t want to be 53 years old and playing Willie Nelson covers at the 301 Truck Stop. I wanted a family and to settle down so I started a jingle company.”
Arthur laughingly recalled that he first had to teach people in the Tampa Bay area exactly what a jingle was. After a couple of years he had built up a small business writing jingles for advertisements and other business related clients.
Arthur then moved from the state to continue his entrepreneurship. “I moved to Dallas and did jingles for everybody,” he recalled. It was during this time that he thought about sports related jingles. “I did jingles for everybody from the Kansas City Chiefs to the Miami Dolphins but my heart was always in Tampa Bay. So when I came back to Tampa I said I have to do something for Tampa Bay because there was nothing. They only played college type songs (at Buccaneer games).” “So I put something together and brought it to Bob Best.”
At the time Bob Best was the Director of Public Relations for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “Bob said it was the greatest Buccaneer-themed jingle he had ever heard, but the Bucs didn’t do things like that.” Undaunted, Arthur took the record to a friend of his at a Tampa radio station. “I played it for Chris Rathaus at WDAE, the Bucs affiliate, and he freaked saying it was great.”
Realizing that he was sitting on an original idea, Arthur and his friends and family began an operation to get the song into as many hands as possible. “We asked ourselves, ‘How are we going to get people to learn the song?’ So we had the lyrics printed up and we stood at each of the four gates at Tampa Stadium and passed them out to anyone walking in.”
In addition, Arthur teamed up with a friend who sold unofficial Buccaneer t-shirts and had a shirt made with the Buccaneers logo on the front and the lyrics to the song on the back. While no one could possibly get away with selling unofficial NFL merchandise today, the thinking behind this was ingenious. Stadium scoreboards in the 1970’s were not very advanced and the chances of people memorizing the song from a lyric sheet were unlikely, so why not sell t-shirts with the lyrics on them.
“It’s very hard to get 60,000 people to sing with the message boards the stadium had at the time. I had some friends making unofficial shirts; it was more of a cowboy attitude back then. But we thought they could read the shirt on the guy in front of them no matter how drunk they were,” Arthur explained with a laugh.
The guerilla marketing campaign worked. Between the t-shirts, lyric sheets and airplay on WDAE, “Hey, Hey Tampa Bay” became a big hit in the Tampa Bay area. The fact that the song came out the same year the Bucs started to win only helped all the more. “I wrote it the year the Bucs first won the Central Division championship and they (WDAE) played the crap out of it,” Arthur said. “It got played so much on the radio station and people were blasting it in their cars that Bob Best called me back and said we have to talk. He handed me some papers and said “Sign this, this, this and this and we might play it at the stadium.’ The rest is history.”
The song became popular not just because of the Buccaneers success but for the same reason any jingle becomes popular, it was catchy. Arthur explained the music.
“There has to be an intro that makes people know a fight song is coming. So I open with the horns and then the drums hearken people in. Then I wanted to teach everyone to spell so, B-U-C-C-A-N-E-E-R-S, GO BUCS! And then the guitar and more syn-drums.”
Arthur explained syn-drums to me since I am musically illiterate. “Syn-drums are a brand of drums that has a pitch change. They were used in a lot of music at that particular time.”
Writing a song that captures the heart and imagination of a metropolitan area is a great accomplishment, but it was not the cash cow many would believe. “That was my gift to Tampa Bay if you will,” Arthur explained. “ I never made any money off of it.” I didn’t do it for a couple of reasons. I didn’t have the wherewithal and I had the fear that the NFL would have pulled the plug on it.”
Instead Arthur settled for the warm feeling of knowing that he had written arguably the most popular song in the Tampa Bay area in the 1970’s. “I remember walking out of the game that decided the division championship (against Kansas City) and I heard it blasting in everyone’s cars. They were playing it over and over. I said, ‘Hey, I wrote that song!’ A lot of people said, ‘Yeah, right man.’”
In addition to the warm feeling of success, Arthur was also invited by Bob Best to attend the Bucs playoff games. During the title game, Arthur enjoyed an experience that any musician would dream of. “When they played the Los Angeles Rams in the title game I saw Jimmy Buffett in the stands. He remembered me from playing with him and invited me over. He said, ‘Do you know Glenn Frey?’” “I said, ‘I know of him.’”
“So I sat at the title game with Jimmy Buffett and Glenn Frey from the Eagles. They were for the Rams and I was for the Bucs. Every time they played my song over the PA, I’d look over at them and say, “I have a bigger hit song than you do this week.’”
Jeff Arthur had the good fortune to do what he loved for a living and had the opportunity to work with or mingle with some of the biggest names in music. But he is proudest of the song he wrote in the late 1970’s for his favorite professional football team.
As he says, “I taught Tampa Bay how to spell ‘Buccaneer.’”
Denis Crawford, October 2006