Tennessee Volunteers tradition: Explaining history of Rcky Top

Tennessee Volunteers. (Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports)
Tennessee Volunteers. (Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports) /

The Tennessee Volunteers play their football at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville. So why does it sometimes get referred to as Rocky Top?

The orange and white checkers of Neyland Stadium are iconic. The song “Rocky Top” is even more so.

In fact, the song is so deeply associated with the Volunteers, it doesn’t just get mistaken for Tennesee‘s fight song. It’s even become a way to refer to where Tennessee plays games.

Why is Tennesee called Rocky Top?

“Rocky Top” is a bluegrass song originally performed by the Osborne Brothers in 1967. In 1972, the Tennessee marching band first added it to their repertoire at football games. Since then, it’s gained a direct association with the Volunteers.

It is not, in fact, the school fight song. That title belongs to the song “Down the Field.” Still, it feels just as essential to enjoying a college football Saturday in Tennessee.

Rocky Top wasn’t an actual place, though the Osborne Brothers wrote the song in Gatlinburg and it may refer to a specific mountain top in the Great Smokey Mountains. There’s now a city in Tennessee that has taken on the name, but they may not be able to compete with Knoxville and the Volunteers when it comes to nickname recognition.

Chances are when you’re talking about Rocky Top, you’re talking about Tennessee football.

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