Guy Lombardo and the Good Old Song
U.Va.’s link to the Big Band star
Posted January 2001
Big Band star Guy Lombardo’s name — for those who remember it, that is — is inextricably linked to “Auld Lang Syne,” New York City and New Year’s Eve, thanks, in part, to U.Va. and the “Good Old Song.” Lombardo adopted the song, a U.Va. tradition dating back to the 1890s, as his signature song after he first sang “Auld Lang Syne” at an Easter dance in Memorial Gymnasium in 1930.
According to the late C’ville native and Lombardo biographer Booten Herndon, when Lombardo played the old Scottish air to which Robert Burns’ poem is typically sung, enthusiastic Hoos cheered wildly and sang along with their ’own slightly bizarre lyrics. Lombardo, who not only crooned the night away for hundreds of Virginia gentlemen and their dates, but also stayed up till the wee hours of the morning carousing with them, so loved the University that he offered to come back to “the dear old U.Va.” in June to play for the finals dance free of charge.
When Lombardo left after Easter weekend, he adopted as his theme song Virginia’s “Good Old Song.” Alumnus Francis Lewis Berkeley, Jr. (College ’34), recalls hearing the singer sign off with the “Good Old Song” at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York, where Lombardo regularly performed.