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Faculty and Staff

In Memoriam: J. Perry Watson

No one has ever been more misquoted than J. Perry Watson. And the former director of NC State’s music department apparently was fine with it.

When he penned “The Red and White Song,” a substitute fight song for NC State’s athletics teams in 1961, he wrote “Come over the hill, Caroline/Devils and Deacs stand in line/The Red and White from NC State.”

J. Perry Watson, circa 1970. Photo courtesy NCSU Libraries.
J. Perry Watson, circa 1970. Photo courtesy NCSU Libraries.

He kind of figured that students, alumni and fans might just change the first words in that line to something a little more PG-13, a road map to perdition for NC State’s biggest rival.

The song debuted on Feb. 13, 1961, during a basketball game against Maryland at Reynolds Coliseum, after Watson’s first attempt at a substitute fight song was roundly rejected by the student body.

Watson, who served as the department’s director from 1960 to 1991, died on Tuesday in Raleigh.

A native of Miami, Watson earned a music degree from Florida State and was an instructor for three years in the U.S. Air Force Band. After his military service, he earned a master’s degree at Appalachian State Teachers College, where he later served as a music instructor for four years.

He came to NC State in 1958 as an assistant director in the music department and was elevated to director in 1960. During his tenure, the program grew to include eight faculty members, two adjunct professors, one musician-in-residence and two administrative assistants.

An active musical leader, Watson expanded NC State’s curriculum to include a piano and guitar program, a clarinet choir, pipes and drums, a brass band and the reinstatement of the symphony orchestra. During his tenure, the Price Music Center was built to be the home for NC State’s music programs.

He also founded the North American Brass Band Association in the early 1970s and was an honorary brother of Mu Beta Psi.

Just as he requested no retirement ceremonies when he left NC State in 1991, Watson requested no obituary information or service in his memory.

The Red & White Song
by J. Perry Watson

We’re the Red and White from State
And we know we are the best.
A hand behind our back,
We can take on all the rest.
Come over the hill, Caroline.
Devils and Deacs stand in line.
The Red and White from N.C. State.
Go State!