In the lore of USC football, Thomas Luttgen Walker is Tommy the Toe, the Trojan drum major who would tear off his uniform jacket, throw his baton to the ground and rush from the stands onto the field to kick conversions for the cardinal and gold. The fans adored Walker, as did the media. To one sportswriter, Walker was "The Caliph of Conversion." In 1947 a picture of Walker wearing a tall white shako as he booted a football appeared in LIFE and nearly everywhere else.
Few people know that Walker, who died in 1986 at the age of 63, made a more lasting contribution to college football. A decorated veteran of World War II, Walker returned to USC as a junior in the fall of 1946 and found the football team in need of a lift. He wrote a six-note fanfare for the trumpet section: "Da da da DUT da DUH!" Trojan rooters then screamed, "Charge!"
In the decades since, the origin of the fanfare has been obscured. At times it seemed that those six notes—Da da da DUT da DUH—might have resounded through the primordial mist and propelled ancient Olympians and Roman charioteers to great feats. It is hard to imagine a modern college football game—or, for that matter, most any other sporting contest—being played without that familiar fanfare in the background.
There are a number of people, musicians included, who cling to the belief that Walker borrowed the trumpet fanfare. They mistakenly insist that his Charge is merely an adaptation of the cavalry bugle call Charge. But as anyone who has ever watched a Hollywood cavalry regiment storm across a studio lot knows, the Army's Charge is nothing like the sporting version. The military call is a 31-note piece that begins with a single note, middle C, sounded 12 times.
If anything, Walker's Charge is derived from the opening notes of First Call, a bugle piece that most people identify as horse racing's Call to the Post. It is quite possible that Walker, a frequent horse-player, conjured up his call after a trip to the racetrack. "The charge thing all stemmed from something we'd heard the night before a game," he once told Touchdown Illustrated.
Lucille Walker, Tommy's widow, advances another possibility. She claims Charge was prompted by a dirty joke. Adding an air of mystery, she refuses to divulge the joke, saying, "It would take the fun out of Charge."
Walker once told the Los Angeles Herald Examiner that he introduced the trumpet call at a band practice. "I played a few notes on the trumpet—Da-da-da-DAH-da-DAH—and the band yelled, 'Trojan warriors, charge!' " he said. "It seemed kind of effective, so we decided to try it that Saturday."
Somewhere between band practice and the game, someone decided to drop the "Trojan warriors" and simply yell "Charge!" The band introduced Charge on a third-and-one, and the Trojans responded by gaining the first down. "It was an immediate hit," Walker said.
In 1952 Dick Winslow, a good friend of Walker's, wrote a song called Trojan Warriors, Charge!, with Walker's six-note call repeated throughout. Mickey Rooney introduced the song at a Trojan pep rally, and it soon became a standard at USC football games.
But it wasn't until 1958 that Charge exploded. That year the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles. The baseball-starved fans of Southern California embraced the erstwhile Bums. Braven Dyer wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 1959: "In some respects this desire to help pull the Dodgers through began one summer night last season when an alleged musician blew a few notes on a battered trumpet and then yelled, 'Charge.' Some of you were there when it happened and hundreds of thousands have picked it up since, until the wild yell is now their impassioned battle cry known to millions of others via TV and radio as the trademark of the Dodgers.... Yes, the Dodger management owes much to that clarion cry."