Every year, a group of rising Yale seniors are selected to be in the Whiffenpoofs, the world's oldest and best-known collegiate a cappella group. Founded in 1909, the "Whiffs" began as a senior quartet that met for weekly concerts at Mory's Temple Bar, the famous Yale tavern. Today, the group has become one of Yale's most celebrated traditions.
More than 100 years ago, on a frosty January night in New Haven, Connecticut, five of the Yale Glee Club’s best singers convened at Mory’s Temple Bar to escape the cold. Louis Linder, the tavern’s barkeep and a music aficionado, welcomed them in, beginning an institution that survives to this day.
Of those original five singers, four were members of the Glee Club’s prestigious Varsity Quartet, a group that sang together regularly at various alumni events. Unwilling to restrict themselves to performances at public functions, the group began to meet on a weekly basis at Mory’s, where they improvised harmonies to the songs they loved so well. These weekly meetings soon became a hallowed tradition amongst the singers.
As their fame on campus grew, the quintet began their search for a name. Denton ‘Goat’ Fowler, tickled by a joke featuring a mythical dragonfish named the Whiffenpoof, suggested the name to his companions, who found the name an apt reflection of the atmosphere of levity that accompanied the group’s gatherings. The word quickly caught on with the group’s admirers, and the name stuck.
In the years since, each generation of Whiffenpoofs have taken up the mantle of their forebears. For more than one century of songsters, the name, the song, and the weekly date at Mory’s have remained inviolate traditions that continue to bind us together.
The Whiffenpoof Song
To the tables down at Mory's, to the place where Louis dwells
to the dear old Temple Bar we love so well
sing the Whiffenpoofs assembled, with their glasses raised on high
and the magic of their singing casts its spell
The origins of The Whiffenpoof Song can be traced to a 1907 winter trip by the Yale Glee Club, when two of the group's founding members created a humorous adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling poem, "Gentleman Rankers." Upon the conclusion of the song's premiere at Mory's Temple Bar, the singers declared it their anthem, "to be sung at every meeting, reverently standing." In the hundred years since, each class of Whiffenpoofs has sung The Whiffenpoof Song at the end of every concert as a celebration of musical excellence and tradition. The song has been recorded by Rudy Vallée, Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Louis Armstrong, and countless others.