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ick Wolf ’50 has spent the past six decades in

the music business since his graduation from

Lycoming with an English degree.

You may not recognize the name, but you’ve

probably heard some of the hits he’s written,

including 1960s “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow

Polka Dot Bikini,” which he produced and co-wrote

for Brian Hyland while he was at Kapp Records.

He had several hits with Nat “King” Cole, Arthur

Godfrey, the Andrews Sisters, the Kingston Trio,

Roger Williams and others between the 1950s and

1980s. He also arranged and produced a “Miss

America” record in the 1960s with Bert Parks, and he

partied with the stars at the Copacabana.

But if you Google him, he will be difficult to find,

mostly because his professional name is Richard

Wolfe, a change made by the head of Kapp Records

to make him sound more “dignified.”

“My boss was a numerologist and he said I didn’t

have enough letters in my name,” Wolf said with a

laugh.

But he got his start at Lycoming, when he wrote

three shows as a student and penned the original alma

mater.

Wolf said his version of the alma mater was the

crowd favorite, but Walter McIver, the music director

at the time, never endorsed it. “I wrote ‘Lycoming,

Fair Alma Mater’ for a musical I wrote at the

college,” Wolf said. “Half a dozen times it was named

the ‘official’ alma mater, but he kept shooting it

down.”

In John Piper’s book, “Lycoming College 1812-

2012,” it was reported that the Student Government

Association voted unanimously on May 18, 1951, to

make it the alma mater. But in May 1952, in a vote

at one of the regular faculty meetings, “without

explanation or tally, the faculty turned it down.”

Wolf said he was told it was because the song

was a waltz, and no one could march to it. “You can

change the timing of a waltz very easily,” he said.

“Besides, who marches to the alma mater? You stand

in reverence while it’s being sung.”

Wolf also wrote the fight song, “Hail, Lycoming

Warriors,” that was used when the football team scored a

touchdown.

Now 85, he’s still in the music business and working on a

musical project to honor Matthew Henson, an African-American

explorer who discovered the North Pole 100 years ago with Rear

Admiral Robert Peary.

A native of Williamsport, Wolf wanted to be an athlete, but

when he became injured, he had to drop out of the University of

Delaware and move home. His mother wouldn’t stand for one

of her sons not being a college graduate, so she enrolled him in

Lycoming, shortly after it became a four-year institution.

“One professor there taught me how to write for voices so

I could advance musically,” he said. “That started me back to

where I wanted to be.”

Although he always loved music, he didn’t do anything

musically until he was 19, when he started playing the piano.

“I bought a piano for $35 and played in my family’s barn,

which had no glass in the windows,” he said. “So I had to

borrow oil heaters from another farmer and I cut the fingers off a

pair of gloves and just taught myself how to play.”

He wrote an autobiography, “Succeeding and Surviving in the

Music Business,” which details his rise in the music industry, his

collection of hundreds of original songs and his disputes with

record companies over royalty payments. He eventually got into

the children’s music business.

“I agreed to do a children’s album once the record company

let me do it with real musicians in a real studio,” he said. He

recorded songs such as “Rubber Duckie,” “Puff the Magic

Dragon,” “Zip-a-Dee Doo-Dah” and “(How Much Is) That

Doggie in the Window,” before beginning the Do Re Mi

Children’s Chorus and getting nominated four times for a

Grammy Award for Best Album for Children.

“I had the best job there was,” he said. “It’s been a very

interesting ride – a lot of ups and downs. But I would write a

hundred songs a day if I had someone to write them for.”

D

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www.lycoming.edu