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
But he got his start at Lycoming, when he wrote
three shows as a student and penned the original alma
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
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
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.”