A different kind of hit maker
After Oilers success, local songwriter penned and sang ‘Go, Go Astros’
At 72 years old, Mack Hayes is slowly winding down a musical career that produced a couple Billboard Top 100 singles and took him on tour around the world with Liza Minnelli.
Now, he plays gigs twice a week close to home at the Kemah waterfront restaurant Sundance Grill II, but the crowd doesn’t always insist on hearing the hits he recorded with his 1960s rock band Countdown 5. This time of year, at least a portion of his audience wants to hear a song he admits it took him just a couple of hours to write.
Hayes is the artist behind “Go, Go Astros” — the team’s adopted fight song throughout most of the 1980s before it mostly disappeared and came to exist only in the memories of baseball fans and in YouTube searches.
The Astros’ run to the World Series has created a rebirth for the song and now it occasionally excites the crowd on the Kemah harbor where Hayes takes the stage on Friday and Saturday nights.
“I hadn’t played it in years, but the song never really went away,” Hayes said. “I would get emails about it every now and again. Or it would get pointed out that someone had the record on eBay trying to sell it and make some money off it. But, with all the excitement surrounding the Astros right now, people will come in and request me to play it, so I bring it back out for them.”
The song is short, only 146 seconds. And it contains just two verses of four lines each, but those lines have stuck with longtime Astros fans.
“Here come the Astros, burning with desire,
Here come the Astros, breathing orange fire,
Here come the Astros with winning on their mind,
Here come the Astros, No. 1 every time.” <Go, go Astros chorus>
“Way down south in Houston, baseball’s come alive,
From pitching to the outfield, it’s flashing orange and white,
Stealing round the bases, driving in the runs,
No place else but Houston, Astros No. 1.”
Those words echoed around the Astrodome during baseball games from 1980 until the team ditched the anthem in 1987.
That marked a bit of the end of an era for Hayes, who became ensconced in the Houston sports scene when he wrote probably the most famous song of his career, the 1979 ode to the Oilers: “Luv Ya Blue.”
That song was such a phenomenon that Hayes went on to record an entire Oilers album. In 1981, he and his band even had a setup on the sidelines at Oilers home games where they would play snippets of their songs during timeouts.
The band was so close to the players that Oilers quarterback Kenny Stabler always threatened to sit in when the Oilers were on defense and sing a few bars next to Hayes.
“Kenny Stabler couldn’t sing worth a damn, but he loved to sing,” Hayes recalls with a chuckle. “I would always leave an extra microphone for him just in case he ever actually decided to do it. I’d point it out to him, and he’d look over at me and nod his head like he was going to get up and sing, but he never did it.”
Besides his stint on the Oilers sidelines, Hayes was a staple performing all around Houston. He recalls Astros players like Jose Cruz and Enos Cabell stopping in to see him play, and that gave him the idea for “Go, Go Astros.”
“My wife Sandra and I are both Houston sports fans, and the Oilers song was a hit, and the Astros were terrific back then with Nolan Ryan and J.R. Richard and Jose Cruz and those guys, so I naturally thought, ‘Let’s try to do the same thing with the Astros that we did with the Oilers,’” Hayes said. “We tried it out, and we thought it would work.”
If you talk to any Astros fan who was alive in the 1980s or even stop by the Sundance Grill II on the weekend, you’ll see — even 37 years later — it clearly does.