The story behind the club's famous anthem
The fans' anthem 'Keep Right On' is as synonymous with Blues, as Blue Moon is with Manchester City, Forever Blowing Bubbles with West Ham or The Blaydon Races is with Newcastle United.
For more than 50 years Blues fans have sang it proudly in both good times and in bad, but what are the origins of Keep Right On? Here Eric Partridge explains how it all came about...
It all began in Edinburgh in 1870 when Henry (Harry) Lauder, the eldest of eight children, was born into poverty. When he was just 12 years old, the family was orphaned, leaving Harry no option but to work in the local flax mill to make ends meet.
In his early teens he was forced to endure the gruelling conditions of the coal mines which is where he began singing to bolster his spirits.Such was his talent he was encouraged by his fellow miners to enter a local singing contest which led to him being invited to sing in small music halls. His rise on the vaudeville circuit was rapid, quickly establishing himself as a highly talented comedian, singer and songwriter, eventually becoming the highest paid entertainer of his day.
During World War 1 (1914-1918), Harry worked tirelessly to organise shows and recruit performers for concert parties to entertain the British troops serving overseas.In 1917, his own son Captain John C. Lauder was killed in action at the Somme. Harry later received a letter from a fellow serving officer who was in his son's company when he was tragically felled, describing him as a leader of 'great gallantry' and who, in his dying words, had ordered his troops to 'carry on'!
Harry was so emotionally affected by this correspondence that it inspired him to pen the words to what has since become Blues' own battle anthem 'Keep Right On to the End of the Road'.
Despite his son's death, Harry continued to perform and raise awareness of the war effort always ending each of his wartime shows to the rousing strains of 'Keep Right On..'. In the years that followed, the song became regarded as a Scottish classic, as Harry trod the boards well into his 70's in music halls throughout the land and abroad. Sadly, on 26th February 1950, Sir Harry Lauder passed away aged 79, leaving behind a legacy of fine Scottish music and numerous films.
Six years later in January 1956, Harry's memory was revived in the most unlikely circumstances when on the way to Leyton Orient in the fourth round of the FA Cup, the Blues squad was in 'full voice' - a pre-match ritual instigated by team manager Arthur Turner to calm the nerves before a big game, according to Blues legend Alex Govan.
"We won 4-0 on the day, so it must have worked," the free-scoring winger recalled: "I remember singing a couple of Scottish favourites as my 'party piece', one of which was 'Keep Right On to the End of the Road'."
What Alex couldn't possibly have realised at the time is how such a simple, random choice of song would soon be immortalised by generations of Blues fans to this day.
"After beating Albion in the fifth round, we were drawn against the mighty Arsenal in the quarter final, not an easy prospect in those days either"2 said Govan. "We left our hotel at Hendon for the short journey to Highbury and as usual after just a few yards down the road we were lifting the roof off the coach!
"The skipper, Len Boyd, was belting out 'Any Old Iron' for the umpteenth time when the gaffer bellowed up the coach, 'Let's have one from Scotland, Alex'. I duly obliged with 'Keep Right On to the End of the Road' once again.This time some of the other lads joined in the chorus and one by one they quickly caught onto the words, we sang it again and again until the entire coach was rocking as we pulled up outside Highbury!
"I remember the coach was one of the older types which had wind down windows alongside the seats. It was a warm day so all the lads had their windows down and with the strains of 'Keep Right On..' going at full belt, the Blues fans who always congregated outside the ground to welcome us to away games could hear us coming several streets away! They picked up on the words too and were all singing it as we filed off the coach. The rest, as they say is history!"
Blues boss Arthur Turner, not known for displaying his emotions, admitted he was greatly moved by the fans' reception and felt that the passion created by the rendition of a powerful song both before and during the game played a major part in overcoming Arsenal 3-1 in their own backyard to reach the semi-final against Sunderland!
Alex grabs every opportunity he can to see his beloved Blues on television. When he hears the fans break into a rousing chorus of 'Keep Right On to the End of the Road', he admits to being a little choked.
"Some of the words have changed from my day," he says, "but I must admit I still get rather emotional as it brings back such happy memories, not only of the 1956 cup run itself but also of the great fighting spirit we had in the team in those days.
"Over the years the opening verse of 'Keep Right On' has certainly been modified to identify more with Birmingham and a couple of lines in the chorus seem to have changed but all in all it's the same wonderful song which brings a tear to my eye every time I hear it. I just wish they wouldn't shout the line 'where all the love you've been dreaming of' - it's a strong powerful melody as it is without having to shout it"
Actual words courtesy of Sir Harry Lauder 1917
Ev'ry road thro' life is a long, long road,
Fill'd with joys and sorrows too,
As you journey on how your heart will yearn
For the things most dear to you.
With wealth and love 'tis so,
But onward we must go.
Keep right on to the end of the road,
Keep right on to the end,
Tho' the way be long, let your heart be strong,
Keep right on round the bend.
Tho' you're tired and weary still journey on,
Till you come to your happy abode,
Where all the love you've been dreaming of
Will be there at the end of the road.
With a big stout heart to a long steep hill,
We may get there with a smile,
With a good kind thought and an end in view,
We may cut short many a mile.
So let courage ev'ry day
Be your guiding star alway.
Words as sung by Blues fans today
As you go through life it's a long, long road
There'll be joys and sorrows too
As we journey on we will sing this song
For the boys in royal blue.
We're often partisan - la la la
We will journey on - la la la
Keep right on to the end of the road
Keep right on to the end
Though the way be long let your heart beat strong
Keep right on to the end
Though you're tired and weary
Still journey on 'til you come to your happy abode
With all our love we'll be dreaming of
We'll be there. Where? At the end of the road.