If original Redskins band leader Barnee Breeskin were still with us, he’d probably tell you the spirited version of “Hail to the Redskins” sung by Larry Michael, Sonny Jurgensen, Chris Cooley and Doc Walker in the broadcast booth at FedEx Field last Sunday was lovely, but not his favorite.
That honor went to a British waitress turned lounge singer who published a cut of the fight song in 1974.
With the tune in the forefront of my mind, I tracked down Beryl Middleton-Walters, a 74-year old retiree living with her husband in Sarasota, Fla., who sang the interpretation Breeskin said he liked best.
Originally from Leeds, England, Middleton-Walters arrived in America in 1966 looking for a change.
“I wasn’t real happy in England,” she said. “At that point to me it didn’t seem like I would get anywhere doing anything, so I decided I wanted to come over here and see if I could do something.”
She signed a one-year contract to work as an au pair for a politician who lived in Chevy Chase, Md. After her contract ran up, she applied to work at Ray Walters’ Stables, a popular hangout for Redskins players such as Sonny Jurgensen.
Middleton-Walter’s boss, who would later become her husband, found out she loved to sing. One night the regular vocalist at the club called in sick, and Walters turned to the waitress for help.
“He asked me if I thought I could do a few numbers, and I said yes,” Middleton-Walters said. “Fortunately for me we got quite a few phone calls asking if the English girl was going to be singing again.”
Walters-Middleton’s fame as a singer began to grow, and she recorded a demo that was distributed at the restaurant. . She found a hit with a Civil War standard called “Two Little Boys,” and put out an album titled “Hello, I’m Beryl Middleton.”
At the same time, she developed a passion for American football while attending all the Redskins games with Walters.
Seeing an opportunity, Walters insisted the former waitress record a version of “Hail to the Redskins.” One of the Redskins singers was an old friend from school, so he called in a favor and got the singers to back up his star.
The couple put out a “45,” a 7-inch two-sided single on vinyl, and somewhere along the way a copy of the song made its way to the leader of the team marching band.
Breeskin called the Stables and asked if he could come in and talk about the song.
“He came in one evening and we sat with him for quite a long time. Really quite a lovely man,” Middleton-Walters said.
“In his opinion he thought I had done the best version of ‘Hail to the Redskins.’ I was absolutely exuberant about that. Here I am as a female signing this male type song for him, and he’s really enjoying it.”
On the other side of the single, Middleton-Walters and her band wrote and performed another Redskins-themed song with lines incorporating members of Washington’s roster.
“There’s a red-headed tiger known as Sonny, and his spirals know where Taylor’s going to fly. We wobble and still win when Billy Kilmer comes in, and cheer when our running backs go by.”
Today, Middleton-Walters and her husband have a satellite package that allows them to watch every Redskins game at home, so every time the Redskins score a touchdown, Middleton-Walters can sing along.
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