KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — At the Tennessee Archive of Moving Image and Sound (TAMIS), the employees find treasures of Tennessee football footage on old home movies.
"We have lots of gorgeous Vols footage going back to the 1920s, a lot of it in color. We try to locate and preserve the audio-visual heritage of the region by saving old films. People donate footage to us, and we go out searching for artifacts at estate sales, thrift shops, and anywhere else with a local connection," said archivist John Morton.
Morton was hunting for history last year when he found some old unlabeled compact VHS tapes at a Knoxville thrift store.
"They cost us 50 cents, so the price was right. We didn't know what we could possibly find on them. We put the tape in the machine and there's this recording shot in February 2000 of a parrot in someone's house. All the sudden it registers, oh my gosh, this parrot is singing 'Rocky Top.' And I mean the parrot really knows the song, as strange as that sounds," laughed Morton.
For more almost a minute and a half, the parrot belts out several verses of "Rocky Top," one of the official state songs of Tennessee and the unofficial fight song of the UT Volunteers. The bird also sings the song with a bizarre opera-style warble.
"I think our favorite feature of this video is just how it's a different presentation of this song you've heard a million times. It is funny but the song still comes through," said Morton.
There is nothing on the tape to obviously indicate who shot it without additional investigation. The on-screen date indicates it was shot Feb. 10, 2000, with the bird blaring in the early morning.
"If the date is correct, this bird is singing loud at 7:00 in the morning," laughed Morton.
Coworker Eric Dawson laughingly added, "Over and over again."
Zoo Knoxville says the bird is a yellow-naped Amazon parrot, an endangered bird that can live between 60 to 80 years in captivity. So, there's a chance the bird is still alive.
TAMIS posted the video online last year and it is among one of its most popular clips on Vimeo. It posted the link again Thursday and asked anyone with information on the parrot to contact them at email@example.com.
"It probably was owned by Vols fans and they're the ones who taught it the song. That would be a really interesting story for us," said Morton.
Whether they find the source of the video or not, the archives with a century of priceless gridiron footage now features a fine feathered fan of Rocky Top.
"I think this says a lot about how people are attached to UT football. And how that fandom plays a large part in their lives and the lives of their pets," said Morton.