The Memphis Blues Rugby Club has a history dating back to the fall of 1967 when Scotsman, Malcolm Williams & Welshman Bill Wright, originally founded the Club as the Memphis Wanderers #1 (Red with Black hooped jersey). In the spring of 1968 the first rugby game that was played in Memphis was held at Overton Park against Huntsville, AL. It was a loss with a score of (20 to 0). The first Memphis player to score was Mike Ellis against the Saint Louis Ramblers in Saint Louis, MO. At the time of this first game the scoring went like this: a try = 3 points, conversions after a try = 2 points, a penalty kick or a drop kick = 3 points. In 1969 the City of Memphis moved the field of play from Overton Park to Sea Isle Park and again in 1969 from Sea Isle Park to Toby Park. August 21, 1971 was proclaimed “Memphis Wanderers Rugby Club Day” by the then Memphis mayor Henry Loeb and the Wanderers performed at half-time of the Atlanta-Denver pre-season Pro Game that evening at the Liberty Bowl stadium. In 1972 the Club changed its name to the Memphis Bulls (solid Power Blue jerseys) reflecting a sponsorship by Schlitz Brewery. In 1974 the club split into the Bulls & Wanderers #2 (Maroon with White hooped jersey). One year later, in 1975, the Bulls changed its name, this time to Memphis Old No.7 (Green with a Black hooped jersey) after affiliating with Jack Daniel’s Distillery. Over time the sponsorship with Jack Daniel’s diminished, yet the Club maintained the name Old No.7. The Wanderers #2 played their games at Audubon Park while Old Number 7 continued to use Toby Park.
Meanwhile, in 1985 the Rugby Club at the University of Memphis was established with the assistance of Old No.7 in order to create a college team in Memphis. Both Old No.7 and the University enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship over the years with the college side benefiting from having experienced Old No.7 players as coaches and Old No.7 enjoyed a pool of younger talent joining the team when their eligibility expired or they graduated from the University.
In the Fall of 1998, Memphis Old No.7 and the Rugby Club at the University of Memphis elected to merge and form the Memphis Blues Rugby Club. The impact of the merger had an immediate positive impact on the level of play and has distinguished the Memphis Blues as the premiere rugby club in Memphis as well as reestablishing Memphis, and specifically the Memphis Blues, as a formidable opponent.
The Memphis Blues are a Division 2 team, fielding 2 sides and competing in the True South Geographic Union along with Baton Rouge, Birmingham, Jackson, Chattanooga, Hopkinsville, Nashville and Knoxville. In addition the Memphis Blues compete in National Competitive Region 2 that is comprised of teams from the Florida, Georgia, Carolinas Geographical Unions.
The Blues home field is located at Tobey Park (located on N. Hollywood between Central and Park). Practices are held Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00 to 8:00. Home games are played at USA Stadium in Millington with a start time of around 1:00.
The Club has a number of sponsors, which aids in defraying costs associated with running the Club. The Club greatly appreciates the support of the sponsors and encourages players as well as patrons to visit our sponsors and to thank them for their support. We proudly salute Budweiser of Memphis, Celtic Crossing, Yuengling, Vicki Blackwell of Crye-Leike Realtors, Results Physiotherapy and UBS.
“McBride Field” in Tobey Park
Ken McBride was one of the originals of the Memphis Wanderers Rugby Club, a team formed circa 1969 by a ‘pom’ [English] Malcolm Williams who came from South Carolina for a short sabbatical at MSU.
[The fledgling (6 months old !) University of Florida Club [incl. John Young and yours truly] played against the Memphis Wanderers Rugby Club in the Mardi Gras Tournament in Baton Rouge in Feb 1970].
Malcolm returned to South Carolina and the Memphis Club somehow ‘vanished’. When I arrived in Memphis in August 1971, it took a couple of months of serious ‘digging’ to find anyone who knew about Memphis rugby until I found Ken McBride and we re-invigorated the address lists, got people out, recruited, etc and became the Memphis Bulls [got jerseys and ‘training beverage’ from Schlitz] then became Memphis Old #7 [jerseys and ‘training beverage’ courtesy of Jack Daniels]. As a result of serious encouragement of the Memphis Parks Commission, they gave us Tobey Park as our Home Ground.
Tragically, Ken McBride died of a heart attack, aged 33, in 1976. We petitioned the Parks Commission to re-name Tobey Park to McBride Field and while this was far from easy, we were eventually successful, a fitting memorial to this Memphis rugby pioneer [and a super guy, as well.]
by Phil Whyatt
Memphis Belles Rugby Club
Women’s rugby in Memphis was organized in 1976. An independent club, the Memphis Belles had no affiliation with either men’s club, but did take their colors (sort of) from the colors of the men’s teams. The jersey’s design consisted of even two-inch hoops of black and red. The women also wore black warm-up jackets with the name of the club stitched in red script on the back. The women briefly toyed with the idea of calling the club the Bluff City Titties, but the more decorous and descriptive name “Memphis Belles” prevailed.
The coach of the Belles was Chris Butterick, who played fly-half for Old No. 7. Wives and girlfriends of several players of the men’s teams played for the Memphis Belles. Because women’s rugby was not yet an integral part of the American rugby scene, the Belles were not members of a union and traveled extensively to tournaments in order to find matches. The women played in LSU’s Red Beans & Rice tournament (associated with the spring 1976 Rugby Nationals), and in the fall 1976 Houston Invitational at Rice University. Women’s teams participating in the Houston tournament were: Kansas State, Texas A&M, Hammond (La.) WRFC, Memphis Belles, LSU, Wichita WRFC, Austin WRFC, and the Boars WRFC. The Belles also played in the 1977 Ozark Union Tournament. Women’s teams at that tournament were Ozark Ladies, Memphis Belles, Univ. of Arkansas Women, Dallas Furies, and Webb City. The Belles practiced and played matches at the Audubon Park rugby pitch. The first Belle to score a try was Lauren Flynn.; she later married Buddy Adams of the Wanderers RFC.
Memphis Wanderers RFC—1976 roster
Ozark Rugby Union
President—Arland “Ace” Eilert; Captains—George Noblit, Danny Gregory.
Other team members: Buddy Adams, Bill Alexander, Jim Baird, Charlie Beckum, Jim Berry, Jim Boone, Steve Burnett, Chris Cavallo, Don Cobb, Jim Cobb, Sonny Eilert, Dick Foster, Mike Harbor, Jim Head, Mike Herr, Terry Hooker, David Howell, Jeff Johnson, Jack Lengsfield, Rusty Long, Ernie Lubiani, Tony Lubiani, Ed Mann, Ned Mauldin, Bobby Moore, Lee Phillips, Jack Pickard, Wayne Rogers, Jeff Smith, Roman Swatzyna, Roger Swatzyna, Steve Swatzyna, Robert Totty, Melvin Wilkins, Oscar Wilkins, Dave Williams, Mark Wood, Lee Woodruff, Chris Young, Jim Zotkiewicz.
Memphis Old No. 7 RFC—1976 roster
South Eastern Rugby Union
President—Ken “Mad Dog” McBride; Coach and Captain—Mike Ellis.
Other team members: Larry Allen, Bobby Armour, John Armour, Taylor Bahn, Tom Baker, Hardy Barton, Frank Bell, Steve Bouchock, Tom Boudeau, John Busby, Chris Butterick, Willie Caldwell, Charlie Chaplo, Steve Cieplienski, Kim Ciftci, Staley Colvert, Thoni Falcetta, Jimmy Fant, Jack Flanagan, Sandy Frazier, Tom Furlotte, Paul Goodman, Peter Jones, Tom Jones, Andy Koch, Jeff Larkin, Richard Lynch, Freddie McDonough, Dave McNally, Dennis Nichols, Russ Pitner, Joe Piepmeier, Gabe Ragghianti, Rob Rockhold, Rich Roman, Paul Scott, George Smartt, Graham Smith, Jim Smith, Tim Sullivan, Rocky Turner, Jeff Weiman, Steve Williams, Rick Wortz.
Memphis Mad Dogs RFC
Houston Invitational “Lone Star” Tournament Both men’s teams, Old No. 7 and the Wanderers, played in the 64-team Houston Invitational in November 1975. The two teams never met on the field of play during the tournament. In 1976, neither club entered the tournament. But several players from both clubs wanted to attend the tournament and decided to enter a team made up of players from both clubs. It was truly a melting-pot, motley team, and strangely cooperative. But the two teams knew each other well, and had come to routinely join together to cheer on the Memphis Belles. As Old No. 7’s jerseys had an identifying patch, it was decided to use the maroon and white jerseys of the Memphis Wanderers for the tournament. The team borrowed the nickname of the “father” of Old No. 7, Ken McBride, and a unified Memphis team—the Memphis Mad Dogs—took the rugby pitch, the first unified Memphis team since 1973. It wouldn’t be until April 10, 1979, when another unified Memphis team would take the pitch, this time to take on Scotland’s University of Edinburgh under the lights of Crump Stadium.
Memphis Mad Dogs–1976 roster
A Motley Team of Road Warriors
Arland “Ace” Eilert, Danny Gregory, George Noblit, Chris Butterick, Jimmy Fant, Charlie Beckum, David Howell, Melvin Wilkins, Oscar Wilkins, Jack Lengsfield, Buddy Adams, Jeff Johnson, Rob Stong, Bill Alexander, Ernie Lubiani, John Pappas, Aaron Johnson, Stu Brunner, Ray McLaughlin, John Hauley, Tom Boudreau, Bubby Figiel, Monde Meata, Randy Folks, Chris Cavallo, Jim Berry, and Mike Harbor.
Memphis Belles–1976 roster
Jo Ann Early, Judy Early, Sandy Gingery, Shannon Goodman, Kay McMurry, Michele Goodman, Kris Palmer, Lauren Flynn, Vicki Bunn, Annie Morris, Geraldine du Grande, Nancy Wilkins, Alfreda Wilkins, Susan Wilkins, Linda Wilkins, Diane Rinks, Sandy Littell, Paula Baskin, Barbara Brewer, Kim McKee, Anita Clayton, Dironda Cagle, Demetria Bomar, Carole Carman, Maura Vaughn, Lynn Hurley, Diane Ashworth, Gail Nichols, Dell Callihan, Yvonne Arnold, Lucy Ballard, Beth Stong, Beverly Belote, and Ruby Parrish.