In our MKE Music Rewind series, we revisit notable Milwaukee music that was released before Milwaukee Record became a thing in April 2014.
It was 1977 and the Milwaukee Bucks weren’t in a great place. Following tremendous seasons in five of the expansion franchise’s first six years of existence, the organization that made two NBA Finals appearances in a four-year span (and won a title in the process) had quickly fallen on hard times.
A year after Oscar Robertson retired, Milwaukee traded Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the end of a losing 1974-75 campaign. Another sub-.500 season followed in 1975-76, which preceded an absolutely dreadful 1976-77 season in which Larry Costello was fired after just 18 games and the Bucks finished with a Conference-worst 30-52 record. In the midst of that three-season skid, it had become abundantly clear that this once-mighty basketball organization needed to make some changes. They needed to shake things up. They needed…a song.
After the 1976-77 season, the Milwaukee Bucks commissioned a song that would serve as the team’s anthem for the upcoming season. They called upon producers Kevin Gavin and Otis Conner Jr. to craft a composition that would shine a light on the rebuilding franchise’s inexperienced (green) but promising (growing) collection of young talent and a first-time head coach named Don Nelson, who relieved Costello partway through the previous season.
Needing only 12 words and the infectiously funky sound of The Green Music Machine (a band that, based on there being no other material we were able to find, was almost assuredly put together just to record this song) to get the point across, “Green And Growing (The Bucks Don’t Stop Here)” was released on vinyl 45s before the 1977 season and quickly caught on as a local favorite. As Eric Nehm noted in his book 100 Things Bucks Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die, the “peppy and quite catchy” song was used to open Bucks broadcasts for many years.
With lyrics limited to “The Bucks Don’t Stop Here! / Milwaukee Bucks! / Green And Growing! / Better Each Year!” repeated a few times over the course of a scant 2:15 span, the song wasn’t just a fun track any fan could get behind…it was also accurate. With a young nucleus consisting of rookie Marques Johnson, rising star Junior Bridgeman, All-Star Brian Winters, and future Hall Of Famer Alex English, the Nelson-led Bucks would win 14 more games in 1977-78 than they had the previous season en route to an appearance in the Western Conference Finals.
In the years that followed, Milwaukee would post a winning record in 12 of its next 13 seasons—a heyday that would span from 1979 until the summer of 1991. By that point, the franchise that made the playoffs every year of the 1980s was no longer green and had indisputably grown a considerable amount since that team fight song was released in 1977. Sadly, it couldn’t last forever.
The “Green And Growing” years were followed by what could be considered the “Purple And Punished” seasons of the early- and mid-’90s, which featured a seven-year postseason drought. The ship righted for a few years flanking the turn of the century (including the unforgettable 2000-01 team), but was followed by some historically bad basketball teams, an inability to bring fans to the now-ancient Bradley Center, struggles to sign quality free agents, and trouble retaining talent for the long time.
The worst of it came in 2013-14, when Milwaukee had a 15-67 record that was both the worst record in the NBA that season and the worst mark of any Bucks team ever. A scrawny rookie named Giannis Antetokounmpo spent most of that season on the bench, a newly-acquired youngster named Khris Middleton was vying for playing time, and coach Larry Drew was about to be fired.
Just like in early 1977, the Bucks were in a bad spot, but better times were ahead. They just needed some help from a lottery pick. They needed a new coach. They needed some time to develop their eventual franchise cornerstones. And yes, they needed a new version of their beloved song. In accordance with the start of the 2014-15 season, Milwaukee-born DJ KidCutUp answered the call with a great remix of “Green And Growing” that perfectly coincided with the team’s return to relevance.
There have been a few other Bucks songs and a handful of different messages with lyrics about that team’s destiny through the years, but as the 2020-21 Milwaukee team gears up for its fifth consecutive postseason and (hopefully) a long-awaited trip to the Finals this summer, we’re hoping “The Bucks Don’t Stop Here” and that they’re “Better Each Year!”