Fact Check

Did Military Band Play 'Hit the Road Jack' Outside the White House?

Many on social media cheered what appeared to be an epic troll of then-U.S. President Donald Trump.

Published Jan 20, 2021

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 20: Marine One carrying President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump as they departed from the White House flies over the U.S. Capitol ahead of the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Stephanie Keith/Getty Images) (Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)
Image Via Stephanie Keith/Getty Images
Before U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s Jan. 20, 2021, inauguration, the Army band practiced “Hit the Road Jack” outside of the White House, where then-President Donald Trump was still in residence.

Leading up to the inauguration of then-U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Jan. 20, 2021, a widely circulated video appeared to show the U.S. Army Band had practiced “Hit the Road Jack” outside of the White House, where then-President Donald Trump was still in residence. 

The video was shared on Twitter on Jan. 18, 2021, by a user who goes by the name Cathay Dawkins, and it was also shared the following day on TikTok. In both videos, the original poster claimed they were standing outside the White House when the military band was practicing “Hit the Road Jack” just two days before Biden was set to be sworn in as president in the U.S. Capital.

In the days following the original posting, the video circulated across social media platforms, including as a YouTube video that was shared by user Jeremy Hocket and had been viewed more than 60,000 times as of this writing.

Snopes contacted the U.S. Army Military District of Washington to determine whether the band was in fact playing the classic song recorded by Ray Charles. In an emailed statement, Media Relations Division Chief Shaunteh Kelly confirmed that the video had been doctored: “The Military support to presidential inaugurations provides the Department of Defense with an opportunity to demonstrate the professionalism of the Armed Forces,” wrote Kelly. “The Army Band was rehearsing the ‘National Emblem’ as a part of the military’s precision, teamwork, and dedication to ceremonial excellence. The video was edited. Someone superimposed another band playing ‘Hit the Road Jack.’”

Further analysis by the Snopes team confirmed that the original, undoctored video was posted to Twitter on Jan. 18 by CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta. The original video contained a wider shot of the marching band members, and ambient noise could be heard in the background.

It appeared that the video had been overlaid with an audio recording of a different marching band. As was first reported by the fact-checking site Lead Stories, an analysis through the music identifying app Shazam showed that the music added to the clip came from a recording of the Ohio State University Marching Band performing the song conducted by Jon Woods. This was confirmed by a secondary listen to the audio recording using Siri.

The video was copyrighted and released in 2012 and was posted to YouTube in February 2015. The audio from the fake video can be heard at the 1 minute 18 second mark in the video below:

Follow-up posts by social media users who shared the doctored video further confirmed that it was fake. In a second video, Hocket shared the same footage as the YouTube video above and with the caption, “What they were really playing ;)”.

Whether the video in question was meant to be a joke or to incite further heated discourse between political factions, it is obvious that the video of the marching band was authentic but the audio was fabricated — not to mention copyrighted.

Madison Dapcevich is a freelance contributor for Snopes.