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'Secret Weapon' Hits High Notes for Duke

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DURHAM — There is a member of the Duke Blue Devils who commands a standing ovation each time she takes center court at home games. She is not a cheerleader, but perhaps, a lucky charm.

"I'm usually nervous," says singer Francis Redding. "Sometimes between the drum roll and when I start singing one of the students will yell, 'We love you, Frances."

Redding first sang the national anthem in Cameron Indoor Stadium more than 30 years ago when the athletic director came calling.

"Carl James said, 'I'm going to use you as my secret weapon," and Duke did, in fact, upset Carolina."

Redding is now a permanent fixture. She says it is a lot of responsibility.

"It's just like playing a new basketball game. Every time you go out it is a first because you could mess up," she says.

On game day, Redding arrives an hour early to get ready for the anthem, and the Cameron Crazies who only sing one note under her direction.

"I kind of point to them and say 'This is your note, this is you.' And I'll take it from there," she says.

Over the years, Redding has performed before famous players and famous fans.

"I stopped and shook hands with Bill Cosby," she says. "He said 'That's the way the national anthem is supposed to be sung.' I said 'Yes! Thank you so much.'"

The anthem is tough to sing unless you are Frances Redding, and the Duke fans know it.