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Waco: Did David Koresh Really Play Music During the Seige?

Yes, David Koresh's Musical Moment During the Siege on Waco Really Did Happen

Branch Davidian founder David Koresh (L.) during his first visit to Australia to recruit members. He was accompanied by Clive Doyle (R.) on the trip. (Photo by Elizabeth Baranyai/Sygma via Getty Images)

When the FBI stormed David Koresh's compound in Waco, TX, in 1993 looking for firearms, what resulted was a 51-day standoff between the authorities and the religious cult that included a lot of negotiation — and music. In the 2018 show Waco, which is based on the real story of the tragedy in Waco, the FBI and ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) resorted to blasting music and other annoying sounds at the house to try to get David Koresh (pictured here with Waco survivor Clive Doyle) and his followers to surrender. After they cut the power to the house, Koresh started a generator for just enough time to plug in speakers of his own and play music with his band, aimed right back at the FBI. The question is, how much of that is real?

The real Koresh was indeed a musician. And he did meet David Thibodeau because of music, but it was at a Guitar Centre and not a bar during a gig. Koresh did have a band, though, that did play locally, and you can still find his music online.

The FBI also did try to use music and other noise to torment Koresh's group into leaving the house. One of the survivors of the standoff, Clive Doyle, recounted much of the siege in his autobiography. In an excerpt from The New Yorker, Doyle writes that the noise from the FBI was constant and included "rabbits being killed, warped-up music, Nancy Sinatra singing 'These Boots Are Made For Walking, Tibetan monks chanting, Christmas carols, telephones ringing, reveille." In retaliation, Koresh sent his own loud music back, though according to a 1993 EW story, Koresh did this before the house's power was cut — not by using a generator like in the show.

As for Koresh's musical retaliation, there are a few different answers as to what he did. EW's retelling of the siege claims he played tapes of his own songs, but the Los Angeles Times just noted that guitar music blared from inside the compound. However, a transcript from PBS Frontline that included a retelling of the events says that Koresh actually did get out his guitar and play his music. RJ Craig, who was part of the FBI Hostage Team, says in this retelling of the 1993 siege: "He had his little band in there and, all of a sudden, he starts playing and we were 200-plus yards away and we had to yell at each other to hear. It was . . . and it went on for several hours, this concert, rock concert. Just showing us that his speakers were more powerful than ours."

In the end, though, Koresh's music and pleading for peace were no match for the authorities, who flooded Mount Carmel with tear gas after 51 days of negotiations, which set the whole place on fire, killing dozens of Koresh's followers and Koresh himself.

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