Chattanooga Choo Choo

Album: In the Mood (1941)
Charted: 1
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  • This song was written for Sun Valley Serenade, a 1941 movie starring Sonja Henie, Milton Burle, and Joan Davis. It became the #1 song across the US in December of that year, and remained there for nine weeks, due in large part to the performance in the movie. The 78 rpm recording sold 1.2 million copies.
  • The Glenn Miller Orchestra stars in Sun Valley Serenade and performs the song in the film. In the 8-minute scene, Miller's band does the song with their vocalists Tex Beneke and Paula Kelly, and then the starlet Dorothy Dandridge sings it, doing a dance routine with the tap-dancing brothers Harold and Fayard Nicholas.

    The band recorded the song at Victor studios in Hollywood on May 7, 1941, shortly after completing work on the film.
  • The original Chattanooga Choo Choo train that inspired this song was a wood-burning steam locomotive owned by the Cincinnati Southern Railway that traveled from Cincinnati to Chattanooga - it was a newspaper reporter who dubbed it the "Chattanooga Choo Choo."

    The song was written by the composers Mack Gordon (lyrics) and Harry Warren (music) while they were aboard a different train: Southern Railway's Birmingham Special ("Birmingham Choo Choo" doesn't make for a great lyric). The actual Cincinnati Southern Railway train that gave this song its name became a museum artifact.
  • The lyric for this song tells the story of a man traveling south on a coal-burning train from Pennsylvania Station in New York (there are various Pennsylvania Stations in the United States, but in Sun Valley Serenade, it's the one in New York), through Baltimore and arriving in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he will meet up with his girl. It's a jubilant song with every aspect of the train ride a delight - even the whistle sounds like a song.
  • Many American men were serving in the military when this song was recorded, as World War II was raging in Europe (America didn't enter until the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941). Glenn Miller asked his orchestra to think about a returning soldier with that feeling of excitement as he gets a shoe shine, boards the train and watches the scenery go by, knowing he's headed for home.
  • The train station in Chattanooga was called Terminal Station. It opened in 1908 and was a major transportation hub in the '30s and '40s. It closed in 1970, and was later repurposed as the "Chattanooga Choo Choo vacation and entertainment complex," with a high-end hotel, a restaurant, convention center and apartment complex. It also encompasses the "Glenn Miller Gardens," which is a monument of sorts to Miller and this song.
  • The first ever "gold record" was awarded to Miller for this song. His record company, RCA Victor, presented it to Glenn on his Chesterfield radio program (CBS), on February 10, 1942 in celebration of sales of over one million records. At this point, a gold record was simply a promotional tool for record companies to honor their artists; it wasn't until 1958 that the RIAA began issuing gold records based on certified sales figures.
  • Glenn Miller's version of this song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1996.
  • Two German songs about trains were adapted from this song, and both share the same opening line of "Pardon me."
  • TV's I Dream of Jeannie star Barbara Eden starred in a 1984 movie with the same name of this song.
  • Operation Chattanooga Choo-Choo was a 1944 mission in which British and American aircraft systematically bombed German railroads.

Comments: 7

  • Glenn Miller from Not Woke...awake!Hey Kevin Brown!
  • Kevin Brown from Seattle, WashingtonWhy is a song with a racist second verse so celebrated?
  • Joyce from ManassasHow many movies had the song Chattanooga Choo Choo sung in them?
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 6th 1968, Harpers Bizarre performed "Chattanooga Choo Choo" on the premiere episode of the ABC-TV program 'Happening '68'...
    The week before it was at #76 on the Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart and that was also its last week on the chart; it had entered the Top 100 on November 12th, 1967 at position #98, and on Dec. 10th, 1967 it peaked at #45 {for 2 weeks} and spent 7 weeks on the Top 100...
    {See other posts below}.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn June 24th 1978, Tuxedo Junction performed "Chattanooga Choo Choo" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    Two months earlier on April 16th, 1978 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #93; and on June 25th, 1978 it peaked at #32 (for 2 weeks) and spent 17 weeks on the Top 100...
    It reached #18 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn February 10th 1954, the movie "The Glenn Miller Story" starring James Stewart and June Allyson had its U.S.A. premier in New York City...
    "Chattanooga Choo Choo" was one of Glenn Miller's songs that was featured in the movie...
    The film received three Academy Award nominations; 'Best Screenplay', 'Best Musical Score, and won for 'Best Sound Recording'...
    On March 7th, 1954 the movie's soundtrack album peaked at #1 (for 10 weeks) on Billboard's Top Albums chart; the album that knocked it out of the top spot was 'Glenn Miller Plays Selections from The Glenn Miller Story' by Glenn Miller (it was #1 for 3 weeks).
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 14th 1962, "Chattanooga Choo Choo" by Floyd Cramer entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; and on ?? it peaked at #36 (for weeks) and spent 8 weeks on the Top 100...
    three other covered version have charted on the Top 100; Ernie Fields (#54 in 1960), Harpers Bizarre (#45 in 1967), and Tuxedo Junction (#32 in 1978)...
    And on December 31st, 1967 the Harper Bizarre's version peaked at #1 (for 2 weeks) on Billboard's Adult Contemporary Tracks chart...
    The B-side of Mr. Floyd's version, "Let's Go", also charted, it reached #90 on the Top 100...
    R.I.P. Mr. Cramer (1933 - 1997) and Mr. Fields (1904 - 1997).
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