We hear a lot these days about a record "going gold." This song was the first to receive such a soubriquet. It was recorded in 1941 by the legendary big band leader Glenn Miller. It topped the hit parades and stayed there for nine weeks; that's some record! The original 78 rpm sold 1.2 million copies. This 1941 recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1996.
It's all about a steam locomotive, "choo choo" meaning locomotive, so it's appropriate that the song writers created the song while traveling on a train, albeit not the one in the song. It first appeared in the 1941 movie Sun Valley Serenade and, as a finale to the film, was given a full production routine with vocalists, dancers and acrobats. Fifty years after it was shot, a recording of the soundtrack of the movie was discovered and so now the movie can be seen with a true stereo sound.
In 1984 a movie about and called Chattanooga Choo Choo was released starring Barbara Eden (T.V.'s "I Dream of Jeannie") and George Kennedy.
As the title suggests, the song is about trains and Chattanooga. The town in Tennessee has made every post a winner because of this song. One of the largest railway museums in the US is in Chattanooga. It is also a center for railroad buffs who enjoy model trains. A former station has been converted into a permanent storage for old locomotives and rolling stock, and as a novelty, you can even stay in converted rail cars in a hotel.
To mention the word "museum" in Chattanooga can be a little misleading, simply because railroading is but one aspect of their multitude of attractions.
There's the African/American Museum, which is a highly respected educational institution drawing visitors from around the world.
There's the Dragon Dreams Museum with thousands of dragons on display. The Creative Discovery Museum inspires children and adults to learn, through hands-on displays and interactive games.
The Houston Museum of Decorative Arts has one of the world's finest displays of ceramics and glass, and the Hunter Museum of American Art is renowned for its unusual exhibitions.
You can see why you can easily spend several days in Chattanooga, and so far we haven't even left the city to explore the beautiful surrounding countryside.
Did you know the tow-truck was invented in Chattanooga? Well the International Towing and Recovery Museum is right here in town and offers a fabulous history of these vehicles.
Are you all museumed-out yet? I hope not, because we are only just warming up. There's the Lynn H. Wood Archaeological Museum and the McMinn Living Heritage Museum, offering insights into the past and current day.
The Messianic Museum is free and offers a history of the Jewish people from ancient times to the creation of the state of Israel.
The National Medal of Honor Museum has a wonderful history of military awards.
Of course, there is more to Chattanooga than museums and you could spend some relaxing hours on a river tour or a trip to the nearby hills where, apart from the wonderful rural scenery, you can enjoy spectacular views of the city below.
And it's all thanks to a small, wood-burning steam locomotive and couple of songwriters.
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.
Album : In the Mood Released : 1941 US chart position : 1