The song ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’ earned Chattanooga a permanent place in pop culture after it won the world’s first gold record. It is now the next stop on the Tennessee Music Pathways. The song hit number one on the charts back when it was first released in 1941.
Monday, December 7, marked the anniversary of ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’ hitting number one and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development held a dedication of the marker in front of the Chattanooga Choo Choo on Market Street.
Mark Ezell, the commissioner of Tourist Development, attended the dedication and said, “This is a historic destination that blends our past and our future.” Mack Gordon was the songwriter, and his granddaughter Millie Dewitz made a trip from Orlando just for the dedication.
Dewitz said, “I’m excited because I love the song like everybody else does, and the fact that my grandfather made it famous means the world to me.”
Glenn Miller and his orchestra were the ones who originally recorded the song in 1941 to be used in the movie ‘Sun Valley Serenade.’ It went on to sell over one million copies and remained a popular hit for decades to come.
The immense popularity of the song is credited with keeping the Chattanooga Choo Choo building around. It was set to be demolished in 1970, following the lead of a few other railway stops in the Chattanooga area. The Chattanooga Choo Choo itself once saw around fifty trains a day when it was first built in 1907.
Adam Kinsey from Choo Choo Partners says the song played a vital role in developers deciding to restore the building instead of destroying it. Choo Choo Partners bought it in 1989 to turn it into what it is today.
They wanted it to be a center for entertainment, as well as dining, housing, and a hotel. At the dedication, Kinsey said, “I don’t think they would have been successful without the ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo’.”
Tennessee Music Pathways, which was launched in 2018, sets out to educate and connect visitors with the musical heritage of Tennessee. There are around 300 sites stretching across the states, and they include dedications for seven different music genres. A year ago The Impressions got a dedication marker. It sits on M.L. King boulevard right along the statewide trail. On Monday, the Chattanooga Choo Choo finally got their own spot on the Tennessee Music Pathways.
This historic moment comes after the surge in Hamilton County Covid-19 cases and has reminded citizens how important the tourism industry is for the city of Chattanooga. Places like the Tivoli Theatre, as well as the Chattanooga Choo Choo building have suffered from the lockdowns and lack of visitors.
Mayor Andy Berke attended the dedication, along with several other city and state officials, and he said, “We’ve seen as the pandemic has hit just how critical tourism is to the city of Chattanooga. It’s so important for us to honor the legacy of the ‘Chattanooga Choo Choo.’”