The post “A Benny Goodman Score” on June 3, 2017 brought back some fond memories for our volunteer contributor Jack Hilliard. As we prepare for tomorrow’s annual Carolina–Duke game, Jack shares a childhood memory of a Benny Goodman mystery that began sixty-eight football seasons ago . . . and that led to a couple other Morton mysteries . . .
In late spring of 1949, I remember reading in one of the Greensboro newspapers that Chapel Hill publisher Orville Campbell and UNC music student Hank Bebee had written and recorded a song called “All the Way Choo Choo,” a song about my boyhood football hero Charlie Justice. The recording featured a UNC student group, the Sigma Chi Sextet. Campbell also published the sheet music through his publishing company, Colonial Press.
Over the next five months, Campbell and Bebee campaigned the major record labels trying to get the song recorded for greater distribution. In the September 17, 1949 issue of the Greensboro Daily News, Sports Editor Smith Barrier called it “the football song of the season.” Ed Danforth of the Atlanta Journal and Shirley Povich of the Washington Post, during trips to Chapel Hill also commented. Said Danforth: “Greatest college football song since ‘The Ramblin’ Wreck of Georgia Tech,’” and Povich added, “It can’t miss. It’ll go all the way.” Povich added the story in his “Post” column on Sunday, September 18, 1949.
In Greensboro, leading up to WFMY-TV’s official sign-on as North Carolina’s second TV station, which was September 22, 1949, the station presented a special one-hour variety show and the Sigma Chi Sextet group from UNC sang “All the Way Choo Choo.”
UNC student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel, in its September 22nd edition had this:
Heard the fast-circulating Orville Campbell-Hank Beebe hit “All the Way Choo Choo”? Benny Goodman is definitely scheduled to do a recording of it that should be on sale nationally in approximately two weeks.
Those attending the UNC vs. NC State game in Kenan Stadium on September 24th, 1949 heard the song over the public address system and could also read in their Daily Tar Heel that morning about the Campbell-Goodman progress for the recording:
Orville Campbell, Carrboro publisher turned song-writer received a bit of news a few days back that has made him all smiles. A note penned from an executive of Capitol Records informed the likeable Colonial Press head that Benny Goodman and his orchestra has signed to record “All the Way Choo Choo.” Veteran musicians rate the Campbell-Hank Beebe ditty as a good bet to catch on all over the nation, and the Goodman waxing will make the Carolina Choo Choo one of the first if not the only grid star to be honored in such a manner.”
The next day, the “DTH” added this:
Alumnus Orville Campbell, still a wheel about campus, has been conducting his own promotion campaign, and apparently is enjoying great success in his efforts to make the song “All the Way Choo Choo” popular. Campbell has succeeded to the extent that Benny Goodman has made a recording of it. Also a local version was in evidence at a number of beach juke boxes this summer. The ditty, with music by the talented Hank Beebe, was sung two or three times at this weekend’s pep rally. The song is good, and the more one hears it, the better he likes it.
When the magazine Life ran a cover-story about Justice in the October 3, 1949 issue, the editors included a picture of Orville Campbell’s “All the Way Choo Choo” sheet music. Life captioned the picture “Lyrical Choo Choo.”
Two days later, there was in the October 5, 1949 issue of The Sporting News another article about the song by Smith Barrier with the headline. “All the Way Choo Choo Inspires King of Swing.” Barrier added: “When Benny Goodman, the orchestra leader, heard ‘All the Way Choo Choo,’ he hurried to New York to make a recording.”
Goodman had performed in concert at the ORD Arena (Overseas Replacement Depot, from Basic Training Camp 10 during World War II) in Greensboro on September 16th, 1949 and Orville Campbell was in the audience. Following the show, Campbell played the song for Goodman . . . and Benny liked it.
I haven’t found any evidence that Hugh Morton was at that 1949 Greensboro concert but when Goodman came to Raleigh four years earlier in 1945, Morton was there.
Morton was also on hand when Goodman played in Wilmington on February 23, 1983, and when Benny came back to Greensboro in early May, 1979 to play a concert with the Greensboro Symphony, Hugh Morton was on hand to photograph Goodman back stage and during his performance on May 3, 1979. That Greensboro Concert was recorded by CBS-TV for a special telecast on May 30, 1979 to pay tribute to Goodman on his 70th birthday.
Following Goodman’s 1949 Greensboro performance and the Daily Tar Heel reports, we waited for the news when the Benny Goodman Capitol recording of “All the Way Choo Choo” would be released. The week before the Carolina–Duke game on November 19th came the news that the recording would go on sale on November 23rd . . . but the recording released was a 10-inch King record (15030) by band leader Johnny Long—a Duke alumnus of all things. What happened to the Benny Goodman recording? Don Maynard’s Daily Tar Heel story about the release on November 23rd, said: “The recording would be available at Ab’s Bookstore and the Carolina Sports Shop. Maynard added, “Benny Goodman made the first recording of the tune on a Capitol recording, but to date the number has not been released by the Capitol Recording Company.”
The Maynard article was supported by a photograph of Johnny Long presenting Justice with the first copy of the recording. The picture was taken by student photographer Jim Mills, a Hugh Morton contemporary, and was included with the record purchase. Long had paid a visit to Chapel Hill on November 13, 1949 and made the presentation.
Johnny Long was from Newell, North Carolina and attended Duke from 1931 until 1935. He had played a concert on the Duke campus the weekend of October 28-29, 1949. That’s likely when Campbell played the song for him.
As time went by, we loved and listened to the Johnny Long version, which featured vocals by Janet Brace, the Johnny Long Glee Club and the Longshots. Several of the verses of the song depict actual Justice moments on the gridiron. On the reverse side is an instrumental medley of the “Carolina Victory March,” “Here Comes Carolina,” “Tar Heels on Hand,” and “Hark the Sound.” The Johnny Long record was produced by Johnny Murphy a UNC alumnus from Charlotte and New York City.
On November 26, 1949 when Charlie Justice played his final UNC regular season game against Virginia in Kenan Stadium, the game day program book carried two ads for the Johnny Long version of the song. On page 62 it was described as “the perfect Christmas gift,” and was supported by the Jim Mills photograph. Then on page 71 the record was offered at the Varsity shop. The record sold for one dollar and the sheet music for fifty- cents. According to Orville Campbell, “Justice modestly feels that it is a joke that anyone would want to write a song about him, but at the same time feels honored.”
As years passed, the mystery Goodman version of the song continued to pop up. Bob Quincy and Julian Scheer, in their 1958 Justice biography Choo Choo: The Charlie Justice Story on page 122 put it this way: “Benny Goodman, the famed jazz clarinetist and Johnny Long, a Duke grad who plays a violin from the port side, were among the top recording artists who found ‘All the Way . . .’ worth their time.”
On December 15, 1978, Campbell released a very limited edition album titled, “Thanks for the Memories.” (811054-A 2890) The one-sided album, which has two different front cover designs, contained six of Campbell’s hits, including “All the Way Choo Choo”—both the Sigma Chi and the Johnny Long versions.
The Benny Goodman record mystery lingered. Then in 1979, I read in the Nostalgia Book Club newsletter that a revised edition of a book titled “BG—On the Record: A Bio-Discography of Benny Goodman” by Russell Conner and Warren Hicks had been released. When I got my copy I went through it page by page—all 708 of them—and there was no mention of “All the Way Choo Choo.”
On July 28, 1979, I wrote Conner a letter and asked about the song. His reply on September 4th said, “I have no knowledge of Benny’s playing that tune. But there is a further reference that will become available. The great bulk of the arrangements Benny has used through the years, stored for long time in a warehouse on Broadway, is now being cataloged. . . If the tune was played by the ‘big band,’ the title should crop up.”
Connor was right: when the cataloging had been completed, there it was, listed between “All the Things You Are” and “All Through the Night.”
- File 01/21 “All the Way Choo Choo” 1949
- O’Farrill, Chico
- No: A203
- Score: Yes
- Parts: none
- Key: A flat
We now know that Goodman performed the tune live in concert. But was a Goodman recording ever released for sale? Some of Goodman’s live concerts were recorded onto electronic transcription discs (ETs) and distributed to radio stations for broadcasts, but I have not been able to determine if “All the Way” was ever distributed in this manner. And of course, there is always that possibility that some black-market recording was made in a venue where Goodman was performing live. There is an interesting observation on the web site “Football Profiles.” In Charlie’s profile, there is this quote:
The hype reached a crescendo for Charlie’s senior season. Orville Campbell, a Chapel Hill music publisher, and Hank Beebe, a graduate student in music, produced a song about Charlie, “All the Way Choo Choo.” The Johnny Long Orchestra recorded it, and the Benny Goodman Orchestra played it on the radio.
Not quite sure how Benny “played it on the radio.” Was it a live broadcast or one of those radio ETs?
The Goodman recording mystery was finally solved in 1995 when Charlie Justice biographer Bob Terrell interviewed Charlie for the book, “All Aboard.” Justice said that Goodman recorded “All the Way Choo Choo,” before Johnny Long did, but the management team at Capitol records thought the tune was too localized for national distribution, so they never released it. (What about that “executive” who sent Orville Campbell that note the “DTH” reported in their story on September 24th, 1949?)
According to Orville Campbell, the tune sold over 32,000 copies.
In 2013 as part of its Carolina First campaign, the UNC Office of University Development issued a compact disc titled “Echoes of Carolina,” and on the disc is the Johnny Long version of “All the Way Choo Choo.”
There are still mentions of the Goodman recording from time to time. An example: The New York Times in its Justice obituary on October 20, 2003 has this line: “Benny Goodman paid tribute in his recording of ‘All the Way Choo Choo.'”
I mentioned that Orville Campbell published the sheet music in 1949. One of the two editions has a Hugh Morton image on the front cover. Recently I found a third version of the sheet music which has a Regent Music Corporation copyright. A quick check of Regent finds that the company was founded in the late 1930s or 1940 at the Brill Building in New York City. Regent founders were Gene Goodman and Harry Goodman—brothers of Benny Goodman. Small world.
Three years before Campbell and Bebee and Long and Goodman started their “All the Way” journey, a writer at The Daily Tar Heel published a Charlie Justice song called “Tiny’s Choo Choo Song.” It was written by Tiny Hutton and published in the November 23, 1946 issue, just hours before Carolina met Duke for the 33rd time. Ironically, the lyrics of Tiny’s tune are set to the music of the 1941 classic “Chattanooga Choo Choo” made famous by Glenn Miller, a contemporary of Benny Goodman. Indeed, a small world.
Over the years, the song title “All the Way Choo Choo” has been used to title other things like two television documentaries, one in 1973 and one in 1984. The ’84 program, produced by David Soloman Productions in Winston-Salem, featured an “All the Way Choo Choo” T-shirt to promote the program.
On March 30, 2006, as part of UNC General Alumni Association’s “College of Lifelong Learning,” the late Dr. Ron Hyatt presented a program titled “All the Way Choo Choo” that featured an extensive Charlie Justice memorabilia display and a panel discussion that included Justice teammates, Walt Pupa, Joe Neikirk, and Bob Cox.
The game program for the 1953 Dixie Classic basketball tournament, which was played in Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh, carried a full page back cover ad for the Washington Redskins vs. Green Bay Packers preseason game to be played in Raleigh’s Riddick Stadium on September 11, 1954 with the heading “All the Way Choo Choo.”
Five days after Charlie Justice led his Tar Heels into the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, The Daily Tar Heel published a full page Charlie Justice profile with seven pictures under the headline “All The Way Choo Choo: Charlie Justice Makes Last Run.” That January 7, 1950 issue hit the streets just hours before he led the South to victory in the first annual Senior Bowl game, played that year in Jacksonville, Florida.
On October 2, 1949, Rev Dr. Samuel Tilden Habel, Jr. at the Baptist Church of Chapel Hill (Columbia & Franklin) delivered a sermon titled “All the Way Choo Choo.” The headline in the Greensboro Daily News on October 4, 1949: ‘All the Way Choo Choo’ Becomes Sermon Topic. There is a related picture in the 1958 Justice biography by Bob Quincy and Julian Scheer on page 122.
According to author Jackie Helvey at the web site Carrboro.com there was a board game by the same name.
On page 16 of that UNC vs. Virginia game program from 1949, is an advertisement for the Wm. Muirhead Construction Co. in Durham. The ad shows a train approaching a bridge “on Southern Railway and Highway No. 87 & 100 at Glen Raven, NC.” The bridge has a number 22 at the top with the words “All the Way Choo Choo!”