'Pennsylvania 6-5000' by Glen Miller: Song of the Day for April 28
Our Song of the Day has nothing to do with vote totals in Pennsylvania. Nothing to do with the Keystone State. It was the phone number for the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York City.
Glenn Miller recorded our Song of the Day, “Pennsylvania 6-5000” on April 28, 1940. It was released as a 78 rpm single. And became a hit, hovering in the top five on the singles chart. It remains one of Miller’s most popular songs.
Jerry Gray wrote the music. Carl Sigman wrote the lyrics. The song is about a man whose lover stays at the Pennsylvania Hotel. You would never know it listening to Miller’s version. He skips the lyrics, except for “Pennsylvania 6-5000” in some recordings. The Andrew Sisters had a hit using all the lyrics.
The Pennsylvania Hotel was a popular place for big bands to play. The song was used as an advertisement telling where people could call for reservations for the hotel’s Cafe Rouge.
Area codes for phone numbers started in 1947. Before then, the first two numbers were called exchange codes, in this case, PE for Pennsylvania. The numbers translated to 7-3 on the telephone, making the numerical phone number for the hotel 736-5000. The Pennsylvania exchange code was for the area around Penn Station, which included the hotel.
The Pennsylvania Hotel claimed the phone number was the oldest continuing number in New York City. The hotel opened in January 1919. Callers would hear part of the song when they’d get a recording.
The recording ended when the hotel closed in 2021. A year later, the building was demolished to make room for a 56-floor skyscraper.
Song of the Day is created by Sheldon Zoldan, and produced by Pam James for WGCU.