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'I've Been Everywhere' Turns 2 Hours Into 50 Years Of Pay

Sep 30, 2012 (Weekend Edition Sunday)

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Geoff Mack, who wrote "I've Been Everywhere," and his wife, Tabby Garmisch, take to the road.

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The song "I've Been Everywhere" was a hit for a string of country stars: Hank Snow in 1962, later Lynn Anderson, then Asleep at the Wheel and Johnny Cash. An all-American classic, right? Think again.

It was actually an Australian who, 50 years ago, wrote the song while trying to come up with a new opener for his act.

"At that time, 1959 it was, there were a lot of tasteless rock numbers on the radio, and I thought, aw crikey, I should write one," Geoff Mack says.

He was in a van, looking at the road maps, and noticed that a lot of the towns' names rhymed. A song was born.

"So I came back to Sydney, and I did it around the club for a while, and that's all it was,' he says. "I never thought anybody would be the least bit interested in it."

Then one night, he heard Leslie "Lucky Star" Morrison singing his song on the radio.

"I couldn't believe it. And it was No. 1 on the Top 40 for 15 weeks," he says.

Festival Records asked him to write other versions, with town names in America, New Zealand and England.

"The English one was easy because I could almost do that without an atlas. The American one, I needed an atlas and a magnifying glass," he says. "Two hours work, and I'm still living on it 50 years later. How lucky can you get?"

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