"I thought I was recording it for the movie," Pitney said.
He was justifiably excited about the prospects. With that cast and that director, the film was destined to be a big hit.
During the recording session, a friend of Pitney's left the studio, went outside for a few minutes and saw a marquee on a movie theater. The person came back, Pitney said, and broke the news to him:
"In the middle of the recording session, I found out that the movie had already come out."
To say that made him a little depressed is an understatement.
"Here's a movie with Jimmy Stewart, Lee Marvin and John Wayne -- and the song doesn't get into the movie," he said.
But people continue to think they heard it there. For a long time, Pitney would gently set the questioners straight. By the time he died in 2006, though, he often just smiled and let them believe what they wanted to believe.
He was living up to a line with which every Dorothy M. Johnson fan -- and every fan of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" -- is quite familiar:
When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.