August 16, 2013


Anatomy of a Song: 'Midnight Train to Georgia' : An oral history of Gladys Knight and the Pips' 1973 hit that began as a country ballad inspired by a phone call with Farrah Fawcett and wound up a Grammy-winner. (MARC MYERS, 8/09/13, WSJ)

Jim Weatherly: In the late '60s I was living in Los Angeles in a one-bedroom apartment--trying to get recording artists to pay attention to my songs. One evening in 1970, I called Lee Majors, an actor friend who had just started dating model Farrah Fawcett. Lee and I had played college football and we were in a flag-football league together. Farrah answered the phone. She said Lee wasn't home and that she was packing to take a midnight plane to Houston to visit her folks. What a great line for a song, I thought.

After I got off the phone, I grabbed my guitar and wrote "Midnight Plane to Houston" in about 45 minutes--the music and lyrics. The line "I'd rather live in her world than live without her in mine" locked the whole song. I also used a descending bass pattern, which was the song's natural movement. Then I filed away the song.

In 1971 I signed with manager-publisher Larry Gordon, who urged me to record an album of my songs--to improve my chances that top artists would record them. I put "Midnight Plane" on there along with "Neither One of Us."

The strategy worked. When the album came out on RCA in 1972, Larry sent Gladys Knight's producer "Neither One of Us," which she loved. We also got a call from producer Sonny Limbo in Atlanta. Cissy Houston wanted to record "Midnight Plane" but felt it needed an R&B title. They wanted to change it to "Midnight Train to Georgia." 

Posted by at August 16, 2013 4:56 AM

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