"Midnight Train To Georgia" Wouldn't Have Happened Without An Unlikely Muse


"Midnight Train To Georgia" Wouldn't Have Happened Without An Unlikely Muse

In 1973, Gladys Knight & the Pips released "Midnight Train to Georgia" and it instantly became a chart-topping hit that helped the group earn a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus.    

While Knight made the song her own and turned it into one of the most recognizable tunes, its origins are far more interesting than many of us know.

The hit song was written by singer-songwriter Jim Weatherly in 1971 under the title "Midnight Plane To Houston."

Weatherly, who was also a former football quarterback, said he wrote the tune as "kind of a country song."  

"Then we sent the song to a guy named Sonny Limbo in Atlanta and he wanted to cut it with Cissy Houston... he asked if I minded if he changed the title to "Midnight Train to Georgia," Weatherly explained. "And I said, 'I don't mind. Just don't change the rest of the song.'"

The Tennessean

Believe it or not, that's not even the most mind-blowing part of the story of how the song came to be. Weatherly's song was actually inspired by one of his friends and their girlfriend at the time, who happened to be one of Hollywood's most popular leading ladies.

After Weatherly lost hope in making it into the NFL as a quarterback, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in music as a songwriter. He joined a recreational football team and became quick friends with another player on the team, actor Lee Majors.

One night, Weatherly rang up Majors's phone to have a chat, but the actor wasn't around, instead his girlfriend came to the phone. Can you guess who?


It was Farrah Fawcett!

Majors and Fawcett dated for a few years before they tied the knot in 1973. Their relationship did not end happily (they separated in 1979), but it inspired Weatherly's song.

While speaking with the Charlie's Angels star, Weatherly got the inspiration to write "Midnight Plane to Houston," and used Fawcett and Majors "as kind of like characters" for the story.

NY Daily News

In an interview with Gary James, Weatherly explained that Fawcett mentoned she "was taking the midnight plane to Houston" to visit her family. He found the phrase to be catchy, but also couldn't help but wonder why anyone would want to leave Los Angeles on a midnight plane. This is how the line from the song - "superstar, but he didn't get far" came to be.

Quite a story, isn't it?

Blair isn't a bestselling author, but she has a knack for beautiful prose. When she isn't writing for Shared, she enjoys listening to podcasts.