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Farrah Fawcett and Lee Majors Inspired the Hit Song “Midnight Train to Georgia”

Photo Credit: Images / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Images / Getty Images

There is a little-known story about the origin and inspiration for the iconic R&B classic song, “Midnight Train to Georgia.” While Gladys Knight & the Pips would make it famous, it was actually Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett who inspired the song. In an interview, Majors explained the story of how the couple inspired Jim Weatherly to write the song following a phone call.

Inspiration came through a phone call

Farrah Fawcett and Lee Majors.
American actors Farrah Fawcett and Lee Majors pose together as they attend a party for ABC-TV screen celebrities, June 1971. (Photo Credit: Pictorial Parade / Getty Images)

Majors recalled how he first became friends with Weatherly by playing football together. “I had a friend that I’d play flag football with on the weekends, back when I was trying to get in the business,” he explained. Prior to becoming a prolific songwriter, Weatherly was an all-star University of Mississippi quarterback, and the two became good pals.

Their friendship would lead him to write one of the greatest songs in music history. “One day he called the house,” Majors said. “I don’t know whether I [or Farrah] answered, but I think I said, ‘She’s taking the midnight flight to Houston,’ and that was a true statement.” While they may have thought nothing of it, Weatherly certainly felt inspired.

Just a few weeks after the phone call, Weatherly visited their house in Los Angeles and shared with the couple his new tune. “He had his guitar with him and he played that song — he called it ‘Midnight Plane to Houston,’ and it’s on an album that he put out [in 1973].”

Some things got tweaked

Portrait of Gladys Knight & the Pips.
Gladys Knight, Edward Patten, William Guest, Merald Bubba Knight of Gladys Knight & The Pips in New York, 1946. (Photo Credit: James Kriegsmann / Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

Obviously, the song’s title was tweaked slightly. When Weatherly was pitching the song to different bands, it was altered in order to better suit the singer he was presenting it for. When he pitched it to Gladys Knight of Gladys Knight & the Pips, she ended up requesting that not only the title be changed, but also the lyrics. “It came down to, ‘Well, Jimmy, we don’t really go to Houston and we really don’t like to fly!’ So they changed it: ‘Midnight Train to Georgia.'”

History shows that the song went on to become a major hit. It peaked at No. 1 on the US Pop and R&B charts and won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group, or Chorus. It is unsurprising that the song became one of the band’s top hits, and it was even inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

Weatherly said the phrase really zinged

Jim Weatherly with his arms crossed.
Jim Weatherly posing on March 7, 2019, in Cleveland, Mississippi. (Photo Credit: Ava Gandy / WireImage / Getty Images)

During an interview with Weatherly back in 2010, he remembered the phone call a little differently than Majors. He said that it was actually Fawcett who had answered the phone. “She made this statement that she was packing her clothes, getting ready to take the midnight plane to Houston to visit her folks,” he explained. She wasn’t aware, but the phrase stuck out in Weatherly’s mind as a “little zinger.”

“It was really a relatively easy song to write, because I actually used Lee and Farrah as a mental movie in my mind about a girl who comes to L.A. to make it, and she struggles and then goes back, and the guy she falls in love with goes back with her,” Weatherly explained. “Of course, that wasn’t their story, but it made an interesting little song.”

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Weatherly passed in 2021 at the age of 77, while Fawcett passed away in 2009 at the age of 62.

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!