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The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia by Vicki Lawrence

Album: The Night The Lights Went Out In GeorgiaReleased: 1973Charted:
1
  • This song tells the tale of a man who finds out from his friend Andy that his wife had cheated on him with both Andy and a guy named Seth. This being Georgia, he gets a gun and sets out to kill Andy, but when he gets there Andy is already dead. The police show up, arrest him for killing Andy and he is hanged. The singer then reveals that she is the man's sister and that she shot Andy and also killed her brother's wife.
  • This was the only hit for Lawrence. She was an actress on The Carol Burnett Show and starred in Mama's Family. She briefly had her own talk show, called Vicki!
  • This was written by Bobby Russell, who was Lawrence's husband at the time. They divorced soon after this was released. Russell also wrote "Honey," which was a hit in 1968 for Bobby Goldsboro. He died of a heart attack in 1992.
  • Russell didn't think much of this song when he wrote it, and couldn't find anyone to record it. Lawrence liked it and recorded a demo of it. Producer Snuff Garrett decided she should do the song and recorded it with her.
  • This was offered to Cher, but Sonny Bono turned it down on her behalf. Cher didn't know until years later that she was offered the song.
  • The song was the basis for a movie of the same name in 1981 starring Kristy McNichol.
  • Reba McEntire recorded a version in 1991 that was a Country hit. In her version of the song, she uses the word "Daddy" instead of "Papa," (thanks, Barbara - Caryville, TN)
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Comments: 39

On May 5th 1973, Vicki Lawrence performed "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
Three months earlier on February 4th, 1973 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #100; and on April 1st it peaked at #1 (for 2 weeks) and spent 20 weeks on the Top 100...
It reached #1 (for 1 week) on the Canadian RPM Magazine Top Singles chart...
The song prevented "Neither One of Us (Wants To Be the First To Say Goodbye) by Gladys Knight and the Pips from reaching #1, it stayed at #2 the two weeks Ms. Lawrence was at #1 on the Top 100...
Vicki Lawrence had two other records make the Top 100; "He Did With Me" (#75 in 1973) and "The Other Woman" (#81 in 1975)...
Ms. Lawrence, born Victoria Ann Axelrad, celebrated her 65th birthday two months ago on March 26th, 1949.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
In movies and such, the south has always been depicted as being a law unto themselves and being very corrupt where sudden lynchings occurred without a blink of an eye. And this is where and when this story takes place during those tumultous times of the dirty south.

Brother just got into town from being away. He stops at a bar for a drink before going home to his wife. He runs into his friend Andy and they probably have a drink together. Andy is more than likely slightly inebriated since he was already there having had a few drinks. He tells Brother that Brother's wife has been cheating on him with that Seth Amos boy. His loose tongue also tells Brother that he's fooled around with her himself just to prove that he knows what he's talking about. I think what prompted him to tell Brother about the wife is because he's probably feeling jealous that the wife cheated on him too with Seth Amos. She's apparenly playing alot of men in the town.

Andy then gets nervous because he's realized he's opened his big mouth. Of course, Brother 'sees red' what man wouldn't?? Andy walks back home since he lives close by, Suspecting his cheating wife has left town, Brother goes home too and in his anger sees the gun which is his only inheritance from his papa, takes it and goes to Andy's house to exact vengeance. But Sister has already been there, hence, the 'small tracks' which is a clue as to who the real killer is.

Brother sees Andy dead in a puddle of blood, Brother freaks out and without thinking flags the local sherriff (who is making his rounds) by firing his gun which of course is the 'smoking gun' as evidence that he just killed Andy. A dead body, Brother with the smoking gun, with motive, and of course a quick impromptu mock trial is made with the town Judge. Incidentally, all the officials in this town are crooked cronies, much like our government. Anyway, a swift verdict is made along with a swift execution. There's no time to waste 'cause the Judge has dinner waiting. This portrays the cavalier and corrupt attitude of these men in power, hence, the 'bloodstains on his hand'. His part in taking the life of an innocent man.

Sister is too late in admitting that she was the culprit in this crime therefore unable to save her brother. Actually, it's a double homicide because she admits in the song that she also killed Brother's cheating wife. I always assumed that maybe Andy was 'her man' or maybe even Seth Amos because this is a crime of passion. Sure, she would have been upset by her sis-in-law cheating on her brother but to go so far as to kill her and Andy? No, she was a woman scorned!

As for the song title, it could be literal in meaning that all this took place when there was an actual blackout or it could be figurative in that this was a vile act of injustice.
Ann - Honolulu, Hi
Couple things... 1) If you go over to someones house to kill them and find out they have already been shot, do not take the murder weapon and fire it to "flag down" the Georgia police. Not a good idea. First of all the man is already dead, having the police arrive quickly will not help. Secondly, everyone in town knew Andy had been with your wife. Can you see how the police might jump to conclusions? Instead go home and let someone else discover what happened. Even calling the police in that situation is better left to someone else which 2) brings up the whole footprint situation. If you can see someone's footprints in the snow did you ever they can see yours?Steven - La, Ca
But what happened to Seth Amos? Sister shot the cheating wife and, Andy. But Andy told brother that his wife was seeing Seth Amos. So, what happened to Seth Amos? Did she shoot him and just forget to mention it? Really?Waldo - Kathleen, Ga
I think that this song is one of the best story-telling songs I have ever heard. I will never forget my first time hearing it. I was in 6th grade and we had to learn the lyrics and sang it in class. My teacher; Mr. Ferguson, handed the song out to the class. Then he played it for us. At first I thought it was just another song we had to learn. But later, I started listening to the words of the song, and actually got scared listening to it. The song is very creepy! It'll run chills up and down your spine! But I love this song. I love you Vicki for singing it that way. I think they should now spend time on putting it on the silver screen. And it like it was meant to be in the song. I would love to see that.And I love you Vicki Lawrence! I grew up watching the Carol Burnett Show. It was the best! And you also Mama! (ha,ha)Wanda Lowery - Jackson, Tn
A lot of people think this song is made up, but it is based on a true event. Raymond Brody's wife, Irene Brody was cheating on him with Andy Woloe (don't know if spelling is correct) and allegedly with a lawyer and judge as well, and maybe others before. Raymond took the fall for his sister, Liouse Brody, who really killed Andy and Irene and hid Irene's body which says in the song that it will never be found, however when Liouse died in 1962, 2 months after confessing, a letter was found that told where Liouse had hidden Irene's body. Before, Liouse had just spread the rumor that Irene had left town. This trial was definitely make believe because if Raymond had fired two shots (which were found in the ceiling of the house where Andy and Irene were murdered) then most would wonder why two shots were fired so randomly. And I definitely believe the judge and the lawyer had slept with the Irene which is why they didn't make a big deal out of this case; they wanted to save their butts.Jane - Charleston, Sc
It's great all the people who love this song enough to post about it. That is awesome! As my friend Denise said to me the other day " story songs are due for a comeback" I second that.Renée - San Francisco, Ca
Anybody heard the one recorded by Tanya Tucker? The lyrics are different but the tune is the same. I can't find the lyrics, but here she is singing it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VZCEUlMacyk&NR=1Marah - Lexington, Ky
Not every remake is inferior to the original. "The Lion Sleeps Tonight", "Up on the Roof", "Blinded by the Light", "Shake it Up Baby", "Hello It's Me"... all songs re-recorded and all great in their own right. That said, although I think she did this one justice, I don't know what Rebba adds to it. Is her version getting play today because of the "New Christine" reference?Bill Bricker - Charlottesville, Va
The song has nothing to do with a blackout.It's about the corrupt police and justice system in the south.Bill - Ocean View, Nj
I love this song.

It begs us to think about it, but leaves so many unanswered questions that we might end up mistaking its vagueries as something more than just sloppy songwriting.

I think the reason that "little sister" didn't have time to testify is that she was busy disposing of her sister-in-laws' body-- IF we believe that this all happened in one night. But if not, I don't quite get why she didn't have time to tell about the footprints.

But that might be a little hard to explain, hunh? How could she explain going over there

I don't know where anyone would get that the trial was later that same day (before the Judge's supper)or that the hanging happens at midnight.

One can imagine that her brother took the rap for her, but nothing in the song suggests that in the slightest.

"They hung my brother before I could say
The tracks he saw while on his way
To andys house and back that night were mine"

This verse is confusingly written. As written, it says that her brother saw the tracks on his way to Andy's and back to his own house. If he was back at home, he could have used the phone to call the cops. But, as the song says, he discovers the body and then alerts the cops while still at the scene.

Does the writer mean to say that sis' footprints run to and from the crime scene and her brother's house? That's what a lot of people take it to mean-- Sis got daddy's gun, shot Andy and returned the gun to her brother's house, and perhaps then got rid of the sister-in-law.

I like that other people suggest that the wife may have been seeing the judge and the lawyer and God knows who else.

And the executed guy (I understand his name is Raymond) WAS innocent regardless of what he may (or may not) have been ready to do. He didn't do it. Case closed.

As far as what is suggested or shown in a music video, that would be the videographer's take on the story, not the songwriter's. Only the song itself should be used as reference.

But I like the alternate idea that li'l sis' fiance was getting some too-- and that could be what the songwriter was thinking, but again, it isn't in the song itself, so we're left wondering why she took two lives, when all we're told is that her brother's wife is playing around on him.

And of course, Andy may have been little sister's fella, and that was what she went out to fix.
Robert - Gastonia, Nc
Lynn Anderson (of "Rose Garden" fame) also recorded this song, and her version is actually the one I remember best because it was the first one I heard. To one generation, it's a Vicki Lawrence song, and to another, a Reba McEntire song, but to me, it's a Lynn Anderson song. I think Lynn used most of the original lyrics that Vicki sang, but Reba changed a few things, "Papa" to "Daddy" as someone has already mentioned. Lynn also used "Papa." Another change Reba made was "the judge said guilty ON a make-believe trial," which, after hearing Lynn sing "IN a make-believe trial," didn't make sense to me. I find the story of this song fascinating, and figure it must have been set in a time when it was much easier to skirt the law than it is now. I don't think any judge, lawyer, sheriff, etc. could get away with a "make-believe trial" and immediately executing the accused in this day and time! When was hanging finally outlawed in Georgia and the rest of the country, I wonder?Paula - Nashville, Tn
Here's the first fact: The original version of the song was the best, as is the original version of every song. Here's the second fact: Singers can jump on the bandwagon and live off of somebody else's glory all they want to, but it's never anything more than a way of getting by when they don't have anything good of their own. And in this second rate world we're living in it's no surprise that people buy into it.Joe - Kewanee, Il
The song isn't literally about lights going out or a power blackout -- the title is just a figure of speech, kind of like saying, "The world stopped cold when that happened" even though the planet actually continued rotating in space. Thus, the song has nothing to do with an electrocution. Also, Seth isn't "Amos' boy"; his last name is Amos (like saying, "That Lawrence girl, Vicki"). I really enjoy this song ... the only part that's impossible to believe is her claim that throughout the whole "make-believe trial," preparation for the execution, and actual hanging of her brother, the woman never had time to speak up and confess to the crime. Come on, Vicki, how much time does it take to say, "Excuse me, your honor, but I did it!"Brian - Indianapolis, In
Here's something sort of related to the song. It's from Designing Women when Julia overheard the new Miss Georgia making fun of Suzanne.
" Yes, and I gather from your comments there are a couple of other things you don't know, Marjorie. For example, you probably didn't know that Suzanne was the only contestant in Georgia pageant history to sweep every category except congeniality, and that is not something the women in my family aspire to anyway. Or that when she walked down the runway in her swimsuit, five contestants quit on the spot. Or that when she emerged from the isolation booth to answer the question, "What would you do to prevent war?" she spoke so eloquently of patriotism, battlefields and diamond tiaras, grown men wept. And you probably didn't know, Marjorie, that Suzanne was not just any Miss Georgia, she was the Miss Georgia. She didn't twirl just a baton, that baton was on fire. And when she threw that baton into the air, it flew higher, further, faster than any baton has ever flown before, hitting a transformer and showering the darkened arena with sparks! And when it finally did come down, Marjorie, my sister caught that baton, and 12,000 people jumped to their feet for sixteen and one-half minutes of uninterrupted thunderous ovation, as flames illuminated her tear-stained face! And that, Marjorie - just so you will know - and your children will someday know - is the night the lights went out in Georgia!
Jane - Austin, Tx
i like both versions. in Reba's video it seemed that when Wo got to Andy's house, he saw his sister there and to protect her he took the blame for it.Jane - Austin, Tx
I forgot to add the most important part. There was a blackout, that's it. She telling the story and it just so happens the there was a blackout the same night. Like, Oh yeah you remember that night, it's the night the lights went out in Georgia.Ali - Garfield, Nj
Brother comes home, Andy tells of his wife cheating, he also reveals that he has also slept with the wife. Brother goes home, wifes not there, gets a gun and goes to Andy's house. Andy is dead, brother goes for help and gets convicted in a make believe trial, he is hung that night a 12 midnight. Judge was also sleeping with the wife. The reason the sister killed the woman was not just because her brother was being played but more because her fiance was also sleeping with her. Didn't y'all see the video?? She killed the wife, hid the body. Then went to kill Andy who was her fiance.Ali - Garfield, Nj
I remember reading that the reason why Sonny Bono didn't want Cher to record this song was because he was afraid it would offend Southern people. I find it ironic for him to feel that way since Cher had a hit with "Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves" two years before...and that song didn't really paint the South with any positive color either!Jerro - New Alexandria, Pa
This has always been one of my all-time favorite songs--primarily Vicki Lawrence's version, but I appreciate Reba McEntire bringing it back again as a country-chart hit. I'll never forget that Saturday night in 1973, watching "The Carol Burnett Show," when she was about to introduce Vicki singing the song. It was just about cracking the Top 10 at the time, and Carol was so proud that she had tears in her eyes as she was doing the intro. That is the mark of a true friend, and they've stayed just as close, nearly 35 years later. You've got to admit, it's really a song that makes you think and forces you to listen to the lyrics CLOSELY!--and still you're not quite exactly sure if you know what the truth is. Bobby Russell wrote a classic here. Vicki was wise to record it, and the fact it went to #1 proves her faith in his song was justified. By the way, she and "Carol Burnett Show" makeup man Al Schwartz have been married for over 30 years, since her divorce from Russell.Bob - Maui, Hi
Vicki had a big hit with Ships in the Night in Australia. It went close to no.1 and was also written by her ex-husband, Bobby Russell. If you can find any Bobby Russell records you will discover a load of classic songs, most of which were never well known. Shame he didn't get more popularity. Russell's own Go Chase Your Rainbow also sold well in Australia.Richard - Sydney, Australia
The judge in the lawyer and the cops just wanted to convict the easy mark, brother, instead of doing an investigation. They are just lazy, not having an affair with his young bride. The judge has bloodstains on his hands because several other innocent people were sent to the gallows. Now, my question is: If brother was hung, why did the lights go out in Georgia? If he were electracuted, that would happen, but not hung.Susie - San Diego, Ca
Ok I maybe 13 but I get this out of the song:
The main character (Brother) comes home from a place called Candletop. He goes in for a drink after the long trip back and runs into his best friend Andy. Andy tells him he has some bad news and knows he won't be happy about it. He tells him his "wife" key word "Young bride" has been sleeping with Amos's boy Seth. Well the brother gets mad and sees red (wants to kill Seth) and tells him "don't lose your head." then messes up and says "I've been with her myself." Andy got scared and left the bar and walked home because he didn't live far. The brother went home thinking his wife was out of town and finds the only thing his father had left to him and it was a gun. He skipped through the backwoods as quiet as a mouse and found tracks to small for Andy to make. He looks on the back porch and sees Andy dead in a puddle of his own blood. He shot a bullet to flag the Georgia state patrol who were on their rounds and the shreif accused him of killing Andy. The judge said "Guilty" in a fake trial because he didn't want the brother to kill him because he slept with his wife to and he also didn't want his wife to know. (Hint the suppers waitin and I gotta get to it part) the Backwoods southern lawyer part means that the lawyer could have been in on it also most likely he slept with his wife also. The reason the sister never made it in time to tell them is because they wouldn't believe her and she didn't think about the tracks until it was to late. She killed his wife and hid the body away so she would never be found. The reason she killed them is because she was getting revenge for her brother. Hoped this cleared things up!
Nicky - Auburn, Al
In Reba's version of the song, she uses the word "Daddy" instead of "Papa" when saying that "he went home and found the only thing that _______ had left him, and that was a gun".......Barbara - Caryville, Tn
Weird, weird song. It was the #1 song the day I was born, and my mom's from Georgia! Coincidence???Ann - Baltimore, Md
This song is about a guy that has been out of town. He comes back and finds out his girlfriend is cheating on him with his bestfriend (andy) and others. He goes home, gets a gun and goes to Andy's house. On his way to Andy's he sees small footprints (made by his sister)...When he gets to Andy's, he looks in the door and sees that Andy is dead. He sees cops, fires the gun to get their attention...The cops arrest him, judge finds him guilty and he is hung before his sister has time to confess.
The song repeats that the "judge has bloodstains on his hands" I think this is because the judge ALSO had an affair with the woman.
Andy - Indianapolis, In
The flip-side of the original 45RPM recording was also good. It was called "Dime a Dance," and it similarly told a kind of story. The "A-side," by Vikki Lawrence was a hit when it was released. She even earned a gold record for it. I remember to this day My mother and I trying to figure out a certain lyric while listening to it on the radio during its heyday.
John, 45
John - Fort Worth, Tx
I love this song. Nicely creepy feel to it.Jameson - Lexington, Ky
Okay, here's how I would take it; The theme in this song is that the legal system down in Georgia isn't very well run. This is why the judge has bloodstains on his hands- because he has held shady, quick trials and convicted innocent people. This goes along with what is said about not trusting a backwoods southern lawyer because they too are not there to truly find who is guilty but to just get their jobs done. (Like how the judge also says "suppers waitin at home and I gotta get to it" - he's just in a hurry to finish the trial.) And that's why the sister didn't have time to say she was the one to do it. . . obviously this is all an exaggeration since a trial would not be held in one day and a man hung on that same day, but it's making a point. . . hope this helps!Megan - Edmonton, Canada
But wait, if the narrator/sister killed Andy, why does the judge have bloodstains on his hands? Was he in on it, too? Why would he be involved? And how did they frame this up, since the motivating factor to go kill Andy came from Andy himself? And isn't it a little disengenous for the murderess to be warning the listener not to trust no backwoods Southern lawyer (what, was the lawyer in on it, too??) and lamenting about the hanging of an innocent man??? Oh, she didn't have time to confess and save the guy's neck? Pretty damn quick hangin' there! But then, why should we even care that they "hung an innocent man" since he was apparently ready to commit the crime if he hadn't been beaten to it? Uh....oh yeah, it's just a song. Nevermind....Fyodor - Denver, Co
One of the great storysongs of the 70s. Actually, Sonny Bono rejected the song for Cher because he felt it would offend listeners in the South. Vicki Lawrence later became one of the few women to host a game show when she was hired to run the daytime version of "Win, Lose or Draw."Howard - St. Louis Park, Mn
The song is mentioned at the begining of the movie "Resovoir Dogs"
Chris Penn tells eveyone he heard it on the radio for the first time in a coons age before they all go on the ill fated robbery.

Jim. New Zealand
Jim - Kapiti/wellington, New Zealand
Actually, Vicki Lawrence released at least 40 songs that I know of. It's just that nobody knew about them!Laverne - Somewhere, Oh
Whooo boy, have I ever had a ton of fun with this one. See http://wesclark.com/am/carroll_county_accident.htmlWes - Springfield, Va
Is the story in the song true???Aj - Cleveland, Ga
She had two great other songs: He Did With Me & Ships in the Night.Igor - Miami, Fl
I love this song and she was so funny on mama's familyCaitlin - Sailsbury, Nc
Country singer Reba Macintire did a remake of this song.Maddie - Yakima, Wa
Vicki Lawrence also had another hit at least in Australia the song was called, She did with me.or was it He did with me???Pete - Nowra, Australia