Midnight Train To Georgia

Album: Imagination (1973)
Charted: 10 1
  • This was written and originally recorded by Jim Weatherly, who had a solo hit in 1974 with "The Need To Be." Weatherly explained the origin of this song in an interview with Gary James: "The song actually came about after a phone call I had with Farrah Fawcett. Lee Majors was a friend of mine. We'd played in the Flag Football League together in L.A. He had just started dating Farrah. One day I called Lee and Farrah answered the phone. We were just talking and she said she was packing. She was gonna take the midnight plane to Houston to visit her folks. So, it just stayed with me. After I got off the phone, I sat down and wrote the song probably in about 30 to 45 minutes. Something like that. Didn't take me long at all, 'cause I actually used Farrah and Lee as kind of like characters I guess. A girl that comes to L.A. to make it and doesn't make it and leaves to go back home. The guy goes back with her. Pretty simple little story, but it felt real to me. It felt honest to me. I played it for them and they loved it. I cut it on my first album as 'Midnight Plane To Houston.' And then later on, maybe a year or six months later, a guy in Atlanta wanted to cut the song on Cissy Houston, Whitney's mother. They called and said they would like a more R&B sounding title and asked if we would mind if they changed the title to 'Midnight Train To Georgia' [so that "Houston" wouldn't appear in both the title and artist name]. We said 'change anything but the writer and publisher.' So, he cut the song on Cissy Houston and it was a nice little cross between an R&B and country record. It got on the R&B charts. That's the version that Gladys heard. Some of the background vocals you hear on Glady's records were first on Cissy Houston's record. It wasn't as much, but just some of the feel of the background vocals. And of course Gladys' record was more of a groove-oriented thing. It wasn't as slow. It just became a monster record."
  • Gladys Knight & The Pips recorded Weatherly's "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)" in 1973 and released it as a kiss-off record as their contract to Motown Recording Company (Soul Record) was expiring. "Neither One of Us" was their biggest Motown/Soul hit, reaching #2 as the group signed with Buddha Records. When they decided to record an album consisting of only Jim Weatherly songs (Imagination), his publisher sent a copy of the song to Knight. This was the second single from the album, after "Where Peaceful Waters Flow." It became the group's biggest hit. The third and fourth singles off the album didn't do too badly either - "I've Got to Use My Imagination" peaked at #4 in the US, "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" #3.
  • "Midnight Train To Georgia" was not only a #1 hit on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B, but also a #10 on the UK Singles chart. It garnered the group the 1974 Grammy Award for "Best R&B Vocal Performance" and was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. It is considered Gladys Knight's signature song.
  • This title is name-checked in Billy Crystal's 1989 TV special Midnight Train to Moscow.
  • Films and television shows in which "Midnight Train To Georgia" is part of the soundtrack include The Deer Hunter, 30 Rock, House M.D., Broadcast News, and Las Vegas. It also gets its day in the sun in the 1974 episode of VH1's I Love the '70s: Volume 2. Richard Pryor (we still miss him) also used it in his 1977 special.
  • You might ask what, exactly, a "pip" is besides Knight's backing singers. Well, a 'pip' is casino/gaming jargon for the spots on a die or domino. So when you're at a craps table and you roll a "hard 8" on the dice, that means that there's four pips showing on the face of each die, as opposed to an "easy 8" which would be the statistically more common 2-6 or 3-5 combinations of pips.
  • Other songs involving trains include "Last Train To Clarksville," "City Of New Orleans", "Love Train", "Runaway Train", and of course Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'", which also has a "midnight train." Train themes seem to be most popular in folk music and R&B.
  • This song has special relevance when you consider 21st century online dating, which unites partners over the internet who are separated by a great distance. The decision the protagonist has to make, choosing to move to Georgia to "live in his world," is a common one that people have to eventually face if they start a long-distance relationship.

Comments: 29

  • Aiken Nutz from Tahlequah OkGladys & The Pips' recording of Midnight Train to Georgia is special to me. I was at the Atlanta, Ga. bus station ready to catch a bus home to Oklahoma one night. I was alone & on leave from the Army (Fort Bragg, NC) and feeling miserable even in the huge crowds at the bus station. Got on the bus & someone's transistor radio was playing this song! That someone eventually became my wife Tootie. It was just like in the movies. So thank you to Gladys Knight & The Pips.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer: http://www.oldiesmusic.com/news.htm
    William Guest, cousin of Gladys Knight and member of her backup group, the Pips, died December 24th, 2015 of congestive heart failure in Detroit, he was 74...
    He sang with the group throughout their career from 1953 to 1989, when they stopped singing with Gladys. He then formed a production company and ran Crew Records. His autobiography, "Midnight Train From Georgia: A Pips Journey" was published in 2013. Gladys Knight and the Pips were inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame in 1996...
    May he R.I.P.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 26th 1973, "Midnight Train to Gerogia" by Gladys Knight & the Pips entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #71; and on October 21st, 1973 it peaked at #1 {for 2 weeks} and spent 19 weeks on the Top 100...
    On October 14th, 1973 it also reached #1 {for 4 weeks} on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
    It was the 1st in four straight records by the Atlanta quartet to make the Top 5; after this one came "I've Got to Use My Imagination" {#4}, "Beat Thing That Ever Hasppened to Me" {#3}, and "On and On" {#5}...
    Earlier in the year another 'night time in Georgia' record made the Top 100, and on April 1st "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" by Vicki Lawrence peaked at #1 {for 2 weeks}...
    Besides those mention above, there were a few other 'train' records to make the Top 100:
    #1 in 1981 "Morning Train (Nine to Five)" by Sheena Easton
    #6 in 1957 "Freight Train" by Rusty Draper
    #7 in 1971 "Peace Train" by Cat Stevens
    #8 in 1973 "Long Train Runnin'" by the Doobie Brothers
    #11 in 1956 "Mama from the Train" by Patti Page
    #22 in 1966 "Trains and Boats and Planes" by Dionne Warwick
    #26 in 1968 "Choo Choo Train" by the Box Tops
    #30 in 1978 "Took the Last Train" by David Gates
    #31 in 1974 "I'm A train" by Albert Hammond
    #35 in 1963 "Night Train" by James Brown
    #36 in 1960 "Train of Love" by Annette
    #38 in 1979 "Train, Train by Blackfoot
    #39 in 1980 "Last Train to London" by E.L.O.
    #40 in 1957 "Fright Train" by Chas McDevitt Skiffle Group
    #46 in 1958 "The Little Train" by Marianne Vasel & Erich Storz
    #47 in 1965 "Trains and Boats and Planes" by Billy J. Kramer & the Dakotas
    #57 in 1969 "The Train" by the 1910 Fruitgum Co.
    #62 in 1981 "Keep This Train A-Rollin'" by the Doobie Brothers
    #75 in 1975 "Soul Train 75" by The Soul Train Gang
    #82 in 1960 "Night Train" by the Viscounts
    #86 in 1976 "Train Called Freedom" by South Shore Commission
    #90 in 1968 "Soul Train" by the Classics Four
    #99 in 1972 "Southbound Train" by Crosby, Stills, & Nash
    #100 in 1969 "Memphis Train" by Buddy Miles.
  • Rotunda from Tulsa, OkGladys & The Pips are great! I just heard a great string of their hits played on my favorite golden oldies radio show. Someone requested it for their Mom on Mother's Day today. They all brought back great memories of when me and my hubby were first dating. Actually, it was my man "Mr. Good Body" who turned me onto the group. At the time, I wasn't thrilled over their music. Then I gradually began to love their music. The emotion - the love!
  • Rocky from Tulsa, OkGladys & The Pips jump-started my interest in R&B in the Seventies. I was a kid back then & shifted from punk rock to R&B because of Gladys & Them Pips. Gotta love 'em. And this is the song that did it for me. I sorta drifted away from R&B lately, but my 8th wife "Phosphorina" still loves classic R&B. She gloats over me by saying she saw Gladys Knight & The Pips at The Apollo in New York City some decades ago. One of the classiest acts in the business. I miss them and wish they still were performing. But they all must be really up in age now....or gone. Me & Phosphorina are no "spring chickens" ourselves any more, but we still love this big hit.
  • Randy from Fayettevile, ArLove this #1 hit by Gladys Knight & The Pimps. I heard this for the 1st time on a Sirius Golden Oldies station recently. I'm 16 years old & the song came out way way before I was born. But I love it. My Dad even has several of Gladys's albums & singles from way-back-when! I'm learning more about Gladys Knight & The Pimps from Dad & Mom's album collections from the Seventies. And some of the other great past R&B and Rock acts. Besides Gladys & Her Pimps, I found old albums by The Coasters, Little Eva, The Association, and Chubby Checker. What a gold mine! But I really love the music of Gladys & The Pimps.
  • Rotunda from Tulsa, OkGladys Knight & The Pips!! My favorite of the Seventies. I remember when Gladys went on to a movie career & then The Pips were on their own. I still loved them all. My Mom & Dad say they bought Gladys & The Pips' earliest hit "Every Beat of My Heart" way back in the late Fifties (or early Sixties?). Gladys has a great voice. And those harmonies by The Pips are "outa sight."
  • Bubblesk from Memphis, TnWhen "Midnight Train to Georgia" was #1 on the charts, I was a little kid and now this brings back good memories of the record being played in our home and my older brothers & sisters dancing slow to it. What special memories, because they're all gone now. I will always love this song and Gladys Knight and The Pimps.
  • Eric from Lorena, Tx@Jay - Actually the song was originally Midnight Plane to Houston by Jim Weatherly. It was changed for Cissy
    Houston (Whitney's mother), ironically to what we know know as MTTG. That was an entire year before GK&TP sang it.
  • Tom from Riverside, CaI remember this song from listening to the radio as I commuted to college (Cal State Fullerton) from home in the early 1970's. Jim Weatherly wrote several other hit songs for Gladys Knight & The Pips, which I also caught on the radio in those days. However, I was not aware of the Farrah connection until I was driving home one night from shopping in June 1979. I heard the song on a local "oldies" station and the disc jockey related the story. It was very touching. This was right after Farrah's cancer documentary "Farrah's Story" and just before she died of the disease.
  • Jr from Bloomington, InGood song. My mom has this one her iPod. Also there was a scene where House, Chase, and Foreman sang this at a bar. Hilarious performance.
  • David from Bristol, United KingdomWoohoo. I too only noticed it recently. It made me revisit what I now think is one of the best songs ever written. The Pips turn this from being a good song into a great song. They're a cynical alter ego who say the things that Gladys can't bring herself to: "A superstar but he didn't get far". And of course, they're so upset when he has to sell his car. Not.
  • Crystal from Lawrence, KsHA! I never picked up that the woohoo sound The Pips make was supposed to be the train. That makes me like this song even more.
  • Paul from Los Angeles, CaThere's no midnight train leaving L.A. to Georgia. The closest one leaves at 2:30 in the afternoon. Sorry Gladys, but he must have been going somewhere else and just lied to you.
  • Virginia from Elk City, Oki can remember as a little girl listening to this song with my older sisters, and have always loved it. and still do, it is and always will be one of the greastesT songs ever written and sang by one of the most beautiful and most talented people onthe face of GODS mother earth. God bless all who love gladys knightand the pips.and God bless and always walk with you gladys!
  • Tammy from Denver, CoThis will always be a classic song and it brings back memories for so many of us. If you can't say something nice, why do you have to make nasty comments, Carolina in London? Are you jealous because this song is American? I love music from different countries, and I have no need to comment on music that I don't like. It's just like art; some people like it, some people don't. I just wish you would go to other songs rather than make ugly comments. Thank you.
  • Ann from Baltimore, MdI know of at least one child named Georgia because of this song.
  • Nathan from From The Country Of, Canadayeah definitly one of those songs on everyone's "when i'm driving alone" CDs haha a classic song even though the pips have less words than Ron Maclean on Coach's Corner they truly create the song's soul
  • Jay from Atlanta, GaIn an interview Gladys said when she heard the title was "Midnight Plane To Houston" she said "I'm from Georgia, I don't know anything about airplanes or Houston, TX", so they changed the title to something she said she was more comfortable with - trains and Georgia.
  • Jay from Atlanta, GaThe pips were her brother Merlad her cousins William Guest and Langston George.
  • Mike from Eldersburg, MdI've gone as far as doing "Midnight Train To Georgia" with a few friends in a Karaoke bar. It is always listed in my top five. But, what are the Pips' lyrics. I never find them printed.
  • Patrick from Philadelphia, PaIf you ever want a good laugh while enjoying this song in the car, sing only the Pips backup vocals. Try not to crack up, especially when the Pips get to the part where they sing "whoo whoo" to simulate the train. Classic stuff.
  • Harold from Columbus, OhGladys Knight is the second greatest singer of all time next to Mahilia Jackson. She blew her heart out in Midnight train to Georgia. She has a velvet voice. When I first heard this song, I cried. Her voice is really divine. Nobody can do it like Gladys.
  • Aj from Cleveland, GaWhy does she wanna take a midnight train to my state???
  • Pete from Nowra, Australiashe still tours apparently but ,not many pips left

    its just Gladys Knight and a Pip
  • Brian from Sydney, CanadaI think this is a beaultiful, precious song. Everything...the lyrics the mood, the vocals, the musicianship (the bass-whew!. You can see the influence that this bass playing had on Paul McCartney.
  • Carolina from London, EnglandEw. American Idol? Gross.
  • Conrad from Los Angeles, CaMy mom was one of the first people to hear this. As she met the guy that mixed it the day after it was recorded...
  • Stoddard from Burlington, VtReally a beautiful song. It was great to see Gladys Knight getting her props when she was a guest on American Idol.
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