Gladys Knight / Gladys Knight & the Pips

Midnight Train to Georgia

Composed by Jim Weatherly

Song Review by

For a hit record to "happen," several elements have to come together. Buddah Records executive Neil Bogart recommended producer Tony Camillo to the newly signed group Gladys Knight & the Pips, who had hits on VeeJay and Motown. Their first Buddah single, "Where Peaceful Waters Flow," was written by promising songwriter Jim Weatherly. The flowing ballad went to number six R&B and number 28 pop in summer 1973. The next Weatherly song became the group's million-selling signature song. Weatherly had recorded a country song called "Midnight Train to Houston" for Jimmy Bowen's Amos Records. He came up with the idea for the song after talking with someone about taking a midnight plane to Houston. Atlanta producer Sonny Limbo wanted to record it with singer Cissy Houston (Whitney Houston's mother). Limbo asked if he could make one change -- changing the title from "Midnight Train to Houston" to "Midnight Train to Georgia." Houston's version on Janus Records had some chart success in 1972. The songwriter's publisher sent a demo of the song to Gladys Knight & the Pips. The music was recorded at Camillo's Somerville, NJ, studio with the producer on organ and electric piano, session ace Bob Babbitt on bass, drummer Andrew Smith, and pianist Barry Miles. The group overdubbed the vocals in Detroit at Artie Fields' studio. The chugging "Midnight Train to Georgia" went gold, holding the number one R&B spot for four weeks and number one pop for two weeks in fall 1973. It won a 1973 Grammy for best R&B vocal group performance. About three years later there was a hilarious performance of the song by the Pips on NBC's The Richard Pryor Show, as the men did their "woo-woos" and other background vocals to an empty, Gladys Knight-less mic stand. Besides "Midnight Train to Georgia" and "Where Peaceful Waters Flow," the certified-gold Imagination LP included two more chart-topping gold singles -- "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me" and "I've Got to Use My Imagination" -- and the radio-aired LP track "Once in a Lifetime Thing."

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Gladys Knight & the Pips [Sphere] 1964 Sphere
The Very Best of Gladys Knight & the Pips [Pair] 1971 Pair
Imagination 1973 The Right Stuff 4:38
No Image 1980 Hallmark Recordings
Greatest Hits [Curb] 1990 Curb 4:41
The Best of Gladys Knight & the Pips [Pair] 1990 Pair
Soul Survivors: The Best of Gladys Knight & the Pips 1973-1988 1990 Rhino 4:40
The Lost Live Album 1996 Buddah 4:08
Blue Lights in the Basement 1996 RCA 4:37
No Image 1997 BMG Special Products 4:37
Best of Gladys Knight & the Pips [Right Stuff] 1998 The Right Stuff 4:57
The Greatest Hits [Camden] 1998 BMG
Live at the Roxy 1998 Sony Music Distribution 2:52
Collector's Edition, Vols. 1-3 1999 Platinum Disc 4:34
Essential Collection 1999 Hip-O 3:44
VH1 Behind the Music: The Gladys Knight and the Pips Collection 2000 Buddha Records 4:41
The Best of Gladys Knight & the Pips [Sony Expanded] 2001 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 2:55
I Can See Clearly Now 2003 BCI-Eclipse Distribution 4:37
Midnight Train (Green Hill) 2004 Green Hill Productions 4:39
Love Songs 2005 BMG / Ariola 4:43
Gold 2006 Hip-O 4:40
Beautiful Ballads 2006 Buddah/Columbia/Legacy 4:40
Greatest Hits 1973-1985 2008 Varèse Sarabande 3:59
WCBS FM 101.1: The Anniversary Album - The 70s
Various Artists
Collectables 4:37
blue highlight denotes editor's pick