Soul and country music have a long, shared kinship going back to artists such as Arthur Alexander, Ray Charles and even “Ode to Billie Joe’s,” Bobbie Gentry. This week (Saturday, May 23) on Thacker Mountain Radio Hour, our author is Jim Weatherly, a Grammy-winning member of the country-soul family, even if he didn’t plan it.
Weatherly is the composer of Midnight Train to Georgia, a soulful song of longing and love that rhythm and blues group, Gladys Knight and the Pips (pictured above with Weatherly, center) took to Number One in 1973 as well as winning that year’s Grammy for Best R&B Vocal. The song became Knight’s signature theme song and catapulted Weatherly into a 50-year career of R&B and country crossover success. He was voted into the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame in 2014.
“I was amazed. I thought I was writin’ country songs,” Weatherly, a native of Pontotoc, MS, tells us on this Saturday’s show (recorded in 2018). “When I first heard [the Pips’ version of Train] I was kind of taken aback because it sounded so different. But after I heard it a second time, I realized how lucky I was to have such a singer as Gladys sing my song.”
Weatherly included this memory and dozens more in his memoir, Midnight Train, co-written with sportswriter Jeff Roberson. The book is a frank account of his lean years in Los Angeles after his All-SEC stint as a Sugar Bowl-winning quarterback for the Ole Miss Rebels in 1962. He chronicles his bouts with depression as well as his interactions with a cavalcade of notables from a golden age of yesteryear: Paul Newman, Lee Marvin, Steve McQueen, Robert Mitchum, Fred Astaire, Natalie Wood, Sen. Robert Kennedy, Elvis, and, in perhaps my favorite anecdote in the book, a random Bill Murray-like encounter with gonzo comedian, Jonathan Winters. (Ya gotta read it-)
Also this Saturday, as always, we’ll have great music- in fact, our songwriting cup runneth over: We kick off the show with Alabama songwriter, Taylor Hunnicutt and her rocking band twanging their way through her cool originals. We’ll finish off this very special evening with one of our favorites, veteran Mississippi songwriter (and longtime Thacker buddy), Cary Hudson (below). Don’t miss his beautiful acoustic version of his classic paean to rural low-riding and fishing, Blue Canoe, with fiddle player Katrina Miller.
Our big finale brings down the curtain on this “homecoming” show with “the best live radio band in the land,” our house band, the Yalobushwhackers. The boys will get down with soul/jazz vocalist Effie Burt as we pay tribute to Gladys Knight and the Pips and get thoroughly pipped in the process.
So slip on your rattiest house shoes. Order in some grub, pop a top and curl up with a good show! It’s Saturday night!
Saturday, May 23, 2020 at 7 pm – Mississippi Public Broadcasting
9 pm – Alabama Public Radio
(From October 18, 2018)
Guests: Songwriter, author and former All-SEC quarterback, Jim Weatherly (“Midnight Train”)
Music: Alt-country singer-songwriter Taylor Hunnicutt (“Flower in a Drought”) and our special guest, veteran songwriter and longtime friend of our show, Cary Hudson (“Town and Country”).
Hosts: Jim Dees and our house band, the Yalobushwhackers