Singer/songwriter Jim Weatherly's best known songs were million-selling hits by Gladys Knight and the Pips "Midnight Train to Georgia," "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)," and "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me." He also had a Top 20 pop hit with "The Need to Be." That and his other sides are on the compilation The Very Best of Jim Weatherly/The Need to Be issued by Collectables Records on February 27, 2001.
Born James Dexter Weatherly on March 4, 1943, in Pontotoc, MS, Weatherly was an All-American quarterback before choosing songwriting as a career. Some of the artists who recorded his songs include Ray Price (the 1973 number one country cover of "Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me"), Brenda Lee, Lynn Anderson, and Bob Luman. In the mid-'60s, Weatherly become a recording artist for 20th Century Records. During the '70s, he recorded for RCA Records. One Weatherly song, "Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)," was Gladys Knight and the Pips' last hit for Motown Records before the group departed for Buddah Records. Produced by Joe Porter with arrangements by Michael O'Martian and Artie Butler, the passionate ballad parked at number one R&B for four weeks and number two pop for two weeks in spring 1973. It also won a 1973 Grammy for best pop vocal group performance.
Buddah executive Neil Bogart recommended producer Tony Camillo to the newly signed group. Their first Buddah single was Weatherly's flowing ballad "Where Peaceful Waters Flow," which went to number six R&B and number 28 pop in summer 1973. The next Weatherly song became the group's signature song. Weatherly had recorded a song called "Midnight Train to Houston" for Jimmy Bowen's Amos Records. Atlanta producer Sonny Limbo wanted to record it with singer Cissy Houston. Limbo asked if he could make one change; he changed 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 and the Pips. The chugging "Midnight Train to Georgia" held 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-TV's The Richard Pryor Show as the men did there "woo-woos" and other background vocals to an empty Gladys Knight-less mic stand.
Because of his success of songs with Gladys Knight and the Pips, Weatherly was offered a contract with Buddah Records. His easy listening tune "The Need to Be" went to number 11 on the pop charts in late 1974. He had other country hits with "I'll Still Love You" and "All That Keeps Me Going." ~ Ed Hogan