Jim Weatherly, the former star quarterback at the University of Mississippi who moved to Nashville and authored megahits such as “Midnight Train to Georgia” in a prolific career as a singer-songwriter, died at his home Wednesday, Music Row mogul Charlie Monk told the Tennessean. He turned 77 on March 17.
Weatherly helped lead Ole Miss to an undefeated season, the 1962 SEC championship and the national championship, according to several ratings, including Litkenhous (Sagarin). The Rebels won the SEC championship again in 1963.
Weatherly, a Pontotoc, Mississippi, native, began writing songs as a teenager and was in a band while attending Ole Miss.
After graduating, he pursued a career in music over football and experienced great success.
He wrote some of Gladys Knight & the Pips’ greatest hits including, “Neither One of Us Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye,” “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.”
In 2003, “Midnight Train to Georgia” was named one of the top 500 songs of all time by Rolling Stone magazine.
Weatherly was a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and ASCAP’s County Songwriter of the Year in 1974.
“When I inducted Jim into the Songwriters Hall of Fame I said, ‘This may be the most honorable human being I’ve ever known,” Monk said Wednesday. “He never had a cigarette in his mouth, he never had a taste of alcohol, he didn’t chew (tobacco), he didn’t cuss. The only cuss word I ever heard him use was ‘Foot! Charlie.’ He probably was one of the top five most talented songwriters to ever drop into this town.”
Weatherly’s wife Cynthia asked Monk to speak on behalf of the family.
Weatherly also was in the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame and the Ole Miss Alumni Hall of Fame.
Other artists who recorded Weatherly’s songs included Garth Brooks, Kenny Chesney, Glen Campbell, Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers and Ray Price to name a few.
Weatherly moved from Los Angeles to Nashville in the 1980s.
Weatherly published his autobiography “Midnight Train” in 2018 and in an interview with the Jackson Clarion-Ledger said, “I tell people the book is basically divided into four parts — Pontotoc, Ole Miss, California, and Nashville. A lot happens in each part, but that’s the way it unfolds. I believe sports fans will find a lot of interesting reading in the football chapters.”
Follow the Tennessean’s Mike Organ on Twitter @MikeOrganWriter.