How Lee Majors and Farrah Fawcett Inspired the Hit Song 'Midnight Train to Georgia' (Exclusive)

The Jim Weatherly’s hit for Gladys Knight & the Pips was originally titled ‘Midnight Plane to Houston’

<p>Pictorial Parade/Getty Images; Derry Brabbs/TV Times via Getty Images</p> (Left-right:) Farrah Fawcett and Lee Majors in 1971; Gladys Knight in 1971

Pictorial Parade/Getty Images; Derry Brabbs/TV Times via Getty Images

(Left-right:) Farrah Fawcett and Lee Majors in 1971; Gladys Knight in 1971

The Fall Guy star Lee Majors has had a major influence on the world of action filmmaking. But the 85-year-old screen legend is responsible for another pop culture cornerstone: Gladys Knight & the Pips’ “Midnight Train to Georgia.”

Reflecting with PEOPLE about his headline-making marriage with Farrah Fawcett from 1973 to 1982, Majors recounts a little-known story that songwriter Jim Weatherly was inspired to write the 1973 hit thanks to a phone call with the couple.

“I had a friend that I'd play flag football with on the weekends, back when I was trying to get in the business,” says the Six Million Dollar Man star. Weatherly (who died in 2021 at age 77) was an all-star University of Mississippi quarterback before becoming a prolific songwriter.

Related: Lee Majors, 80, Reflects on His Famous Marriage to Farrah Fawcett: 'It Was Hard to Get Around'

<p>Images/Getty</p> Farrah Fawcett and Lee Majors circa 1978


Farrah Fawcett and Lee Majors circa 1978

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

“One day he called the house,” recalls Majors. “I don't know whether I [or Farrah] answered, but I think I said, ‘She's taking the midnight flight to Houston,’ and that was a true statement.”

A few weeks later, the actor continues, Weatherly arrived at the couple’s Los Angeles home. “He had his guitar with him and he played that song — he called it ‘Midnight Plane to Houston,’ and it's on an album that he put out [in 1973].”

When he pitched the song to various bands, adds Majors, it was tweaked to better suit each singer. Knight, now 79, reportedly asked that they change both title and lyrics. “It came down to, ‘Well, Jimmy, we don’t really go to Houston and we really don't like to fly!’ So they changed it: ‘Midnight Train to Georgia.’ ”

Related: Gladys Knight's Life in Photos

<p>Michael Ochs Archives/Getty</p> Gladys Knight and the Pips at the 16th Annual Grammy Awards in 1974

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty

Gladys Knight and the Pips at the 16th Annual Grammy Awards in 1974

Speaking to Goldmine magazine in 2010, Weatherly remembered it was Fawcett (who died in 2009 at age 62) who answered his call. “She made this statement that she was packing her clothes, getting ready to take the midnight plane to Houston to visit her folks,” Weatherly said at the time, remembering the line as a “little zinger” that went off in his head. 

“It was really a relatively easy song to write, because I actually used Lee and Farrah as a mental movie in my mind about a girl who comes to L.A. to make it, and she struggles and then goes back, and the guy she falls in love with goes back with her,” he explained. “Of course, that wasn’t their story, but it made an interesting little song.”

“Midnight Train to Georgia” won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus, as the category was known as from 1973 to 1980, and peaked at No. 1 on the pop and R&B charts. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

Related: Lee Majors Became Friends with Ryan Gosling While Filming Fall Guy Cameo: 'Really Good Vibes' (Exclusive)

Majors — who, in April, celebrated his 85th birthday and “61 years in this business,” as he tells PEOPLE — has been married to his current wife, Faith, since 2002. Among his recent projects is a cameo in the Ryan Gosling-starring movie The Fall Guy (in theaters now), which is loosely based on Majors’ 1980s ABC series of the same name.

For more People news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on People.