In the early 1970’s The Allman Brothers spent some time in and around Macon Georgia. Gregg Allman had rented a farmhouse near a lake for $165 a month.
Gregg Allman spent some time there writing and more time freely smoking marijuana. Some of the songs penned by Allman at that time would become the album Idlewood South, the band’s second studio album.
It only took Gregg Allman an hour to jot down the rough draft for the song “Midnight Rider.” He felt stuck on the third verse. He couldn’t get past it and as he kept playing the draft over and over. He went to a warehouse where the band was storing their musical equipment and enlisted one of the band’s roadies to help.
Roadie Kim Payne, who had grown irritated because the Allman Brothers Band kept playing the same old things threw out these few words at Gregg:
Allman accepted Payne’s help, and the song lyrics became:
And I’ve gone by the point of caring,
Some old bed I’ll soon be sharing,
And I’ve got one more silver dollar,
But I’m not gonna let ’em catch me, no
Not gonna let ’em catch the Midnight Rider.
Gregg Allman later recalled in his Memoir about “Midnight Rider.”
Gregg Allman had wanted to begin recording the song almost immediately after writing it. Arriving at Capricorn Sound and realizing he had no keys, Allman and Payne broke into the building by smashing a window. Allman first recorded an acoustic demo of himself playing the song. Allman and Payne were Unable to find the usual band members, so they enlisted a friend, Lyndon Twiggs. Lyndon played bass guitar on the rough demo, even though he was unsure of how to play the instrument. The demo was later mixed with Allman Brothers drummer, Jaimoe on congas.
In the final studio recording, Duane Allman fine-tuned the song’s acoustic sound.
“Midnight Rider,” in it’s original composition was released by Capricorn. It was the second single from their second studio album, Idlewild South (1970). The version did not see commercial success as performed by the Allman Brothers. The song didn’t chart. A few years later, Gregg would re release the song on his solo album (1973). The song became a top 20 chart success. Other versions of the song included a release by Willie Nelson. Nelson’s cover would peak at #6 in the U.S. Country Charts.
In the beginning Roadie Kim Payne was not originally given song writing credits for the song. Allman later produced a contract that gave the roadie 5 percent of the royalties of “Midnight Rider.”
Here are more song facts from Wikipedia:
The original version of “Midnight Rider” by The Allman Brothers Band never charted, but the song later became a hit for four other artists:
In November 1972, British rock singer Joe Cocker, who specialized in treating recently written songs by others, released a version on his album Joe Cocker, the single from which reached #27 on the Billboard Hot 100; it was billed as Joe Cocker with The Chris Stainton Band.
In fall 1973, Gregg Allman released a re-imagined version of the song on his first solo album, Laid Back, that featured the addition of horns and a solo rather than harmony vocal line. It reached #19 on the Billboard Hot 100 in early 1974.
In early 1976, a reggae version by the Jamaican singer, Paul Davidson, on the Tropical Records label, reached #10 in the UK Singles Chart.
In 1980, Willie Nelson recorded a cover of the song for inclusion in the soundtrack to the film The Electric Horseman. Nelson’s version was released as a single, and peaked at #6 on the Hot Country Singles chart. Nelson later re-released the song in 2004 as a duet with Toby Keith, although this rendition did not chart.
“Midnight Rider,” is and will always be one of my all time favorites. Gregg Allman as a songwriter and musician helped pioneer southern rock- one of my all-time favorite genres of music.