Ole Miss Football: Remembering Jim Weatherly, the Singing Quarterback

Ole Miss football has a history of great players and one of the greatest was Jim Weatherly, also known as the singing quarterback.

There are a lot of Ole Miss football fans who may not know about Jim Weatherly. Of course, some may not. This is for you. James Dexter Weatherly was not just a great quarterback for the Ole Miss Rebels, but he was also a great musician and songwriter. Born and raised in Pontotoc, Mississippi Jim Weatherly would become a great athlete and musician.

Recruited by the legendary Ole Miss head coach Johnny Vaught, Jim Weatherly wasn’t sure he would even make the Ole Miss roster. Vaught was well-known for recruiting a dozen or more quarterbacks each class, simply because in those days the quarterback was normally the best athlete on a high school team. This was the case for Weatherly who was an all-star quarterback at Pontotoc High School. Jim Weatherly would play three seasons for coach Johnny Vaught and the Rebels. Let’s begin with Weatherly’s Ole Miss career.

The Football Years

While records from the early sixties can be sketchy and hard to find, we do know Jim Weatherly was the backup for Ole Miss great Glynn Griffing in 1962. That season Ole Miss was 10-0 and won both an SEC and National Championship. Weatherly, as a backup, completed 15 of 25 attempts for 180 yards and 3 TDs. Weatherly also had 35 carries for 230 yards and 2 TDs.

In 1963, Jim Weatherly was named as the Rebels starting quarterback. The Rebels went 7-1-2 with a final ranking of No.7 in the nation. The Rebels’ only loss was a 12-7 Sugar Bowl loss against the No.8 Alabama Crimson Tide. That season Weatherly completed 52 of 96 attempts for 676 yards, 7 TDs, and rushed for 202 yards on 61 carries with 4 TDs. Ole Miss won the SEC Championship.

In 1964, the Rebels finished with a 5-5-1 record and a 14-7 loss to Tulsa in the Bluebonnet Bowl. That season Weatherly completed 91 of 170 attempts for 1034 yards and 5 TDs. Weatherly also had 79 carries for 262 yards and 5 TDs on the ground. Weatherly earned Honorable-Mention All-American honors.

While his stats may not make the Ole Miss Rebels record books, Jim Weatherly did make history on the football field. In 1965, Weatherly would choose music over football and also make history on the stage.

The Music Years

The decision to pursue a music career over football was not popular among some Ole Miss football fans, but it worked out well for Weatherly. Jim Weatherly would go on to write and record several a multitude of great No.1 songs. Weatherly was best known for writing ‘Midnight Train to Georgia’ for Gladys Knight and the Pips, which reached No.1 on both the Pop and R&B charts and also went on to win a Grammy Award.

Weatherly also had other successful hits with Gladys Knight. In fact, 12 other songs were recorded by Gladys Knight and the Pips. ‘Neither One of Us’ and ‘Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me’ were just a couple. Weatherly’s ‘Neither One of Us’ was his first to reach No.1 in both Cashbox and Record World magazine charts. He was greatly admired by Gladys Knight among other performers. According to DJournal.com,

“I’m missing Jim Weatherly already. He was about life and love. …. We were just made for each other. We grew our lives together. I’m gonna miss him terribly and love him always.” ~Gladys Knight on Twitter

Besides writing and recording eleven of his own albums, Weatherly has written songs that were recorded by the likes of greats Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Brenda Lee, Lynn Anderson, Neil Diamond, Kenny Chesney, and Garth Brooks. The legendary Ray Price recorded 38 of Weatherly’s songs.

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James Dexter Weatherly was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2006 then the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame in 2011. Weatherly was later inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2014. He also received the Mississippi Governor’s Award for Excellence in 2014.

On February 3, 2021, James Dexter Weatherly, at the age of 77, passed away in his Brentwood, Tennessee home. Rest in peace Jim Weatherly.