How Vicki Lawrence took 'Georgia' to the top

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These days, Vicki Lawrence is one of “The Cool Kids” on FOX.  But 45 years ago, the actress and comedian had the entire country mesmerized by a story of love and murder set right here in the Peach State.

“It was a juggernaut of the ‘70s, baby,” says Lawrence of “The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia,” her 1972 pop single (written by Bobby Russell and produced by Snuff Garrett) which topped the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in 1973.  Lawrence was starring on the popular “The Carol Burnett Show” at the time, and says it’s a long story of how she went from award-winning television star to pop songstress.  Here’s the short version, as told to Good Day Atlanta’s Paul Milliken:

“I was married to the guy who wrote the song for 10 months.  It was, like, the only good thing that came out of the marriage!  He wrote this song, he hated it, he said, 'If you love it, you do the demo.'  I did the demo, we brought it out to his producer, who said it was a good song and tried to give it to everybody.  Tried to give it to Liza Minnelli, he tried to give it to Cher.  Sonny [Bono] said, 'This song sucks.'  Finally his producer said, 'Let's just go in the studio and do it with Vicki.’”

The single, released on Bell Records, made a slow and steady climb up the charts, and by the week ending April 7, 1973, it was the #1 pop record in the country.  Eventually, the song led to a movie of the same name, a successful cover version by Reba McEntire, and memorable references in films and television shows.  Summing up her experience as a pop star, Lawrence says, “The whole thing ended in divorce, but I did get a gold record and I got the dog!”

Click the video link above to watch Paul’s interview with Vicki Lawrence on the Los Angeles set of “The Cool Kids” – and don’t miss an all-new episode of the sitcom Friday at 8:30 p.m., right here on FOX 5 Atlanta!