Do you remember Vicki Lawrence's #1 song from 1973?

"The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" was a family affair!

Yes, that Vicki Lawrence. As if being the second banana on The Carol Burnett Show wasn't enough, Lawrence had hit songs, too. Because being on one of America's biggest and most influential sketch shows didn't fully scratch her creative itch, Vicki Lawrence went and became a multi-hyphenate, etching her name into multiple entertainment history books. 

The song in question is "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia," written in 1972 by Lawrence's then-husband Bobby Russell. Vicki was, by then, a bona fide celebrity. The Carol Burnett Show pulled her out of teenaged obscurity and planted her onto the television sets of millions of viewers. The Burnett show proved that Lawrence was one of the most capable performers in show business, regularly and gamely doing anything for a laugh, including singing.

Country justice is the tune's primary preoccupation. It's a Southern Gothic murder ballad told from the perspective of a woman singing about her brother. Her brother, having just returned from a trip, learns of his wife's adultery. He confronts the man with whom she had an affair, only to find the man dead. The brother is arrested and hanged for this crime he didn't commit. He had plenty of motive, and he had the means and the opportunity to kill the other man. But he didn't do it. 

Spoiler Alert: It's the song's narrator who enacted revenge and killed the man who slept with her brother's wife.

Phew! That was complicated. But that didn't keep listeners from sending the song all the way to number one in 1973. Even though the song was written in '72 and released in November of that year, "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" didn't top the Billboard chart until April 7th, 1973, when it spent two weeks at number one. 

Do you like this version of the song? Or is your favorite the Reba McEntire recording? Do you prefer Vicki Lawrence in The Carol Burnett Show, or in Mama's Family? Let us know in the comments section below!

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28 Comments

KarenFiglerChastain 23 days ago
I like the original version. Vicki sings it better and has more of a profound voice.
IndianaRockz 7 months ago
Little sister shot & killed both her cheatin' sister in law & the sister in law's lover & says that's one body that'll never be found regarding the sis-in-law.....then let her brother take the fall for the crime!
I guess the writer of the story didn't listen to the song. (sigh)
I like Vicki Lawrence's version better.

Another great story telling song of that genre back then is Ode to Billie Joe, I love that one too.
Moverfan IndianaRockz 4 months ago
She didn't let him take the fall--check the last verse:

Well, they hung my brother before I could say
The tracks he saw while on his way to Andy's house in back that night were mine...
IndianaRockz Moverfan 4 months ago
Yeah, her tracks from her dirty shootin' & disposin' deeds. Lil Sister had the whole time to fess up to the crimes but kept her mouth shut & poor innocent big brother took the fall. Gee, such a cheerful & uplifting song!😉😆😆😆
KawiVulc 8 months ago
Sure do. Kind of a scary song for a little kid back then...
tootsieg 8 months ago
I like the Vicki Lawrence version. Great song. Vicki was wonderful in both shows.
JDWJDW2 8 months ago
I absolutely loved Vicki Lawrence doing this version of The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia. She was also fabulous on The Carol Burnett Show. I never saw Mama's Family but I liked the skit when it aired as part of the Carol Burnett Show.
rubyslippers1234 8 months ago
So many memories of singing this song with my classmates on the school bus in 5th grade.
crystall77 8 months ago
Wow! I didn’t know Vicki Lawrence had an album out in 73? I’m going to have to look it up and listen to it. I started becoming familiar with Vicki on The Carol Burnett Show and even more so on Mama’s Family.
Feetman 8 months ago
Actually Sonny wouldn't let Cher sing the song because he worried that it was insulting to the south.
I preferred the family sketches on The Carol Burnett show to Mama's Family, or at least the syndicated version, because Carol and Harvey left because Carol divorced the producer Joe Hamilton and she actually dissociated herself in the whole production and didn't speak to Vicky for years when she found out Vicky was doing the syndicated version, and Betty White and Rue McClanahan had committed to The Golden Girls while they were waiting to see if Mama's Family would go into syndication after the network canceled it,
although Betty made ay least one appearance on the syndicated Mama's Family. The show was never the same without Eunice and Ellen though.
MrsPhilHarris 8 months ago
Loved Vicki on Carol B. Don’t care for Mama’s Family. I had no idea what the song was about. 🤭
CortneyNicole 8 months ago
Good story! I love Vicki's original version (The Night, The Light When Out in Georgia) more better than Reba.
cperrynaples 8 months ago
Would you believe Cher rejected this song? Her loss was Vicki's gain!
Feetman cperrynaples 8 months ago
Actually Sonny wouldn't let Cher sing the song because he was worried that it was insulting to the south.
Feetman 8 months ago
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MsRockford74 8 months ago
Oh, I love Vicki's version of the song and spoiler: the narrator kills the brother's wife, too. I like her better in Carol's show. I think Mama's family was a bit too silly for me. The family sketches just weren't the same after Harvey Korman left the show.
Feetman MsRockford74 8 months ago
Mama's Family wasn't the same when it went into syndication because Carol left too since she and the producer Joe Hamilton got a divorce and she actually didn't speak to Vicky for some time for doing the syndicated show and Betty and Rue had gone on to The Golden Girls,although Betty made at least one appearance on this syndicated Mama's Family.
Deleted 8 months ago
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Runeshaper 8 months ago
I never knew the meaning behind that song and now that I do, it's very deep.
Sunnygirl 8 months ago
I like watching, Vicki Lawrence on Carol Bernett Show better.
Feetman Sunnygirl 8 months ago
The Mama's Family show was good until Carol,Rue,and Betty left ruined Betty had signed to do the Golden Girls by the time I got into syndication and Carol left because she and the producer Joe Hamilton got a divorce.
Feetman Sunnygirl 8 months ago
I mean RUE and Betty have to do the Golden Girls while they were waiting to see if Mama's family would go into syndication, Betty made at least one appearance on the syndicated Mama's Family.
Andybandit 8 months ago
I never heard VL version of the song. I am sure she sounded good.
Moverfan 8 months ago
I was ten when The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia came out and I bought the 45 (the flip side, Dime A Dance, is pretty good, too). Reba's version is a bit different than Vicki's, but still good.
On the other hand, while I grew up on The Carol Burnett Show and love it to pieces, you'd have to pay me to watch Mama's Family. And there's not enough money in the world on any given day..!
Feetman Moverfan 8 months ago
I liked the first two years of Mama's Family on the network when Betty White and Rue McClanahan were on it and Carol and Harvey made appearances,but then Carol and the producer Joe Hamilton got a divorce and she disassociated herself from the whole thing and didn't speak to Vicky for years when she found out Vicki was reuniting with Joe to do the syndicated show, and while the show been off the air Betty and Rue had signed to do The Golden Girls, although ready made at least one appearance on the syndicated Mama's Family and it was one of the better episodes. Iola and Bubba okay, but Bubba needed his parents.
Feetman Moverfan 8 months ago
I meant while the show WAS off the air Betty White and Rue McClanahan had signed to do The Golden Girls,but BETTY made at least one appearance on the syndicated Mama's Family. Sorry.
MC1707 Moverfan 8 months ago
Agreed. Mama’s Family is a crappy show.
drcrumpler 8 months ago
While I love Reba, there is none higher than Vicki Lawrence.
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