The Gordian Knot: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — July 15, 2022


517) The Gordian Knot — “The Broken Down Ole Merry-Go-Round”

What do a star college quarterback, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Norman Fell (“Mr. Roper”), Senator Robert Kennedy and Nancy Sinatra all have in common? — the Gordian Knot and a wondrous pop psych B-side/album track from the Knot’s only album. “Merry-Go-Round” constitutes one third of the great ‘60’s triumvirate of bittersweet meditations on childhood from the perspective of the things that growing children leave behind — along with “Puff the Magic Dragon” and Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.”

From whence the degrees of separation? Bryan Thomas:

[The] Gordian Knot was a short-lived band from southern California by way of Mississippi. They released only one album, a terrific soft rock/harmony pop effort . . . . The group formed at the University of Mississippi and was led by ex-Mississippi all-American quarterback/guitarist/lead vocalist Jim Weatherly . . . . The group caught their biggest break after they appeared at a party thrown by Nancy Sinatra, who apparently liked them so much that she asked them to accompany her on a USO trip to Vietnam. According to their liner notes, they were “one of the few groups since the Beatles to possess genuine charm . . . not a phony show biz glucose charm, but the real thing.” The bandmembers also appeared as themselves in a 1968 MGM teensploitation flick called Young Runaways, performing an original entitled “Ophelia’s Dream.”

A few years after the release of this album, Weatherly moved to Nashville and became a country singer/songwriter, penning a handful of hits. [His] biggest success as a songsmith came in 1973, however, when he wrote five of the nine songs on Top Ten album Imagination, including the soulful “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” and “Midnight Train to Georgia” (“Midnight Plane to Houston” was the original title), a pop and R&B number one smash in September 1973. . . . Weatherly recorded several albums . . . in the mid-’70s . . . . He has since co-written with younger country acts and provided Vince Gill, Bryan White, and others with hit songs.

Chris Bishop adds some:

[J.D.] Lobue [who wrote “Merry-Go-Round”] and [Leland] Russell had a band with Jim since their days at the University of Mississippi, where Jim Weatherly was a star quarterback. After college they moved to Los Angeles to try to succeed in the music business. On March 5, 1965, Cash Box announced “The grid star kicks off his disk career with a driving rocker”. It would be three years before any further releases, or any press would mention Jim Weatherly or his group, who would eventually be named the Gordian Knot. In February, 1968, Cash Box reported the[y] had signed to Verve for four singles and an album.

And Record World from April 20, 1968:

Performing for the key-holding crowds of Pierre Salinger’s ultra private club the Factory, they have acquired a rooting section which includes Nancy Sinatra and Tommy Smothers. Recently, they entertained Senator Robert Kennedy who thanked them in his speech for performing . . . . [M]illions of TV viewers familiarized themselves with the group when they tuned in the Fred Astaire special a while back. Viewers caught the quintet scintillate through the old Irving Berlin number, “Top Hat.”

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Here is the short version:

Here is “Orphilia’s Dream” — and, yes, the dad is Norman Fell from Three’s Company!!!

Here is a trailer from The Young Runaways:

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