One of Bobby Bland's most popular singles, this #2 R&B hit finds the singer desperate for some loving. In between blasts of horns and percussion, he begs his girl to "turn on her love light."
The tune was written by R&B trumpeter Joe Scott, who also came up with the lively arrangement. He shares credit with Duke Records' owner and producer Don Robey aka Deadric Malone. It was Robey who paired Bland with Scott - a partnership that proved fruitful. "In the early days Joe Scott selected all my material, the stories he knew I could tell," Bland explained to Melody Maker in 1974. "He also wrote all the lyrics and the charts for the band."
Bland landed his first hit in 1957 with the R&B chart-topper "Farther Up The Road," but it was "Turn On Your Love Light," from his sophomore album, Here's The Man!, that expanded his fan base. "It crossed over from the chitlin circuit," he told Rolling Stone in 1998. "It got, if I can say, the white people to listen."
According to music journalist John Morthland's liner notes on the 1992 compilation The Best of Duke-Peacock Blues, Bland's backing band on this tune was likely as follows:
trumpets: Joe Scott and Melvin Jackson
trombone: Pluma Davis
saxophones: Johnny Board and Jimmy Beck
baritone saxophone: Rayfield Davers
piano: Teddy Reynolds
guitar: Wayne Bennett
bass: Hamp Simmons
drums: John "Jabo" Starks
The Grateful Dead performed this during their disastrous showing at Woodstock in 1969. It wasn't the song's fault, though, which became a staple of their concert repertoire. Jerry Garcia, the jam band's frontman, chalked up the negative experience to a host of technical difficulties: "We played such a bad set at Woodstock. The weekend was great, but our set was terrible. We were all pretty smashed, and it was at night. Like we knew there were a half million people out there, but we couldn't see one of them. There were about 100 people on stage with us, and everyone was scared that it was gonna collapse. On top of that, it was raining or wet, so that every time we touched our guitars, we'd get these electrical shocks. Blue sparks were flying out of our guitars."
This charted five times on the Hot 100 from 1961 to 1972, with Bland's #28 entry charting the highest. Oscar Toney Jr. followed at #65 in 1967, then The Human Beinz at #80 in 1968, then Bill Black's Combo at #82 in 1968, and Jerry Lee Lewis at #95 in 1972.
Several other artists have recorded this, including Van Morrison's band Them, Lonnie Mack, The Rascals, Tom Jones, Edgar Winter's White Trash, Bob Seger, Conway Twitty, and Jeff Beck. Grand Funk Railroad's Don Brewer and Mark Farner also recorded this as "Love Lights" before forming the band. That version is included on the 1974 GFR album, Monumental Funk.
Dan Aykroyd and John Goodman performed this in the 1998 movie Blues Brothers 2000.
This received the Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1999.