Night Time Is The Right Time

Album: The Return Of Roosevelt Sykes (1937)
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Songfacts®:

  • "Night Time Is the Right Time" is a blues song first performed by Roosevelt Sykes in 1937. In his version, which he wrote with fellow bluesman Jimmy Oden, he's warning his woman, telling her she better come home to him at night because that's the time to be with the one you love.

    Big Bill Broonzy recorded the song in 1938, and that same year, Sykes recorded a new version he published as ""Night Time Is the Right Time #2," this time listing himself as the sole composer. In this one, the lyric is less menacing and more of a lament because his girl is leaving him.

    The song remained a rarity until 1957, when the soul singer Nappy Brown reworked it as "The Right Time." Brown's version introduces the "night and day" backing vocals after each line:

    You know the night time
    (night and day)
    Is the right time
    (night and day)
    To be
    (night and day)
    With the one you love
    (night and day)


    Unlike Sykes' original, there are no verses and no real storyline, just a lot of yearning desire. Despite lifting the words to Sykes' chorus, Brown claimed the songwriting credit, which he split with his label boss Herman Lubinsky (under the pseudonym "Lew Herman") and Ozzie Cadena, who apparently was the one who knew of the original.

    Brown's version, released on the Savoy label, didn't have much impact, but in 1958, Ray Charles released his own version on the rival Atlantic label. His version is very similar to Brown's but turns the lead vocals in the second half of the song over to one of his backing singers (Raelettes), Margie Hendricks, who comes in for the "bay-beeee" section. Titled "(Night Time Is) The Right Time," it was a #5 R&B hit and made the Hot 100 at #95. This has become the definitive version of the song, covered by Creedence Clearwater Revival (on their 1969 Green River album), Tina Turner, The Rolling Stones, Lulu, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, and The Animals. The only other version to chart on the Hot 100 was by Rufus & Carla Thomas, who took it to #94 in 1964.
  • Roosevelt Sykes was better known as "The Honeydripper." As a very old-school blues piano player, he was born in Elmar, Arkansas and began performing blues shows when he was 15, primarily to industrial camps along the Mississippi River. His first record contract was with Okeh Records, from which he went on to have a notable career.
  • In 1985, "Night Time Is the Right Time" made cultural history when it became the centerpiece of one of the most beloved episodes of The Cosby Show. In this episode, the Ray Charles and Margie Hendricks version was lip-synched by the Huxtable family to celebrate their grandparents' 49th wedding anniversary. If this doesn't jog your memory, here's the clip. This episode became so popular that several more episodes featured Huxtables dancing, lip-synching, or otherwise incorporating classic blues songs into the show.

    In the 2015 episode "30 Something" of the series Black-ish, there is a similar scene where the kids are trying to come up with a song and dance routine, and consider this song. "I feel like this has been done before, but better," one of them says in a call-out to the Cosby scene.

Comments: 1

  • Jr from Bloomington, InThis was also covered by blues singer Nappy Brown.
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