“I Left Something Turned On at Home”
Written by Billy Lawson and John Schweers
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
August 1, 1997
Trace Adkins gets his John Anderson groove on.
The Road to No. 1
After topping the charts for the first time with “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing,” Adkins repeated the feat with the fourth and final single from Dreamin’ Out Loud.
The No. 1
By the late nineties, new artists were surfacing that were clearly influenced by the eighties new traditionalists. Terri Clark clearly cut her teeth on Reba McEntire and the Judds, and her contemporary Trace Adkins was heavily influenced by John Conlee and John Anderson.
That Anderson influence is all over “I Left Something Turned On at Home,” which the eighties and nineties legend would’ve made a classic with his warbling delivery. Adkins doesn’t have the same ability to lean into a song’s humor with his vocal delivery – he’d have just sang “Swingin” instead of “Swangin’.” Still, the playfulness is there on the backing track, and Adkins’ baritone would itself be influential on 21st century stars like Josh Turner and Kane Brown.
It’s a novelty record that Adkins isn’t quite seasoned enough as a studio singer to make novel, but given how leering he would’ve made this later in his career (see: “Swing,” “Hot Mama”), the straightforward delivery is a bit of a relief.
The Road From No. 1
Adkins closed out the decade with the top five “The Rest of Mine” and the top fifteen “Lonely Won’t Leave Me Alone” from his second album, Big Time. When we cover the 2000s, we will see a lot more of Trace Adkins, as he reaches his commercial peak during that decade.
“I Left Something Turned On at Home” gets a B.
Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties
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I’ll never forget when “I Left Something Turned On at Home” was making inroads at country radio, my mom had to explain to me what exactly he was singing about. I may have known all the words by heart, but as a 9-year-old, they went right over my head!
I always thought it was kind of funny that Trace had two singles from his debut album that talked about leaving things on in his house, lol.
This is yet another song I first heard in the Spring of ’97 when I was still in fifth grade and still heard regularly on the radio in September during the beginning of my middle school years in the 6th grade. It’s pretty neat how long many of these Spring/Summer songs stuck around for several months, but that also may be an early sign of radio playlists beginning to shrink back then. That might also explain why we’re now starting to see fewer songs in between certain artists’ number ones hits. With Trace, it seems like “No Thinkin’ Thing” was covered here just yesterday. Regardless, it’s quite impressive how red hot he was during his debut album era.
The first time I heard “I Left Something Turned On At Home,” it was while I was recording it on to the flip side of the tape I mentioned in Lonestar’s “Come Cryin’ To Me.” I actually didn’t even recognize it was Trace, at first, and thought it was Wade Hayes since he also has a deep voice and the song was sonically similar to some of Hayes’ upbeat songs. The line in the second verse “Hey waitress, could you cancel that order?” also made me think of Charlize Theron’s waitress character in the movie Trial and Error (starring Jeff Daniels), since my mom and I had just seen that movie recently. Like Jon above, the meaning of the lyrics also flew over my head at that moment, and I kept wondering, “Okay, just what is it that he left on in the house?” lol. Despite that, I still liked the song enough to keep it on the tape, and I also recorded “Is That A Tear” by Tracy Lawrence next. I never did finish the tape after that, though, and I wouldn’t record again until the Fall of 1998.
Of course, a little while later, I figured out that it was the woman asking him to come home who was “turned on,” but that innuendo still mostly went over my head, and I didn’t know exactly why it was such an emergency for her to see him right away, lol. This is also another song I remember hearing during the trip to Maine that my parents and I went on during August of 1997, and in the September of that year when I had just recently started 6th grade, I had this song going through my head one day at the lunch table.
This song still got a little recurrent airplay for us in the next few years, but not quite as much as “Thinkin’ Thing” and “Every Light” did. I remember being pleasantly surprised hearing it again on the radio in my bedroom around late 2001/early 2002 when “I’m Tryin'” was his current single. I even remember the female DJ saying something afterwards like, “It sounds like Trace needs to get back to his house right away before it burns down!” lol.
I very much prefer this one to the many other novelty songs Trace would cut in the following decade, and like Kevin says, I find his more straightforward approach to this song refreshing. Sonically, it’s such an enjoyable neo-traditional barn burner, and it’s complimented very well by Trace’s booming baritone. I especially like how his deep voice sounds when he sings “The house is probably smokin'” in the first two choruses. The comparison to John Anderson’s 80’s novelties is quite accurate, and I’m surprised I never saw that connection until now. I do also hear the John Conlee influence in some of Trace’s 90’s/early 00’s music, as well as influences from various Urban Cowboy era artists (Especially on his 2001 album, Chrome. “Help Me Understand” sounds like a Kenny Rogers or Conway Twitty song from that period, while “And There Was You” and “Come Home” remind me of late 70’s/early 80’s Charley Pride).
As a big fan of Trace’s 90’s music, it’s disappointing that this is his last number one of the decade, but I guess not too surprising, since radio, for whatever reason, didn’t embrace him as quite much on his next few albums. My personal favorite record of his is his sophomore set, 1997’s Big Time, and I’m especially surprised that the lead single, “The Rest Of Mine,” didn’t reach the top on either chart. It’s simply gorgeous with it’s beautiful fiddle and steel passages, and I rank it as one of my top personal favorite songs from Trace. It’s also one of my favorites from late 1997 that brings back wonderful memories from the Fall and holiday season of that year. :) Early 1998’s “Lonely Won’t Leave Me Alone” is another one of my biggest favorites from him, which I would hear on Chris Charles’ Weekly Country Countdown on Saturday nights in my bedroom. Other songs from Big Time I love are: “Snowball In El Paso,” “Hold You Now,” “Out Of My Dreams,” “Took Her To The Moon,” “Twenty Four Seven,” and “See Jane Run.”
Trace’s often overlooked 1999 effort, More…, is my next favorite record of his, and I’ve especially always enjoyed the title track from the Spring of 2000, as well as the should’ve been bigger hits “Don’t Lie” and “I’m Gonna Love You Anyway.” It also includes many songs I still consider to be some of the best like “She’s Still There” (which always gives me chills), “Every Other Friday At Five,” “Someday,” “Working Man’s Wage,” “The Night He Can’t Remember,” and the western swinger “All Hat, No Cattle” featuring Asleep at The Wheel front man and fellow tall guy, Ray Benson. This was actually the first album of his I ever owned when my dad got it for me in the Summer of 2000. :)
This song straddles the novelty divide for me. I think Adkins brilliantly undersells this song. The tongue-in-cheek bravado of the bar banter with the boys rings too true for me. If we could actually hear the phone call, I suspect the narrator’s partner probably dresssed him down for hanging out with the boys again and insisted he get his ass home now. To save face, Adkins chooses to present it as an urgent call for the fireman to his buddies. I love this song and Adkins performance.
Early Trace Adkins is proving every bit as rewarding to revisit as Toby Keith.