34 Years Ago: Lorrie Morgan Releases Her Debut Album, ‘Leave the Light On’
On May 11, 1989, Lorrie Morgan released her debut major-label album, Leave the Light On. She was no new artist, however.
The daughter of country music singer George Morgan, Lorrie Morgan made her Grand Ole Opry debut at age 13 — an experience she describes as anxiety-inducing, but made palatable by the support of her dad. "He nudged me out there and I got the first standing ovation in 20 years on the Opry," she told ClassicBands.com. "I said, 'Okay, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.'"
Morgan released a smattering of singles starting in 1979, appeared at Opryland USA and on TNN's Nashville Now, and hit the road touring, including alongside legend George Jones. And while music was her passion, she did have a Plan B in case things didn't work out.
"I wanted to be, believe it or not, every girl's dream: a hairdresser, a cosmetologist," she told ClassicBands.com. "I was about on my last leg when I got my deal at RCA. I said, 'I'm gonna try this one more time. If I get turned down this time, I'm going to cosmetology school.' Then I got my deal."
Leave the Light On ended up spawning four Top 10 singles, including a Beth Nielsen Chapman-penned No. 1 song, "Five Minutes," featuring a protagonist putting her foot down about a no-good partner. "It was pitched to a lot of women," Chapman recalled of the song to the Greensboro News Record in 1990. "There wasn't anybody to record it. Now these kinds of songs are suddenly in vogue."
Other songs on Leave the Light On mined similarly rich material. The brisk, piano-tickled "Trainwreck of Emotion" features a woman blindsided by a relationship implosion (although, she notes, "I know it was him that pulled that switch / And left me derailed"), while the No. 2 hit "Out of Your Shoes" is a vivid portrayal of a woman coming to terms with being passed over by a man she's into.
Musically, the album leans heavily on traditional ballads — the aching "He Talks to Me" and pedal steel- and harmony-driven "I'll Take the Memories" — and the occasional brisker song, such as a re-imagined take on the Beatles' "Eight Days a Week." The mix was the perfect balance, however, as it finally launched Morgan's career, and she spent the '90s enjoying success on the country charts.
Sadly, however, Morgan saw the album in a different light after it was released — especially since it arrived in stores just two days after the death of her husband, Keith Whitley.
"They are timely now," she said in a 1989 interview with UPI, in reference to songs such as "Trainwreck of Emotion," "I'll Take the Memories" and "Gonna Keep the Light On." "I'll be interpreting these songs differently now."