Bob Luman Biography

Robert Glynn Luman, 15 April 1937, Blackjack, near Nacogdoches, Texas, USA, d. 27 December 1978, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. Luman’s father, Joe, a school caretaker, bus driver and gifted musician, taught his son country music, but Luman’s first love was baseball, which he played on a semi-professional basis until 1959. He was influenced by seeing Elvis Presley in concert, later saying, ‘That was the last time I tried to sing like Webb Pierce or Lefty Frizzell’. His band then won a talent contest sponsored by the Texas Future Farmers of America and judged by Johnny Horton. In 1955, Luman recorded the original version of ‘Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache’ and also a scorching ‘Red Hot’ for Imperial Records. He joined The Louisiana Hayride as replacement for Johnny Cash and came into contact with guitarist James Burton and bass player James Kirkland, whom he recruited for his band. Unfortunately for Luman, Ricky Nelson was so impressed by Luman’s musicians that he made them a better offer. After a brief, unsuccessful period with Capitol Records, Luman moved to Warner Brothers Records, who released ‘Class Of ‘59’ and ‘Dreamy Doll’, both featuring Roy Buchanan. He had a transatlantic hit with Boudleaux Bryant’s satire on ‘death discs’ such as ‘El Paso’ and ‘One Of Us (Will Weep Tonight)’ in ‘Let’s Think About Living’. ‘If we keep losing our singers like this, ’ he concluded, ‘I’ll be the only one you can buy.’ He failed to repeat his success, despite such clever novelties as ‘The Great Snowman’ and ‘Private Eye’. After spending part of the early 60s in the army due to the draft laws, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1964 and made many country records for the Hickory label, including John D. Loudermilk’s witty ‘The File’. He became a big-selling US country artist via his Epic recordings, ‘When You Say Love’, ‘Lonely Women Make Good Lovers’ and ‘Neither One Of Us (Wants To Be The First To Say Goodbye)’, subsequently a pop hit for Gladys Knight And The Pips.

In 1976, he underwent major surgery and then, prompted and produced by Johnny Cash, he recorded Alive And Well. Despite the title, he collapsed and died shortly after an appearance at the Grand Ole Opry. In recent years, Luman’s work has been reassessed with retrospectives and, like Johnny Burnette, it is his early, rockabilly work that most interests collectors. To quote one of his country hits, ‘Good Things Stem From Rock ‘n’ Roll.’

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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