Bob Luman / Rock and Roll

Born Robert Glynn Luman, 15 April 1937, Blackjack, Texas
Died 27 December 1978, Nashville, Tennessee

More than half of the (too) short life of Bob Luman was devoted to a musical career. Although he scored only one pop hit during those 20+ years, he was much more than a one-hit wonder. Blessed with a great voice, he was equally at home with rockabilly and country.

Born in the small community of Blackjack, just out of Nacogdoches, Texas, Luman grew up on a diet of country music. He received his first guitar when he was 13 years of age. At Kilgore High School he formed a country band, playing the hits of Lefty Frizzell and Webb Pierce. Also a talented athlete, Luman was still trying to decide whether to seek a baseball career or a country music career when ElvisPresley came to his hometown of Kilgore in August 1955. Young Bob was blown away. He switched to playing rock n roll with his band and it wasn't long before he won a talent contest sponsored by the Future Farmers of America, defeating second place winner Mac Curtis in the process. Before the end of 1955 Bob had recorded six demos (including "In the Deep Dark Jungle" and "Stranger Than Fiction") under the guidance of Jim Shell, a Texas songwriter / music honcho. These rockabilly recordings would not be released until some twenty years later, on Ronnie Weiser's Rollin' Rock label.

In 1956 Luman became a regular on the Louisiana Hayride, produced by Horace Logan, who introduced him to a young Shreveport guitar player named James Burton. Adding James Kirkland on bass and Butch White on drums, they formed a four-piece rockabilly band, the Shadows. They recorded three vocal and three instrumental numbers for Fabor Robison's Abbott label, but again these remained unreleased (until the 1990s). Finally, in early 1957, Luman was signed to a real recording contract, by Imperial Records. Three singles were released in 1957 ("Red Cadillac And A Black Moustache", "Red Hot", "Make Up Your Mind Baby"), but without commercial success. It is mainly Burton's guitar playing that makes these recordings special. That same year Bob and the Shadows appeared in the rock n roll movie "Carnival Rock", where he sang "All Night Long" and "This Is the Night". Luman moved to California and became a regular on the Town Hall Party television program.

Then, in December 1957, the Shadows left Luman to become Ricky Nelson's band. Bob was devastated by the defection, though he was happy for James Burton, who went on to become one of the greatest rockabilly guitarists in history. Two Luman sessions for Capitol in 1958 resulted in two singles, the best of which was "Try Me"/"I Know My Baby Cares". The next stop, in 1959, was at the newly established Warner Bros label. The first two Warner singles, "Class Of '59" and "Dreamy Doll"/"Buttercup" did nothing and one of his best rockers, "Loretta", would remain in the vaults until 1980. Bob Luman became increasingly disheartened with the music business and even thought about going back to baseball.

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