Biography (15 April 1937 – 27 December 1978)
Before 1955 the only hits Bob Luman had were on the baseball field. In fact, he was a star baseball player for his high school team in Kilgore, Texas. He also fronted a band that performed the country hits of the day, including those of his idol, Lefty Frizzell. But after seeing Elvis Presley perform in Kilgore in May 1955, Bob was determined that the only hits in his future would be “Rockabilly hits,” and this was his passion until his dying day.
In 1956 Luman won a talent contest in Tyler, Texas, after performing “Blue Suede Shoes” at the suggestion of Johnny Horton. Winning the contest led to a contract to replace Johnny Cash on the Louisiana Hayride. With that invitation, Luman turned down an offer from the Pittsburgh Pirates to join spring training. Bob Luman signed with Imperial Records in 1957, and his first session was at Sellars Studio in Dallas, where he recorded with a group of teenage musicians he assembled in Shreveport— 15-year-old James Burton on guitar, James Kirkland on bass and Butch White on drums. That session yielded the Rockabilly classic, “Red Cadillac and a Black Mustache.”
With his first Rockabilly “hit” in hand, Luman traveled to California to appear in the movie, Carnival Rock. While there, Bob also became a regular performer on the Town Hall Party television program. Ricky Nelson also recorded for Imperial Records, based in Hollywood, and one day he walked in on Bob’s studio rehearsal. He was so impressed with Bob’s band that he hired them away from him. Luman left Imperial Records and his next Rockabilly hit—his first national #1 hit– was with Warner Bros. Records. This, too happened through frustration. Frustrated with losing his band, Bob announced during a 1959 show in Las Vegas that he was going back to baseball and would sign a new contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Don and Phil, the Everly Brothers, were in the audience and encouraged Luman to record a song titled “Let’s Think About Living,” written by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant—the same writers of the Everlys’ million-selling hit, “Bye, Bye Love.”
Bob Luman was invited to become a member of the legendary Grand Ole Opry in 1964. It was an uneasy relationship at times because Luman’s turbo-charged, Rockabilly performances didn’t always meet with the approval of the more traditional, mainstay Opry artists. Bob Luman’s successful career included thirty-eight recordings on the national charts, including the memorable classic, “Lonely Women Make Good Lovers.”