Bob Luman and His Hit “Let’s Think About Living”

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Introduction

Bob Luman was an American country and rockabilly singer and guitarist who was primarily known for his “Let’s Think About Living” track from the 60s music era. His professional foray into show business includes playing with his backup band the Shadows (not to be confused with the British combo The Shadows) who signed up with Imperial Records in 1957. When the label dropped them off the next year, Capitol Records signed Luman; the label wanted to change his name which Luman refused. Leaving Capitol, the Texan native signed a contract with Warner Bros. label. When Luman was drafted into the US Army in 1960, Warner released a song that became his signature tune, the crossover smash “Let’s Think about Living.” He achieved other country chart hits such as “Lonely Women Make Good Lovers”, “Still Loving You” and “When You Say Love,” among others. He toured constantly during the 60s up to the 70s. Luman died in 1978 from pneumonia. He was only 41.

Luman’s early years

American country and rockabilly singer Bob Luman (Robert Glynn Luman) was born in Blackjack, Texas on April 13, 1937 but grew up in Nacogdoches. Luman was introduced to music by his father who was an amateur fiddle, guitar and harmonica player. Luman had his first guitar at the age of thirteen. 

In 1956, just before starting his band, Luman won first position in a talent contest held by the Future Farmers of America. This achievement got him on Louisiana Hayride, which was a popular TV country music show at the time. The show was instrumental in launching the careers of several great names in American western and country music. In the 1950s, it was a notable performance venue for many country musicians, including Elvis Presley. 

Aside from the love of music, he was also a sports enthusiast during his teenage years. He became a high school baseball star and in fact he played the sport really well. He was even offered by baseball scouts to play in major baseball leagues, ending up with the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, he didn’t take it professionally. Instead, Luman chose to go after his musical aspirations and formed his own band while he was still attending high school. 

Musical Career

Luman was first attracted to country music but he later switched to rockabilly after seeing Elvis Presley live in a country music show. Along with his band, they started performing at school programs and for local clubs. When Luman graduated high school in the 1950’s, he joined a talent contest and won, leading him to his stage debut on The Louisina Hayride (a radio and later television country music show) where he became a regular performer.

In 1957, Luman created a four-piece backup band for the Louisiana Hayday show, the Shadows – not to be confused with the British instrumental group and Cliff Richard’s backing band The Shadows. Luman’s own Shadows included James Burton (guitar), James Kirkland (bass) and Butch White (drums). The Shadows were later signed to Imperial Records and recorded “All Night Long” and “Amarillo Blues.” But unable to find the success they were hoping for, they disbanded the following year.

Luman signed a record deal with Capitol Records where he had two songs, “Try Me” and “I Know My Baby Cares.” The company insisted Luman to change his name but he resisted to Capitol’s idea, so he jumped to Warner Bros. Records where he recorded “Class Of 59” and “Loretta.” In 1960, he served the US Army while he was still under contract with Warner.

Luman signed a record deal with Capitol Records where he had two songs, “Try Me” and “I Know My Baby Cares.” The company insisted that Luman to change his name but he resisted Capitol’s idea, so he jumped to Warner Bros. Records where he recorded “Class Of 59” and “Loretta.” In 1960, he served the US Army while he was still under contract with Warner. 

About the song ‘Let’s Think About Living’

While Luman was away doing his Army duties, Warner released one of Luman’s songs “Let’s Think About Living,” written by Boudleaux Bryant (mainly famous for his hits he created for the Everly Brothers, along with his songwriter wife, Felice). A novelty song, “Let’s Think About Living” went to #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and crossed over on the Billboard country chart on #9 spot. The song was more successful in the UK where it ranked #6. After that it was followed by “The Great Snowman” which was a minor hit in 1961.

Interestingly, Luman’s most successful single came about just when he had decided to give up music and play for the Pittsburgh Pirates. This was in 1959, when Luman was discouraged by not making it in the music industry. He announced his plan to leave country music during a concert, but the Everly Brothers were also part of the audience that night. The band talked to Luman after the concert and convinced him to give music another go. They were the ones who gave Luman the suggestion for recording ‘Let’s Think About Living’. 

The song itself is usually regarded as a criticism of the teenage tragedy and gunfighter ballad genres that were very popular at the time. The lyrics are humorously alluding to some songs by the Everly Brothers, Patti Page, and Marty Robbins. More specifically, they refer to the songs ‘Cathy’s Clown’ and ‘El Paso’, where the singers mentioned dying. In Luman’s song ‘Let’s Think About Living’, he says that if these musicians were to die in reality, Luman will probably be the only surviving musician left in the industry. Overall, the lyrics give a suggestion for having happier themes that are more related to livening, dancing, and loving—generally celebrating life. 

At this point, Luman faced a pause in his career due to being drafted into the army. This was his main focus for the next couple of years.  

Relocation to Nashville

In 1962, Luman left the US Army and relocated to Nashville where he also got married. He switched to Hickory Records where he recorded “The File” which entered at #24 on the the US country chart.

During the 60’s and 70’s, Luman had several tours and became a favorite in Las Vegas along with a country/rockabilly combined act. In 1968, he signed a record deal with Epic where he released several hit singles, “Still Loving You” and “Lonely Women Make Good Lovers.” The latter was noted as his highest-reaching country hit, reaching #4.

Luman continued to release several singles and had his final hit “The Payphone”
in 1978. Luman was claimed by pneumonia later that year in Nashville. He was only 41 years old.

In recognition of his achievements in the rockabilly and country music scene, Luman was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and Texas Country Music Hall of Fame.

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