One of the many rockabilly stars who later embraced country music, Bob Luman had a solid career that included several Top Ten records, including his biggest hits, “Let’s Think About Living” and “Lonely Women Make Good Lovers.” But he almost left music behind for another career — as a professional baseball player — before the Everly Brothers helped him choose the path he eventually followed.
Texas born and raised, Luman grew up with two strong interests — music and baseball. In fact, he was already being watched by baseball scouts as a high school star, but his initial try at a career was as a singer. He’d mostly been a country music fan while growing up and had followed established stars like Lefty Frizzell, but when he began performing in the mid 1950s he found himself gravitating toward the harder-edged, bopping style we now call rockabilly. He was inspired — so the story goes — by happening to catch Elvis Presley in a live show.
Luman sharpened his act while leading his own band and playing in local nightspots, and after graduating high school he won an amateur show that landed him a spot on the renowned Louisiana Hayride, the same radio/TV show that had helped popularize Presley. He did so well that it earned him a regular spot on the program, and over the next couple of years he kept busy appearing there and on other shows while also making some records. He even found a spot in a rock and roll movie and appeared in Las Vegas, but by 1959 he was growing discouraged by his lack of real stardom.
It was about then that baseball came back into the picture, as the Pittsburgh Pirates offered him a contract. He decided to go for it, and announced his intent at one of his live shows, but the Everly Brothers were in the audience and caught up with him afterwards. Following their advice, he recorded “Let’s Think About Living” and it took off up the charts, becoming a Top Ten crossover hit. It was the beginning of two decades of success for the singer, with many highly charting records and countless appearances on shows like the Grand Ole Opry, where he became a featured star. Unfortunately, his luck turned bad again as he grew ill, and died of pneumonia in 1978. He was just 41.