One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer

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"One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer"
Single by Amos Milburn
B-side"What Can I Do?"
ReleasedAugust 1953 (1953-08)
RecordedJune 30, 1953
StudioAudio-Video Recording, New York City
Songwriter(s)Rudy Toombs
Amos Milburn singles chronology
"Let Me Go Home Whiskey"
"One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer"
"Good Good Whiskey"

"One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" (originally "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer") is a blues song written by Rudy Toombs and recorded by Amos Milburn in 1953. It is one of several drinking songs recorded by Milburn in the early 1950s that placed in the top ten of the Billboard R&B chart.[1] Other artists released popular recordings of the song, including John Lee Hooker in 1966 and George Thorogood in 1977.

Original song[edit]

"One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer" is one of Amos Milburn's popular alcohol-themed songs, that included "Bad, Bad Whiskey" (1950), "Thinking and Drinking" (1952), "Let Me Go Home, Whiskey" (1953), and "Good, Good Whiskey" (1954).[2] Written by Rudy Toombs, is a mid-tempo song, sometimes described as a jump blues.[3] Milburn recorded the song on June 30, 1953, at Audio-Video Recording studios in New York City.[4]

The lyrics tell the story of a man who is "in a bar at closing time trying to get enough booze down his neck to forget that his girlfriend's gone AWOL, harassing a tired, bored bartender who simply wants to close up and go home into serving just one more round".[3] The song's refrain includes:

One scotch, one bourbon, one beer (2x)
Please mister bartender, listen here
I ain't here for trouble, so have no fear
One scotch, one bourbon, one beer

Released as a single by Aladdin Records, the performers are listed as "Amos Milburn and His Aladdin Chickenshackers" after his first number one single "Chicken Shack Boogie".[5] It became Milburn's second-to-last appearance on the record charts, when the single reached number two on the Billboard R&B chart during a fourteen-week stay in 1953.[1]

Subsequently, when Milburn performed at clubs, he "incorporated three shot glasses lined up across the top of his piano [which] were filled more often than they should have been by obliging fans or by Milburn himself".[6] Several of Milburn's contemporaries commented on his indulgence; Milburn added "I practiced what I preached".[6] The song is included on several Milburn anthologies, such as Down the Road Apiece: The Best of Amos Milburn (1994, EMI America) and Blues, Barrelhouse & Boogie Woogie: The Best of Amos Milburn (1996, Capitol Records).[2]

John Lee Hooker[edit]

In 1966, John Lee Hooker recorded the song as "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer". It is often identified as an adaptation or cover of the Toombs/Milburn song.[7][8][9][10][11][12][13] However, biographer Charles Shaar Murray, while acknowledging Hooker's song is "derived from Amos Milburn's [song]", believes Hooker made the song his own as he had done in adapting several other earlier popular tunes.[14] Murray calls the process "Hookerization",[14] in which Hooker made it "into a vehicle for himself [but] edited the verse down to its essentials, filled in the gaps with narrative and dialogue, and set the whole thing to a rocking cross between South Side shuffle and signature boogie".[3] Hooker's opening verse is more insistent than Toombs:

One bourbon, one scotch, and one beer (2x)
Hey mister bartender, come here
I want another drink and I want it now[15]

He then adds a narrative:

And then I sit there, drinkin', gettin' high, mellow, knocked out, feelin' good
About that time I looked on the wall, at the old clock on the wall
About that time it was ten-thirty then, I looked down the bar at the bartender
He said "What do you want, Johnny?", "One bourbon, one scotch, and one beer"[16]

Hooker's song is notated as a medium tempo blues with an irregular number of bars in 4/4 time in the key of E.[15] It was recorded in Chicago in 1966 with Hooker on vocal and guitar, guitarist Eddie "Guitar" Burns, and unknown accompanists.[17] The song was released on the Chess Records album The Real Folk Blues (1966).[18] A live version with Muddy Waters' band recorded at the Cafe Au Go Go on August 30, 1966, has been described as "dark, slow, swampy-deep, and the degree of emotional rapport between Hooker and the band (particularly Otis Spann) [is] nothing less than extraordinary".[19]

George Thorogood[edit]

George Thorogood recorded "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" for his 1977 debut album, George Thorogood and the Destroyers.[20] His version is a medley in which Hooker's version of this song is preceded by another Hooker song, "House Rent Boogie",[21][22] which serves as a backstory to explain the singer's situation. According to Hooker, "He [Thorogood] told me he was gonna do that [and] I said, 'Okay, go ahead'".[22] Live recordings of the medley are included on Live (1986).[23] and 30th Anniversary Tour: Live (2004).[24]


  1. ^ a b Whitburn 1988, p. 290.
  2. ^ a b Dahl 1996, p. 193.
  3. ^ a b c Murray 2002, pp. 312–313.
  4. ^ Laredo 1993, pp. 6–7.
  5. ^ Laredo 1993, p. 6.
  6. ^ a b Laredo 1993, p. 3.
  7. ^ Batey 2003, p. 150: "one of his [Hooker's] best-known songs, 'One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,' [is] an adaptation of a classic Amos Milburn drinking tune."
  8. ^ Keller 2018, p. 254: "John Lee Hooker rearranged the text a bit, recorded it [in] 1966, but it's still essentially Toombs' original."
  9. ^ McMichael 2015, p. 289: "Rudy Toombs and Amos Milburn's 'One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer' [sic] ... was covered in the 1960s by John Lee Hooker, and then again by George Thorogood in the late 1970s."
  10. ^ Laberge 2006, p. 691: "[The Milburn release was] composed by Rudy Toombs. The song was later covered by John Lee Hooker ... and George Thorogood."
  11. ^ Fahey & Miller 2013, p. 481: "Among those [Milburn's alcohol songs] is the famous 'One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,' which was redone by many artists, including John Lee Hooker".
  12. ^ Birnbaum 2013, p. 248: "[Milburn's] 'One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer' (later revived by John Lee Hooker as 'One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer')"
  13. ^ Simmons 2018, p. 193: "A number of other artists would later record it, including Champion Jack Dupree, John Lee Hooker, and George Thorogood, making it the best known song he'd [Milburn] ever record."
  14. ^ a b Murray 2002, p. 356.
  15. ^ a b Leonard 1995, p. 162.
  16. ^ Leonard 1995, p. 163.
  17. ^ House of the Blues (1988 reissue notes). John Lee Hooker. Hannover, Germany: Vogue Records. 1966. p. 2. VG651 600115.{{cite AV media notes}}: CS1 maint: others in cite AV media (notes) (link)
  18. ^ Cook, Stephen. "John Lee Hooker: The Real Folk Blues – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved September 4, 2022.
  19. ^ Murray 2002, pp. 312–322.
  20. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "George Thorogood & the Destroyers – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  21. ^ Poling, Dean (March 19, 2010). "Bad to the Funny Bone: A Strange Conversation with George Thorogood". Valdosta Daily Times. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  22. ^ a b Murray 2002, p. 441.
  23. ^ Hill, Gary. "George Thorogood & the Destroyers: Live – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved May 25, 2021.
  24. ^ Campbell, Al. "George Thorogood & the Destroyers: 30th Anniversary Tour – Review". AllMusic. Retrieved May 25, 2021.