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?"
Released August 1953 (1953-08)
Format 10-inch 78 rpm
Recorded Audio-Video Recording, New York City, June 6, 1953
Genre Blues
Length 2:54
Label Aladdin (no. 3197)
Writer(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" (or "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer", its original title) 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]

Amos Milburn's "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer" is a mid-tempo blues song, sometimes described as a jump blues,[2] with pop-style chord changes. It tells 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".[2] During the one break in the song, Milburn implores the bartender:

One more nip and make it strong
I got to find my baby if it takes all night long
One scotch, one bourbon, one beer

The song was a hit, reaching number two in the R&B chart during a fourteen-week stay in 1953.[1] The single lists the performers as "Amos Milburn and His Aladdin Chickenshackers" after his first number one single "Chicken Shack Boogie". Mickey Baker provided the guitar parts. Several of Milburn's contemporaries commented on his indulgence;[3] for his part, Milburn added "I practiced what I preached".[4]

John Lee Hooker version[edit]

John Lee Hooker recorded the song as "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" in 1966. Hooker transformed Milburn's song "into a vehicle for himself".[2] He used the storyline and chorus (but altered the order), 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".[2] Part of Hooker's narrative included:

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

Hooker's version is notated as a medium tempo blues with an irregular number of bars in 4/4 time in the key of E.[5] It was recorded in Chicago in 1966 with Hooker on vocal and guitar, pianist Lafayette Leake, guitarist Eddie "Guitar" Burns, drummer Fred Below, and an unknown bass player. The song was released on Hooker's 1966 The Real Folk Blues album and he later recorded several live renditions of the song. 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".[6]

George Thorogood version[edit]

"One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer"
Song by George Thorogood from the album George Thorogood and the Destroyers
Released 1977 (1977)
Recorded Dimension Sound, Jamaica Plain, Boston, 1977
Genre Blues rock
Length 8:27
Label Rounder

Terry Manning and the Delaware Destroyers

Music sample

George Thorogood recorded "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" for his 1977 debut album, George Thorogood and the Destroyers. His version is a medley of the song and another Hooker song, "House Rent Boogie",[7] which serves as a back-story to explain the singer's situation. According to Hooker, "He [Thorogood] told me he was gonna do that [and] I said, 'Okay, go ahead'".[8]

"House Rent Boogie" is written in the first person and details the events that transpire after the singer has lost his job. Unable to pay his rent and thrown out by his landlady, he tries and fails to obtain lodging at a friend's house. Lying to his landlady that he has obtained a new job, he gets access to his room and removes all his belongings. He then goes down to a tavern and repeatedly orders the three title drinks to drown his sorrows, staying until last call at 3:00 a.m.

Live recordings of the medley are included on Live (1986) and 30th Anniversary Tour: Live (2004). In the 1986 performance, as he is being evicted, he makes sure to pack up his "John Lee Hooker record collection" before he heads off to the bar. Both the studio version and the live version of "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" have been included on several Thorogood compilations.

Renditions by other artists[edit]

A variety of artists have recorded versions of the song, including: Snooks Eaglin, Prince Jazzbo, Thurston Harris, Champion Jack Dupree, John Lee Hooker Jr., Marcel Zanini, and Admiral Bailey and Chaka Demus. For the "Blame It on the Alcohol" episode of the television series Glee, characters Will Schuester (played by Matthew Morrison) and Shannon Beiste (played by Dot-Marie Jones) sang the song at a honky tonk bar.


  1. ^ a b Whitburn, Joel (1988). Top R&B Singles 1942–1988. Record Research. p. 290. ISBN 0-89820-068-7. 
  2. ^ a b c d Murray, Charles Shaar (2002). Boogie Man: The Adventures of John Lee Hooker in the American Twentieth Century. St. Martin's Griffin. pp. 312–313. ISBN 978-0-312-27006-3. 
  3. ^ Murray 2002, p. 312. "He [Milburn] was a good man, stayed drunk a-a-a-a-l-l the time. Nice gentleman, though".
  4. ^ ‹See Tfm›Laredo, Joseph F. (1993). The Best of Amos Milburn: Down the Road Apiece (CD booklet). Amos Milburn. EMI America. p. 3. 243 8 27229 2. 
  5. ^ The Blues. Hal Leonard. 1995. pp. 162–63. ISBN 0-7935-5259-1. 
  6. ^ Murray 2002, p. 312–322.
  7. ^ Poling, Dean (March 19, 2010). "Bad to the Funny Bone: A Strange Conversation with George Thorogood". Valdosta Daily Times. Retrieved April 2, 2010. 
  8. ^ Murray 2002, p. 441.

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