John Lee Hooker

One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer

Composed by Rudy Toombs

Song Review by

The first thing that strikes a listener of John Lee Hooker's classic "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" is how untogether it is, even as the crack studio band keeps it together; Hooker is singing one thing, seemingly oblivious to the 12-bar blues pattern that the band is playing, while the group tries to keep him grounded. The experience is like watching Chuck Berry in his later days, visibly fuming while some poor, unrehearsed pick-up band (he would travel solo, paying new bands in each town to sit in with him) tries to follow his uneven measures and spur-of-the-moment key changes. Hooker's M.O. must have been like that of another singer/songwriter used to playing solo acoustically, Bob Dylan. Dylan also seemed to flummox bands as he dragged out lines, following a whim. The track -- from the 1966 LP Real Folk Blues -- features some of Chicago's best blues session players, like Lafayette Leake on piano, Eddie Burns on second guitar, and Fred Below on drums. They all do a pretty good job of playing along, but it is the uncredited bass player who can't really fake it and does not try to; he plows ahead as if Hooker is right with him. Nevertheless, the record manages to swing convincingly, and most listeners would focus on Hooker's story, "One bourbon, one scotch, and one beer/Well, my baby she gone, she been gone two nights/I ain't seen my baby since night before last/I wanna get drunk till I'm off of my mind/One bourbon, one scotch, and one beer." It is certainly a crowd-pleaser for bar bands everywhere, as Hooker intended. While his sad-sack narrator is clearly hurting, his choice of remedy -- trying to drink his woman back to him, or at least off of his mind completely -- rings with bar-room humor, a sentiment with which most audience members could sympathize.

Delaware bar-room kings George Thorogood & the Destroyers did a more coherent -- if slightly overlong -- version of "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" for their 1977 self-titled debut album. It is surely an audience favorite for them as well. Thorogood answers his own vocals with blistering and raunchy-toned guitar riffs.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
House of the Blues 1960 Vogue
The Real Folk Blues 1966 Geffen / MCA/Chess 3:05
Live at Cafe Au Go-Go (And Soledad Prison) 1967 MCA / Universal 4:26
Free Beer and Chicken 1974 Beat Goes On 3:33
Alone, Vols. 1 & 2 1976 Fat Possum 5:02
The Cream 1978 Charly Records
The Best of Chess Blues, Vol. 2 1989
Various Artists
MCA 2:58
Hobo Blues 1990 Itm 2:58
The Ultimate Collection (1948-1990) 1991 Rhino 3:06
The Best of John Lee Hooker 1965 to 1974 1992 MCA 3:02
The Early Years 1994 Rhino 3:54
Chill Out (Things Gonna Change) 1995 Shout! Factory 3:26
The Very Best of John Lee Hooker [Rhino] 1995 Rhino 3:07
EP Collection...Plus 1995 See For Miles Records
Alone: The First Concert 1996 Blues Alliance 5:40
His Best Chess Sides (Chess 50th Anniversary Collection) 1997 Chess 3:00
The Ultimate Collection [Polystar] 1997 Polystar 3:01
In the Tradition: Collection of Classic Blues 1997
Various Artists
Blues Alliance 4:27
Chess Blues Classics: 1957-1967 1997
Various Artists
Chess 3:04
No Image 1998
Various Artists
Star Pool / Universal
Hot on the Highway 1998
Various Artists
One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer 1998 Hallmark Recordings
20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best  of John Lee Hooker 1999 MCA / Polydor 3:02
Classic Blues: Universal Masters Collection 1999
Various Artists
Millennium Edition 2000 MCA 3:02
The Best of John Lee Hooker [Spectrum] 2001 Spectrum Music / Universal Distribution 3:00
Pure Blues 2001
Various Artists
UTV 3:00
Blues for a Barbecue 2001
Various Artists
Shanachie Records 3:03
The Essential Collection 2001 Geffen / Universal
The Real Folk Blues/More Real Folk Blues 2002 MCA / MCA/Chess 3:00
No Image 2002 Universal Distribution 3:02
The Early Years, Vol. 1 2003 Tomato 4:58
The Best Of Blues Classics 20th Century Masters The Millennium Collection 2003
Various Artists
MCA 3:01
Best of John Lee Hooker [Tomato Music] 2003 Tomato 4:58
No Image 2003 Fat Possum
A Proper Introduction to John Lee Hooker: I'm in the Mood 2004 BMG International 2:59
No Image 2004 MCA / Universal Distribution
Black Night Is Falling 2004 Just A Memory Records 5:02
From Clarksdale to Cleveland, Vol. 1: The Roadhouse 2004
Various Artists
Kejo Entertainment 2:54
Classic John Lee Hooker: The Universal Masters Collection 2005 Polydor / Universal Music 3:03
36 Blues Masterpieces 2005 Solid Gold Collection / Union Square Music 4:04
Blues: Gold 2006
Various Artists
Hip-O / Universal 3:03
The Definitive Collection 2006 Hip-O / Universal 3:03
20th Century Masters: Best of Blues, Vol. 2 2006
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 3:02
Hooker [Box Set] 2006 Shout! Factory 3:00
Gold 2007 Hip-O 3:00
Blues Giants: Trilogy 2007
Various Artists
Music Brokers / PMG 2:56
A Brief History of the Blues 2008
Various Artists
Motown / Universal Distribution 3:01
Best of Blues [Greatest Collection] 2008
Various Artists
Greatest Collection 2:58
Chess Chartbusters, Vol. 4 2008
Various Artists
Spectrum Music / Universal / Universal Distribution 3:00
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 3:00
Anthology: 50 Years 2009 Shout! Factory 3:00
Blues: Definitive Collection 2009
Various Artists
Music Brokers 2:56
Blues & The City 2009
Various Artists
MyMusic Group 3:00
A Complete Introduction to Chess 2010
Various Artists
Universal / Universal Distribution 3:00
No Image 2011 Dreamworks / Universal Music 2:59
Icon 2011 Geffen 3:00
Blues Classics [Disky]
Various Artists
No Image Satellite Sounds
No Image
Various Artists
K-Tel 3:08
No Image
Various Artists
Fat Possum 4:27
Levi's Hits, Vol. 3
Various Artists
On the Charts: 1948 to 1972 - Blues, Soul, R&B and Rock 'n Roll
Various Artists
The  Best of John Lee Hooker: Green Series Strategic Marketing 3:00
The  Blues History, Vol. 2
Various Artists
The Essential John Lee Hooker Collection Metro / Metro Tins 4:03
Universal Masters Collection
Various Artists
Polydor 3:03
blue highlight denotes editor's pick