Born 1914, Monroe, Louisiana
Rudy (Rudolph) Toombs will primarily be remembered as the writer of some classic drinking songs ("One Mint Julep", "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer", "Nip Sip") and two of Ruth Brown's biggest hits.
He grew up in Harlem, where he started his showbusiness career as a tap dancer in the 1930s, performing at the Apollo Theater among others. In the 1940s he had a short-lived acting career, starring in three films, "Tall, Tan and Terrific" (1946), "House Rent Party" (1946, a cameo role) and "Reet, Petite and Gone" (1947, with Louis Jordan in the lead role).
Toward the end of the forties he turned to songwriting, at which he would become quite prolific, with 297 entries in the BMI database. His first big hit came in 1950, when Ruth Brown took his "Teardrops>From My Eyes" to # 1 on the R&B charts. Several other compositions for Ruth Brown followed, the most successful being "5-10-15 Hours" (# 1) and "Daddy Daddy" (# 3), both in 1952. In 1951 Toombs wrote "One Mint Julep" for the Clovers, which was released in March 1952 (Atlantic 963). It was a song with a moral: "I'm through with flirting and drinking whiskey I got six extra children from a-getting frisky". The passing years and numerous cover versions have elevated the song to the status of an R&B classic, but it was not a # 1 hit (R&B) for the Clovers, being kept out of the top spot by, ironically, another Rudy Toombs tune, the above-mentioned "5-10-15 Hours". The Clovers also scored with Toombs's "Crawlin'" (1953, # 3) and another drinking song, "Nip Sip" (1955, # 10). Though Toombs was now on Atlantic's payroll as a staff writer and arranger, he was still free to offer his songs to non-Atlantic artists. 1953 was another good year for Rudy, when "One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer" by Amos Milburn (Aladdin 3197) went to # 2 on Billboard's R&B charts. In 1955, he also scored a pop Top 10 hit. "Gum Drop", originally recorded by Otis Williams and his Charms, was covered by the white group The Crew Cuts (the archetypical cover group), whose version peaked at # 10.
Other artists who have recorded Rudy's compositions include The Five Keys, Joe Turner ("Bump Miss Susie"), Louis Jordan (during his stint at Aladdin), Varetta Dillard, Freddie King and especially Little Willie John. "I'm Shakin'" by the latter was revived by the Blasters in 1981.
In 1961, "One Mint Julep" became a hit all over again, in an instru- mental version by Ray Charles on ABC (# 8 pop, # 1 R&B). Rudy's death was a violent one. In 1962 he was mugged and viciously beaten by three men on a Harlem street. He suffered brain damage and died soon after.
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