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No artist in the history of country music has had a more stylistically diverse career than Marty Robbins. Never content to remain just a country singer, Robbins performed successfully in a dazzling array of styles during more than 30 years in the business. To his credit, Robbins rarely followed trends but often took off in directions that stunned both his peers and fans. Plainly Robbins was not hemmed in by anyone's definition of country music. Although his earliest recordings were unremarkable weepers, by the mid-'50s Robbins was making forays into rock music, adding fiddles to the works of Chuck Berry and Little Richard. By the late '50s, Robbins had pop hits of his own with teen fare like "A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation)." Almost simultaneously, he completed work on his Song of the Islands album. In 1959, Robbins stretched even further with the hit single "El Paso," thus heralding a pattern of "gunfighter ballads" that lasted the balance of his career. Robbins also enjoyed bluesy hits like "Don't Worry," which introduced a pop audience to fuzz-tone guitar in 1961. Barely a year later, Robbins scored a calypso hit with "Devil Woman." Robbins also left a legacy of gospel music and a string of sentimental ballads, showing that he would croon with nary a touch of hillbilly twang.
Born and raised in Glendale, AZ, Robbins (born Martin David Robertson, September 26, 1925; died December 8, 1982) was exposed to music at an early age. His mother's father was "Texas" Bob Heckle, a former medicine show man who told his grandson cowboy stories and tales of the traveling show. Robbins became enraptured by the cowboy tales and, once he became a teenager, worked on his older brother's ranch outside of Phoenix, concentrating more on his cowboy duties than his studies. Indeed, he never graduated from high school, and by his late teens, he started turning petty crimes while living as a hobo. In 1943, he joined the U.S. Navy to fight in World War II, and while he was in the service, he learned how to play guitar and developed a taste for Hawaiian music. Robbins left the Navy in 1947, returning to Glendale, where he began to sing in local clubs and radio stations. Often, he performed under the name "Jack Robinson" in an attempt to disguise his endeavors from his disapproving mother. Within three years, he had developed a strong reputation throughout Arizona and was appearing regularly on a Mesa radio station and had his own television show, Western Caravan, in Phoenix. By that time, he had settled on the stage name of Marty Robbins.
Robbins landed a recording contract with Columbia in 1951 with the assistance of Little Jimmy Dickens, who had been a fan ever since appearing on Western Caravan. Early in 1952, Robbins released his first single, "Love Me or Leave Me Alone." It wasn't a success and neither was its follow-up, "Crying 'Cause I Love You," but "I'll Go On Alone" soared to number one in January 1953. Following its blockbuster success, Robbins signed a publishing deal with Acuff-Rose and joined the Grand Ole Opry. "I Couldn't Keep From Crying" kept him in the Top Ten in spring 1953, but his two 1954 singles -- "Pretty Words" and "Call Me Up (And I'll Come Calling on You)" -- stalled on the charts. A couple of rock & roll covers, "That's All Right" and "Maybellene," returned him to the country Top Ten in 1955, but it wasn't until "Singing the Blues" shot to number one in fall 1956 that Robbins' career was truly launched. Staying at number one for a remarkable 13 weeks, "Singing the Blues" established Robbins as a star, but its progress on the pop charts was impeded by Guy Mitchell's cover, which was released shortly after Robbins' original and quickly leapfrogged to number one. The process repeated itself on "Knee Deep in the Blues," which went to number three on the country charts but didn't even appear on the pop charts due to Mitchell's hastily released cover. To head off such competition, Robbins decided to record with easy listening conductor Ray Conniff for his next singles. It was a crafty move and one that kept him commercially viable during the peak of rock & roll. The first of these collaborations, "A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation)," became a huge hit, spending five weeks at the top of the country charts in spring 1957 and peaking at number two on the pop charts, giving him his long-awaited breakthrough record.
After "A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation)," Robbins was a regular fixation on both the pop and country charts until the mid-'60s. The Burt Bacharach and Hal David composition "The Story of My Life" returned Robbins to the number one country slot in early 1957 (number 15 pop), while "Just Married," "Stairway of Love," and "She Was Only Seventeen (He Was One Year More)" kept him in teen-pop territory, as well as the upper reaches of the charts, throughout 1958. In addition to his pop records, Robbins recorded rockabilly singles and Hawaiian albums that earned their own audience. During that time, he began a couple of business ventures of his own, including a booking agency and a record label called Robbins. He also ventured into movies, appearing in the Westerns Raiders of Old California (1957) and Badge of Marshal Brennan (1958), where he played a Mexican named Felipe. The films not only demonstrated Robbins' love for Western myths and legends, but they signalled the shift in musical direction he was about to take. Over the course of 1958 and 1959, he recorded a number of cowboy and western songs, and the first of these -- "The Hanging Tree," the theme to the Gary Cooper film of the same name -- became a hit in spring 1959. However, the song just set the stage for Robbins' signature song and biggest western hit, "El Paso." Released in the summer, the single spent six months on the country charts, including seven weeks at number one, while hitting the top of the pop charts. A full album of western songs, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, became equally successful, reaching number six on the pop charts, and by the mid-'60s, it had gone platinum.
"El Paso" began a very successful decade for Robbins. "Big Iron," another western song, followed its predecessor to the Top Ten of the country charts in 1960, but it wasn't until 1961 that he had another huge hit in the form of "Don't Worry." Fueled by a fuzz-toned guitar (the first country record to feature such an effect), "Don't Worry" spent ten weeks at number one and crossed over to number three on the pop charts. The following year, "Devil Woman" became nearly as successful, spending eight weeks at number one; it was followed by another number one, "Ruby Ann." Between "Don't Worry" and "Devil Woman," he had a number of smaller hits, most notably the Top Ten "It's Your World," and for the rest of the decade, his biggest hits alternated with more moderate successes. With his career sailing along, Robbins began exploring racecar driving in 1962, initially driving in dirt-track racing competitions before competing in the famous NASCAR race. However, car racing was just a hobby, and he continued to have hits in 1963, including the number one "Begging to You." The following year, he starred in the film Ballad of a Gunfighter, which was based on songs from his classic album.
Robbins' chart success continued throughout 1964, before suddenly dipping after he took Gordon Lightfoot's "Ribbon of Darkness" to number one in spring 1965. For the remainder of the year and much of the next, his singles failed to crack the Top Ten, and he concentrated on filming a television series called The Drifter, which was based on a character he had created. He also acted frequently, including the Nashville exploitation films Country Music Caravan, The Nashville Story, and Tennessee Jamboree and the stock-car drama Hell on Wheels. Though "The Shoe Goes on the Other Foot Tonight" reached number three in 1966, it wasn't until "Tonight Carmen" reached number one on the country charts in 1967 that his career picked up considerably. During the next two years, he regularly hit the Top Ten with country-pop songs like "I Walk Alone" and "It's a Sin." Robbins suffered from a heart attack while on tour in August 1969, which led to a bypass operation in 1970. Despite his brush with death, he continued to record, tour, and act. Early in 1970, "My Woman My Woman My Wife" became his last major crossover hit, reaching number one on the country charts and 42 on the pop charts and eventually earning a Grammy award.
Robbins left Columbia Records in 1972, spending the next three years at Decca/MCA. Though "Walking Piece of Heaven," "Love Me," and "Twentieth Century Drifter" all reached the Top Ten, most of his singles were unenthusiastically received. Nevertheless, he sustained his popularity through concerts and film appearances, including the Lee Marvin movie A Man and a Train and Guns of a Stranger. In March 1974, Robbins became the last performer to play at the Ryman Auditorium, the original location of the Grand Ole Opry; a week later, he was the first to play at the new Grand Ole Opry House. The honors and tributes to Robbins continued to roll out during the mid-'70s, as he was inducted into Nashville Songwriters International Hall of Fame in 1975. That same year, he returned to Columbia Records, and over 1976 and 1977 he had his last sustained string of Top Ten hits, with "El Paso City" and "Among My Souvenirs" reaching number one. Following this two-year burst of success, Robbins settled into a series of minor hits for the next four years. In October 1982, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Two months later, he suffered his third major heart attack (his second arrived in early 1981), and although he had surgery, he died on December 8. In the wake of his death, his theme song to Clint Eastwood's movie Honky Tonk Man was released and climbed to number ten. Robbins left behind an immense legacy, including no less than 94 charting country hits and a body of recorded worked that proved how eclectic country music could be.
Martin David Robinson (September 26, 1925 – December 8, 1982), known professionally as Marty Robbins, was an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and racing driver. One of the most popular and successful Cowboy and Western singers of all time for most of his nearly four-decade career, Robbins often topped the country music charts, and several of his songs also became pop hits.Ginell, Richard S. Ruby Ann: Rockin' Rollin' Robbins, Vol. 3 AllMusic. Retrieved on 7–31–11.
Robbins was born in Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix in Maricopa County, Arizona. His mother was mostly of Paiute Indian heritage. Robbins was reared in a difficult family situation. His father took odd jobs to support the family of 10 children, but his drinking led to divorce in 1937. Among his warmer memories of his childhood, Robbins recalled having listened to stories of the American West told by his maternal grandfather, Texas Bob Heckle. Robbins left the troubled home at 17 to serve in the United States Navy as an LCT coxswain during World War II. He was stationed in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean. To pass the time during the war, he learned to play the guitar, started writing songs, and came to love Hawaiian music.
After his discharge from the military in 1947, he began to play at local venues in Phoenix, then moved on to host his own show on KTYL and then his own television show on KPHO-TV in Phoenix. After Little Jimmy Dickens made a guest appearance on Robbins' TV show, Dickens got Robbins a record deal with Columbia Records. Robbins became known for his appearances at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.
In addition to his recordings and performances, Robbins was an avid race car driver, competing in 35 career NASCAR races with six top-10 finishes, including the 1973 Firecracker 400. In 1967, Robbins played himself in the car racing film Hell on Wheels. Robbins was partial to Dodges, and owned and raced Chargers and then a 1978 Dodge Magnum. His last race was in a Junior Johnson-built 1982 Buick Regal in the Atlanta Journal 500 on November 7, 1982, the month before he died. In 1983, NASCAR honored Robbins by naming the annual race at Nashville the Marty Robbins 420. He was also the driver of the 60th Indianapolis 500 Buick Century pace car in 1976.
He ran many of the big super-speedway races including Talladega Superspeedway in 1972, when he stunned the competition by turning laps that were 15 mph faster than his qualifying time. Apparently, in his motel room, Robbins had knocked the NASCAR-mandated restrictors out of his carburetor. After the race, NASCAR tried to give him the Rookie of the Race award, but Robbins would not accept it, admitting he was illegal because he "just wanted to see what it was like to run up front for once."
Robbins was awarded an honorary degree by Northern Arizona University.
On September 27, 1948, Robbins married Marizona Baldwin (September 11, 1930 – July 10, 2001) to whom he dedicated his song "My Woman, My Woman, My Wife". They had two children, son Ronny and daughter Janet, who also followed singing careers in Los Angeles.
In 1972, Robbins starred in the movie "Guns of a Stranger" (originally titled "The Drifter") and appeared with Chill Wills and Dovie Beams, released in 1973. The movie is about a drifter forced in the line of duty to kill a young Abilene gunman. Sheriff Matthew Roberts (Marty Robbins) is torn by inner anguish and takes off his badge and leaves Kansas. As time passes, Roberts is known as 'The Drifter', wandering restlessly through the west. In Arizona he aids an elderly rancher, Tom Duncan (Chill Wills), and his granddaughter Virginia (Dovie Beams) and her kid brother Danny (Steven Tackett) in their fight to save their small ranch from a crooked banker and his gang of outlaws. It was filmed entirely on location at Apacheland Movie Ranch.
Robbins later portrayed a musician in the 1982 Clint Eastwood film Honkytonk Man. Robbins died a few weeks before the release of the film in December 1982 of complications following cardiac surgery. At the time of his death, Robbins lived in Brentwood in Williamson County, outside Nashville. It was Robbins' third heart attack in 13 years. He was interred in Woodlawn Memorial Park in Nashville. The city of El Paso, Texas, later honored Robbins by naming a park and a recreational center after him. Marty's twin sister Mamie Ellen Robinson Minotto died on March 14, 2004, when she was partway through writing a book about her brother "Some Memories: Growing up with Marty Robbins" as remembered by Mamie Minotto, as told to Andrew Means. It was published in January 2007.Pruett, Barbara J. Marty Robbins: Fast Cars and Country Music. books.google.com. Retrieved 2014-04-24. Rhymes of the Frontier. 1929. Retrieved 2014-10-25. Cite error: The named reference pc10 was invoked but never defined (see the help page). NASCAR Sprint Cup Statistics: Marty Robbins 1973 Medal of Honor Firecracker 400 IMDB entry for Hell on Wheels
§Music and honors
Robbins' 1957 recording of "A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation" sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold record. His musical accomplishments include the Grammy Award for his 1959 hit and signature song "El Paso", taken from his album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs. "El Paso" was the first song to hit No. 1 on the pop chart in the 1960s. It was followed up, successfully, by "Don't Worry", which reached No. 3 on the pop chart in 1961, becoming his third, and last, Top 10 pop hit. "El Paso" was followed by one prequel and one sequel: "Feleena" and "El Paso City". Also in 1961, Robbins wrote the words and music and recorded "I Told the Brook," a ballad later recorded by Billy Thorpe.
He won the Grammy Award for the Best Country & Western Recording 1961, for his follow-up album More Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, and was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1970, for "My Woman, My Woman, My Wife". Robbins was named Artist of the Decade (1960–1969) by the Academy of Country Music, was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1982, and was given a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998 for his song "El Paso".
Robbins was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1975. For his contribution to the recording industry, Robbins has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6666 Hollywood Blvd.
Robbins has been honored by many bands, including the Grateful Dead who covered "El Paso". The Who's 2006 album Endless Wire includes the song "God Speaks of Marty Robbins". The song's composer, Pete Townshend, explained that the song is about God deciding to create the universe just so he can hear some music, "and most of all, one of his best creations, Marty Robbins." The Beasts of Bourbon released a song called "The Day Marty Robbins Died" on their 1984 debut album The Axeman's Jazz. Johnny Cash recorded a version of "Big Iron" as part of his American Recordings series, which is included in the Cash Unearthed box set. Both Frankie Laine and Elvis Presley, among others, recorded versions of Robbins' song "You Gave Me a Mountain", with Laine's recording reaching the pop and adult contemporary charts in 1969.
Robbins performed and recorded several songs by longtime songwriter Coleman Harwell, most notably "Thanks But No Thanks" in 1964; Robbins and his producers employed the top sessions musicians and singers including the Jordanaires to record Harwell's songs. Harwell is the nephew of former Nashville Tennessean newspaper editor Coleman Harwell.
When Robbins was recording his 1961 hit "Don't Worry", session guitarist Grady Martin accidentally created the electric guitar "fuzz" effect – his six-string bass was run through a faulty channel in a mixing console. Marty decided to keep it in the final version. The song reached No. 1 on the country chart, and No. 3 on the pop chart.
Robbins' song "Big Iron", originally released on his 1959 album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, gained renewed popularity following its use in the video game Fallout: New Vegas.
His song "El Paso" was featured on AMC Breaking Bad's final episode.Marty Robbins interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969) Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 95. ISBN 0-214-20512-6. Petetownsend.co.uk  Joel Whitburn's Top Country Singles 1944–2001
ContentsNASCAR1.1 Motorsports career results1.1.1 NASCAR188.8.131.52 Winston Cup Series
§NASCARNASCAR Grand National East Series career1 race run over 1 yearFirst race1972 Gamecock 200 (Columbia)Last race1972 Gamecock 200 (Columbia)Statistics current as of November 2, 2013.
Robbins loved NASCAR racing and as he had the funds to do so, he raced occasionally. His cars were built and maintained by Cotton Owens. Robbins always tried to run at the big race tracks (Talladega Superspeedway, Daytona International Speedway) every year, and then a smattering of the smaller races when time permitted. In 1983, one year after Robbins' death, NASCAR named the Nashville Fair Grounds race the Marty Robbins 420 in honor of him. Robbins typically ran cars bearing either number 42, number 22, and number 777. Over the years, he ran a few makes and models (Plymouths, Dodges or Fords) before buying a 1972 bodied Dodge Charger race car from Owens. Robbins had 6 top-ten finishes as well as a few major wrecks during the 1970s and had Owens rebuild the car and update the sheet metal to the 1973–1974 Charger spec, and then finally 1978 Dodge Magnum sheet metal, which he raced till the end of 1980. This car was superbly restored by Owens and donated to the Talledega Museum by his family, and was displayed there from 1983 to 2008. The car is now in private hands in Southern California and raced on the Vintage NASCAR club circuit. Marty is credited with possibly saving Richard Childress' life at the 1974 Charlotte 500 by deliberately crashing into a wall rather than t-bone Childress's car that was stopped across the track. Robbins' final NASCAR race car was a 1981 Buick Regal that he rented and drove in a few races in 1981 and 1982. In 2014, Marty's 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona was featured on an episode of Discovery Channels TV show Fat and Furious:Rolling Thunder. In that same year, an episode of Velocity's AmeriCarna featured ex-race team owner Ray Evernham spearheading the restoration of one of Robbins' NASCAR racers, a 1964 Plymouth Belvedere.
§Motorsports career results
(key) (Bold - Pole position awarded by qualifying time. Italics - Pole position earned by points standings or practice time. * – Most laps led.)