From the suburbs of Phoenix, Arizona, America’s multi-talented singer-songwriter, Marty Robbins, was part of a ten-sibling household during the eras of the Great Depression, Dirty Thirties, and WWI. Such is the case among many American families during this timeline, adversities were simply a way of life. For Robbins, his childhood experience not only faced these situations, but also a separation of his family when his parents divorced due to his father’s alcoholism. As soon as Robbins turned seventeen years old, he moved out on his own, inspired by stories told to him by his grandfather about the American Wild West.
He first signed up with the United States Navy during the timeline of WWII. While he served, Robbins was stationed in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific Ocean. As a pastime, Robbins took up the guitar and songwriting. After Robbins was discharged from the military in 1947, the now-married father of two began to play at various venues within his home city of Phoenix. He also enjoyed racing cars, engaging in a number of races, and even took part in the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) Grand National Series. While with NASCAR, Robbins earned six top-ten finishes out of the thirty-five races he competed in. He also raced in NASCAR’s Winston Cup Series, as well as the Daytona 500.
Shortly after he started performing at the different venues within Phoenix, Robbins ran his own television show on a CBS-affiliate station in Phoenix. One of the guests that appeared on his show was a certain country-music celebrity, Little Jimmy Dickens, who invited Robbins to record music at Columbia Records. This would eventually lead Robbins to Nashville, Tennessee where he would appear on the series, Grand Ole Opry and made such an impression on music journalists where their write-ups about him made his name become more positively familiar among the American audience. This increase in fame lead him to play himself in the 1967 movie “Hell on Wheels,” which was a storyline revolving around race car driving.
The Last Race
When Marty Robbins wasn’t performing music, he was racing cars. As a driver, he had a preference for the Dodge series, namely the models designed for NASCAR by Cotton Owens. In 1976, he drove a Buick Century pace car for the Indianapolis 500. On November 7, 1982, Marty Robbins competed in what would be his final race as a driver when he drove a 1982 Buick Regal, built by Junior Johnson, in the NASCAR-affiliated Atlanta Journal 500. A month after this race, the cardiovascular heart disease a much younger Robbins had been diagnosed with finally caught up to him where he was unable to survive what would be his third heart attack.
On December 2, 1982, Robbins underwent quadruple coronary bypass surgery in Nashville, but was unable to recover as six days later, he passed away at just fifty-seven years old. In addition to the impression he left behind as a racecar driver, Robbins also leaves behind his legacy as one of America’s most beloved singer-songwriters, whose life was cut too short. His discography includes a total of fifty-two studio albums released, along with thirteen compilation albums, and realizing seventeen out of his one hundred singles to peak on the music lists as chart-toppers.
Top Ten Marty Robbins Songs
#10 – Some Memories Just Won’t Die
Coming from the 1982 album, “Come Back to Me,” the hit single, “Some Memories Just Won’t Die,” would not only be the final time Robbins would realize a number one hit with Canada’s RPM Country Tracks, but one of the final two hits that would reach the US Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart. At the age of fifty-seven, both the career and life of Marty Robbins would come to an abrupt end when he passed away in 1982 after suffering his third heart attack. On June 6, 1983, the Music City News Country Awards from Nashville, Tennessee, named Some Memories Just Won’t Die as its official choice for 1982’s Song of the Year.
#9 – Ruby Ann
The single, “Ruby Ann,” was released in October 1962, and peaked on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs at one of many chart-topping hits. On the US Billboard Hot 100, the song charted as high as number eighteen, establishing it as another crossover hit for Robbins. Also, on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary/Easy Listening Chart, the song peaked at number four. Ruby Ann served as a song that played its role on the radio stations that the charting success of music coming from Marty Robbins wasn’t about to slow down anytime soon. The success level he realized during the decade of the 1950s was about to continue clean through the 1960s as well.
#8 – Don’t Worry
After the February 1961 release of the album, “More Greatest Hits,” the single, “Don’t Worry,” had become the album’s third hit that would realize chart success. It reached number one on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and number three on the US Billboard Hot 100. On Australia’s Kent Music Report, it charted at number seventeen. Originally, the distortion of the guitar was left as is by the record label’s producer, despite Robbins’ objections. Eventually, this would become rectified through a reversed engineering technique, and it would be this version of the song that would join the list of hits coming from Marty Robbins.
#7 – Singing the Blues
The year is 1956 and the fourth single coming from Marty Robbins that would become a chart-topping success is “Singing the Blues.” This song would join the tracks of the 1959 album, “Marty’s Greatest Hits.” The album itself achieved Gold Certification status by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for the number of copies it had sold since its release, which is over 500,000. Singing the Blues was also the first crossover hit for Marty Robbins as it peaked at number seventeen on the US Billboard Hot 100.
#6 – Just Married
The single, “Just Married,” peaked number one on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 1958, becoming the fifth occasion Marty Robbins would realize a chart-topper. On Australia’s Kent Music, it charted as high as number two and number twenty-six on the US Billboard Hot 100. This song is found alongside a number of other hit singles that are featured on the album, “Marty’s Greatest Hits,” which was released by Columbia Records in 1959.
#5 – The Story of My Life
Released in 1957, the hit single, “The Story of My Life,” would become the fourth time Marty Robbins would realize a number one hit for four weeks on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart. It also reached number fifteen on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number two on Australia’s Kent Music Report. This song is included on the compilation album, “Marty’s Greatest Hits,” which was also released in 1959. This is a different song from the Neil Diamond song of the same exact name.
#4 – El Paso City
“El Paso City” was recorded and released in 1976 as a sequel song to the previous songs, El Paso and Feleena, Marty Robbins sings as a narrator who is flying over the infamous location of where a certain incident occurred where a man killed another man for the love of a Mexican girl, thus becoming an outlaw. Martins commented in an interview the amount of time it took to write the song was about as long as it took to sing it. El Paso City reached number one on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, as well as on Canada’s RPM Country Tracks.
It would be the first time in six years Robbins would have a hit released that would reach the familiar spot he once dominated from 1952 until 1970. There was the intention to write, record, and release another sequel song, “The Mystery of Old El Paso,” but Robbins died due to complications from his third heart attack before that project could be finished.
#3 – My Woman, My Woman, My Wife
January 1970 saw the release of a single and its album, “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife,” as the next number one hit for Marty Robbins. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart and Canada’s RPM Country Tracks, seeing a song from Robbins top their charts was not uncommon, but it would be the final time until El Paso City was released in 1976. While placed at number one on the country music charts, the song spent an impressive fifteen weeks at the top. This hit also won the 1971 Grammy Award for Best Country Song.
#2 – A White Sport Coat
The country and western song, “A White Sport Coat,” was released on March 4, 1957, and became the third number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart for Marty Robbins. It also topped Australia’s Kent Music Report and became a crossover hit by reaching number two on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song was the result of an inspired Robbins who happened to pass a high school of students who were dressed up for their prom night. The song took him only twenty minutes to write and had since proven to become one of his most memorable hits.
#1 – El Paso
When the name of Marty Robbins comes up, usually it’s his hit single, “El Paso,” that will get into the conversation. Of all the number one hits coming from Robbins, El Paso is considered his signature song. When he first recorded and released this song in September 1959, it was featured on his album, “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs.” This western-outlaw classic was music Robbins performed as a fan of America’s Wild West. On the music charts, the song peaked at number one on Canada’s CHUM, the US Billboard Hot 100, and on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart. It even appeared number one on the Springbok Chart belonging to South Africa, which makes El Paso not just a nationwide hit, but internationally as well.
It did chart in Italy at number thirteen, and on the UK Singles Chart at number nineteen. On the Official German Charts, El Paso charted at number thirty-eight. The song has repeatedly been immortalized by a wide variety of top-name performers coming from a number of different music genres. In 1961, El Paso was also the winner of the Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording. The popularity of both this song and its album earned Platinum certification by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).
Feature Photo: AMD Inc.-management, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons