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Do you remember the first song that you ever heard, when you were a kid, where you stopped and said, "Whoa! This music is making me feel all good and squishy inside! I didn't know it could do that." Well, for me, it was El Paso by Marty Robbins. This longer than usual (for radio) song about the young man falling for a Mexican girl and getting killed over it really got to me. And since there's no good info on here about him, nor the lyrics to this killer song, I'll see what I can do.

Marty Robbins was born Martin David Robinson, September 26, 1925, in Arizona. His biggest treat as a kid, living in deep poverty, was walking several miles to the nearest picture show and watching Gene Autry. He'd sit and watch the singing cowboy all day, and then walk back in the dark.

He joined the Navy at 17 and began to pick up music there. A stint in Hawaii left a musical impression on him. When he got out and got back to Arizona, he worked at some radio stations in Phoenix, the largest of which was KPHO. He hosted some country music shows and did some live performances on the radio. He got his break when "Little" Jimmy Dickens was on tour and make an appearance on Marty's radio show. He got a guy from CBS Records to sign Robbins to a contract in 1951.

In 1953, he got a spot on the Grand Ole Opry and moved his family to Nashville. He floundered around with that gig, and had some mediocre success with a few tunes. In 1956, he got his first Number One hit with Singing the Blues, written by Melvin Endsley. He wrote a song to follow it up called "A White Sport Coat," which also went to Number One. (You are probably more familiar with the sarcastic takeoff by Jimmy Buffett.) He then tried an album of Hawaiian love songs in 1957.

His dream was to become a singing cowboy, like Gene Autry. His first western hit was "The Hanging Tree" in 1958, but the breakthrough came with "El Paso," a song he'd written in 1957. It was 4:37 long, and the radios were hesitant to play it. It became popular when his Gunfighter album was released, and even though Columbia Records had put out a shortened 3 minute version, all the DJ's began playing the longer version from the album. It became Number One on both the country and the pop charts.

The success of "El Paso" allowed him to finance a hobby he'd always wanted to pursue, auto racing. He drove in several NASCAR events, beginning in 1966.

He was a bit too much to handle sometimes at the Grand Ole Opry. They like things done their way there, and he'd mix things up for them. He brought a trumpet player on stage and the Opry told him that was unacceptable. He wouldn't relent, and they finally gave in. The trumpet, of course, is crucial to the Tex-Mex feel of the cowboy songs.

I saw a performance of his on PBS which had been taped in the late 1970's or early 1980's, and the impression he made on stage was one which did not impress me. He appeared to be a fancy boy who kinda liked himself way too much. He'd make faces and prance about like a sissy, with his little undersized guitar which he played about half the time. He had on white pants and a white sailor shirt (3/4 sleeves) with big red horizontal stripes, and he looked more like a self-absorbed gay waiter at a fancy seafood restaurant than my singing cowboy hero.

He died in Nashville on Dec. 8, 1982 from the last of 3 heart attacks, the first of which had taken place back in 1969. Back in 1969, he was the first person to ever have a triple bypass, which is as common as a tonsillectomy today. In fact, he was the 15th person to ever have any sort of heart bypass surgery.

He was married for 33 years to a girl he met when she was 15 and he was 20. Marizona Baldwin (what a great name) and Marty had two kids, Ronny (born in 1949, a sorta special year for ol' dannye, too) and Janet (born in 1959).

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