Birthday: September 26, 1925
Died At Age: 57
Sun Sign: Libra
Also Known As: Martin David Robinson
Born in: Glendale, Arizona
Famous as: Country Singer
Spouse/Ex-: Marizona Robbins (m. 1948–1982)
father: John Robinson
mother: Emma Robinson
siblings: Mamie Ellen Robinson Minotto
children: Janet Robbins, Ronny Robbins
Died on: December 8, 1982
place of death: Nashville, Tennessee
U.S. State: Arizona
Cause of Death: Heart Attack
Martin David Robinson, popularly known as Marty Robbins, was an American country and western singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and actor. Best known for the hits ‘El Paso,’ ‘My Woman, My Woman, My Wife’ and ‘Among My Souvenirs,’ he had been a successful singer for almost four decades. The single ‘I'll Go on Alone’ became his first No. 1 country song and ‘El Paso,’ which earned him a Grammy Award, was one of his signature songs. He learnt to play the guitar on his own while he was serving in the U.S. Navy during the World War II. He pursued a full-time career in music after the war ended, starting with his own radio program called ‘Chuck Wagon Time’ and his own local TV show, ‘Western Caravan.’ The recipient of two Grammy Awards, Robbins had recorded more than 500 songs and 60 albums. He had scored at least one hit song each year for 19 consecutive years. He placed 94 songs on Billboard’s Country Singles charts, four of them after his death. Besides a singing career, he was an avid race car driver and competed in 35 NASCAR Grand National races with six top-10 finishes, including the 1973 Firecracker 400. He took part in his final NASCAR race a month before his death.
Childhood & Early Life
Marty Robbins was born on September 26, 1925 in a desert near Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix, Arizona. He belonged to a nomadic family and was the sixth among nine children.
His father was an alcoholic and was often involved in thefts. As a result, his mother had to struggle to feed the children. His parents divorced when Robbins was 12.
The only thing he liked about his childhood was the stories his grandfather, 'Texas' Bob Heckle, a traveling salesman, used to tell him. Robbins had stated in an interview that he used to sing church songs for him and he would tell him stories. A lot of the songs he would write in the future were inspired by his grandfather’s stories; for example, the song 'Big Iron' was based on his grandfather’s experiences as a Texas ranger.
To escape his troubled family situation, he joined the United States Navy at the age of 17 during the World War II. While he was on the ship, he learned to play the guitar on his own and started writing songs. He also developed a liking for Hawaiian music.
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When Marty Robbins was discharged from the Navy in 1947, he began pursuing a singing career and started performing at local clubs in Phoenix. Soon, he started hosting his own show ‘Chuck Wagon Time’ on KTYL, a local radio station, followed by his own television show ‘Western Caravan’ on KPHO-TV in Phoenix.
Country music singer Little Jimmy Dickens, who had appeared on Robbins' TV show, introduced him to executives at Columbia Records and helped him sign a deal in 1951. The following year, his first single ‘Love Me or Leave Me Alone’ was released, but it was not a hit.
In 1953, his single ‘I'll Go on Alone’ became a hit and reached the number 1 spot on the Hot Country Songs chart. The song ‘I Couldn't Keep from Crying’ was also a hit. With a rise in his popularity, he was offered a chance to become a regular member of the ‘Grand Ole Opry’, a popular country radio show.
In 1956, his song ‘Singing the Blues’ topped the country charts. The following year, he had two more number 1 songs—‘A White Sport Coat’ and ‘The Story of My Life’.
In 1957, his songs ‘Knee Deep in the Blues’ and ‘Please Don't Blame Me’ also became hits. In 1959, he released the album ‘Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs’ and one of its songs, ‘El Paso,’ was a smashing hit and was his first song to hit number 1 on the pop chart.
In 1961, his song ‘Don't Worry’ reached number 1 on the country chart and number 3 on the pop chart. It was his last top 10 pop hit. When he was recording the song, guitarist Grady Martin created the electric guitar ‘fuzz’ effect by mistake. Robbins liked it and used it in the final version. In the same year, he wrote the lyrics and music for his song ‘I Told the Brook.’
His song ‘Big Iron’ from the album ‘Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs’ was used in the video game ‘Fallout: New Vegas’, which gave a boost to its popularity. The song ‘El Paso’ was also used in the AMC TV series ‘Breaking Bad’.
Besides his singing career, Robbins loved car racing and competed in 35 NASCAR Grand National races. He owned and raced a Dodge Magnum. He had also competed with NASCAR drivers Richard Petty and Cale Yarbrough.
In 1967, he portrayed himself in the car racing film ‘Hell on Wheels.’ In November 1982, he raced in the Atlanta Journal 500, driving a Junior Johnson-built Buick Regal. That was to be his final race as he died just a month later.
Marty Robbins’ highest charting album was ‘Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs’. It charted at number 6 on the Billboard 200 and was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. One of its singles, ‘El Paso’, became a hit on the country as well as the pop charts.
His single ‘A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation’, recorded in 1957, sold over 1 million copies and was awarded a gold record. It peaked at number 1 on the U.S. country chart and number 2 on the U.S. Billboard pop chart.
Marty Robbins married Marizona in 1948 and was married to her till his death. They had a son Ronny Robbins and a daughter Janet Robbins.
Robbins suffered a major heart attack in the 1960s, but he did not let his health affect his work. Despite his illness, he continued working. He released his last single, ‘Some Memories Won't Die’, in 1982. After he had a third heart attack on December 2, 1982, he underwent bypass surgery. He passed away after six days, on December 8. He was 57.