Marty Robbins was born in 1925 in Glendale, Arizona as Martin David Robinson. His early life as one of nine children was full of conflict and run-ins with the law. When his father lost his business, the family lived in a tent on the desert and survived on quail, jackrabbits and doves which his mother shot. He dropped out of school, rode the rails, boxed, drove a truck, and picked cotton. While serving in the Navy during W.W.II he learned to play guitar.
After his discharge, he returned to Arizona and worked several jobs, but found his favorite was playing guitar in local bars and clubs. In the late 40's he started singing and soon had his own radio program in both Mesa and Phoenix. His audition song for that turning point job was "Strawberry Roan" and he was hired almost immediately. He had found his niche in life and did it well enough to be noticed by recording executives.
In 1951, "Little" Jimmy Dickens was in Phoenix and heard Marty on the radio. He was impressed enough to arrange an audition with executives at his recording label, Columbia Records. They signed Marty and in 1952 he released his first song, "Love Me or Leave Me Alone." That year Acuff-Rose Publishing in Nashville hired him and his songs were soon being recorded by many of the biggest names in country music. He became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1953.
Over the years, he had 15 number one hits including "I'11 Go On Alone," "Singing the Blues," "El Paso," "A White Sport Coat," "Devil Woman," and many others. He recorded all types: calypso, rock, pop, religious, Hawaiian and Western.
Marty credited two major influences with changing his life: his grandfather and Cowboy singing star Gene Autry. His grandfather provided the love and emotional support he didn't receive at home and Autry was a Depression Era larger-than-life hero who acted, wrote and sang.
Marty's love for Western Music stayed with him his entire life and it was always included in every concert. He said his favorite songs were the story songs like " El Paso" (the first country/western song to win a Grammy), or "Big Iron." During the hospital stay after his 1969 heart attack, Marty wrote eight tunes in one three hour stretch. They were all story songs and seven of them were Cowboy songs.
Marty recorded scores of albums, but Western Music fans remember best his two collections of gunfighter ballads and songs. He was a big fan of Bob Nolan and the Sons of the Pioneers and considered Nolan the best writer who ever lived. Robbins was nearly overwhelmed when asked by Nolan to sing one of Marty's songs, "Man Walks Among Us," with Bob on Nolan's Sound of a Pioneer album. Nolan repeatedly said it was a song he wished he had written.
Marty made a number of movies, many of them Westerns, had three national television series, wrote a Western novel and was one of the most popular stars to ever appear at the Opry. His Opry appearances were always sold out shows.
He was a race car driver of considerable skill and competed in NASCAR races in his spare time. Often, he would race during the day and after racing, he would have to hurry to make it on time to the Opry. It was a passion he would not give up, even after doctors said it was too hard on his weakening heart.
Marty Robbins' music awards included Grammys, gold and platinum albums, ASCAP and BMI awards, and he was voted a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Songwriters Hall of Fame, Man of the Decade by the Academy of Country Music (1960-1970), the first member of the Arizona Songwriters Hall of Fame and a first year inductee in the Western Music Association Hall of Fame. He is one of the few singers and songwriters to have an active and growing fan club.
Marty Robbins died in 1982, but his music is still played around the world and is constantly being re- released. He is remembered not only for the talent he shared for almost 40 years, but also for his warmth, generosity, and love of his family and his friends. His spirit lives and his influence is still felt by all the lives he touched. by Michelle Sundin
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