Marty Robbins (September 26, 1925 - December 8, 1982) was a singer, songwriter, actor, multi-instrumentalist, and NASCAR racer who became famous during the 1950s-early 1960s. Although he is best known as a country and western music singer, Robbins, who had a great deal of crossover appeal, was a highly versatile performer who also covered many other genres that included early rock and roll, rockabilly, and pop. As a songwriter who penned many of his own hits, he had a flair for story songs, especially those with gripping tales as typified by his signature song, the Tex-Mex-flavored "El Paso."
Born Martin David Robinson in Glendale, Arizona, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy at 17 and served in World War II. It was during this time that he learned to play the guitar and began writing songs. After he completed his military service in 1947, he began to play at local venues in the Phoenix area and became a radio and TV show host. By then, he had come to be known as Marty Robbins. Little Jimmy Dickens, who made a guest appearance on his TV show, helped Robbins land a recording contract with Columbia Records in 1951.
Robbins made his debut on the Country charts in 1952 with "I'll Go On Alone," which topped the charts the following year. His long string of hits, which continued through 1983, also included another 15 chart-toppers, nine of which crossed over to the Pop/Rock Top 40: "Singing The Blues" (1956), "A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation)" (1957), "The Story Of My Life" (1957), "Just Married" (1958), "El Paso" (1959), "Don't Worry" (1961), "Devil Woman" (1962), "Ruby Ann" (1962), and "My Woman, My Woman, My Wife" (1970). Other Pop/Rock crossover favorites included "You Don't Owe Me A Thing" (1957), "She Was Only Seventeen (He Was One Year More)" (1958), "The Hanging Tree" (1959), "Is There Any Chance" (1960), "Ballad Of The Alamo" (1960), and the epic self-penned gunfighter ballad, "Big Iron" (1960). His best known song, "El Paso," which topped both the Pop/Rock and Country charts, won a Grammy in 1961 for Best Country & Western Performance. Robbins recorded two sequels: "Feleena (From El Paso)" (1966) and "El Paso City" (1976), the latter of which topped the Country charts. His final Top 10 Country charts entry was "Honkytonk Man" in 1982, the title song to the film starring Clint Eastwood in which Robbins appeared in a cameo role.
Robbins many honors and accolades included two Grammys plus a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998 for "El Paso." A long-time member of the Grand Ole Opry, he was named Artist of the Decade (1960-1969) by the Academy of Country Music and was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1975 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1982. His critically acclaimed and award-winning 1959 album, "Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs," was selected in 2017 by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Recording Registry. In addition, Robbins was also an avid race car driver, and he co-starred in "The Road To Nashville" (1967) and "Guns Of A Stranger" (1973).
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