There are few country artists I like more than Marty Robbins. He had an unmistakable country western sound that is still popular today. In my youth, no one I knew listened to country music or liked country music, such a shame. However, I did have one cassette tape with country music and sure enough the ones that stuck with me were 2 songs sung by Marty Robbins, El Paso, which is probably his most famous one, and Ghost Riders in the Sky, a traditional western song. In his long career he made a big impact on country music.
Marty Robbins is best remembered for his western songs which he didn’t really start singing until 10 years into his career. Among his many hits the El Paso trilogy was one of the most interesting and hit number one on both pop and country billboard charts. He wrote El Paso and it ended up being such a hit, that he wrote Feleena (From El Paso) and El Paso City. The song features a lot of embellishment picking which gives it this wonderful mystic quality and the ¾ time which is atypical for a popular song. The themes he sings about in the song love, betrayal, revenge and shootouts, aren’t strange but the way he crafts the lyrics. It all goes together so well.
Since I love guitars Im going to go into a little bit about Marty’s Martin Guitar. It was a very small guitar the model number is 5-18 and Marty was really the only guitarist known to play it because it has a very crowded finger board and apparently most people don’t like the 1 11/16″ nut size. A lot of people like this size for travel, but not really as a main guitar.
Here is a link to the site, guitar specs, not that interesting to many people but I love looking at them.
Marty was also a NASCAR driver and damn good at it too. He came in top 10 six times, and one of them was the Daytona 500. Just so you know what he was about, His biography is titled Marty Robbins: Country Music and Fast Cars and to add to the cool factor of Marty Robbins, he was a good friend of Johnny Cash and appeared on his show.
He released 52 albums and 100 singles, certainly a very prolific writer. Unfortunately, Marty Robbins died in 1982 from complications after surgery but his memory lives on. I had no idea but Fallout: Las Vegas uses the song Big Iron which may turn a new group of people onto Marty.
And now the recommended videos
Marty sang a lot of crooner songs, but I’m going to focus on the country western parts here
El Paso- This is a good place to start
Big Iron- Story of a Texas Ranger looking for an outlaw
Cigarette and Coffee Blues – good song for a broken heart. In this video you will see Marty’s signature parlor guitar. It looks like a little bit smaller you have a ukulele.
They’re Hanging Me Tonight – Classic Country song theme, gunshots for your ex lover
This is my all time favourite country song, It has a great story makes a big impression. Personally I like the Johnny cash version better because there is a wicked piano part, but one thing Marty always had were those 3 part vocal harmonies. He uses them very well in this song. Hell of a song by a hell of a singer.
Ghost Riders in the Sky
Any other favourite Marty Robbins song? any other old country singers you think I should write about?
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