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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Remembering Marty Robbins by Kaye Spencer

Yesterday, December 8th, 2015 marked the 33rd anniversary of Marty Robbins’ death. He’d suffered his third serious heart attack a few days prior, but he didn’t survive the surgery to repair the damage. I recall clearly where I was when I heard of his death. I was living in Cleveland, Ohio and running thoroughbred race horses at Thistledown Racetrack when I heard it on the radio. The DJ broke down and cried. I cried along with him.

Martin David Robbins was born in Glendale, Arizona on September 26, 1925. When WWII broke out, Marty joined the Navy. While serving, he taught himself to play the guitar. When the war was over, Marty returned home and embarked upon a singing and performing career around Phoenix in nightclubs, on the radio, and on television.

During his early club-playing and performing days, “…he heard a country singer featured on the local radio station KPHO. [Marty] was convinced that he could do better. He drove right down to the station and earned a place on the show.”

By the end of the 1940s, Marty had his own radio program, “Chuck Wagon Time”, and a television show, “Western Caravan”. By the mid-1950s, he was invited to the Grand Ole Opry radio show and was a regular performer for many years. He signed with Columbia Records in 1951 with his first Number 1 song coming in 1956: “Singing the Blues”. “El Paso” released in 1959, and it garnered him his first Grammy Award. With the 1960s came, he pursued racing with such a passion that he progressed to NASCAR racing. It was in 1969 that he suffered his first heart attack. He recovered quickly and wrote, “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife”, which earned him his second Grammy. His second heart attack occurred in 1981.

Marty was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1982. His last song was a single that same year—“Some Memories Just Won’t Die”—a bittersweet irony. Over the span of his career, he recorded over 500 songs and 60 albums.

When he was growing up, Marty wanted to be a cowboy singer like Gene Autry, and he credits his grandfather, “Texas Bob Heckle”, a traveling medicine show salesman and story-teller, as the main inspiration for many of the songs he wrote later. In an interview, Marty said, “…I’ve done what I wanted to do… I’m not a real good musician, but I can write [a song] pretty well. I experiment once in a while to see what I can do. I find out the best I can do is stay with ballads.”

When I was growing up and listening to Marty’s music, I wore out at least two 45 rpms of “El Paso” on Side A and “Strawberry Roan/160 Acres” on Side B. Marty’s gunfighter ballads influenced my love of the Old West.

He was (still is) so influential to my writing that my upcoming early-2016 release with Prairie Rose Publications, “The Comanchero’s Bride”, was inspired by his song, “Meet Me Tonight in Laredo”. My story was originally published years ago as a novella that I rewrote and expanded to novel length. I think of this book as my little way of paying tribute to Marty and how much his gunfighter ballads meant to me. I sprinkled hints to many of his gunfighter songs throughout the story.

Since the release day for “The Comanchero’s Bride” hasn’t been finalized, I'll hold off sharing the cover, blurb, and excerpt until the official 'unveiling', but I will share this video for your Marty Robbins listening pleasure.


Until next time,


Writing the West one romance at a time


  1. Congrats on the upcoming release, Kaye!!

  2. Cool, another story coming!
    A beautiful way to honor another of my favorite musicians from those childhood days. Doris

  3. What a wonderful tribute to Marty Robbins. There were many things I didn't know about him until I read your article. I love his music and the video you posted made me reminisce on those days gone by. Such a big talent.
    I wish you all the best of success with your release, The Comanchero's Bride."

    1. Sarah,

      Thank you for the well-wishes. I, too, did my fair share of reminiscing when I wrote this post. :-)

  4. One of my very favorites! His voice was unique and emotional. Wow. Thanks so much for this tribute to not only a great singer, but a good man, too.

    1. Celia,

      Yes, he was a good man. He had such an easy manner and quick sense of humor. One of my favorite TV clips is watching his reaction when Merle Haggard impersonates him:

      Thanks for commenting.

    2. Kay I loved his songs also. My Woman My Woman My Wife, along with Some Memories Just Won't Die,El Paso and don't forget A White Sports Coat and a Pink Carnation...So many great songs. I'm sure he'd be proud to know you've written a book in his honor. Best wishes.

    3. Barb,

      Thank you for the kind words. *hugs* Incidentally, A White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation that went to #1 on the country music charts in 1957 and stayed for five weeks and made it to #2 in pop music charts. It's considered his breakthrough record.

  5. Oh how I love Marty Robbins, and have ever since I was a child! Thanks for this post, Kaye. I think if Elvis hadn't been in his heyday at the time, overshadowing everyone else, Marty would have gotten even more notice. His voice is just gorgeous. I could listen to him sing names out of the phone book.

    1. Cheryl,

      I agree wholeheartedly that Elvis overshadowed Marty (and every one else). I like Elvis' music and his movies well enough, but there was such a Hollywood glamour *aura* associated with him that he seemed sort of artificial and shallow to me. Marty came across as sincere, down-to-earth, and genuinely exuded an "any man" appeal.