Marty Robbins was born on September 26, 1925, in Glendale, Arizona. From a young age, he was influenced by music and storytelling. His grandfather “Texas” Bob Keckle was a traveling salesman who sold books of poetry. According to Robbins, many of the songs he wrote were from stories his grandfather told him. Additionally, Robbins loved western movies. One of his idols was Gene Autry. It was this love that inspired him to pursue his dreams of being a country music singer.
In 1943, he enlisted in the Navy. He taught himself to play guitar during World War II. Since he was stationed in the Pacific, he also taught himself to play the ukelele. By the end of his tour, he knew he wanted to be a country music star. Once he returned to Phoenix, Arizona, he spent the rest of the 40s singing in bars and clubs while working as a construction worker during the day. By the end of the 1940s, he had his radio show, Chuck Wagon Time. Additionally, he had his on the TV show Western Caravan. These early successes helped him sign a recording contract with Columbia Records. A year later, he released his first single. Although it was not as successful as some songs, it started the momentum for a long career of hit songs.
In 1953, Robbins began performing with the Grand Ole Opry. It was a stage where he’d remain for the next 25 years. During his time with the Opry, he performed with other country music legends like Chet Atkins and The Carter Family. Another of Robbins’ passions was car racing which he pursued in the 1960s. Over the decade, he went from small tracks and little acclaim to the NASCAR Grand National division, competing with notable names like Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough.
Even though he suffered a heart attack in the late 1960s, he still pursued his career to the fullest. In 1969, he won his second Grammy. He started pursuing his music career and NASCAR career simultaneously and still topping the charts in both pursuits. In October 1982, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Two months later, he had a fatal heart attack at age 57. Even though he died young, he left behind movies, racing, and his signature musical sound. These are the 10 Best Marty Robbins of all time.
10. Among My Souvenirs
The song was a classic standard in the late 1920s. Artists like Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and Old Blue Eyes all sang renditions. However, it was Robbin’s version that topped the charts.
9. The Cowboy in the Continental Suit
Marty Robbins was many things, a movie actor, race car driver, and a cowboy. Each of these things started with tales from his grandfather, whose mastery was passed down to Robbins. The cowboy looks out of place in a suit, so the other cowboys think he won’t succeed. However, as the lyrics, progress proves his worthiness amongst other cowboys. The song ends with a time-honored message, don’t judge others by initial observations.
8. I Don’t Know Why I (I Just Do)
This song is one of many examples of Robbins’ range. Many of his songs sound like they belong by a fire with other cowboys. This song would easily work for a classic Las Vegas show. He places himself alongside many other crooners with his smooth voice and accompanying music.
7. My Woman, My Woman, My Wife
Robbins returns to his cowboy roots with this love song. It’s not only about a strong partnership, but also the analogy of calloused hands and weary arms lends itself to not only his love but also the strong matriarchs that helped keep farms running during some of the most challenging seasons. Images of gingham and multiple children are another part of cowboy culture because even though men are thought of as key players, they would never have been successful without the women.
6. The Story of My Life
El Paso was considered Robbin’s most iconic song. However, the lyrics in this tune speak to his tour in the Pacific Theatre when he taught himself multiple instruments and dreamed of being famous. Hawaiian music elements melded with the country-western genre Robbins grew up with during his younger years.
5. I Couldn’t Keep From Crying
This song is truly a cowboy standard. Robbins captures the sorrowful tune effortlessly. As with many other songs in his catalog, you hear a fusion of ukelele and tales you hear around the campfire. Additionally, there is the instrumentation that you would find in Honky Tonk’s on Broadway in Nashville.
4. Jolie Girl
The music in this song feels like you’re lost in spring. You hear touches of Me Bobby McGee stripped down in the guitar riffs. The lyrics evoke the 60s in all its glory with images of beads and love stories built on social revolution but built on shared purpose and fleeting moments because there were so many other more critical issues in the world.
3. Big Iron
This song was part of a story that was probably first told to Robbins by his grandfather. It’s been recounted many times. Robbins’ voice and love of all things cowboys turned it into one of the biggest hits of his career. His voice and the lyrics transport the listener to a campfire in the middle of nowhere. It’s a country standard, but it’s Robbins’ voice that made it timeless.
2. Some Memories Won’t Die
This song was included on his forty-ninth and final album, Come Back to Me. Sadly, it was released posthumously. This song is a sad note to end Robbins’ prolific career. However, it’s a beautiful song about loves lost and memories that remain. Throughout the song, you hear many plaintive wishes for the other person to find love for the character and leave behind their lost love.
1. El Paso
Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs was one of the singer’s most popular albums. His storied career is encompassed in the lyrics of El Paso. As he sings the lyrics, you can almost hear his longing for Texas while serving his country. Robbins’ career spanned decades and had many reimaginings of country classics, but this is one where his voice and his legacy genuinely shine.