Marty Robbins (September 26, 1925 – December 8, 1982) was one of the most popular and successful American country and western singers of his era. For most of his nearly four decade career, Robbins was rarely far from the country music charts. Several of his songs also became pop hits.
Robbins was born Martin David Robinson in Glendale, a suburb of Phoenix, in Maricopa County, Arizona. He was reared in a difficult family situation. His father took odd jobs to support the family of ten children. His father's drinking led to divorce in 1937. Among his warmer memories of his childhood, Robbins recalled having listened to stories of the American West told by his maternal grandfather, Texas Bob Heckle, a former Texas Ranger and medicine show performer.
Robbins left the troubled home at the age of seventeen to serve in the United States Navy as an LCT coxswain during World War II. He was stationed in the Solomon Islands in the Pacific. To pass the time during the war, he learned to play the guitar, started writing songs, and came to love Hawaiian music.
After his discharge from the military in 1945, he began to play at local venues in Phoenix, then moved on to host his own radio station show on KTYL. He thereafter had his own television (TV) show on KPHO in Phoenix. After Little Jimmy Dickens made a guest appearance on Robbins' TV show, Dickens got Robbins a record deal with Columbia Records. Robbins became an immensely popular singing star at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennnessee. He was especially known for his kindness toward his many fans.
In 1948, Robbins married the former Marizona Baldwin (September 11, 1930 - July 10, 2001) to whom he dedicated his song My Woman, My Woman, My Wife. They had two children, a son, Ronnie Robbins (born 1949), and a daughter, Janet (born 1959).
His musical accomplishments include the first Grammy Award ever awarded for a country song, for his 1959 hit and signature song "El Paso", taken from his album Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs. "El Paso" was also the first song to hit #1 on the pop chart in the 1960s. He won the Grammy Award for the Best Country & Western Recording 1961, for his follow-up album More Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, and was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1970, for "My Woman, My Woman, My Wife." Robbins was named "Artist of the Decade" (1960-69) by the Academy of Country Music, was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1982, and was given a Grammy Hall of Fame Award in 1998 for his song "El Paso".
In addition to his recordings and performances, Robbins was an avid race car driver, competing in NASCAR races, including the Daytona 500. In 1967, Robbins played himself in the car racing film Hell on Wheels.
In August 1969 Robbins suffered a heart attack, and on January 27, 1970, he underwent bypass surgery, which was still in the experimental stages then. The operation was a success, and he recovered quickly. On April 13, 1970, he received the Man of the Decade Award from the Academy of Country Music (ACM).
The last year of Robbins’s life was climatic. In May 1982 “Some Memories Just Won’t Die” made the country Top Ten, and in October Billboard recognized his renewed success by awarding him its Artist Resurgence Award as the performer who had seen the greatest career revival during the past year. On October 11, 1982, Robbins was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. It was only seven weeks before he suffered a heart attack, on December 2. Robbins died December 8, 1982, at age fifty-seven.