Marty Robbins was the embodiment of western ballads and cowboy stories. His pure talent as a country singer and the songs he wrote are always seen in his music. Marty was influenced by many memories from his childhood. He was inspired from his father to cowboy movies and without them, Marty would not try to seek a career in show business.
Marty Robbins’ Childhood and Inspiration
Robbins is one of the nine children in his family. He was born on September 26, 1925, in Glendale, Arizona. When he was young, he used to sing church songs and listen to his father play the harmonica. His songwriting skill was inspired by his grandfather who told him stories of the old western life. Robbins’ grandfather used to be a Texas Ranger. Therefore, his grandfather became an inspiration for him to write songs about the Western life. Aside from his family as an inspiration for him, Robbins was also taken away by cowboy movies. He was a big fan of the “Singing Cowboy” Gene Autry.
He began playing the guitar when he was serving in the Navy. Marty even wrote songs while he was on duty. After his service, he moved back to Phoenix and began singing in small nightclubs. During the 1940’s Robbins’ had his own program on a radio station. After this, he was given the chance to sign with a record label. Therefore, this became the beginning of many successful No. 1 songs on the chart.
Today, we run down all of Marty Robbins’ No. 1 song on the chart and the story behind each of his No. 1 songs. The songs here are arranged from the first No. 1 song to his last No. 1 song on the chart.
“I’ll Go On Alone”
In 1952, Marty Robbins released his first single under his record label Columbia Records. His first song was written by him. “I’ll Go On Alone” was a song that Marty wrote about a relationship between two people who are not meeting halfway. The one wants the other to change for her own sake, which leads to the narrator wanting to break up with his lover. “I’ll Go on Alone” became Marty Robbins first song to become No. 1 on the Billboard Country chart. His song was covered by artists such as Webb Pierce and Ernest Tubb.
“Singing the Blues”
After his first No. 1 song, Marty was not able to reach No. 1 in four years. He released several singles which entered the top 10 and 20 of the Billboard chart. In 1956, he was able to score another No. 1 on the Billboard country chart. “Singing the Blues” reached No. 1 on the country chart. Moreover, this was Marty’s first song to crossover the pop chart and make it to No. 17. Melvin Endsley wrote the song for Robbins, and it is mostly confused with the jazz song “Singin’ the Blues.”
“A White Sports Coat”
The following year “A White Sports Coat” placed at No. 1 on the Billboard Country chart. In addition, “A White Sports Coat” placed at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song was written by Robbins’ while he was on his way to Ohio. He saw high school students dressed on their prom dress thus, he was inspired to write the song. His song is a combination of western and country ballad. Moreover, it was covered by various artists, and a funny version of this song was made by Jimmy Buffett in 1973.
“The Story of My Life”
“The Story of My Life” became his fourth song to reach No. 1 on the Billboard country chart. Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote the song in 1957. Robbins made the song crossover to the pop chart at No. 15. Robbins’ did not write the song but he delivered it like it was the real story of his life. It was only Robbins and a UK Artist, Michael Holliday, who made the song peaked at No. 1. In a single year, Marty scored two No. 1 songs on the chart.
“Just Married” is a song written by Al Allen and Barry De Vorzon in 1958. Marty Robbins brought the song up to No. 1 on the Billboard chart. Furthermore, it secured a spot on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 76. “Just Married” is a song that seems to have a happy meaning because of the title, however, it is the opposite. The song tells a story of a man watching the woman he loves marry another man.
Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs Album
In 1959, Robbins’ released his biggest album of all time, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs. Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs is his fifth studio album released under his record label Columbia Records. The album was Platinum-certified by RIAA and reached the Billboard Top Country Albums chart at No. 6. The album contained his best-known songs “El Paso” and “Big Iron.”
“El Paso” became Marty’s highest charting song on the pop chart. The song peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Country and Pop chart. It also entered the UK and Australian charts. He won his first Grammy Award for Best Country and Western Performance in 1961 because of his song “El Paso.”
Story Behind the Song
The inspiration for the song came to Marty when he was traveling with his family to Arizona. The song ends with violence and death because of love. “El Paso” is a narrative ballad of a man who fell in love with a Mexican girl named Felina. His love for Felina resulted in him killing a man flirting with her. He runs away because of his fear that he will be charged with murder. However, his love is too strong for Felina. Therefore, he returned to El Paso not caring if he will die as long as he would be with the woman he loves.
Longer Vs. Shorter Version
His original version of “El Paso” was considered to be too lengthy to be played on air, therefore his record label, Columbia Records, asked Marty to record a shorter version of the song. However, radio stations and most people preferred the long version of the song which was four minutes and thirty seconds. During Marty’s time, this was the longest duration of a song that entered the Billboard chart.
Grammy Hall of Fame
In 1998, Robbins’ was inducted into the Grammy’s Hall of Fame with his Western and signature song “El Paso.”
After he released his biggest hit “El Paso” in 1959, none of his singles were able to reach No. 1 the following year. Then on 1961, he was able to place his seventh No. 1 song on the chart. “Don’t Worry” reach No. 1 on the Billboard Country Songs chart. In addition, the song charted at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The lead single on his tenth album Devil Woman reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. “Devil Woman” placed at No. 16 on the US pop chart. The song has a theme about cheating and forgiveness which was written by the talented songwriter Marty Robbins. “Devil Woman” was the only single on Marty’s album that entered the Billboard chart.
On the same year, he scored another No. 1 song, “Ruby Ann.” His song was released as a single. Just like his other songs “Ruby Ann” entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 18. In addition, Lee Emerson, Rashima Bellamy, and Roberta Bellamy wrote the song.
Ruby Ann is the name of the woman in the song and the narrator cannot be happier for Ruby Ann chooses him even though he is poorer than her ex-lover.
“Begging to You”
“Begging to You” has words of martyrdom when it comes to love. The narrator begs his lover to take him back despite knowing that she is not in love with him anymore. The aching song was written and recorded by Marty Robbins as a single in 1963. “Begging to You” became Robbins’ tenth No. 1 single on the country chart. Furthermore, the song peaked at No. 74 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
“Ribbon of Darkness”
As Marty keeps releasing new songs and it reaches No. 1, the songs seem to lower in rank on the pop chart. His next song “Ribbon of Darkness” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Country chart in 1965. However, it only reached 103 on the Billboard pop chart. Gordon Lightfoot wrote the song for Marty and he also recorded a version of the song. However, Lightfoot’s version did not make it to the Billboard country chart. Connie Smith and Jack Scott recorded the song separately. Connie Smith’s version reached No. 13 on the Billboard Country chart.
Tonight Carmen was Marty’s twentieth studio album released in 1967. The lead single of his album, “Tonight Carmen,” placed at No. 1 on the country chart. In addition, the song reached No. 114 on the pop chart.
“I Walk Alone”
“I Walk Alone” is the lead single on Robbins’ twenty-third album I Walk Alone. His album reached No. 2 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. In addition, it placed at No. 160 on the Billboard 200. The lead single “I Walk Alone” was written by Herbert W. Wilson and recorded by Marty Robbins. The song was released in 1968, and it reached No. 1 on the country chart. “I Walk Alone” placed at No. 65 on the Billboard pop chart.
“My Woman, My Woman, My Wife”
The following year, Marty scored another No. 1 song on the Billboard chart. “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife” is a lovely song about a man who is proud to be married to a beautiful, inspiring, and hardworking woman. Despite the years has gone by, his love for her remained the same because she has been supportive and good to him. The song is the lead single on his album My Woman, My Woman, My Wife.
His single entered various charts inside and outside of the US. It peaked at No. 1 on the country chart and No. 42 on the pop chart. In addition, it secured a spot on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart at No. 23. This was his last song to crossover the Billboard pop chart. Robbins’ received another Grammy Award after his last award in 1961. His song “My Woman, My Woman, My Wife” won the Grammy award for Best Country Song in 1971.
After charting fourteen number one songs on the Billboard chart, Marty’s single was not able to reach the top spot anymore. However, he still managed to chart songs on the top 10 of the chart. After five years of trying he finally scored his second to the last No. 1 song.
“El Paso City”
The Song’s Content
Do you believe that you have a different life in the past? Do you think you were reincarnated? Marty Robbins song “El Paso City,” tells the story of a man who feels that he was reincarnated every time he passes by the city of El Paso. As the lyrics say,
“I can't explain why I should know
The very trail he rode back to El Paso
Can it be that man can disappear from life and live another time?”
The narrator seems to have a very strong connection with the song “El Paso.” He does not know why but he felt like the cowboy who died for the woman he loves has something in common with him. He felt that the cowboy was him.
“El Paso City” is the lead single in Robbins’ album El Paso City. His single reached No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. In addition, his song remained on the chart for eleven weeks. This was Robbins’ first No. 1 song on the chart that was not able to crossover the Billboard pop charts. He wrote the song while he was traveling and his airplane passes over the city of El Paso, Texas. The song is as lengthy as the original song “El Paso.” In addition, he finished writing the song as fast as he wrote “El Paso.”
“Among My Souvenirs”
Another single from his No. 1 Album El Paso City entered the Billboard Country chart. “Among My Souvenirs” is a song written by Edgar Leslie and Lawrence Wright. The song was originally recorded in 1927 by The Kit-Cat Band. Other artists who covered this song were Frank Sinatra, Ferlin Husky, Hank Snow, Connie Francis, Eddy Arnolds, Vince Gill, and Ray Price.
Connie Francis' version entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 7. In 1976, Marty Robbins recorded the song as part of his album El Paso City. His version was the only one that reached No. 1 on the Billboard chart. He was not able to make the song crossover the Billboard pop chart. “Among My Souvenirs” became his last No. 1 single on the chart.
“Among My Souvenirs” is a song about breakups and memories left behind after a relationship. The souvenirs left are the memories and the pain.
His Last Song on the Chart
After his last No. 1 song, Marty was still able to release songs that entered the Top 10 of the Billboard chart. However, in the early 1980’s, his songs began to decline on the chart. His last top 10 songs were in 1983, “Some Memories Just Won’t Die” and “Honkytonk Man.” The last song that entered the chart was his song “What If I Said I Love You” in 1983. The song placed at No. 57 on the Country chart.
Total Number of Albums and Singles Released
Marty Robbins was able to have seventeen No. 1 songs on the Country charts of the Billboard. In his entire career, Marty released a total of 52 studio albums and placed 100 songs on the Billboard country chart. Robbins was one of the best western and country singers that the world of country music has known. Moreover, his talent for writing songs helped him in his career as a musician. Thanks to his grandfather and Gene Autry, Robbins was capable of writing beautiful songs and stories of the life in the west. In addition, he wrote songs that were easy to associate with because it is what people commonly experience in life.