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Marty Robbins was an iconic country and Western singer.
Marty Robbins was born Martin David Robinson on September 26, 1925 in the lonesome desert town of Glendale, Arizona. One of nine children, Robbins' father was an amateur harmonica player, but it was the boy's grandfather, a traveling salesman and first-rate storyteller of old Western tales, who had the greatest influence on Robbins' musical development. "His name was 'Texas' Bob Heckle," Robbins later recalled. "He had two little books of poetry he would sell. I used to sing him church songs and he would tell me stories. A lot of the songs I've written were brought about because of stories he told me. Like 'Big Iron' I wrote because he was a Texas Ranger. At least he told me he was."
As a boy, Robbins was also inspired by Western movies; he was especially taken with Gene Autry, the original "Singing Cowboy." Robbins would work out in the cotton fields before school in order to save up money to see each new Autry film. He remembered sitting in the front row of those pictures, "close enough so I could have gotten sand in the eyes from the horses and powder burns from the guns. I wanted to be the cowboy singer, simply because Autry was my favorite singer. No one else inspired me."
In 1937, when Marty Robbins was 12 years old, his parents divorced; he and his eight siblings moved with their mother to Phoenix. After dropping out of high school, Robbins and one of his brothers spent some time herding goats and breaking wild horses in the Bradshaw Mountains outside of Phoenix. When Robbins enlisted in the United States Navy in 1943 and was deployed to the Pacific Theater of World War II, it was his first time traveling beyond the borders of Arizona. During his service in the Navy, Robbins participated in the successful campaign to recapture the island of Bougainville from Japanese forces. During his down time in the service, hoping to distract himself from the horrors of war, Robbins taught himself to play the guitar and made his first sustained efforts at songwriting. When he returned to home to Phoenix in 1946, he had set his heart on a career in show business.
Robbins got his start singing with local bands in bars and nightclubs around the Phoenix area, and in particular at a local club named Fred Kares. At the same time, he worked construction jobs; one day, while driving a brick truck, he heard a country singer featured on the local radio station KPHO and, convinced that he could do better, drove right down to the station and earned a place on the show.
By the close of the 1940s, Robbins had his own radio program called "Chuck Wagon Time" as well as his own local TV show, "Western Caravan." In 1951, after a Columbia Records scout traveled to Phoenix to watch "Western Caravan" live, the label signed Robbins to a record contract. Although his first single, "Love Me or Leave Me Alone" (1952), was not especially successful, Robbins soon scored the first of his many top ten singles with his 1953 song "I'll Go on Alone." He landed another hit months later with "I Couldn't Keep from Crying," and around the same time he was invited to become a regular member of the Grand Ole Opry, the nation's most popular country radio show, broadcast live every week out of Nashville, Tennessee.
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