Faron Young and Marty Robbins newsletter — 2 September 2009

Billboard once tracked three charts–store sales, jukebox plays, and radio plays–for each type of music. A compilation of January-February 1957 charts showed “Singing the Blues” at the top.  “Top Country and Western Records” listed Marty’s record in two number one slots and one number two slot. “Top Popular Records” did the same for Guy Mitchell’s version. And the other song at the top of both charts? “Young Love” by Sonny James. His country recording topped one country chart and one pop chart, and it held three of the number two slots. The pop version of “Young Love,” sung by Tab Hunter, was in the top ten of all three pop charts. Joe Wright, an original Teardrop, informs me, “If memory serves me right, Marty’s record of ‘Singing the Blues’ had already started dropping in the charts when Mitchell’s record came out.  Marty then went to #1.” So I have homework still to do before I finish writing this chapter. I’m off to the Library of Congress this week to see what I can find.


Marty Robbins, Mitch Miller, Faron Young


While looking through the boxful of magazines Everett Corbin sent me, I was excited to find a 1957 article about Melvin Endsley in Country and Western Jamboree. Born in Arkansas in 1934, Endsley was three years old when polio took away the use of his legs. At the age of ten, he received his first wheelchair. Two years later, a nurse at the Crippled Children’s Hospital in Memphis gave him a guitar as a reward for singing at hospital events. He started writing songs and held them in his head. At age nineteen, he was sitting in his wheelchair, holding his guitar and gazing out a window, when the words “I never felt more like singing the blues” popped into his mind. He finished the song and sang it the next day at the local radio station. The favorable reaction made him concerned that someone would steal it, so he laboriously wrote words and musical notes and had it copyrighted. When he went to Nashville in 1955, he saw Marty Robbins at the WSM studio and asked Marty to listen to his songs. The next day Marty took him to Acuff-Rose Publications, where Wesley Rose signed him as a writer. Rose provided a tape recorder so Endsley could transfer some of his fifty songs from his head onto tape. He celebrated his 23rd birthday as “Singing the Blues” held its number one slot on both pop and country charts. (By the way, the sheet music pictured on the cover of the magazine listed Guy Mitchell, not Marty, as the recording artist.)


Tom Lipscombe in Canada writes, “Have posted your newsletter on the ATL forum:
http://pub3.bravenet.com/forum/static/show.php?usernum=243824250&frmid=204&msgid=788053&cmd=show. I was really interested in reading about ‘Singing The Blues’. I was always under the mistaken impression that Guy Mitchell recorded it first, and it was later covered by Marty. Then again, I always thought ‘El Paso’ was Marty’s biggest hit….another misconception! Thanks for clearing those details up for me.”

David Corne sends this note from the UK: “You may be interested to know that Marty’s version of ‘Singing The Blues’ and the follow up ‘Knee Deep In The Blues’ weren’t even released in the UK, Columbia Records issuing only the Guy Mitchell versions. To add insult to injury, Tommy Steele covered both songs as well and charted with both reaching the #1 spot with ‘Singing The Blues’ as Guy did. Marty Robbins must have been the most covered US artist in the 50’s. He lost out on cover versions on not only the two above named songs, but also ‘A White Sport Coat’, ‘The Story Of My Life’ (both subsequent #1’s for local artists) ‘Stairway Of Love’ and ‘You Don’t Owe Me A Thing.’ He was also covered on ‘She Was Only 17’ which didn’t chart. The practice continued into the 60’s with a cover of ‘El Paso’, but this time there was at last chart recognition for Marty who hit the top 20 with his classic and ‘Don’t Worry’ was also covered, but neither version charted at all surprisingly. Incidentally, I can recall exactly where I was when I was told that Marty had had his first heart attack. I had gone to see a package show of Hank Snow, Willie Nelson and Johnny Darrell at the London Palladium. I was actually told by Willie Nelson at the stage door where he was gracious enough to come out and speak to me.”

Bill Littleton writes from Nashville, “Some of my most vivid memories involve Marty Robbins, many before I met him — as a guitar student in the eighth grade, I learned to play straight eighths listening to him sing ‘Isle Of Golden Dreams,’ and many years later I got to hear him overdub dobro licks on three songs I had recorded.  He is unquestionably part of the fabric of my life and I’m delighted you’re doing that book.”

Mike O’Neill comments, “Marty Robbins did a great job on Singing the Blues. Most of the record companies in Nashville were owned by New York based companies and looked at Nashville as a tax write off. . . . Country music was hillbilly music to the record companies. Only popular demand for country songs made them crossover hits or someone like Dean Martin recorded a country song made it acceptable on the pop charts in the 1960s. Marty Robbins had the pop hit a White Sport Coat and a Pink Carnation. At that time he was only a few country artist that made it to the pop charts.”

John Krebs in Houston, Texas, sends a reminder of the new Faron Young CD, Here’s Faron Young/ Occasional Wife. He says, “I wish that same label would do some Webb Pierce 1960s albums.”

Loudilla Johnson says, “Look forward to your book on the Twentieth Century Drifter, Marty Robbins! The Faron Young Story is great!”

John Hamilton writes from Portland, Oregon, “Anyone who has ever dreamed of becoming a country music singer can identify with the reminiscence of Sherwin Linton from August 27th Country Music Classic. Mr. Linton is a lucky guy! I had heard years ago that Mrs. Marty Robbins was a very gentle, charming lady. This story proves it! She’s as lovely as her name: Marizona, a great tribute to the State of Arizona. Marty was one of my heroes growing up; a great singer, musician and writer. Thank you for keeping Marty Robbins’ and Faron Young’s memories and music alive. Legends like these are irreplaceable.”

Doug McLeod says, “Sherwin Linton who commented on his meetings with Marty (and Marizona) needs to be introduced to the newsletter fans who don’t know him. Sherwin is a first class performer in his own right. He is traveling with his show appearing currently at the Minnesota State Fair. I met Sherwin several years ago and thru the newsletter have been able to re-connect with him. I encourage newsletter fans to click on SherwinLinton.com to meet a great talent as well as a great guy.”

Response: I first saw Sherwin and his Cotton Kings about forty years ago in Watertown, South Dakota, and he recently sent me a collection of Marty Robbins fanclub newsletters. Sherwin is a proud member of MARTY’S ARMY. He’s at the South Dakota State Fair this year, too. As are Mel Tillis and the Statesiders. I wish I could be there!

Doug McLeod also says, “The Badge of Marshal Brennen was released in 1957-One of the stars was country music legend Carl Smith who had just left the Grand Ole Opry the prior year to headline the Phillip Morris Country Show. This was a traveling free show sponsored by the cigarette company. The show stopped in my hometown of Boone, Iowa. Carl mentioned that he  was soon heading to California to make a movie. When we saw it the next spring it was interesting to note that his whole band had bit parts. Of course Marty Robbins played the role of Felipe in the movie. Been looking for it as well.”


I’ve been listening to the Bear Family box set Marty Robbins Country 1951-1958 while writing the chapters covering those years. The set does not include “A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation),” and I contacted Richard Weize of the Bear Family to find out why. He explained that he and Ray Conniff had put together a separate set of the songs Conniff produced with Marty. It is called The Story of My Life: The Marty Robbins – Ray Conniff Recordings (BCD 15567). The Bear Family is doing a wonderful service for all of us who care about preserving music and making it available to newer generations. I’m hoping there will someday be a Bear Family box set of Faron Young’s Mercury recordings.


For anyone who enjoys before-and-after photos, here’s my first major rehab, a house in Clinton, Maryland: http://s709.photobucket.com/albums/ww95/buymyemptyhouse/PInta/

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