Faron Young and Marty Robbins newsletter — 24 March 2010

This periodic newsletter commemorates the lives of Faron Young and Marty Robbins. Live Fast, Love Hard: The Faron Young Story was published in 2007 by the University of Illinois Press, and the publication goal for Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins is 2012. Thanks to Gary Presley for reviewing the manuscript; I’m now cutting words to get it ready to send to a publisher.

Both Marty and Faron experienced being “let go” by the Opry. Marty hosted the Prince Albert portion of the Opry on March 1, 1958, and was told by W. D. Kilpatrick after the show that the Opry no longer needed him. “He indicated in a conference Saturday morning that he no longer needed Grand Ole Opry,” Kilpatrick stated in an interview. “We simply cannot deal with prima donnas on this show.” He added, “Robbins has displayed insubordination recently, which just could not be tolerated any longer.” Marty’s explanation was, “I said the right thing to the wrong person.” He’d urged the radio station to establish a staff country music orchestra as it had already done with pop musicians. He stated, “I said during the discussion that if Jim Denny were still here, he’d have the Opry fully sponsored and would have a network television show.” But WSM had fired Denny eighteen months earlier and assigned Kilpatrick as Opry manager. A few days after firing Marty, WSM executives met with him and decided they had made a mistake. The station issued a statement that “Marty Robbins had not at any time said or indicated he ‘did not need the Grand Ole Opry.'” Marty served as a strong Opry presence for the rest of his life. Faron refused to return after he picked up The Nashville Tennessean on Sunday, December 6, 1964, and saw the headline, “Opry Drops 12 Top Stars.”  Faron’s photo was on the front page, above the caption, “Opry favorite.” Faron said he had been warned “they was gonna let everybody go that didn’t make 26 weeks of Saturday nights.”  But he’d been told he would be retained. “So the next day the paper come out,” he recalled, “and there I was in there.” When he complained to Opry management, the response was, “We had to do it, Faron. We let the rest of them go.” WSM invited everyone back a few weeks later, after realizing, according to Faron, “they made a big mistake, the powers-to-be at the Opry at that time.”  It would be 20 years before Faron returned to the Opry stage.

Barbara and I became acquainted after I purchased Marty Robbins: Fast Cars and Country Music, to use as a research guide in writing Twentieth Century Drifter. Barbara had published the bibliography in 1990, in the hope someone would use it someday to write a biography of Marty Robbins, and she was happy to hear I was doing that. She suggested I join the Country Music Association, and she served as one of my references. She had donated her Fast Cars research materials to the Country Music Hall of Fame, and I went through the boxes when I visited Nashville last summer. Barbara and I occasionally met for coffee, and she’d send me notes asking how the book was coming. Whenever I didn’t hear from her for awhile, I’d then get a note explaining she’d been sick and in the hospital. She looked forward to reviewing my completed manuscript. But my emails started bouncing, and her phone was disconnected. She died Tuesday, March 16, 2010. There will be a memorial service in Washington DC sometime in April.

Robert MacMillan writes, “Always look forward to your newsletter – and I’ll be contacting Brian O’Reilly of Hux Records with suggestions for country re-issues. It’s great to have two of Marty’s albums out on CD for the first time especially as I think one of the songs on the album ‘The City’ is just a great song. It epitomises country music to me – simple, melodic (heartbreak) story line plus of course, the voice of Marty Robbins – nothing finer! ‘The City’ was, of course, written by Marty and I believe he doesn’t get the credit he deserves for his songwriting ability – the sheer diversity of his writing is quite amazing! As David Corne indicated in your last newsletter Rural TV is being aired here in the UK and Marty Robbins Jr was the guest on The Willburn Bros Show singing ‘Love Of The Common People.’ Re: your correspondent Tom Biddlecombe and his search for ‘Yellow Bandana’ by Faron Young. This is available in the UK on the Polygram/Spectrum CD release ‘All American Country – 18 Original Country Classics’ by Faron Young a 1996 release no 552554-2. Can’t help with ‘Johnny Rondo’ or ‘Crutches’ tho!”

David Royle says an Internet site “gave me this hint about you and your interesting life. Enjoyed reading about Faron & Marty.”

Rob Romano writes, “My father passed away in October and I’ve been cleaning out his house. I came across a box of old papers and found a post card from 1954. On the front are two pictures of Faron Young and on the back is a type written invitation saying Faron will be in New Jersey (I forgot the details). It was mailed from Maplewood New Jersey. Also, with that post card was another of an Indian, or a child dressed as an Indian, and it looks like it is signed Spinning Sun on the back. Anyway, I didn’t know who Faron Young was and looked him up. Your site was great and I now realize who Faron was. I’ll be sure to check out some of his music. And, do you know if Faron had any people dressed as Indians or have you heard of Spinning Sun?”

Ralph Larson writes, “Thank you for your interesting e-mail that I look forward to reading. For HUX Records, I would suggest they re-issue Marty’s 1972 album Good and Country.  Many of the songs were written by Marty, as well as Bill Johnson (Love Needs) and my favorite ‘I’m Wanting To,’ written by Ronny Robbins and Karen Russell. As for improving your e-mail, I think you have a pretty good formula.  You may wish to expand to covering or highlighting other artists, especially the lesser known ones.” He adds, “I thought more about my suggestion on expanding your e-mail, and I would like you to interview former disc jockeys for their thoughts and memories. [Tracy Pitcox and Charlie Douglas] really knew the performers and I think they would add a new dimension to your web site. Thank you again for your assistance and your newsletter.  Continued best wishes and I look forward to reading your book about Marty Robbins.”

Joe Babcock suggests, “The people with Hux records might consider re-releasing some of Marty’s singles that were never put in albums.  I had a single record by Marty on ‘Won’t You Forgive.’  It was on the other side of ‘Ruby Ann’ and as far as I know it has never been re-released in an album. I think the same might have happened to ‘Ghost Train,’ also a charting single. I don’t think it was ever re-released in an album. There may be other single records that disappeared in the same way.”

Ken Johnson offers, “In response to Tom Biddlecombe regarding the Faron Young songs he is searching for: ‘The Guns Of Johnny Rondo’ was reissued in 2009 on an import CD from the British Hux label. Originally released on Faron’s 1970 album Occasional Wife, that LP has now been paired with Here’s Faron Young from 1968 as a ‘two-fer’ (Hux 105). Hux did a superb job remastering both Mercury albums in stereo from the original master tapes. Great vintage Faron honky tonk. ‘Yellow Bandana’ is available on two different Faron Young hit compilations – Golden Hits (Mercury 526254) from 1995 and The Hits (Mercury 558082) released in 1998. You are correct that ‘Crutches’ is only available at this time on the 1978 vinyl LP or cassette That Young Feeling (Mercury SRM-1-5005) No CD release so far.” He adds, “I was so glad Hux reissued these 2 albums. Hopefully they will reissue additional Mercury LPs by Faron – especially the 1960s stuff. Nice to see the new Hux Marty Robbins ‘two-fer’ CD. I’ve Got A Woman’s Love is especially exciting as it contains his 1972 hit ‘The Best Part Of Living’ which makes its CD debut. Columbia apparently was scrambling for material at the end of Marty’s contract as that LP is an unusual mixture of new tracks, single B sides and previously released LP sides. ‘Have I Told You Lately That I Love You’ is a fine compilation album but does not offer much that hasn’t already been available on CD in many other collections. I wish they would have selected Marty’s excellent 1971 album Today. That LP contains non-CD hits ‘The Chair/Seventeen Years’ and ‘Early Morning Sunshine’ along with some great other tracks including one of MY all-time favorites, ‘I’m Not Blaming You.’  I will recommend that album to Hux for a reissue along with By The Time I Get To Phoenix, It’s A Sin, and I Walk Alone. Enjoy your blog – Faron & Marty are two of my all-time favorites.”

Everett Corbin would like to see “articles/features on the GREAT country songs of the past. BMI used to put out booklets citing this information and send it out to BMI writers.”

Cal Sharp, former Country Deputy, checks in to say, “I wrote a couple books a long time ago that never got published, so I decided to put one of them up as an ebook. Ebooks will be big, I think. It’s at http://chevysummer.net/.  I have another one called The Beast From the Back of the Bus, a murder mystery set in Nashville. Guess who the lead character is. It’ll be up soon.”

Craig Johnson writes from Virginia, “I’m sitting here in Charlottesville’s Panera listening to my I-Touch and web surfing. Marty Robbins’s ‘Red River Valley’ came on the headset, not one of his better known songs, but I’m such a fan, I loaded everything I could find. I grew up in an Air Force family and was born in Texas (Webb Air Force Base). Some of my fondest memories of childhood in Texas include Marty Robbins. El Paso was like Ave Maria to me; the Ballad of the Alamo like my National Anthem of sorts. . . . I found your website while looking for information on Marty’s family. My purpose was to only drop a note or email telling them the comfort and peace I get from listening to Marty’s songs. I must have been a cowboy in a previous life for sure. YouTube has a great number of Marty TV performances, as I’m sure you are aware. Thanks for your website. Good stuff.”

Tom Lipscombe suggests, “You asked for suggestions on what you should do after the Marty book is published. Why not do what you do best? Write another book. This time, do it for a living person: Kitty Wells. Her success in the 1950s and 1960s was so enormous that she still ranks as the sixth most successful female vocalist in the history of the Billboard Country Charts. Of course, the big advantage is, that she is still alive at age 91.”

Jeff Wolfe reports, “Last year when I was in the El Paso airport, they had remodeled it, and gone is Marty’s Cantina and also the pictures of Marty accepting the key to the city back in the 70s.  Also gone is the proclamation from the Mayor of El Paso naming the day ‘Marty Robbins Day.’  I contacted the airport, and after several weeks of back and forth, was told the items were ‘in storage.’  I tried to get them for the Friends of Marty Robbins museum, but to no avail.  Needless to say, I was sad to see Marty removed from the El Paso Airport. Lastly, I’d like to urge any Marty Robbins fan to visit Jesse Lee Jones at Robert’s Western World in Nashville, should they get the chance.  He and his merry band of musicians played for us at the 19th annual Friends of Marty Robbins Tribute in Willcox, AZ, last Saturday night (3/6) and they were unbelievably great!”

Steve Clark of Fort Mill, South Carolina, sends this great idea: “Something that has always interested me is the people behind the stars. The band members. If you have ever listened to Eddie Stubbs radio show you see how he will introduce certain records — ‘Tommy Jackson kicks off on fiddle or a young Buddy Emmons steel on this Ernest Tubb song.’ Whatever happened to the great musicians? Did they retire, still play or quit music? I remember reading that Billy Byrd, of Ernest Tubb fame, drove a Nashville taxi in later years. Why? Driving a taxi make a better living than playing in a first rate band? Had problems with Ernest, or tire of traveling or what? This could be a lot of research but I bet you have already interviewed many band members and this could be a great feature for a newsletter.”
Response: Thanks, Steve! See below.

I’ll begin this new section with Joe Vincent, who played steel guitar for both Marty and Faron. I met Joe in 2000, when he came to my first Country Deputy reunion. In 2009, he came to my first Marty Robbins Band reunion. Joe went to Nashville in search of a music career after his Army discharge in 1953. He was working with Big Jeff at WLAC radio when Marty Robbins came to the station looking for a steel guitarist who could sound like Little Roy Wiggins. Joe played on Marty’s Dallas recording sessions, and the two men often toured in Texas. About a year later, Hubert Long booked Marty on a show with Faron Young, who had just gotten out of the Army. Hubert invited Joe to become part of the band he was organizing for Faron. Joe didn’t know what to do, and he finally decided to go with Faron, thus becoming one of the original Country Deputies. He left Faron in late 1956. “Brother Elvis came along, and completely turned country music around,” Joe recalls.  With steel guitar players on the decline, he decided to go back to school and “get into something that’s got a career to it.”  Baptist Hospital offered a two-year school in respiratory care. It provided the career, benefits, and retirement not usually available in the music business. Joe eventually retired from Baptist Hospital, and he and his wife still live in Nashville.

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