Like most, my introduction to Marty Robbins happened the old fashioned way. Listening to Houston’s Country Legends 97.1, somewhere between staples by Waylon, Willie, and George, you will always hear Robbins’ 1959 hit El Paso. The first single released off Robbins’ 5th studio album, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs, El Paso would catapult Robbins’ career and become a beloved country and western classic. It earned Robbins a Grammy in 1961 for Best Country and Western Recording, and in turn made Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs Robbins’ highest charting album, moving more than a million units to date. Consequently, when most people think of Marty Robbins, myself included, they think of his romantic caricatures of a wild west filled with cowboys, cantinas, and señoritas.
When we stumbled upon I Walk Alone in the dollar bin at our favorite record store, I was a bit taken aback by the cover. Marty Robbins was not dressed as a cowboy in black wielding a six shooter, he was sitting at a piano looking decidedly uncountry. I Walk Alone is Marty Robbins over a decade into his career finding his own place in country music. These simple and heartfelt songs, some of them originally performed by Leon Payne, Hank Williams, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Dickey Lee, feature Robbins on piano for the first time on record. The title track, written by Herbert Wilson in 1943, was previously associated with country legend Eddy Arnold who first recorded the song in 1945.
I walk alone was released by Columbia Records in 1968 and would be Robbins’ thirteenth number one country single. Following its success Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells, David Houston, and Willie Nelson would all record I Walk Alone for 1969 releases.
You can easily pick up a copy of I Walk Alone for just a few bucks. While it may not be quintessential Marty Robbins, it certainly is a fine place to start.
※ photograph by dc