El Paso
04 Feb
Not in Hall of Fame
January 4 – 17, 1960
Marty Robbins
El Paso

When you think of the 1960’s what comes to mind? 

For me, and let me preface this by saying that I was born in 1972, the 60’s conjures up images of hippies, the Vietnam War, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, The British Invasion, Motown and drug experimentation.  From a pop culture standpoint, most associations with the decade begin in ’62 or ’63, as once the Beatles arrived and Motown began to dominate, the sonic airwaves changed and many artists who reached the top only a few years earlier were immediately irrelevant.

This has made a lot of music that was released in the early 60’s erroneously linked to the 1950’s.  When American Graffiti came out even with the tag line “Where were you in ‘62” many people just thought of it as a 1950’s nostalgia movie, and based on the soundtrack, which had a lot of songs from the 1950’s I admit that is how I see it too.[1]  Even the fashion didn’t really change until 1963 and 1964, and as we continue our number ones in the 1960’s we will see this change come hard and fast.

But we aren’t there yet.

Marty Robbins is the unlikely man who has the honor of kicking off the 1960’s and it is with the song he is most known for, and probably his best one period. 

From the appropriately named album, “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs”, Robbins tells us a story about a lovely Mexican girl he fell in love with in El Paso, Texas in the old West but it ended tragically in a gunfight after being on the run from a rival cowboy gang after protecting her from his advances at Rosa’s Cantina.  Robbins delivers the song with such compassion and empathy that the listener is immediately hooked from the first words of “Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl.”  You immediately want to know what happens next, and even after you know you want to hear the story again.[2]

This is Western music at it’s finest and one that somehow makes me want to hear it played first hand at a campfire while eating beans from a can.  “El Paso” went to number one on the country and western chart as well as winning a Grammy for the best Country and Western Record. 

Marty Robbins would never hit the top spot in the Hot 100 again, but over the next fifteen years he would reach the top of the country and western chart another eleven times.  Robbins was an avid NASCAR enthusiast, and unlike other celebrities who tried their hands in their beloved sport, he actually had six top ten finishes on the Sprint Cup Series.[3]  His last hurrah was a top role in Clint Eastwood’s 1982 film, Honky Tonk Man, and if you are going to go out, it’s hard to top doing being in a film with Eastwood.

Other Notable Songs that charted but did not go to number one in this time period: January 4, 1960 – January 17, 1960.

1/11/60: Way Down Yonder in New Orleans by Freddy Cannon hit #3 and went to #14 on the R&B Chart.

1/11/60: Talk That Talk by Jackie Wilson went to #34 and reached #3 on the R&B Chart.

[1] Sirius/XM 50’s on 5 plays songs from 1960-62 often showing their opinion of the line of musical demarcation regarding the 50’s and 60’s.
[2] At least those paying attention should.  Remember, most people remember only one chunk of the song.  I don’t think it is wrong to say that most people can’t remember what Robbins says after “Mexican Girl”.
[3] A great example is when rapper, Master P tried out for the Toronto Raptors.  He was actually a much worse sports agent (ask Running Back, Ricky Williams) than he was an athlete.  
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