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Born and raised in Glendale, AZ, Robbins (born Martin David Robertson, September 26, 1925; died December 8, 1982) was exposed to music at an early age. His mother's father was "Texas" Bob Heckle, a former medicine show man who told his grandson cowboy stories and tales of the traveling show. Robbins became enraptured by the cowboy tales and, once he became a teenager, worked on his older brother's ranch outside of Phoenix, concentrating more on his cowboy duties than his studies. Indeed, he never graduated from high school, and by his late teens, he started turning petty crimes while living as a hobo. In 1943, he joined the U.S. Navy to fight in World War II, and while he was in the service, he learned how to play guitar and developed a taste for Hawaiian music. Robbins left the Navy in 1947, returning to Glendale, where he began to sing in local clubs and radio stations. Often, he performed under the name "Jack Robinson" in an attempt to disguise his endeavors from his disapproving mother. Within three years, he had developed a strong reputation throughout Arizona and was appearing regularly on a Mesa radio station and had his own television show, Western Caravan, in Phoenix. By that time, he had settled on the stage name of Marty Robbins.
Robbins landed a recording contract with Columbia in 1951 with the assistance of Little Jimmy Dickens, who had been a fan ever since appearing on Western Caravan. Early in 1952, Robbins released his first single, "Love Me or Leave Me Alone." It wasn't a success and neither was its follow-up, "Crying 'Cause I Love You," but "I'll Go On Alone" soared to number one in January 1953. Following its blockbuster success, Robbins signed a publishing deal with Acuff-Rose and joined the Grand Ole Opry. "I Couldn't Keep From Crying" kept him in the Top Ten in spring 1953, but his two 1954 singles -- "Pretty Words" and "Call Me Up (And I'll Come Calling on You)" -- stalled on the charts. A couple of rock & roll covers, "That's All Right" and "Maybellene," returned him to the country Top Ten in 1955, but it wasn't until "Singing the Blues" shot to number one in fall 1956 that Robbins' career was truly launched. Staying at number one for a remarkable 13 weeks, "Singing the Blues" established Robbins as a star, but its progress on the pop charts was impeded by Guy Mitchell's cover, which was released shortly after Robbins' original and quickly leapfrogged to number one. The process repeated itself on "Knee Deep in the Blues," which went to number three on the country charts but didn't even appear on the pop charts due to Mitchell's hastily released cover.
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