As you know we are always looking around for good history and sometimes we find it right in our own back yard.
Our good friend Marshall Trimble has written a feature for us on the true life of The King of The Gunfighter ballad. Here's just a small taste of the wonderful piece:
Big Iron On His Hip
By Marshall Trimble
In 1947, Ole Dame Fortune lent a helping hand. He’d been a
regular at Vern and Don’s, a local bar on east Van Buren Street in
Phoenix where he made the acquaintance of Frankie Starr, the
featured artist in the band. One evening Frankie came over and said
their guitar player was missing and could he fill in. He later recalled, “I
couldn’t play very well but I could play better than Frankie.”
The gig lasted three hours and afterwards Frankie handed him a
ten-dollar bill. For a guy making a dollar an hour hauling brick Martin
thought he’d been overpaid but Frankie told him that was union scale.
He played with the band the next two nights and pocketed thirty
dollars. When the guitar player he replaced left town Martin became
lead guitar player in the band. At last he was making money for doing
something he loved.
His next break came one night when Frankie was sick and asked
Martin to fill in. He later recalled that he was so shy and self-
conscience he couldn’t even look at the audience. He got behind the
microphone, stared at the floor and performed his first song on stage,
Eddy Arnold’s, Many Tears Ago.
The audience liked him but Martin would later say modestly, “I
think they just felt sorry for me.”
Working with Frankie Starr, Martin learned a lot about interacting
and engaging with his audience. It would take a while but engaging
his audience was something that would make him one of country
music’s most beloved performers.
Frankie Starr was also responsible for Martin landing his first
gig on the radio. Calling themselves the K Bar Boys, they began
singing on KTYL Radio in Mesa. The station had a large window in
front and folks would pull up outside the studio and watch the show.
Martin was still taking a lot of needling from his blue-collar-
worker brothers about making a living playing music, advising him to
get a “real job.” One day a friend, Harry Talmachoff, suggested he
shorten his name to Marty Robbins.
He agreed, besides he thought, “Marty Robbins” would look
much better on a record label. Although he never changed his name
legally he would be forever known as Marty Robbins.
That's the history of how he got his stage name. You'll get the rest of the story in an upcoming issue of True West magazine.
"To the town of Agua Fria rode a stranger one fine day
Hardly spoke to folks around him, didn't have too much to say,
No one dared to ask his business, no one dared to make a slip
The stranger there among them had a big iron on his hip,
Big iron on his hip."