Marty Robbins penned some of the best western ballads of the modern era. In fact, even those who aren’t familiar with his catalog have heard “El Paso,” or “Big Iron,” a time or two.
“El Paso,” is still a favorite today. However, when Marty Robbins first cut the song in 1959, it was a gamble. Short punchy songs populated the radio landscape. “El Paso,” however clocks in at about four and a half minutes. However, that didn’t matter to listeners across the country. The song went to the top of both the Billboard Hot Country Songs and Hot 100 charts. It was his sixth career chart-topper as well as the first number one of the 1960s. Then, the song brought Robbins a Grammy for Best Country & Western Recording.
Marty Robbins was already a bona fide star. However, he had a whole new kind of hit on his hands with “El Paso,” So, it became a key piece of every performance. Not only did it become a permanent fixture in his live shows but he also played it on several television appearances. It doesn’t take much digging to find a handful of stellar clips of Robbins crooning his signature tune on television. However, one recording never hit the airwaves. In fact, it was lost for quite some time. That is, until someone found it and posted it on YouTube.
The Marty Robbins Performance That Never Aired
The video is from an Australian TV show called Country Style, according to the video’s description. Channel 7 ATN recorded the clip way back in 1964. However, it never made it to the airwaves. Check it out below. Then, we’ll talk more about it.
First and foremost, Marty Robbins and his band knock it out of the park with this performance. However, this shortened version of “El Paso,” really doesn’t do the song justice.
The original version of the song is damned near perfect in both storytelling and musicianship. However, the version that Marty Robbins plays in the above clip is missing so much. Most likely, he had to trim it down for the TV show. It could have been cut down for time or content. Either way, a huge chunk of the song is missing. The missing bits are, in my opinion, the best part of the story.
In the video, the song goes from the protagonist running into the badlands of New Mexico to him dying in his lover’s arms. Marty Robbins omitted what is, in my opinion, the best part of the song. So, not only is the story weakened but also one of the best lines of the song is gone as well. To me, it’s the line that sums up the whole motivation behind the story, “My love is stronger than my fear of death.”
The missing lyrics really take away from the overall story. So, maybe that’s why it never aired.