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Country Music Hall of Fame 2012 Inductee


Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins


Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins © John Russell/CMA


of Fame. He is being inducted in the Recording and/or Touring Musician Active Prior to 1980 category and joins Connie Smith (Veterans Era Artist) and Garth Brooks (Modern Era Artist). Robbins has been working as an in-demand session musician for more than fifty years and has probably been more active post-1980 than he was pre-1980, despite the fact that in recent years the number of Nashville sessions have been greatly reduced as the major stars often go three or four years between albums, whereas in the 1960s and 1970s the big names would often release two or three new albums every year. He’s one of the most recognisable and identifiable pianists


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in either country or pop music history, yet Robbins wanted his fame to come in another area. “I wanted to be a rockabilly singer,” he’s said. “But I found out real quick that I wasn’t that good and wouldn’t be making any records anyone wanted to hear.” He did make some early rockabilly records under the name Mel Robbins. His little-known 1959 single, Save It, was covered later by the Cramps on their 1983 album OFF THE BONE. His first major session was in 1959 on George Jones’ chart-


topping White Lightnin’. Since then Robbins has played behind a who’s who of country music stars including Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Connie Smith, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, the Statler Brothers, Bobby Bare, Ernest Tubb, Kenny Rogers and right through to many of today’s performers such as George Strait, Shania Twain, Vince Gill, Alan Jackson and the Secret Sisters. His playing on Bob Dylan’s acclaimed Nashville recorded BLONDE ON BLONDE created demand for his keyboard skills outside of the confines of country music and led to sessions


48 Maverick


argus ‘Pig’ Robbins, arguably the greatest session pianist/keyboardist ever to grace a Nashville recording studio, is one of the three 2012 inductees into the prestigious Country Music Hall


with such diverse performers as Joan Baez, John Denver, Peter, Paul & Mary, Doug Sahm, the Everly Brothers, Ray Charles, Tom Jones, Neil Diamond and Andy Williams. “I had to learn when not to play,” Robbins said. “The biggest


problem with any session musician is playing too much. It sounds easy but it’s taken me a lifetime to really know when to add something, how much of it to include, and when to stop. You can ruin somebody’s song very easily by adding too many notes.” Whilst being a disciplined player, Robbins’ is also a crafty


and smart one, able to add just the right phrase or progression to perfectly embellish a vocal, or the perfect transitional figures within a song break that eases a song right back into the main melody. Few pianists have better used space in their accompaniment than Robbins, whose backing on Charlie Rich’s Behind Closed Doors or Crystal Gayle’s Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue is exhibit A for tasteful, sparse, yet memorable keyboard statements. Hargus Melvin ‘Pig’ Robbins was born on January 18, 1938


in Spring City, Tennessee. He lost an eye at age two after an accident with his father’s knife, and became completely blind at age four. While studying at the Nashville School for the Blind, he learned to play classical music on piano beginning at age seven. Robbins also loved country music, especially the songs of Tex Ritter. As he grew more confident with his piano playing, he began to learn country songs by ear after hearing them on the radio. As he got older, he was also influenced by Nashville session pianist Floyd Cramer and r&b singer/pianist Ray Charles. It was during his time as a student that he was given the


nickname ‘Pig.’ One day, he sneaked out the school building through a fire escape to play. When he returned, his teacher told him he was ‘dirty as a pig,’ and the name stayed with him.


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