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Hargus Robbins, country pianist, dies aged 84

An instinctive melodic player who valued gentleness over light, Mr. Robbins helped establish the piano as an integral part of the smooth, clean Nashville Sound of the 1960s. It’s also a big reason that folk and rock artists like Joan Baez and Mr. Dylan began traveling to Nashville to adopt the impromptu approach to recording that was common there.

Former Kingston Trio member John Stewart called him “the first Hargus Robbins” when, in the epilogue to Stewart’s popular 1969 album, “California Bloodlines,” he listed Nashville session musicians appearing up there. Mr. Stewart acknowledged Mr. Robbins’ knack for playing pieces perfectly the first time.

Mr. Robbins’ influence was perhaps most pronounced as the Nashville Sound evolved into the deeper “countrypolitan” style heard on records such as George Jones’ 1980 blockbuster single, “He Stopped Loving Her Today”.

Mr. Robbins’ wavy, jazzy intro to Charlie Rich’s “Behind closed doors” (1973) and Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” (1977) became the enduring expression of the Southern musical vernacular of their time. Both records are number 1 country and pop singles intertwine.

“Of all the musicians in my performances, he is the tallest,” A-Team producer and guitarist Jerry Kennedy said of Robbins during an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Mr Kennedy, who worked with Mr Robbins on the hits of Roger Miller and Jerry Lee Lewis, and on “Blonde on Blonde”, added: “He was a mainstay for Nashville.

Mr. Robbins got his special nickname, Pig, while attending Tennessee School for the Blind in Nashville as a young boy.

“I had a supervisor who called me that because I used to sneak in an exit and play when I wasn’t allowed and I would get dirty like a pig,” Mr. Robbins said in an interview. cited in the Encyclopedia of Country Music.

He lost vision in one eye at the age of 3, after accidentally stabbing himself in the eye with a knife. The injured eye was eventually removed and Mr Robbins eventually lost sight in his remaining eye.

While at the School for the Blind, he studied classical music, but he would also play jazz, honky-tonk and drum blues.

Mr. Robbins’ diverse interests served him well, equipping him to work on soul records such as Clyde McPhatter’s 1962 pop hit, “Lovers Please” (where he was identified as Mel). “Pigue” Robbins), and By Arthur Alexander “Anna (Going to Him),” a Top 10 R&B single from 1962 covered by The Beatles.

Given an opportunity to expand the style in “Blonde on Blonde,” Mr. Robbins played with raucous abandon in “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” the catchy, festive #2 pop hit set with the slogan “Everybody must be stoned. ” In contrast, he employs tender lyricism in high-profile ballads such as “Just Like a Woman” and “Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands.”

Hargus Melvin Robbins was born on January 18, 1938 in Spring City, Tenn.

His first big break came in 1959 when music publisher Buddy Killen secured him an invitation to play on Mr. Jones’s “White light.” Boosted by Mr. Robbins’ boogie-woogie piano, the record became a #1 country single.

Another opportunity came two years later, when producer Owen Bradley, needed a replacement for the A-Team pianist. Floyd Cramer, hired Mr. Robbins to play in Miss Cline’s performance of “I Fall to Pieces”. Mr. Cramer soon embarked on a solo career, creating an opportunity for Mr. Robbins in the A-Team.

Mr. Robbins began his solo career in the 50s, recording popular rock originals under the name Mel Robbins. “Save It”, a little-known single from 1959, was covered by the garage-punks the Cramps on their 1983 album, “Off the Bone”.

One of Mr. Robbins’ instrumental albums, “Country Instrument of the Year,” won a Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance in 1978.

However, working as a session musician was his stock in the trade, like a scene from Robert Altman’s 1971 film “Nashville.” Hone his recording skills when a hippie pianist nicknamed Frog showed up to work on their session instead of Mr Robbins, the narcissistic country singer played by Henry Gibson shouting, “When I ask for Pig, I want Pig!”

Mr. Robbins was named Country Music Artist of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1976 and 2000. Even after being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2012, he continued – then at the age of 70 – working in studio work for later- the hit people of the day like Miranda Lambert and Sturgill Simpson.

Information on survivors was not immediately available.

The loss of his eyesight may have helped Mr. Robbins develop a more keen sense of music. In any case, his play demonstrates a commitment to listening and imagination that makes him respond to his collaborators with an unusual sense of depth.

“Pig Robbins is the best man I have ever known,” said group A member Charlie McCoy at a reception held in honor of Robbins at the Country Music Hall of Fame. “Anytime Pig enters a session, the others play better.”

“If you are going to be a good player,” Mr. Robbins said at the event, “you have to come up with something that will complement the song and the singer.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/30/arts/hargus-robbins-dead.html Hargus Robbins, country pianist, dies aged 84

Fry Electronics Team

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