American music used to include a genre called “Country and Western.” Maybe you’ve heard of it. Somewhere in the mid-60s, Country kicked Western to the curb, and went on to become hugely popular. Western slunk off to the hills, the Western hills I suspect, and has rarely been heard from since. But it had some great moments, and maybe the greatest of all is “El Paso.”
Written and recorded by Marty Robbins, it topped both the Country and Pop charts at the beginning of 1960. It was released at a time when songs rarely exceed three minutes in length, yet lasted for 4:45. The record company feared that its length would discourage radio stations from playing it, but they need not have feared. People loved the story, and embraced its tragic romance.
“El Paso” won the first Grammy ever awarded in the category of Best Country and Western Performance. Country America ranked it the number 6 country song of all time.