El Paso

Album: Big Time Country (1959)
Charted: 19 1
  • songfacts ®
  • Lyrics
  • Robbins wrote this in a car as he and his family were traveling through Texas on the way to Arizona. The song is a Western saga complete with drama, violence, and romance. The singer falls in love with a Mexican girl named Faleena, but when he sees her with another man, he shoots the guy, killing him. He steals a horse and makes his escape, but love compels him to return to the scene of the crime, where he is met with a bullet to the chest.
  • At 4:40, this song was exceptionally long by pop standards. Columbia Records bucked convention and in October 1959 released it as a single at that length anyway. The decision paid off when the song topped the Hot 100 in the first week of 1960, marking the first time a song longer than four minutes hit #1 on that tally (it was also a #1 country hit). "El Paso" was over a minute longer than any other #1 on the Hot 100 that year - "Georgia On My Mind" by Ray Charles was the second-longest at 3:37.
  • This song won the first Grammy ever awarded in the category Best Country & Western Performance.
  • Country America magazine ranked this #6 on their Top 100 country songs of all time.
  • Robbins went onto further successes, not only as a singer, but also an actor, TV host, NASCAR race driver and writer (he penned a novel, The Small Man).
  • Marty Robbins visited the city again in 1966, when he recorded "Faleena (From El Paso)," which tells the life story of Faleena, the "Mexican girl" from "El Paso", in a third-person narrative.

    In 1976 Robbins released another sequel, "El Paso City", in which he sings of being in an airplane over El Paso. Seeing the city reminds him of a song he had heard "long ago". He then summarizes the original "El Paso" story.
  • This western ballad was produced by Don Law, the man who produced the only known recordings of blues giant Robert Johnson in the 1930s.
Please sign in or register to post comments.

Comments: 25

  • Nate from UsaIt’s always seemed painfully obvious to me that the last verse is a hallucination as he lay dying. He never made it to the cantina, Felina didn’t even love him.
  • Bradley from Bemidji, Minnesota UsaJennifer, the version on the Gunfighter Ballads stereo LP is the version that has does not have the "Just for a moment I stood there in silence, struck by the foul, evil deed I had done, Many thoughts ran through my mind as I stood there; I had but one chance and that was to run" verse. The version with the verse in it is on the mono LP and commercial 45rpm single. Promo singles have a very short edit which was poorly done on the A side, the B side with the full length mono version and radio programmers used the full length side. The mono full length version and the stereo LP version are both included on the Bear Family Under Western Skies CD and the Sony/Legacy CD reissue of the album.
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaFred, the original version is on the Gunfighters Ballads LP. Caleb-surely u. you jest will never believe it. my late dad loved this song and always reminds me of him. the song i wish i could find out about(and if ou have never heard it.....) it's called The Chair.
  • Tony from Calif.I agree with Mark in Lancaster OH, it was a fair fight. My dad used to play the Gunfighter Ballads album when we were growing up .When I asked my dad about this he pointed out that the "crime" committed was horse thievery. He runs out back where the horses are tied. "I caught a good one, it looked like it could run". It was his fear of what he had done in anger that caused him to steal a horse! Marty Robbins was a master story teller. They're Hanging Me Tonight, Masters Call, Utah Carol among my favorites.
  • Chris from Bronx, NyCovered by Grateful Dead!
  • Coy from Palestine, TxThe great Nashville session guitarist Grady Martin played the lead guitar on this record. Martin was asked by Robbins to "come up with some Mexican sounding riff". Martin doodled on the guitar a bit and came up with the terrific riff.
  • Fred from Burbank, CaWhat about the "lost" verse ..."just for a moment I stood there in silence, struck by the foul, evil deed I had done..." It's never included in the version played, or in any compilation albums I've heard.
  • Esskayess from Dallas, TxI like Ray's story. 'MacArthur Park' was another song that provided time for a bathroom break, but I'm sure more than a few DJs would have choked before playing it.
  • Fred from Laurel, MdThis is one of those songs that, once I recall it, I just can't get it out of my head. And of all the songs like that, this one is among the half that I'm GLAD I can't get out of my head! The story line reminds me of a Hoyt Axton song I also love -- "Water for My Horses." In that one, the protagonist is forever on the lam. * * * * Long-playing songs on the radio? Don't forget "In a Gada Davida" by Iron Butterfly. And of course, "Alice's Restaurant (Entire Massacree)" by Arlo Guthrie. Late 60's saw a lot of lengthy tunes emerge, along with the alternative stations to play them, 'cause the top-40's sure wouldn't. That is, unless they could be shortened, like Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone," which had 4 long verses, and on the radio they would cut in half by fading it out as the 3rd verse was beginning. But "El Paso" came out when the TV Western shows of the late 50's and early 60's were at their peak, and that undoubtedly helped its popularity somewhat.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyIn 1964 The Animals released "The House of the Rising Sun"; it became the 2nd song of more than four minutes in length to reach #1. Interestingly enough both 'El Paso' and 'House' are four minutes and thirty seconds long!!!
  • Caleb from Los Angeles, CaThis song is so long because it was written by the same demon who wrote and delivered the lyrics for The Book of Revelation to John the Revelator. The story goes that Marty Robbins was short on cash, having spent $200,000 on hitmen handguns and lawyers throughout the previous year. One night while sleeping under a bridge, eating and drinking with hobo ruffians, Marty summoned the Demon Azaziel. He drew the correct sigals on the ground and sacrificed a fellow hobo to the god Ba'al. Azaziel came through for ol' Marty and gave him this long hit song, and good as his word, Marty burned down a church in every town he played. Apparently Marty and the Devil had a falling out when the Devil demanded producer credits for work done prior to El Paso. Word on the street is Marty killed the devil in a drunken fit of jealousy much like the protagonist of the song El Paso. No charges have ever been filed. You fill in the dots.
  • Dave from Cullman, AlI'm surprised that no one has mentioned this, but Marty Robbins also drove NASCAR races. In 1972 my wife and I were stationed in Japan, but we came back for a month's leave, part of which we spent at her parents' place in Jacksonville. We took a day off and went to Cape Canaveral and Daytona, where we took a tour of the track. At one point I asked the guide who had left a particularly long skid mark ending at the wall--Marty Robbins. And "El Paso" was a truly great song--I loved it when it was a hit, and I still love it.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyEl Paso entered Billboard's Top 100 chart on 11-09-1959 and reached No. 1 on 01-04-1960 {2 weeks at the top}; it stayed in the Top 100 for 22 weeks
  • Phil from Tucson, AzMarty Robbins remains my favorite singer of all time till this day!
  • Brad from Barry, TxIn 1976 Robbins released another reworking, "El Paso City", in which the narrator is on an airplane over El Paso and remembers a song he had heard "long ago", proceeding to summarize the original "El Paso" story. "I don't recall who sang the song", he sings, but he feels a supernatural connection to the story: "could it be that I could be the cowboy in this mystery", he asks, suggesting a past life. This song was a country number one. The arrangement includes riffs and themes from the previous two El Paso songs. Robbins wrote it while himself flying over El Paso.
  • Joel from Wheeling, WvClassic song about love, death, and the old west
  • Diane from St.paul, MnMy dad,my husband and I were watching a Garth Brooks concert. My Dad said his favorite song of all times was El Paso but he could not remember the name of the singer. After we left his house and came home, I did a google search and found this web site. I called my Dad and he said "yes, Marty Robins he was and still is the best". I now remember the Grateful Dead doing this exact song. My Dad is 80 years young and certainly has the best taste in music.
  • Kenny from Clydebank, ScotlandMan, the best country song ever. Marty Robbins is a great storyteller in song. His vocal is commanding, and it's an everlasting popular western ballad.
  • Patrick from Bremen, GaI'm not much of a fan of Country music, but this is one of those rare songs that I do enjoy listening to. I first heard the Grateful Dead version 10 years or so ago, and discovered this one a few years later. I like this version a lot better. I remember hearing it on one of the local country stations, and the DJ commented that Brooks and Dunn might make a good cover for it. It doesn't need covering. Leave it alone.
  • Jordan from El Paso, TxRosa's has been in my family for over 60 years,it was established after World War II by my great grand-father Roberto Zubia
  • Mark from Lancaster, OhI personally always thought that the guy got a raw deal. After all, it was a fair fight: "Down went his hand to the gun that he wore," and Marty woulda been dead himself if he hadn't answered the challenge in less than a heartbeat.

    It is a great song, and I think I have the whole thing memorized. It was unusual in several respects: no chorus, no repeats.
  • Harry from Tokyo, JapanThere is a song called "Felina" telling the same story from Felina's point of view. You can find out what happend to Felina after the young cowboy died in her arms.
  • Jim from Denver, CoI first heard this song almost fifty years ago on my parents record player. It is one of those story songs that I have never forgotten.
  • Mike from Hueytown , AlLong live Marty ! Greatest Western singer of all time
  • Ray from Laughlin, NvAsk any disc jockey from that era, this was the only record we could play that could give us a decent bathroom break...because of the length. When you heard, "The white smoke from the rifle," you better be running back down the hall. Not until the long versions of Light My Fire and American Pie did we have such a break.
see more comments

Muhammad Ali: His Musical Legacy and the Songs he InspiredSong Writing

Before he was the champ, Ali released an album called I Am The Greatest!, but his musical influence is best heard in the songs he inspired.

Timothy B. Schmit of the EaglesSongwriter Interviews

Did this Eagle come up with the term "Parrothead"? And what is it like playing "Hotel California" for the gazillionth time?

Stan RidgwaySongwriter Interviews

Go beyond the Wall of Voodoo with this cinematic songwriter.

Mike Scott of The Waterboys - "Fisherman's Blues"They're Playing My Song

Armed with a childhood spent devouring books, Mike Scott's heart was stolen by the punk rock scene of 1977. Not surprisingly, he would go on to become the most literate of rockers.

The End Of The Rock EraSong Writing

There are no more rock stars - the last one died in 1994.

Music Video Director David HoganSong Writing

David talks about videos he made for Prince, Alabama, Big & Rich, Sheryl Crow, DMB, Melissa Etheridge and Sisters of Mercy.