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.