Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and renowned session pianist who performed with George Jones, Patsy Cline, Bob Dylan and many others, died on Sunday. He was 84 years old. According to The Hollywood Reporter, in a statement from the Country Music Association, CEO Sarah Trahern wrote, “Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins was a defining sound for much of Nashville’s historic music. His talent spoke for itself. throughout his decades-long career and work as a session pianist with countless artists of all genres, our thoughts are with his friends and family during this difficult time.
Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, said: “Like all successful session musicians, Pig Robbins adapted quickly to any studio situation. He worked quickly, with perfection. less of a goal than a standard. And though he could change his style on a dime to suit the singer and the song, his playing was still distinctive. Pig’s left hand on the piano joined with the bass of Bob Moore to create unstoppable rhythmic force, while the fingers of his right hand flew like birds over the keys. Nashville musicians turned to Pig for guidance and inspiration.” Born in Spring City, Tennessee, Robbins said in a 2007 Nashville Cats interview that he “was about 3 years old when I stuck a knife in his eye.” The other eye had what was called a “sympathetic infection”, he said, and he lost his sight completely.
He attended the Tennessee School for the Blind, where he began taking piano lessons at age 7, learning by ear. “I figured in two or three weeks I’d play what I was hearing on the radio,” he joked, saying that at the time he was listening to “country, of course.”
He got his nickname in school. He loved playing in the old fire escapes and said “when I get out I’ll be really dirty from all that soot and stuff.” The school supervisor would tell him, “‘You’re as dirty as a little pig'”, he noted, “and the kids picked it up and started calling me ‘Pig'”. He said the nickname never bothered him. , and it gets stuck.
At school, he was taught classical music, but he practiced the music of his choice without his teachers. Some of his early influences include Owen Bradley, Poppa John Gordy and Ray Charles. Robbins’ outstanding performance as a session player came in 1959, on George Jones’ “White Lightning.” In the Nashville studio, he then worked on countless sessions with country stars. Notable credits would include Patsy Cline’s ‘I Fall to Pieces’, Loretta Lynn’s ‘You’re Looking at Country’, Dolly Parton’s ‘Coat of Many Colors’, Kenny Rogers’ ‘The Gambler’ and Tammy Wynette’s ‘DIVORCE’ – to name just a handful of highlights.
Robbins was also the pianist for Bob Dylan’s classic “Blonde on Blonde,” during the album’s Nashville sessions in 1966. Beyond his countless contributions over the decades as a session musician, Robbins also recorded a number of his own solo studio albums in the 60s and 70s.
The musician took a brief break in his career around the year 2000, due to illness. “I was diagnosed with cancer in December 1999,” he recalled in the Nashville Cats interview, “and then I started taking chemo and it made my fingers numb – so I had to quit around april i think i did, that year after about a year i felt a bit better and found i was going to live so i thought i would start again trying to play. The more I played, the more the feeling came back. It was nice of similar therapy.”
He soon returned to performing on a number of albums, with one of his most recent credits being Connie Smith’s 2021 release, “The Cry of the Heart.” Of Robbins, longtime collaborator Smith once said, “I love the depth and timbre of his playing. The way he plays lifts me up, and I feel more when Pig plays.”
Robbins was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2012. Among the various awards he has won, Robbins was named the CMA’s Instrumentalist of the Year in 1976 and 2000, and he won a Grammy for Best Performance country instrumental in 1978. (ANI)
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