increase in popularity during the past decade or so is measured by Marty's two
Grammys for the best single of the year.
was the first, in 1960, and he
received his award through the mail. My Woman, My Woman, My Wife was his
second, 10 years later, and he sang it to a national television audience from
the stage of the Hollywood Palladium during the awards ceremony.
In the early
1960s, when Robbins was the far side of 35, he rediscovered automobile racing.
In Phoenix he had marveled when the USAC midget racers came to town—Bill
Vukovich, Jimmy Bryan and the gang—and except for the Robbins finances, might
have gotten into the sport earlier. Now he began to sneak out to a quarter-mile
dirt track north of Nashville and watch the special modifieds race, and the bug
finally got him for good. He was in trim shape, his reflexes were sharp and
he'd always liked motorcycles. So he had a car built, and he raced as
anonymously as a Country and Western singing star could.
the first time I drove the car," Marty says. "I knew I had to storm
around like a veteran on that dirt track, so I went down the straight and threw
it into the corner just like a pro. I had a good time trial, but it scared me a
little. When it came time for the heat race I didn't want to get into the
middle of the pack because I was afraid I might mess somebody else up. It was
one thing for me to wreck my own equipment, but those other boys were racing
for a living. So I pretended there was something wrong with my car and started
at the back of the pack. This lasted for three weeks, then they made me start
where I had qualified. I didn't pass anyone—but nobody passed me either—and
finally I just got used to running in traffic.
night I had the best time trial, won my heat and won the feature. Once I'd done
that, it wasn't fun anymore."
up-and-coming driver, Rob-bins jumped a notch to sportsmen and full modifieds
at the Nashville Fairground Speedways, a part of the NASCAR subterranean minor
leagues that produces the most competitive—and the most vicious—racing in
America. But Robbins more than held his own, and even had good dices
occasionally with such established Grand National regulars as Bobby Allison,
Red Farmer and Coo Coo Marlin.
In October 1968
he made his big-track Grand National debut at Charlotte in the National 500 and
finished a respectable 12th. Although he was 43, Robbins was now ready to
indulge himself in racing as much as his well-paced singing schedule would
But his next
Grand National event was two years later.
most top country singers, toured a lot by bus, in his case an old Greyhound
converted into a mobile home complete with beds, showers and a lively kitchen
for the enjoyment of himself and his various sidemen.
outside Toledo," Robbins says. "We'd just finished a fair date and we
were on our way to an afternoon show near Cleveland when I felt the pain. I had
it for about an hour and a half, and it kept getting worse. The first hospital
we came to was about 40 miles outside Cleveland, and they gave me some tests.
Then they told me I'd had a heart attack. But I knew better. I'd never abused
my body and I knew it had to be indigestion or something, so I talked the
doctor into releasing me from the hospital and giving me some pain-killers and
told him I'd go to a hospital in Cleveland.
"As soon as I
got out we headed for our date in Warren, and I put on the show. Man, I was
feeling fine. Then the pills started wearing off and I said, 'Boys, I guess
you'd better take me to another hospital.' "