Marty Robbins’ El Paso Trilogy: Part 2
In my previous post I wrote how Marty Robbins had to fight his record label bosses to release El Paso in 1959 because they felt it was too long and too wordy. Marty won and the song became a Grammy-winning hit and country music standard. Robbins revisited that West Texas town with a sequel on his 1966 album The Drifter. Feleena (From El Paso) tells the story from the girl’s perspective and at over eight minutes is twice as long as the original.
As well as a lengthy back-story before Feleena reaches El Paso the song also adds an extra layer of tragedy. The original El Paso ends with the narrator dying in Feleena’s arms. In the sequel Feleena then takes her own life with her lover’s pistol after hearing his parting words. There’s then a marginally upbeat coda as we learn that the two lovers’ voices can still be heard in the streets of El Paso.
Feleena (From El Paso)
Find it on The Essential Marty Robbins
Here’s a video of Marty performing the song. Unfortunately I have no idea where it’s from (any ideas?).
Rosa’s Cantina features in both songs. I actually discovered the photo at the top of this post on Jim Peipert’s cycling blog which claimed that this El Paso restaurant really is the same place that inspired the song. According to Jim, Marty Robbins stopped off at Rosa’s on his trips back home to Arizona after performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. However shortly after I published the post on Carnival Saloon Marty Robbins’ biographer Diane Diekman contacted me. Diane wrote, “Marty didn’t stop in El Paso; he drove through it on his way home to Arizona for Christmas – three years in a row in the mid-50s. He made up the name of ‘Rosa’s Cantina’ and didn’t know such a place existed. My biography of him, “Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins” (to be published in 2012), quotes interviews where he told that story.”
As far as I know song sequels like Feleena are pretty unusual. The only other one I can think of is Chuck Berry’s Bye Bye Johnny, which tells the story of Johnny B Goode from his mother’s point of view. If you know of any others, please do leave a comment.
I’ll be concluding my posts on Marty Robbins’ El Paso trilogy later in the week. Stay tuned for a particularly odd song.
Marty Robbins – El Paso – part one of the trilogy, plus a great version by Tom Russell
Carnival Saloon – my twangy MP3 blog. Please stop by.