One Little Kiss and Feleena, Goodbye…..

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Marty Robbins believed that the phrase “country-and-western music” described not one kind of music, but two, and the western part was decidedly his favorite. Inspired first by his grandfather’s Texas Ranger tales, and later by Gene Autry, he wanted to sing cowboy songs, and El Paso was one of twelve on his 1959 LP, Gunfighter Ballads.

Unlike the traditional ballads that tend to drop us into the middle of a story, Marty starts at the beginning, with as perfect a sentence as ever began a song: “Out in the west Texas town of El Paso, I fell in love with a Mexican girl.” An innocent enough beginning, but we never make it to the “happily ever after” ending: jealousy leads to murder, murder to flight, flight to the inevitable return to the scene of the crime, Rosa’s Cantina. And there, in back of Rosa’s, is where our hero gets the “one little kiss” of this post’s title.

Robbins claimed, in the liner notes to Marty Robbins: Biggest Hits, that he wrote El Paso on a drive that took him through the west Texas town he made famous. “I probably wrote it in less time than the song’s actual length, which is 4:37, ’cause the words were coming so fast. But it was exciting ‘cause I really didn’t know how it was going to end. I kept waiting to get to the end, and finally, when I did, I remembered it ‘cause it was just like a movie. All of this came to me about nine in the evening, and I sang it over and over in the car all night long until I got to Phoenix the next day where I wrote the words down.”

I don’t think I believe Marty when he tells us that he didn’t know how the story would end. It wasn’t going to end with the cowboy kissing Feleena and the kids goodbye as he rode off to herd some cattle, no way. Every word Marty sings, and every note the inimitable Grady Martin plays, lead us to the only end this story can have. Please enjoy.

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