Marty Robbins performs “Big Iron” Live On Johnny Cash Show 1970.

The song reached number # 5 on the US Hot Country Songs charts. The members of Western Writers of America chose it as one of the 100 best Western songs of all time.

YouTube corporalhenshaw Channel
YouTube corporalhenshaw Channel

Big Iron:

Single cover Marty Robbins ( Columbia 1959 )
Single cover Marty Robbins ( Columbia 1959 )

Song written and recorded by Marty Robbins, was recorded for the Columbia label, on April 7, 1959, at Bradley Film and Recording Studio, 804 16th Ave. South, Nashville, TN, Marty was accompanied on the recording by, Grady Martin (guitar), Jack Pruett (guitar), Bob Moore (bass), Louis Dunn (drums) and The Glaser Brothers (vocal chorus). With the production of Don Law, the single was released on February 22, 1960, on October 25, April 1960 reached number # 5 on the US Hot Country Songs charts. The members of Western Writers of America chose it as one of the 100 best Western songs of all time.

The song was included in Marty’s fifth studio album, Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs (Columbia 1959), the album was released in September 1959, the album reached number # 6 on the US Top Country Albums charts, the album was platinum certificate in the USA. In Spotify, “Big Iron” is the most played song of Robbins with 23 million transmissions, 7 million more than “El Paso”, his biggest success.

Lp cover Marty Robbins ( Columbia 1959 )
Lp cover Marty Robbins ( Columbia 1959 )

About the song:

Tells the story of an Arizona ranger duel with an outlaw named Texas Red in the “Aguas Frias City.” The townspeople predict the death of the ranger; a carefree Texas Red had already killed “one and nineteen men,” but the moment they meet, the ranger kills Texas Red with the rapidity of “great iron on his hip”; Texas Red had not even “cleaned the leather”; the robbery of the scout was so fast, and one bullet was enough to kill the outlaw.

What is “Big Iron”?

The Ranger’s “Big Iron” was a one-off custom handgun chambered in .45 Colt and featured a Great Western copy of the Colt Single Action Army frame, Colt 1860 Army backstrap, grip frame and grips, and a cut down 9 1/2″ Marlin rifle barrel. Marty Robbins saw it in Andy Anderson’s famed North Hollywood gun shop in the late 1950s and wrote the song around it. Its current where abouts are unknown.

Single Michael Martin Murphy & Marty Robbins ( Warner 1994 )
Single Michael Martin Murphy & Marty Robbins ( Warner 1994 )

Some versions:
Lee Conway 1980 (Hammard)
Herb Baker & Friends 1983 (Wildfire Records)
Bobby Atkins & The Countrymen 1988 (Old Homestead Records)
Michael Martin Murphy & Marty Robbins 1994 ( Warner )
Carol Noonan 2001 (Noonan Music)
Johnny Cash 2002 (American)
June Carter 2003 (Scena Records)
Dwight Twilley 2009 (Gigatone)

Marty Robbins – Big Iron Lyrics

To the town of Agua Fria rode a stranger one fine day
Hardly spoke to folks around him didn’t have too much to say
No one dared to ask his business no one dared to make a slip
For the stranger there among them had a big iron on his hip
Big iron on his hip

It was early in the morning when he rode into the town
He came riding from the south side slowly lookin’ all around
He’s an outlaw loose and running came the whisper from each lip
And he’s here to do some business with the big iron on his hip
Big iron on his hip

In this town there lived an outlaw by the name of Texas Red
Many men had tried to take him and that many men were dead
He was vicious and a killer though a youth of twenty four
And the notches on his pistol numbered one and nineteen more
One and nineteen more

Now the stranger started talking made it plain to folks around
Was an Arizona ranger wouldn’t be too long in town
He came here to take an outlaw back alive or maybe dead
And he said it didn’t matter he was after Texas Red
After Texas Red

Wasn’t long before the story was relayed to Texas Red
But the outlaw didn’t worry men that tried before were dead
Twenty men had tried to take him twenty men had made a slip
Twenty one would be the ranger with the big iron on his hip
Big iron on his hip

The morning passed so quickly it was time for them to meet
It was twenty past eleven when they walked out in the street
Folks were watching from the windows every-body held their breath
They knew this handsome ranger was about to meet his death
About to meet his death

There was forty feet between them when they stopped to make their play
And the swiftness of the ranger is still talked about today
Texas Red had not cleared leather fore a bullet fairly ripped
And the ranger’s aim was deadly with the big iron on his hip
Big iron on his hip

It was over in a moment and the folks had gathered round
There before them lay the body of the outlaw on the ground
Oh he might have went on living but he made one fatal slip
When he tried to match the ranger with the big iron on his hip
Big iron on his hip

Big iron Big iron

When he tried to match the ranger with the big iron on his hip

Big iron on his hip

Single Marty Robbins ( Columbia 1959 )
Single Marty Robbins ( Columbia 1959 )

Miquel Batlle
djmiquel@whenthecowboysings.org