Hargus Robbins, Pianist on Nation Audio Hits, Dies at 84

NASHVILLE — Hargus “Pig” Robbins, a single of nation music’s most prolific session piano players and a critical contributor to Bob Dylan’s landmark 1966 album, “Blonde on Blonde,” died on Sunday in Franklin, Tenn. He was 84.

His dying, at the Williamson Health care Middle, just outdoors Nashville, was verified by his son, David. The cause has not been determined, he mentioned.

A longtime member of Nashville’s so-identified as A-Team of initially-simply call studio musicians, Mr. Robbins appeared on hundreds of common recordings manufactured right here between the late 1950s and the mid-2010s.

Quite a few became No. 1 country singles, such as Hank Snow’s “I’ve Been Everywhere” (1962), Loretta Lynn’s “Don’t Arrive Home a-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Brain)” (1966) and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Constantly Like You” (1974). Various crossed in excess of to develop into key pop hits, among the them Patsy Cline’s “I Drop to Pieces” (1961) and Kenny Rogers’s “The Gambler” (1978).

An instinctive melodicist who valued understatement around flash, Mr. Robbins assisted create the piano as an integral part of the clean, uncluttered Nashville Seem of the 1960s. He was a major rationale that folks and rock acts like Joan Baez and Mr. Dylan began traveling to Nashville to adopt the impromptu tactic to recording popularized right here.

The previous Kingston Trio member John Stewart referred to Mr. Robbins as “first-get Hargus Robbins” in listing the Nashville sessions who appeared on the closing observe of Mr. Stewart’s acclaimed 1969 album, “California Bloodlines.” Mr. Stewart was acknowledging Mr. Robbins’s knack for playing musical passages flawlessly the initially time as a result of.

Mr. Robbins’s influence was probably most pronounced as the Nashville Sound developed into the additional soul-steeped “countrypolitan” fashion listened to on data like George Jones’s 1980 blockbuster solitary, “He Stopped Loving Her Today.”

Mr. Robbins’s rippling, jazz-inflected intros to Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors” (1973) and Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” (1977) grew to become enduring expressions of the Southern musical vernacular of their period. Both of those records had been No. 1 state and crossover pop singles.

“Of all the musicians on my periods, he stood the tallest,” the producer and A-Staff guitarist Jerry Kennedy reported of Mr. Robbins in an exhibit at the State New music Hall of Fame, exactly where Mr. Robbins is enshrined.

“He has been a spine for Nashville,” added Mr. Kennedy, who worked with Mr. Robbins on hits by Roger Miller and Jerry Lee Lewis as well as on “Blonde on Blonde.”

Mr. Robbins obtained his nickname, Pig, when attending the Tennessee University for the Blind in Nashville as a boy.

“I experienced a supervisor who termed me that because I employed to sneak in via a hearth escape and perform when I was not supposed to and I’d get soiled as a pig,” Mr. Robbins stated in an interview cited in the Encyclopedia of Place New music.

He dropped eyesight in a person eye when he was 3, soon after accidentally poking himself with a knife. The wounded eye was in the long run eliminated, and Mr. Robbins sooner or later shed sight in his other eye as properly.

He analyzed classical audio at the University for the Blind, but he would also perform jazz, honky-tonk and barrelhouse blues.

His broad-ranging preferences served him properly, equipping him for get the job done on soul recordings like Clyde McPhatter’s 1962 pop hit, “Lover Please” (exactly where he was inscrutably credited as Mel “Pigue” Robbins), and Arthur Alexander’s “Anna (Go to Him),” a Major 10 R&B single from 1962 protected by the Beatles.

Afforded the opportunity to extend out stylistically on “Blonde on Blonde,” Mr. Robbins performed with raucous abandon on “Rainy Working day Gals #12 & 35,” the woozy, carnivalesque No. 2 pop strike hooked by the tagline “Everybody must get stoned.” He utilized a tender lyricism, by distinction, on elegiac ballads like “Just Like a Woman” and “Sad Eyed Girl of the Lowlands.”

Hargus Melvin Robbins was born on Jan. 18, 1938, in Spring City, Tenn., to Raymond and Olis (Boles) Robbins.

His initially huge break came in 1959 when the new music publisher Buddy Killen secured him an invitation to play on Mr. Jones’s “White Lightning.” Spurred by Mr. Robbins’s rollicking boogie-woogie piano, the history became a No. 1 region solitary.

Yet another chance came two yrs later, when the producer Owen Bradley, needing an individual to fill in for the A-Workforce pianist Floyd Cramer, hired Mr. Robbins to engage in on the session for Ms. Cline’s “I Tumble to Items.” Mr. Cramer before long embarked on a solo job, generating an opening for Mr. Robbins on the A-Staff.

Mr. Robbins flirted with a solo career in the 1950s, recording rockabilly originals underneath the identify Mel Robbins. “Save It,” an obscure one from 1959, was protected by the garage-punks the Cramps on their 1983 album, “Off the Bone.”

One of his instrumental albums, “Country Instrumentalist of the 12 months,” won a Grammy Award for finest nation instrumental functionality in 1978.

Functioning as a session musician was yet his inventory in trade, as a scene from Robert Altman’s 1975 film “Nashville” memorably attests. Upbraiding his recording engineer when a hippie piano participant nicknamed Frog exhibits up to operate on their session as an alternative of Mr. Robbins, the narcissistic nation singer played by Henry Gibson shouts, “When I ask for Pig, I want Pig!”

Mr. Robbins was named place instrumentalist of the 12 months by the Nation Music Affiliation in 1976 and 2000. Even just after he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2012, he continued — then in his 70s — to do studio work with latter-day hitmakers like Miranda Lambert and Sturgill Simpson.

Besides his son, he is survived by a few brothers, Billy, Forrest and Boyd. His wife, Vicki West Robbins, whom he married in 1967, died in August 2019.

Losing his eyesight could or may well not have aided Mr. Robbins cultivate a keener musical sensibility. His enjoying, in any situation, revealed a dedication to listening and imagination that had him responding to his collaborators with a singular depth of sensation.

“Pig Robbins is the most effective session guy I have at any time acknowledged,” said Charlie McCoy, a fellow A-Teamer, at a reception held in Mr. Robbins’s honor at the Country Tunes Hall of Fame. “Anytime Pig’s on a session, everyone else performs improved.”