HARGUS “PIG” ROBBINS
Among the most sought-after session musicians in country music history, Hargus "Pig" Robbins has played piano on hundreds of hit records since he first began working in Nashville studios in the late 1950s. His credits include such landmark #1 recordings as George Jones's "White Lightning," Roger Miller's "Chug-A-Lug," Charlie Rich's "Behind Closed Doors," and Crystal Gayle's "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue." Robbins's playing on Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde album is only one example of his work with artists across the stylistic spectrum.
Born in 1938 in east Tennessee, Robbins was blinded as the result of a knife accident that occurred when he was two years old. Sent to the Tennessee School for the Blind in Nashville, he began taking piano lessons there at age seven. His school training was primarily classical, but on his own he gravitated to the rhythm & blues and country stylings of players such as Ray Charles and Floyd Cramer, respectively. "I got the name 'Pig' at school," Robbins explained. "I had a supervisor who called me that because I used to sneak in through a fire escape and play when I wasn't supposed to and I'd get dirty as a pig."
After high school, Robbins began playing in Nashville nightclubs and recorded rock & roll under the name Mel Robbins. Songwriter demos gave him his entree into session work, and by 1959 he was chosen to play on Jones's "White Lightning," the first major hit to which Robbins contributed. At that point, Floyd Cramer was the city's leading session pianist, but when Cramer's 1960 solo hit "Last Date" took him on the road as an artist, Robbins's session workload increased accordingly. Through the years he made it a stylistic priority, as he put it, to try to "blend in with the guitars."
In the 1970s, Robbins also made albums as a featured artist for the Chart, Time, and Elektra labels, including the Elektra releases Country Instrumentalist of the Year (1977), Pig in a Poke (1978), and Unbreakable Hearts (1979). Robbins has recorded with Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Dolly Parton, Travis Tritt, and many other country acts. Among his numerous honors, Robbins was CMA's Instrumentalist of the Year in 1976 and 2000. He has won the ACM Keyboard ' Performance.