Legendary Session Musician + Country Music Hall of Famer Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins is Dead at 84
Hargus "Pig" Robbins, a Country Music Hall of Famer and session pianist for the likes of George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton and many more, has died at the age of 84. His death was confirmed on Sunday (Jan. 30) in a statement from the Country Music Hall of Fame.
"Like all successful session musicians, Pig Robbins was quick to adapt to any studio situation. He worked quickly, with perfection less a goal than a norm," wrote HOF CEO Kyle Young. "The greatest musicians in Nashville turned to Pig for guidance and inspiration."
Additionally, an update from Robbins' family was posted on his Facebook page on Sunday announcing the musician's death. "For those of you who haven't heard, my dad, Hargus Pig Robbins, passed away in his sleep this morning at 330am," the update explained.
"Dad had been hospitalized twice in the last 2 months. He suffered from a bacterial infection in his bloodstream, kidney disease, heart disease etc," the post continued. "It all became too much for his body to handle. But he had a strong mind til the end. He had a great life and was loved by many. His musical legacy will live on."
A Tennessee native born in 1938, Robbins lost his sight at the age of three, according to Variety. "I stuck a knife in one eye," he recounted, adding that when a doctor surgically removed the injured eye, "the other one went out from sympathetic infection."
He was a student at the Tennessee School for the Blind, where he began taking piano lessons at seven years old, soon drifting away from his lessons' classical focus in favor of the boogie-woogie style and Roy Acuff-era country music. By the late 1950s, he'd started putting out some songs as a vocalist, but soon narrowed his focus to session work and his primary instrument: The piano.
Robbins' breakout performance as a session player came in 1959 when he played on George Jones' "White Lightning," a song that would become Jones' first-ever chart-topping country single. Shortly thereafter, he played piano on Patsy Cline's 1961 release, "I Fall to Pieces."
Over the course of the next three decades, Robbins lent his piano playing to Loretta Lynn's "You're Looking at Country," plus Lynn and Conway Twitty's "After the Fire is Gone." He returned to the studio with Jones for "She Thinks I Still Care" and "He Stopped Loving Her Today." Dolly Parton's "Coat of Many Colors" is another song that Robbins played on, as is Tammy Wynette's "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," Roger Miller's "King of the Road," Tanya Tucker's "Delta Dawn" and Kenny Rogers' "The Gambler."
The lengthy list of legendary country artists he worked with also includes Willie Nelson, Shania Twain, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Alan Jackson, Marty Stuart and Sturgill Simpson. In 2015, he played on Miranda Lambert's The Weight of These Wings.
Robbins was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2012; the other members in his Hall of Famer class were Garth Brooks and Connie Smith. He was also named the CMA's Instrumentalist of the Year in 1976, and again in 2000.
In addition to his position as one of the most esteemed session musicians in Nashville, Robbins had an extensive rock career. In 1965, he contributed to Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde. He also worked with Paul Anka, Levon Helm, Neil Young, Joan Baez, Ween, Aaron Neville and many others.