Legendary Country Session Keyboardist Hargus “Pig” Robbins Dead At 84

Erika Goldring/Getty Images

Legendary Country Session Keyboardist Hargus “Pig” Robbins Dead At 84

Erika Goldring/Getty Images

The legendary session keyboardist and pianist Hargus “Pig” Robbins, a member of Nashville’s “A-Team” and the Country Music Hall Of Fame, has died at age 84. The Hall Of Fame announced Robbins’ death with a quote from CEO Kyle Young: “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. The greatest musicians in Nashville turned to Pig for guidance and inspiration.” A separate update on Robbins’ Facebook page reads, “For those of you who haven’t heard, my dad, Hargus Pig Robbins, passed away in his sleep this morning at 330am. He was 84. Dad had been hospitalized twice in the last 2 months. He suffered from a bacterial infection in his bloodstream, kidney disease, heart disease etc. 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.”

Robbins was born in 1938 in Spring City, Tennessee. A knife accident at age 3 left him blind for the rest of his life. At age 7, he began studying classical piano at Nashville School For The Blind, which is where he got the nickname Pig. As he explained in his Hall Of Fame bio, it was related to his embrace of pop and jazz styles during secret sessions at the piano: “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.”

By the end of his teenage years, Robbins had played his first recording session, and by the following year he had played on “White Lightning,” which became a breakthrough hit for George Jones. He’d go on to play on hundreds of sessions per year as a member of the “A-Team,” the group of first-call musicians within the Nashville studio system. You can hear his playing on records by countless country stars across the 20th century and into the 21st, including Jones, Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Tanya Tucker, Kenny Rogers, Loretta Lynn, Connie Smith, Charlie Rich, Crystal Gayle, Alan Jackson, Marty Stuart, Miranda Lambert, and Sturgill Simpson among many, many others. He also released a series of albums under his own name, mostly instrumental works focused on his piano playing.

Some country fans would argue that Pig Robbins was the greatest country piano player of all time. His impact has been felt beyond the world of country music, as well. Bob Dylan recruited Robbins and the Nashville A-Team to perform on his 1966 classic Blonde On Blonde. Robbins also played on albums by artists such as Joan Baez, Gordon Lightfoot, Cliff Richard, Aaron Neville, J.J. Cale, and Leon Russell. The Cramps covered “Save It,” a 1959 single Pig released under the name Mel Robbins. And in Robert Altman’s movie Nashville, a character famously fires a hippie keyboardist named Frog while yelling, “When I ask for Pig, I want Pig!”

Below, survey a quick sample of Robbins’ playing.

more from News

Hi. It looks like you're using an ad blocker.

As an independent website, we rely on our measly advertising income to keep the lights on. Our ads are not too obtrusive, promise. Would you please disable adblock?