Hargus “Pig” Robbins, who made an indelible imprint on Nashville as the piano player for the city’s original “A Team” ensemble of session musicians, has died. He was 84. Robbins’ child shared the news on Facebook over the weekend, writing that the musician had experienced numerous health troubles in recent months.
Robbins appeared on thousands of recordings throughout his life, lending his talents to some of the biggest names in country music, among them Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, Charley Pride, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson. Beyond the boundaries of country music, his piano playing appears on Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, as well as records by Joan Baez, J.J. Cale, Gordon Lightfoot, and several dozen others.
Robbins was born in rural Tennessee in 1938, and, after a childhood accident left him without sight, he studied classical piano at the Tennessee School for the Blind. Despite his classical studies, Robbins found himself drawn to jazz and pop artists while bumping into Nashville’s burgeoning country music industry. He worked the club circuit in Nashville as a skilled young performer, attracting attention to his distinct, lively style.
Robbins’ first major recording breakthrough came in 1959 via George Jones’ “White Lightnin’,” which helped cinch his spot amid the crew of session artists that became known as the A Team. The group was revered for its musicianship, and the members cumulatively shaped the the texture of country music in Nashville. Bob Moore, bass player for the A Team, died in September at age 88.
Robbins spent the rest of his life as a session player in high demand, performing on albums by Alan Jackson, Randy Travis, Neil Young, Miranda Lambert, and Sturgill Simpson. In addition to his many collaborative projects, Robbins issued a handful of solo albums in the 1960s and 1970s. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2012.
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