Hargus ‘Pig’ Robbins, ‘Blonde on Blonde’ Pianist, Dead at 84
Hargus “Pig” Robbins, the acclaimed pianist known as a member of Nashville’s “A-team” of session musicians, has died at the age of 84.
Born in Tennessee in 1938, Robbins was only three years old when he lost his sight due to a knife accident. He’d attend the Tennessee School for the Blind, and at seven years old began taking piano lessons.
The first hit to feature Robbins’ playing was the 1959 tune “White Lightning,” released by country music artist George Jones. The pianist would quickly become a mainstay in the country world, working with such famed artists as Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Kenny Rogers and Tammy Wynette.
Still, Robbins’ career wasn’t limited to country music, and many rockers recruited the musician to contribute to their material.
Arguably the most famous recording to feature Robbins’ work was Bob Dylan’s famed 1966 album Blonde on Blonde. The pianist’s distinctive style was noticeable on many of the tracks, including saloon-style sway of “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.”
Robbins wasn’t familiar with Dylan prior to their work together. “I’d heard the name, but not much other than that,” the pianist admitted in 2007. “But when he came in here, it was a lesson, to me. He was just totally different. He’d come in here with a song seven or eight minutes long. I remember they booked the sessions like 6 (to) 10 at night, and maybe he wouldn’t show up till 9:00. He would say ‘OK, boys, let me have the studio, I’ve got to write a song,’ and we’d wander the halls till 12 or 1 before we’d ever strike a note.”
Robbins’ impressive resume featured work alongside many other famed acts, including Neil Young, Shania Twain, John Anderson, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and Ween.
Aside from his session work, Robbins also released solo material. The musician put out nine albums over the course of his career. He won a Grammy for Best Country Instrumental Performance in 1978 and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2012.