“El Paso” is a country and western ballad written and originally recorded by Marty
Robbins, and first released on “Gunfighter Ballads and Trail Songs” in September 1959.
It was released as a single the following month, and became a major hit on both the
country and pop music charts, reaching Number One in both at the start of 1960. It won
the Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording in 1961, and remains
Robbins’ best-known song. It is widely considered a genre classic for its gripping
narrative, haunting harmonies by Tompall and the Glaser Brothers and the eloquent
Spanish guitar accompaniment by Grady Martin that lends the recording a distinctive
El Paso” was covered most famously by The Grateful Dead. They started performing the
song in 1969. When performed, it was sung by rhythm guitarist Bob Weir with Jerry
Garcia contributing harmony vocals on the chorus. The last time they performed the song
as The Grateful Dead was on July 5, 1995, 4 days prior to their final show. On the album
“Ladies and Gentlemen… The Grateful Dead” Bob Weir introduces the song as the Dead’s
“most requested number.” In all, they performed it 386 times.
Out in the West Texas town of El Paso
I fell in love with a Mexican girl.
Night-time would find me in Rosa’s cantina;
Music would play and Felina would whirl.
Blacker than night were the eyes of Felina,
Wicked and evil while casting a spell.
My love was deep for this Mexican maiden;
I was in love but in vain, I could tell.
One night a wild young cowboy came in,
Wild as the West Texas wind.
Dashing and daring,
A drink he was sharing
With wicked Felina,
The girl that I loved.
So in anger I
Challenged his right for the love of this maiden.
Down went his hand for the gun that he wore.
My challenge was answered in less than a heart-beat;
The handsome young stranger lay dead on the floor.
Just for a moment I stood there in silence,
Shocked by the FOUL EVIL deed I had done.
Many thoughts raced through my mind as I stood there;