If the idea of a gunfighter falling in love with a plate of refried beans sounds, well, cheesy, the notion of a permanent Marty Robbins museum seems a more a befitting memorial. "We did have our own museum at Music Village [in Nashville]. . . . We were there for five years," notes Ronny. "There was a conflict between Music Village and Twitty City we chose not to be involved in, so when our lease was up we chose a temporary location close to Opryland. Because of obvious politics, it couldn't be a Marty Robbins museum without ticking off other Opry members, but they did give us a nice portion of the museum.
"Among the Marty memorabilia are his jewelry collection, several guitars, family history exhibits, some interactive video-type displays, the last car he raced a month before he died, the outfit Marty was wearing in Clint Eastwood's film Honky Tonk Man and some manuscripts on Ramada Inn notepads. Unfortunately, Ronny couldn't find the legal pad bearing "El Paso." "I wished I could've found that," he sighs. "But I did find "All Around Cowboy,' one or two others."
In the beginning, the Opry exhibit featured Robbins, Hank Snow and Patsy Cline. Then Jim Reeves and some others were added, and room started running out in hillbilly heaven. "We did have to downsize it some and put some of the stuff in storage," admits Ronny.
Though there's often been talk of starting a Marty Robbins museum in the Valley, it has yet to come to fruition. Robbins is reluctant to talk about The Friends of Marty Robbins, the organization that Juanita Buckley Najera started six years ago with the intent of building a Robbins museum in Glendale. Najera stretched the usual boundaries of devotion when she purchased the onetime home of Marty's twin sister in Glendale. She even paid two grand for one of his belts. Ronny wouldn't care so much if she confined her collecting to real estate and leather goods. The fact that the organization collected donations and put on concerts in his father's name for five years with no museum in sight gets under his skin.
"For danger of getting sued for libel or slander, I'm not going to say an awful lot, but I don't support 'em. I did at one time, but it's just not being handled in a way I like. They were selling stuff I told them not to sell. They had some stuff on an Arizona Online Web site, a hideous painting of Daddy by Juanita's ex-husband that they were selling posters of. We had our attorney send a cease and desist. It's not their Web site, so I don't know how current it is, but it's still on there."
Arizona Online, an Internet provider-sponsored site, still has some active pages with images from the inactive museum as well as the unauthorized merchandise allegedly bearing Marty Robbins' likeness. The museum exhibit amounts to little more than a glass case full of fan mementos and a Richard Najera sketch of the singer on a "Friends of Marty Robbins" tee shirt, which looks more like some forgotten president with a tobacco-chewing habit. And at one time, you could purchase a 14-by-17-inch poster of Najera's Marty Robbins portrait for $10. "The original painting is not for sale as it belongs to the Marty Robbins exhibit," reads the blurb beneath.
If anyone should be serving Najera with a cease and desist, it's Sylvester Stallone, who looks like he's been hijacked to star in the story of Marty Robbins' life. Attempts to order this poster via the fax number only produced the voice of a confused latchkey child on the other end of the phone. But it still burns Ronny up.
"Najera can sell that picture as an artist, but when he sells a reproduction, there's a copyright issue involved. He doesn't have the right to copyright reproductions of Daddy, according to his will. Mama's the only one that has the right to do that."
According to Sandy Daens, Marty Robbins Fan Club president since 1989, The Friends of Marty Robbins was never recognized as an official fan club. "The only fan club I'm aware of is mine. Juanita was calling hers a fan club, but she got kicked out of the International Fan Club organization. If you're a member of that organization, you have to commit to sending your members a certain amount of things per year, so many newsletters a year, and she just wasn't fulfilling her obligation. I was getting letters from people who had joined her fan club and they weren't getting anything."