Music News

Guarding a Legacy

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Daens, who worked for Marty Robbins as a personal assistant in the year before his fatal heart attack, is still very close to the Robbins family. When the discord with Ronny became known, she withdrew her support for the museum. "I have disassociated myself with the whole mess," Daens says. "There's nothing I can talk about on the record. I used to promote their shows in my newsletter and give coverage to it. I don't even make mention of it anymore."

The Glendale Public Library began organizing Marty Robbins tribute concerts on the singer's birthday (September 26) in the mid-'90s, but even that institution is no longer involved. Daens didn't know if a concert was planned for this year. "Last I heard, Juanita moved and got a P.O. box number and no one knows what's going on," Daens says.

New Times' numerous calls to Juanita Najera at the Friends of Marty Robbins number were never returned; requests to see the exhibit items were not answered, hardly the sign of a thriving organization. With the Najeras divorced and Juanita no longer even living in Glendale, Ronny figures this organization has collapsed under its own weight.

It's a road Ronny has been down before. He's determined to stay out of court. "There are no winners in court cases," he says. "I'm in a no-win situation with this 'cause it's gonna look like I'm trying to close down somebody that's trying to do a good thing. That happened 15 years ago. A guy out in Phoenix named Chet was doing a Friends of Marty Robbins-type thing where he was raising money to rename Grand Avenue "Marty Robbins Avenue.' Well, Grand Avenue is 27 miles long. There's a lot of people who didn't want their address changed. He was out there going to concerts, setting up a booth in back and raising money for this. No one ever had any accounting for it.

"I finally got the authorities after him and I got blistered in the press about it because I was shutting this guy down. That guy was just a scam artist. That all kinda fell through. I got an injunction on the guy to keep him from collecting money. I've got to protect my father's name and image."

That the name remains untarnished owes a lot to Ronny's efforts and to the fact that everyone seemed to love his father. "Marty did things his own way and didn't care what people said about him," remembers Daens. "I think that's one of the reasons he was able to have hit songs for 30 years. He was the kind of guy you'd meet and instantly love him. Nobody had a bad thing to say about him, and you can't say that about everybody in the music business."

And when you think of Marty Robbins, music still comes to mind first. He may have made some compromised pop recordings on the road to "El Paso," and there may have been some forgettable B-movies, but not enough of either to be indelibly identified with the artist. And as long as Ronny's on the case, you probably won't see anything like the kitsch that's been put out on Elvis Presley, at least not for long.

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Serene Dominic
Contact: Serene Dominic