He would eventually punch his ticket to Colorado, then back again to Texas before heading off to a cramped apartment above a meat market in Queens, where he and his band were, for a while, discovered.
They got a recording contract with CBS, went on the road, and even opened for the likes of Edie Brickell. But Sony's buyout of CBS and a near-tragic motorcycle accident in 1992 brought that chapter to an end.
In Atlanta, he almost died a second time -- the slow and painful death of an Applebee's manager -- but a road trip and old demo tapes revived him just in time to start his own recording studio.
In 2002, he started coming out to Arizona. A love affair with the desert began and, musically, he began another journey back to his roots.
Last year, on a trip west his Jeep broke down in Winslow. Between his morning runs to La Posada for coffee and a newspaper, and the hours locked in his motel room writing dark tunes about killing his mechanic, he visited Sedona.
For the last year he and his wife have lived in the Village of Oak Creek, getting to know the lay of the land and pushing the peanut as a live performer.
His music, at least that written over the last two years, is sometimes moody and brooding, sometimes chilled out and dynamic, sometimes full pulse honkytonk bar fight, with a taste of indie-Americana grafted to hearty Texas rootstock.
"Ya know what I mean?" he asks in trying to describe it.
Sure. Let's just call it honest.
"I've always wanted to live in Arizona," he says, "I love the Southwest -- the whole feel of it. It speaks to me and it feels right.
"Sedona and the Verde Valley reminds me a little bit of South Africa with the laid back attitude and the dryness of the air. I love it here. I feel good. I'm happy. And I want to stay."
While working on his next album, Robin Dean Salmon can be seen live at the Horn Saloon in Camp Verde every other Friday starting June 22, and at the Marketplace in the Village of Oak Creek every Thursday beginning on June 21.