Hoyt Axton

Hoyt Wayne Axton (March 25, 1938October 26, 1999) was an American country music singer-songwriter, and a film and television actor.

He was born in Duncan, Oklahoma and was raised in Comanche, Oklahoma. His mother, Mae Boren Axton, had her own spot in popular culture history and co-wrote the classic rock 'n' roll song "Heartbreak Hotel", which became the first major hit for Elvis Presley. Some of Hoyt's own songs were also later recorded by Elvis. Hoyt served in the US Navy aboard the USS Princeton (LPH-5), before pursuing a music career.

After his discharge from the Navy, he began singing folk songs in San Francisco nightclubs. In the early 1960s he released his first folk album titled The Balladeer (recorded at the legendary Troubadour), which included his song Greenback Dollar, a 1963 hit for The Kingston Trio. Axton released numerous albums well into the 1980s, changing somewhat with the times but always retaining an honest, down-home and fairly "country" approach to his music. Axton had many minor singing hits of his own, such as "Boney Fingers" ("Work your fingers to the bone, what do you get? Boney fingers, boney fingers"), "When the Morning Comes", and 1979's "Della and the Dealer" (which he sang in a guest appearance on WKRP in Cincinnati). His vocal style was notable for its distinctive baritone and for its use of characterization: at times gritty and defiant, other times exceptionally mellow, occasionally deliberately cartoonish. One song, "Officer Ray," is styled in self-parody, as Hoyt softly croons curses at a sadistic police officer that would seem more likely to come from the narrator of "The Pusher": "Officer Ray / .... / May you have a bad day / May your wife run away/ With a hippie."

But his most lasting contributions were songs made famous by others: "Never Been to Spain" (Three Dog Night), the previously mentioned "Greenback Dollar" (Kingston Trio), "The Pusher" (Steppenwolf), and "No-No Song" (Ringo Starr) and for an array of others, including Joan Baez, John Denver, and Waylon Jennings. Axton also sang a couple of notable duets with Linda Ronstadt, including Lion in Winter and When the Morning Comes (a top 40 country hit). His most popular and signature song, "Joy to the World" (Three Dog Night), was No. 1 on the charts for six straight weeks in 1971, making it the top hit of the year.

Axton first appeared on television in a David L. Wolper ABC production of The Story of a Folksinger in 1963. In 1965, he appeared in an episode of Bonanza, then followed with other TV roles over the years. As he matured, Axton as an actor specialized in playing good ol' boys on television and in films. His face became well-known in the 1970s and 1980s through many TV and film appearances to the movies Gremlins and The Black Stallion. He sang the jingle "Head For the Mountains" in the Busch beer commercials in the 1980s (He also sang The Ballad of Big Mac touting the recently released McDonalds hamburger the Big Mac on screen in a 1969 commercial he filmed for the hamburger franchise).

Axton spent some time struggling with alcohol and cocaine addiction and several of his songs, including "The Pusher," "Snowblind Friend," and "No-No Song," partly reflect his negative drug experiences. He had been known as an opponent of drug use for many years when, in February 1997, he and his wife were arrested at their Montana home for possession of approximately 500 grams of marijuana, about a pound. His wife explained later that she offered Hoyt marijuana to relieve pain and stress following a 1995 stroke; both were fined and given deferred sentences.

Hoyt never fully recovered from his stroke, and still had to use a wheelchair much of the time. He died of a heart attack in Victor, Montana, on October 26, 1999, at the age of 61. Axton had suffered a severe heart attack two weeks earlier and experienced another one while undergoing surgery in Montana.

Selective list of songs

Among his best-known compositions (or co-writing credits) are: Della and The Dealer and Hotel Ritz both became minor hit singles in the UK after extensive playing by the British D.J. Terry Wogan on his BBC Radio 2 breakfast programme of the time.

Movies and television

His movie appearances include: TV appearances on episodes of Axton also composed and sang the theme song to the short-lived TV sitcom Flo.

In the mid '90s, Axton was picked to host/narrate the profile series on The Nashville Network, The Life and Times in which a different country music figure was spotlighted each hour. His voice was heard throughout and he was seen on-camera doing the intro and closing of each show he participated in.

References

  • Allen, Bob. (1998). "Hoyt Axton". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Ed. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 23.

External links

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    Mae Boren Axton (September 14, 1914 in Bardwell, Texas - April 9, 1997 in Hendersonville, Tennessee) was known in the music industry as the 'Queen Mother of Nashville'. She was one of the co-writers of the song Heartbreak Hotel, made popular by Elvis Presley.
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    Rock 'n' Roll (short for Rock and Roll), is a genre of music that evolved in the United States in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and quickly spread to the rest of the world. It later spawned the various sub-genres of what is now called simply 'rock music'.
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    Elvis Aaron Presley[1][2] (January 8, 1935–August 16, 1977), was an American singer, musician, actor, writer, and producer. He is a cultural icon, often known as "The King of Rock 'n' Roll", or simply "The King".
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    Linda Ronstadt (born Linda Marie Ronstadt on July 15, 1946 in Tucson, Arizona) is an American popular vocalist and entertainer who has earned multiple Grammy Awards, numerous multi-platinum albums, an Emmy Award, and Tony Award and Golden Globe nominations.
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    "Joy to the World" is a song written by Hoyt Axton, and made famous by the band Three Dog Night. The song is also popularly known by its incipit, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog". The words are nonsensical.
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    Three Dog Night is an American rock and roll band, best known for their work from 1968-1975 but still making live appearances as of 2007.

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