Hoyt Axton :
The Man, The Myth, The MusicI made
this page to celebrate the 61 years Hoyt Axton lived on our planet. He
died in Bitteroot Valley Montana October 27 of 1999 of heart failure, but left us a legacy of music, movies and
The Truth about his Youth:
there is any truth to reincarnation, this must be my first trip
through, 'cause I don't recognize anything." --Hoyt Axton
This friendly popular folk singer born in Duncan Oklahoma in 1938 eventually turned movie actor penned Three
Dog Nightís biggest song Joy to the World and many other hits during
his heyday in the 60's and 70's. The young Hoyt was an All-American athlete
replete with football scholarship to Oklahoma State University, which he
soon left to join the
Navy. During his military stint he was the heavyweight champion boxer in his task
force division of 35 ships.
serving in the armed forces,
he arrived in Nashville with a guitar on a tip from his mother Mae Boren
co-wrote Heartbreak Hotel for Elvis).
Hoyt soon split Tennesee for California's burgeoning folk scene during the early 60's.
He played the clubs in San Francisco's North Beach and made the scene in L.A as
Roger McGuinn remembered Hoyt Axton as a struggling
singer who taught him a tune backstage in 1962 at the Troubadour in
L.A. "We recorded it live at the Troubadour later that week, and when it
came out, I was surprised to see the credit "Here as well is the
delightful Australian folk ballad, Brisbane Ladies, on which
Jimmy McQuinn of the Chad Mitchell Trio harmonizes with Hoyt." In
spite of the misspelled name, I was glad to have been able to sing with Hoyt.
I really loved the song too!" The song appeared on Hoyt's debut LP for
the Horizon label, McGuinn later formed the Byrds with David Crosby.
Axton's songwriting was eventually
noticed after the Kingston Trio recorded Greenback Dollar in
1963 just hours after seeing Axton live. The song eventually appeared on 3 Billboard
charting albums but Hoyt made a mere $800.00 from the song..."I was just a
kid with a guitar living in a car... How could I sue when the whole point of the
song was how I didn't give a damn about a greenback dollar?"
Dues, Paying Bills
In the late 60's Steppenwolf eventually recorded Axton's The Pusher
and Snowblind Friend, two dramatic denouncements of the dark side
of drug use. John Kay, a young aspiring singer and dishwasher also used
to see Axton perform in the early 60's around L.A. He later told Axton, 'When you sang 'The
Pusher,' I'd come out of the kitchen with a towel in my hand, saying
that if I ever get a band, I'm gonna record that song'."
The Pusher, in particular, paid off at a good
time for Hoyt: "I had two houses, three kids, two cars, $400 in the bank
and bills to pay. The bank repossessed the Mercedes-Benz, and said I'd never
get credit again," he remembers. "One Saturday morning, I went to
the mailbox and there was a check for $14,000 for the use of the song in the
film Easy Rider".
Hits like Never Been To Spain ("but i kinda
like the music") and The No Song ("No, no, no, I don't
smoke it no more") which went to number three on the U.S. charts for the
newly solo Ringo
Starr helped keep the money rolling in.
seemed to showcase his optimism and singular sense of humor. A
version of Joy to The World by Three Dog Night became the
biggest selling record of 1971 ("Jeremiah was a bullfrog...").
Axtonís own singing hits included Boney Fingers ("Work
your fingers to the bone, what do you get? Boney fingers"). When
the Morning Comes, a duet he recorded with Linda Ronstadt from
1974's Life Machine album, which went to number one on the Canadian
the singer songwriter trend dried up in the latter 70's Axton continued to
record for his own label Jeremiah, began in '78. 1979's Rusty Old Halo album
produced his last two major hits, "Della and the
Dealer" and the title track. Other artists to record his music
over time included Elvis, Cher, Joan Baez, Waylon Jennings, John
Denver, Glen Campbell, Tanya Tucker,Arlo Guthrie, Martha Reeves and
even 90's punk band Ten Foot Pole.
Axton had numerous negative music business
dealings with many labels and by the early nineties his work on Horizon,
A&M, Vee-Jay and MCA was mostly left out of print by short sighted label
execs. Maintaining a steady concert schedule was a priority throughout the
seventies and eighties that found Axton playing as many as 300 dates a year.
He also got in front of the camera, first guesting on "Bonanza"
then eventually many TV programs including "Hootenanny", "Hee-Haw",
"Diff'rent Strokes","The Dukes of Hazzard",
"Trapper John MD","WKRP in Cincinatti"
as well as popular feature films like "The Black Stallion"
and "Gremlins". His voice was used in TV commercials
for Busch beer, Pizza Hut, and even McDonald's where he was
the singing lumberjack who introduced the then-new Big Mac.Hoyt
reportedly liked doing commercials so much he didn't even consider it work. He
also did voiceover narration for educational films. He bought his ranch in
Montana, after playing a sheriff in the movie ''Disorganized Crime,''
filmed there in 1988.
He suffered a debilitating stroke in 1996, and a then suffered
a demoralizing medical marijuana bust in 1997 for which he received
a three year deferred sentence
and was fined $15,000. His health was not good these last few months, including
advanced complications from diabetes, spending most of his time in a wheelchair.
finally passed away a few days after suffering a heart attack during surgery in a Montana hospital.
A spokesperson for the Academy of Country Music told Associated
Press after his death "There was nobody that didnít like