Hoyt Wayne Axton (March 25, 1938 – October 26, 1999) was an American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor. He became prominent in the early 1960s, establishing himself on the West Coast as a folk singer with an earthy style and powerful voice. Among his best known songs are "Joy to the World", "The Pusher", "No No Song", "Greenback Dollar", "Della and the Dealer", and "Never Been to Spain".
|Birth name||Hoyt Wayne Axton|
|Born||March 25, 1938|
Duncan, Oklahoma, U.S.
|Died||October 26, 1999 (aged 61)|
Victor, Montana, U.S.
|Genres||Country, folk, blues, rock|
|Occupation(s)||Singer, songwriter, actor|
Born in Duncan, Oklahoma, Axton spent his pre-teen years in Comanche, Oklahoma, with his brother, John. His mother, Mae Boren Axton, a songwriter, co-wrote the classic rock 'n' roll song "Heartbreak Hotel", which became a major hit for Elvis Presley. Some of Hoyt's own songs were also later recorded by Presley. Axton's father, John Thomas Axton, was a naval officer stationed in Jacksonville, Florida; the family joined him there in 1949.
He attended Oklahoma State University on a scholarship, and he played football for the school, but he left to enlist in the US Navy. In the Navy Axton held the rank of Petty Officer Second Class and served on two ships, the USS Princeton (CV-37) and the USS Ranger (CVA-61).
After his discharge from the Navy, Axton began singing folk songs in San Francisco nightclubs. In the early 1960s he released his first folk album, The Balladeer (recorded at The Troubadour), which included his song "Greenback Dollar". It became a 1963 hit for The Kingston Trio.
Axton released numerous albums throughout the 1960s and 70's. He had many minor hits of his own, such as "Boney Fingers", "When the Morning Comes", and 1979's "Della and the Dealer". His vocal style featured his distinctive bass-baritone (which later deepened to near-bass) and use of characterization.
Axton first appeared on television in a David L. Wolper ABC production of The Story of a Folksinger (1963). He also appeared on Hootenanny, hosted by Jack Linkletter, during this period. In 1965, he was in an episode of Bonanza where he sang a duet with Pernell Roberts. In 1966, he made his film debut in the film Smoky playing the role of Fred Denton, the evil brother of the character played by actor Fess Parker. He became well known in the 1970s and 1980s through his film roles, including The Black Stallion (1979), Heart Like a Wheel (1983), and Gremlins (1984). His television appearances included WKRP In Cincinnati (1979) and Diff'rent Strokes (1984, 1985). Axton sang the jingle "The Ballad of Big Mac", touting McDonald's Big Mac onscreen in a 1969 commercial he filmed for the hamburger franchise, as well as "Head For the Mountains" in voice-overs for Busch Beer in the 1980s. He also appeared in a Pizza Hut commercial in 1985, and in a TV spot for FTD Florists with Merlin Olsen in 1989.
However, Axton's most lasting contributions were songs made famous by others: "Joy to the World" (Three Dog Night) and "Never Been to Spain" (Three Dog Night, Elvis Presley); "Greenback Dollar" (the Kingston Trio); "The Pusher" and "Snowblind Friend" (Steppenwolf); "No No Song" (Ringo Starr); and an array of others, covered by singers such as Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, John Denver, Waylon Jennings, Jonathan Edwards, Glen Campbell and Anne Murray. Axton also sang a couple of duets with Linda Ronstadt, including "Lion in the Winter" and "When the Morning Comes" (a top 40 country hit). His composition "Joy to the World", as performed by Three Dog Night, was No. 1 on the charts for six straight weeks in 1971, making it the top hit of the year. He named his record label Jeremiah after the bullfrog mentioned in the song.
Personal life and deathEdit
Axton struggled with cocaine addiction, and several of his songs, including "The Pusher", "Snowblind Friend", and "No No Song", partly reflect his negative drug experiences. He was a proponent of medical marijuana use for many years, until he and his wife Donna were arrested in February 1997 at their Montana home for possession of approximately 500 g (1.1 lb) of marijuana. His wife later explained that she offered Axton marijuana to relieve his pain and stress following his 1995 stroke. They were fined, and given deferred sentences. Axton never fully recovered from his stroke, and he used a wheelchair much of the time afterwards. Axton died at age 61 at his home in Victor, Montana, on October 26, 1999, after suffering two heart attacks in two weeks.
|US Country||US||CAN Country|
|1964||Hoyt Axton Explodes!||—||—||—||Vee Jay|
|1964||Long Old Road||—||—||—||Vee Jay|
|1965||Mr. Greenback Dollar Man||—||—||—||Surrey|
|1965||Hoyt Axton Sings Bessie Smith||—||—||—||Exodus|
|1969||My Griffin Is Gone||—||—||—||Columbia|
|1971||Joy to the World||—||—||—||Capitol|
|1973||Less Than the Song||—||—||—||A&M|
|1979||A Rusty Old Halo||27||—||14||Jeremiah|
|1980||Where Did the Money Go?||31||—||—|
|1982||Pistol Packin' Mama||41||—||—|
|1990||Spin of the Wheel||—||—||—||DPI|
|1996||Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog||–||–||–||Youngheart Music|
|1998||The A&M Years||—||—||—|
|CAN Country||CAN||CAN AC|
|1963||"Greenback Dollar"||—||—||—||—||—||Greenback Dollar|
|1973||"Sweet Misery"||—||—||—||—||—||Less Than the Song|
|1974||"When the Morning Comes" (with Linda Ronstadt)||10||54||1||72||20||Life Machine|
|"Boney Fingers" (with Renee Armand)||8||—||8||—||31|
|"Lion in the Winter" (with Linda Ronstadt)||57||—||—||—||—|
|"In a Young Girl's Mind"||—||—||—||—||—|
|1976||"Flash of Fire"||18||—||9||—||—||Fearless|
|1977||"You're the Hangnail in My Life"||57||—||42||—||—||Snowblind Friend|
|"Little White Moon"||65||—||—||—||—|
|1979||"Della and the Dealer"||17||—||—||—||—||A Rusty Old Halo|
|"A Rusty Old Halo"||14||—||—||—||—|
|1980||"Wild Bull Rider"||21||—||—||—||—|
|"Boozers Are Losers (When Benders Don't End)"||—||—||—||—||—||Where Did the Money Go|
|"Where Did the Money Go"||80||—||—||—||—|
|1981||"Flo's Yellow Rose"||78||—||—||—||—||single only|
|"(We've Got To) Win This One"||—||—||—||—||—||single only|
|1982||"(When You Dance) You Do Not Tango"||—||—||—||—||—||Where Did the Money Go|
|"There Stands the Glass"||—||—||—||—||—||Pistol Packin' Mama|
|"Pistol Packin' Mama"||—||—||—||—||—|
|1983||"Warm Storms and Wild Flowers"||—||—||—||—||—|
|"If You're a Cowboy"||—||—||—||—||—||single only|
Selected list of songsEdit
Among Axton's best-known compositions (or co-writing credits) are:
- "Greenback Dollar" covered by The Kingston Trio
- "The Pusher", by Steppenwolf on their debut album, 1968; this version was also used in the soundtrack of the classic 1969 motion picture Easy Rider. Nina Simone recorded the song in 1971.
- "No No Song", which became a No. 3 hit for Ringo Starr in March 1975
- "Never Been To Spain", covered by Three Dog Night, Waylon Jennings, Elvis Presley, and many others
- "Joy to the World", the Three Dog Night hit from 1971 which held US No. 1 for six weeks
- "Snowblind Friend" (1971), covered by Steppenwolf
- "Lightning Bar Blues" (1973), covered by Brownsville Station, Linda Ronstadt, Arlo Guthrie, and Hanoi Rocks
- "Sweet Misery" (1974), covered by John Denver and Martha Reeves
- "When the Morning Comes" (1974)
- "You Taught Me How To Cry" (1977 duet with Tanya Tucker)
- "Boney Fingers" (1974), with Renee Armand
- "Jealous Man" (covered by John Fullbright)
- "Della and the Dealer" (1979), (performed on WKRP in Cincinnati; reached top 20 of the Billboard country chart in the U.S. and the top 50 of the British pop chart)
- "Evangelina", covered by Arlo Guthrie and Jonathan Edwards
- "Flash of Fire"
- "In a Young Girl's Mind"
Film and television appearancesEdit
- Smoky (1966) – Fred Denton
- The Black Stallion (1979) – Alec's Father
- Skinflint: A Country Christmas Carol (1979, TV Movie) – Cyrus Flint
- Cloud Dancer (1980) – Brad's Mechanic
- Liar's Moon (1982) – Cecil Duncan
- The Junkman (1982) – Himself / Cap. Gibbs / Rev. Jim Beam (voice)
- Endangered Species (1982) – Ben Morgan
- The Black Stallion Returns (1983) – Narrator (voice)
- Heart Like a Wheel (1983) – Tex Roque
- Deadline Auto Theft (1983) – Captain Gibbs
- Fred C. Dobbs Goes to Hollywood (1983)
- Gremlins (1984) – Randall Peltzer
- Act of Vengeance (1986, TV Movie) – Silous Huddleston
- Retribution (1987) – Lt. Ashley
- Christmas Comes to Willow Creek (1987, TV Movie) – Al Bensinger
- Dixie Lanes (1988) – Clarence Laidlaw
- Disorganized Crime (1989) – Sheriff Henault
- We're No Angels (1989) – Father Levesque
- Buried Alive (1990, TV Movie) – Sheriff Sam Eberly
- Harmony Cats (1992) – Bill Stratton
- Space Case (1992) - Charlie
- Season of Change (1994) – Big Upton
- Kingfish: A Story of Huey P. Long (1995, TV Movie) – Huey P. Long, Sr.
- Number One Fan (1995) – Lt. Joe Halsey
- King Cobra (1999) – Mayor Ed Biddle (final film role)
- Hootenanny (1964) – Himself / Himself – Performer
- Bonanza (1965, Series 06 Episode 27 "Dead And Gone") – Howard Mead
- The Iron Horse (1966) – Slash Birney
- I Dream of Jeannie (1966, Season 02, Episode 07, "Fastest Gun In The East") – Bull
- The Hoyt Axton Country Western Boogie Woogie Gospel Rock and Roll Show (1975) – Himself. NBC TV special – 1 episode. Guests included Linda Ronstadt, Arlo Guthrie and Ringo Starr
- The Bionic Woman (1976) – Buck Buckley
- McCloud (1977) – Johnny Starbuck
- The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1979) – Himself – Musical Guest
- WKRP in Cincinnati (1979, performed "Della and the Dealer" and "Jealous Man") – T.J. Watson
- Austin City Limits (1979) – Himself
- Dukes of Hazzard (1981, TV Series) – Himself
- Flo (1981, TV Series) – Himself
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1982, Season 1 (the only season), Episode 3, "Challenges," and Episode 8, "Rodeo," in which he sang "I Dream of Highways") – Cooper Johnson
- The Rousters (1983–1984) – Cactus Jack Slade
- Diff'rent Strokes (1984) – Sam's Father – Wes McKinney
- Domestic Life (1984) – Rip Steele
- Faerie Tale Theatre (1984, "Goldilocks and the Three Bears") – Forest Ranger
- Cover Up (1984) - John Cody
- Trapper John, M.D. (1985) - Jack Dearborne
- Dallas: The Early Years (1986, TV Movie) – Aaron Southworth
- Murder, She Wrote (1988) – Sheriff Tate
- Midnight Caller (1990) – Ralston Cash Dollar
- Growing Pains (1990) – Claver Jackson
The Rousters was a short-lived television sitcom (1983) with Axton as 'Cactus' Jack Slade. The show starred Chad Everett as Wyatt Earp III, the grandson of the legendary Wyatt Earp, and Jim Varney as his dim-witted brother, Evan.
In 1992 Axton narrated "The Alaska Highway: 1942-1992," a documentary on the history of the Alaska Highway which was produced by public television station KAKM of Anchorage and shown nationally on PBS. In the mid-1990s, Axton was chosen to host and narrate the profile series Life and Times on The Nashville Network, in which a different country music figure was spotlighted each hour. His voice was heard throughout and he was seen on-camera doing the introduction and closing of each show in which he participated.
Axton also showed up as the narrator for two documentaries of the Western States 100 Mile Endurance Race in 1982 and 1983 called Desperate Dreams.
- Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records, Ltd. p. 34. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- Oliver, Myrna (October 27, 1999). "Hoyt Axton, Singer, Character Actor and Hit Songwriter, Dies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
- Ankeny, Jason. "Biography: Hoyt Axton". AllMusic. Retrieved September 6, 2011.
- Pareles, Jon (October 27, 1999). "Hoyt Axton, 61, Songwriter, Singer and Actor in Movies". The New York Times.
- "Hoyt Axton Biography (1938–)". filmreference.com.
- Cohen, Larry. "North Florida Music Hall of Fame". Larry Cohen Productions. Archived from the original on August 20, 2017. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
- "Axton, Mae Boren (1914–1997)". Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved December 20, 2020.
- Hinckley, David (October 27, 1999). "Songwriter Hoyt Axton Dead at 61 In Montana". Daily News. New York. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
- Burke, Brad (October 27, 1999). "Axton, Hoyt Wayne (1938–1999)". Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History & Culture. Oklahoma Historical Society. Archived from the original on August 5, 2011. Retrieved September 3, 2011.
- Downing, Jim (November 17, 2007). "Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame Induction 2007". Tulsa Today. Archived from the original on March 18, 2012. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
- Smoot, D. E. "'Thank God I'm from Oklahoma,' inductee says". Muskogee Phoenix. Muskogee, Oklahoma. Archived from the original on September 4, 2012. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
- Adams, Greg (n.d.). "Hoyt Axton: The A&M Years". AllMusic. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
- Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 50. ISBN 978-0-89820-188-8.
- Whitburn, Joel (2005). Joel Whitburn's Top Country Songs, 1944–2005. Record Research Inc. p. 35. ISBN 9780898201659.
- "The Hoyt Axton Country Western Boogie Woogie Gospel Rock and Roll Show". IMDb. Retrieved August 26, 2019.
- "Outlaw Blues (1977) – Overview". TCM.com. Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved January 5, 2018.
|Wikiquote has quotations related to Hoyt Axton.|
- Official website at the Wayback Machine (archived August 26, 2005)
- Hoyt Axton at IMDb
- Hoyt Axton at the TCM Movie Database
- Hoyt Axton discography at Discogs
- Hoyt Axton at AllMovie
- "Hoyt Axton". Find a Grave. Retrieved March 27, 2008.
- Hoyt Axton at Oklahoma Country Music Hall of Fame
- "Axton, Hoyt Wayne (1938–1999)". Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Oklahoma Historical Society. Retrieved January 5, 2018.