Gary S. Paxton
|Gary S. Paxton|
Gary S. Paxton backstage at the Country Gospel Music Awards
|Birth name||Gary Sanford Paxton|
May 18, 1939 |
Coffeyville, Kansas United States
|Occupations||Musician, songwriter, record producer|
|Years active||1959 – present|
|Labels||RCA, Garpax, NewPax|
Born in Coffeyville, Kansas, Paxton was adopted at age three, where he was raised in rural poverty on a farm. He endured a troubled childhood, molested at age seven and afflicted by spinal meningitis at eleven. His family moved to Arizona when he was twelve, and he started his first band by fourteen, playing country and rock 'n' roll. He spent his middle teenage years touring the American Southwest with this and other forgotten bands.
Early stardom came as "Flip" in the pop duo Skip & Flip (with Clyde "Skip" Battin), courtesy of a million-selling 1959 smash the two cut in Phoenix, Arizona, "It Was I". In what became a pattern in Paxton's early career, the song was recorded first and the group assembled second: after successfully shopping their demo to a label owner, Gary became "Flip" and Clyde became "Skip", after the man's pet poodles, a "group" put together just to have a name on the record. According to Paxton, he was up picking cherries on an Oregon farm when he heard the song on a transistor radio and realized it had become a hit. The duo made television appearances, toured with superstar deejay Alan "Moondog" Freed, and soon followed their success with another hit, "Cherry Pie". After this second chart appearance, the pair split.
By 1960, Paxton was living in Hollywood, California. A natural workaholic with an entrepreneurial verve, he had his hand in a number of projects, collaborating with others on the local scene as a performer, writer, producer, label owner, and audio engineer. He played a major role in the making of two novelty hits in the early '60s and worked with artists like The Association, Paul Revere & the Raiders, The Four Freshmen, and Tommy Roe — over one thousand groups in total.
His work throughout this early-'60s period is scattered over countless labels, mostly his own, which he seemed to open and close on a constant basis, making regular use of the five studios he owned but rarely staying put. Over the years, working in this manner, Paxton built a reputation as an eccentric, quixotic figure in the recording industry, a talented and elusive jack-of-all-trades. Brian Wilson was known to admire his talents, and Phil Spector to fear him. His creativity and knack for promotion were legendary, but could also run to excess: once, after a local radio station dismissed one of his records ("Elephant Game (Part One)" by Renfro & Jackson) as "too black", he assembled a protest parade down Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California, consisting of fifteen cheerleaders and a live elephant pulling a Volkswagen convertible; he was arrested after the elephant got scared and began to defecate in the street.
Operating out of Los Angeles, Paxton worked in all his capacities with many artists and labels in the pop-music industry for the next half decade, but in the later '60s, he gradually turned to the burgeoning Bakersfield sound in country music. By 1967, he had relocated entirely to that dusty inner-California city (Bakersfield, California), where he ran a variety of businesses and founded the influential label Bakersfield International. Amidst personal loss and troubles, he moved on again, to Nashville, Tennessee, in 1970, and in 1971, following his partner's suicide and his own long struggles with drugs and alcohol, he converted to Christianity after wandering into a church stoned. He quickly turned his talents to gospel music, becoming part of the hippie countercultural Jesus movement, and has worked in gospel ever since, while maintaining an interest in country.
On December 29, 1980, Paxton was shot three times by hitmen hired by a country singer he was producing, putting him out of the music world for eight years and nearly ending his life. After the trial, he visited the men in prison and forgave them. Later in the decade, he was romantically linked in the press with the prominent televangelist Tammy Faye Bakker, whose musical efforts he had produced; Her infatuation with Paxton was accounted by the Washington Post and other media as a possible cause of (her then-husband) Jim Bakker's affair in that same period.
Paxton left Nashville in 1999 and currently lives in Branson, Missouri, with his fourth wife, Vicki Sue Roberts. He suffers from hepatitis C and almost died from the disease in 1990, but continues to write and is still working on several projects at his Missouri home.
Body of work
Beyond his early work as part of Skip & Flip, Paxton is best known for his involvement in two novelty hits: the 1960 No. 1 smash "Alley Oop" — written by Dallas Frazier and cut quickly with a group thrown together by Paxton's roommate Kim Fowley, The Hollywood Argyles — and a 1962 No. 1 hit inspired by the Mashed Potato dance craze, "Monster Mash", which Paxton produced and recorded with its author Bobby "Boris" Pickett and another assembled group billed as The Cryptkickers. That version of "Alley-oop" greeted Chicagoland listeners as the first record played under then newly formatted WLS on the morning of 2 May 1960.
In 1965, he produced "Sweet Pea", a hit for Tommy Roe, and "Along Comes Mary", a hit for The Association, winning a Grammy nomination in engineering for his efforts. The following year, he produced another hit for The Association, "Cherish", and another for Roe, "Hooray for Hazel". As Paxton moved toward the Bakersfield sound in the late '60s, he scored his first country hit in 1967 with "Hangin' On" by The Gosdin Brothers.
In the wake of his conversion to Christianity, Paxton focused his efforts on gospel music. He still kept one foot in the world of secular country during the early '70s — writing and producing "Woman (Sensuous Woman)" for Don Gibson (a Grammy nominee and a million-plus seller in three different versions) along with two other country-chart hits, and at one point signing with RCA Records as a solo country artist — but gospel was now his chief priority. In 1973 he wrote and produced "L-O-V-E" for The Blackwood Brothers, who took home the Grammy for Best Gospel Performance. In 1975, Paxton won the Best Inspirational Grammy for his album The Astonishing, Outrageous, Amazing, Incredible, Unbelievable, Different World of Gary S. Paxton, which contained his oft-recorded devotional song "He Was There All the Time". Appearing on his gospel album covers in a halo of facial hair and a tall-top cowboy hat, Paxton infused his religious work with the same eccentricity, individuality, and hippie humor that had characterized his '60s material in Los Angeles: acting the role of the Jesus freak, likening himself to "an armpit in the body of Christ", and crafting song titles like "When the Meat Wagon Comes for You", "Will There Be Hippies in Heaven?", "I'm a Fool for Christ (Whose Fool Are You?)", and "Jesus Is My Lawyer in Heaven".
Paxton's gospel work was released through NewPax Records, another in his long series of labels, founded in 1975 as an outlet for his new ideas in songwriting and engineering. NewPax was closely linked with Paragon Associates, with which it eventually merged. Paxton was inducted into the Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1999 on the basis of his innovation and accomplishments in the field and his production and writing for numerous noted artists in the industry.
- 1975 - The Astonishing, Outrageous, Amazing, Incredible, Unbelievable, Different World of Gary S. Paxton
- 1977 - More from the Astonishing, Outrageous, Amazing, Incredible, Unbelievable Gary S. Paxton
- 1978 - Terminally Weird/But Godly Right
- 1979 - Gary Sanford Paxton
- 1979 - The Gospel According to Gary S.
- 1980 - (Some Of) The Best Of Gary S. Paxton (So Far)
- 2006 - Hollywood Maverick: the Gary S. Paxton Story
- Gary S. Paxton. "Testimony - Partial - Less Than - (About Two Per-Cent of It)". Garyspaxton.net. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- "An Incomplete History of Gary S. Paxton". The Astonishing, Outrageous, Amazing, Incredible, Unbelievable, Different World of Gary S. Paxton (vinyl insert or back cover). Gary S. Paxton. Fortress Records. 1975.
- Jerry Osborne (2000-06-12). "For the week of June 12, 2000". Ask "Mr. Music". Osborne Enterprises. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Jason Odd. "Various Artists (Producer/Writer Series)". Ace History. Ace Records. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- "A Small Partial List of Musical Credentials". Garyspaxton.net. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Jason Odd. "Various Artists (Bakersfield International)". Ace History. Ace Records. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- MacKenzie, Bob (1975 (1993)). More Astonishing, Outrageous, Amazing, Incredible, Unbelievable (CD liner). Gary S. Paxton. Fortress Records.
- "Hollywood Maverick - The Gary S. Paxton Story". WorldsRecords.com. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- "Going to Hell for Laughing, Part Sixty Four". The Record Robot. Blogspot.com. 2005-07-23. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Vicki Sue Roberts (1998-08-04). Vickie Sue Roberts-Paxton "Newsletter". Gary S. Paxton's Room. Koji Kihara. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- "Back on the Road Again". Music Mentor Books. 2007. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Colin Larkin. "The Hollywood Argyles". The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Muze. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- "Tammy Bakker's Country Crush; A Singer's Friendship With the Evangelist's Wife and the Pain That Followed". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. 1987-04-02. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- Terry, Lindsay (2002). Stories behind 50 Southern Gospel favorites, volume 2. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications. p. 32. ISBN 0-8254-3885-3.
- "Bobby "Boris" Pickett". Classicbands.com. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- metrolyrics.com/1973-grammy-awards.html "1973 Grammy Awards". metrolyrics.com. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- metrolyrics.com/1977-grammy-awards.html "1977 Grammy Awards". metrolyrics.com. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- "Gary S. Paxton's great gospel albums". Gary S. Paxton's Room. Koji Kihara. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- "Paragon Associates/NewPax Records". Mymusicway.com. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- "Hall of Fame Inductees". Countrygospelmusic.com. Country Gospel Ministries, Inc. Retrieved 2008-07-28.
- MacKenzie, Bob (1975/1993). The Astonishing, Outrageous, Amazing, Incredible, Unbelievable, Different World of Gary S. Paxton (CD liner). Gary S. Paxton. Fortress Records.