|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|
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".
Born in Duncan, Oklahoma, Axton spent his preteen years in Comanche, Oklahoma, with his brother John. His mother Mae Boren Axton, a songwriter, cowrote the song "Heartbreak Hotel", which became a major hit for Elvis Presley. Some of Hoyt's own songs were later recorded by Presley. Axton's father John Thomas Axton was a naval officer stationed in Jacksonville, Florida, where the family joined him in 1949.
He attended Oklahoma State University on a scholarship, where he played football, but he left to enlist in the US 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 coffee houses and nightclubs in Southern California. In the early 1960s, he released his first folk album, The Balladeer (recorded at the Troubadour), which included his song "Greenback Dollar", which became a 1963 hit for the Kingston Trio.
Axton released numerous albums throughout the 1960s and 1970s. He produced Tales From the Ozone, a 1975 album by Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, and he released 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 appeared on Hootenanny, hosted by Jack Linkletter, during this period. In 1965, he appeared in an episode of Bonanza in which he sang duets with Pernell Roberts. In 1966, he made his film debut in Smoky playing the role of Fred Denton, the evil brother of the character played by Fess Parker. He gained fame in the 1970s and 1980s through his film roles, including those in 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). In 1980, he sang the theme song to the short-lived series Flo, and he appeared as himself in the episode titled "You Gotta Have Hoyt". Axton sang the jingle "The Ballad of Big Mac" for a 1969 McDonald's Big Mac television commercial as well as "Head for the Mountains" in voiceovers for Busch beer in the 1980s. He appeared in a Pizza Hut commercial in 1985 and in a TV spot for FTD with Merlin Olsen in 1989.
Axton's most lasting contributions were songs made famous by others: "Joy to the World" (Three Dog Night) and "Never Been to Spain" for both Three Dog Night and Elvis Presley, "Greenback Dollar" for the Kingston Trio "The Pusher" and "Snowblind Friend" for Steppenwolf, "No No Song" for Ringo Starr and songs covered by singers such as Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, John Denver, Nina Simone, Waylon Jennings, Martha Reeves, Jonathan Edwards, Glen Campbell, Anne Murray, David Clayton-Thomas and Colter Wall. Axton sang duets with Linda Ronstadt on the songs "Lion in the Winter" and "When the Morning Comes" and with Tanya Tucker on "You Taught Me How to Cry." His composition "Joy to the World", performed by Three Dog Night, reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart 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.
He struggled with cocaine addiction, and several of his songs, including "The Pusher", "Snowblind Friend" and "No No Song", partly reflect his drug experiences. He was a proponent of medical marijuana use but he and his wife Deborah were arrested in February 1997 at their Montana home for possession of about 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 received deferred sentences. Axton never fully recovered from his stroke, and he was bound to a wheelchair for most of the remainder of his life.
|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"||—||—||—||—||—||Spin of The Wheel|
|1991||"Oh I'm a Good Old Rebel"||—||—||—||—||—||Songs of the Civil War|
|"Yellow Rose of Texas"||—||—||—||—||—|
Selected list of songs
Among Axton's best-known compositions (or co-writing credits) are:
- "Greenback Dollar" - covered by the Kingston Trio and many others.
- "The Pusher" - covered by Steppenwolf on their debut album in 1968; this version was also used in the soundtrack of the 1969 film Easy Rider. Nina Simone recorded the song in 1971.
- "Lion In The Winter" (1974) - duet with Linda Ronstadt
- "No No Song" (1975) - became a #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" - Three Dog Night hit from 1971 that spent six weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart
- "Snowblind Friend" (1971) - covered by Steppenwolf and David Allan Coe
- "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
- "Sweet Fantasy" (1974) - covered by Glen Campbell and David Clayton-Thomas
- "Ease Your Pain" (1971) - covered by Bobby Whitlock, Glenn Yarbrough and Jackie DeShannon
- "When the Morning Comes" (1974) - duet with Linda Ronstadt
- "You Taught Me How to Cry" - 1977 duet with Tanya Tucker
- "Boney Fingers" (1974) - with Renee Armand
- "Jealous Man" (1976) - covered by John Fullbright
- "Della and the Dealer" (1979) - performed on WKRP in Cincinnati; reached the top 20 of the Billboard country chart in the U.S. and the top 50 of the British pop chart
- "Evangelina" (1974) - covered by Arlo Guthrie, Jonathan Edwards, Colter Wall and others
- "Flash of Fire" (1976) - cowritten by Cathy Smith
- "Gypsy Moth" (1976) - covered by Freddie White
- "In a Young Girl's Mind" (1975) - covered by Johnny Cash
Film and television appearances
- 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
- Guilty of Innocence: The Lenell Geter Story (1987, TV Movie) - Charlie Hartford
- 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)
- The Story of a Folksinger (TV special, 1963) - Himself
- Hootenanny (1964) – Himself
- Bonanza (1965, Season 6, Episode 27: "Dead and Gone") – Howard Mead
- Iron Horse (1966) – Slash Birney
- I Dream of Jeannie (1966, Season 2, Episode 7: "Fastest Gun in the East") – Bull
- The Midnight Special (1973) (musical guest)
- The Hoyt Axton Country Western Boogie Woogie Gospel Rock and Roll Show (1975) – Himself. NBC TV special featuring Linda Ronstadt, Arlo Guthrie and Ringo Starr.
- The Bionic Woman (1976) – Buck Buckley
- McCloud (1977) – Johnny Starbuck
- Hee Haw (1977) (musical guest)
- The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1979) (musical guest)
- WKRP in Cincinnati (1979, performed "Della and the Dealer" and "Jealous Man") – T.J. Watson
- Austin City Limits (1979) (musical guest)
- The Dukes of Hazzard (1981) (musical guest)
- Flo (1981) (musical guest)
- Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1982, Season 1, 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 (1984-1985) – Wes McKinney
- Domestic Life (1984) – Rip Steele
- Faerie Tale Theatre (1984, "Goldilocks and the Three Bears") – Forest Ranger
- Cover Up (1984) - John Cody
- Steel Collar Man (series pilot, 1985) - Red
- 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
- Doorways (1993, series pilot) - Jake Mitchell
The Rousters was a short-lived television comedy adventure series (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 dimwitted brother Evan.
In 1992 Axton narrated The Alaska Highway: 1942-1992 a documentary about the history of the Alaska Highway that 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 served as the narrator for two documentaries about the Western States Endurance Race in 1982 and 1983 titled 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.
- 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.