b. March 25, 1938
d. October 26, 1999
Oklahoma-born songwriter Hoyt Axton began singing folk songs in the clubs of San Francisco in 1958, after his discharge from the Navy. He was opening for Three Dog Night in 1969 when he pitched them his song "Joy to the World." The tune that begins, "Jeremiah was a bullfrog" was No. 1 on the charts for six straight weeks in 1971, making it the top hit of the year. Axton also wrote "Never Been to Spain" for the band, a song that was recorded by Elvis Presley. (Axton's mother Mae Boren Axton had penned "Heartbreak Hotel" for Elvis.)
Hoyt wrote songs for The Kingston Trio, Joan Baez, Waylon Jennings, John Denver and Linda Ronstadt, and had hits of his own with "Boney Fingers" and "When the Morning Comes." Later, he brought his burly build and baritone voice to the acting profession, playing good ol' boys on television and in film.
"Della and the Dealer," a song from Axton's "Keep on Rollin'" album, warns of the dangers of cocaine, as does his "No No Song," recorded by Ringo Starr: "No no no no, I don't sniff it no more. I'm tired of waking up on the floor." John Kay, the lead singer of Steppenwolf, recorded Axton's "The Pusher" after seeing him perform it at a club in Los Angeles. Steppenwolf's "Snowblind Friend" was also an Axton tune.
In "Keep on Rollin'" Axton sings:
My daddy was a trucker my son's trucker's son
Love that rig I'm drivin'
and the high
I said the high
Lord the highway that I'm on
I gotta keep rollin'...
In 1997, police found slightly more than a pound of marijuana at the home Axton shared with his wife, Deborah Hawkins. She said she gave her husband marijuana because it relieved some of the pain, anxiety and stress he suffered after a stroke, her lawyer said. Axton, who mostly remained wheelchair bound after his 1996 stroke until his death, was given a three-year deferred sentence and fined $15,000 for marijuana possession.
In "Officer Ray" Axton sings:
Officer Ray, may your hens never lay
May the rats eat your mail
May your testicles fail
Officer Ray, may you have a bad day
May your wife run away
With a hippie.
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