Hoyt Axton Biography

25 March 1938, Duncan, Oklahoma, USA, d. 26 October 1999, Victor, Montana, USA. The son of Mae Boren Axton (who co-wrote ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ for Elvis Presley), Hoyt began his music career as a folk singer on the west coast. In 1962, he signed to Horizon Records and released The Balladeer, which featured future Byrds leader Roger McGuinn on guitar. As the 60s unfolded, Axton expanded his repertoire to include blues and country, while also establishing himself as a songwriter of considerable talent. His first hit as a composer was the Kingston Trio’s ‘Greenback Dollar’ and later in the decade he wrote Steppenwolf’s famous drug song, ‘The Pusher’. The victim of cocaine addiction for many years, he still managed to record prolifically, though it was as a composer that he enjoyed commercial success. Two major hits in the 70s, courtesy of Three Dog Night (‘Joy To The World’) and Ringo Starr (‘No No Song’) supplemented his income, while also maintaining his standing as a recording artist.

The 1974 duet with Linda Ronstadt on ‘When The Morning Comes’ was a major country hit, and also broke into the Top 60 of the pop charts. The follow-up, ‘Boney Fingers’, provided Axton with his biggest country hit, climbing to number eight on the charts. Having overcome his drug dependency at the end of the decade, he had major acting roles in the movies The Black Stallion (1979) and Gremlins (1984), formed his own record label Jeremiah, and continued touring on a regional basis. In 1979 he achieved two further Top 20 country hits with ‘Della And The Dealer’ and ‘A Rusty Old Halo’. After a quiet 80s, Axton made an attempt to re-enter the recording market in 1990 with the critically acclaimed Spin Of The Wheel. His rejuvenated career suffered a blow in 1995 when he suffered a stroke from which he never fully recovered, and a heart attack ended his life on 26 October 1999.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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