From Out Of The Blue Came Hoyt Axton

Photo (c) MGM.
Photo (c) MGM.

Hoyt Axton? Am I really writing about Hoyt Axton? Why, prior to 12:30 PM of last week’s Tuesday I hadn’t thought about this gentleman in so long it might as well have been forever. And although I’m certain that I used to know a few bits about him, I couldn’t in a million years have told you more than one-tenth of an iota of what I used to knew. Was he once a presence on TV and in movies? Did he write some songs that made it into the mainstream? I’d have guessed yes to both queries, but any specifics would have been beyond my reach. My memories of Hoyt were nothing but the dimmest and vaguest, buried in the dark and dusty recesses of what passes for my mind.

I’ve done some research on Hoyt since then, as any good reporter would. A few hours delving into the vaults of Wikipedia and its brethren have helped bring him to life for me. And what I’ve learned tells me that a lot of people knew about him in his heyday, which took up much of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. I should have remembered that. Hoyt, who died in 1999 at age 61, was a fairly big star. He was an occasional actor on the small and big screens, popping up in I Dream Of Jeannie and McCloud, for example, on the former, and in The Black Stallion on the latter. But, more than anything, Hoyt was a music man, a singer-songwriter mostly in the folkie/country/pop veins, who recorded around 25 albums filled with many of his own compositions and who toured all over the place for years. He often imbued his lyrics with wry or idiosyncratic slants and visions. And though he never exactly set the Billboard music charts afire with his own waxings, some of his songs found fine and enduring success in the hands of others. How many millions of people have heard Three Dog Night’s version of Joy To The World (click here to listen)? Too many to count. And though there are some who haven’t encountered Ringo Starr’s irresistibly bouncy immersion in The No No Song (click here), or Steppenwolf’s grinding take on The Pusher (click here) . . . well, that’s their loss.

But you know what, I’ve digressed as far as I need to. Just a little bit to my left, and I can see it clearly, is the bottomless rabbit hole that an extensive investigation of Hoyt, or of just about anybody for that matter, would ensnare me in. Help! I’m a muser, not a biographer. Rabbit holes and I don’t get along! This story, you see, isn’t meant to be so much about Hoyt as it is about getting jazzed by the simple things in life, good things that show up from out of the blue and make you say wowza. Such as hearing a song you’ve never heard before that sets you flying.

There I was, then, at 12:30 PM a week ago Tuesday, driving home from who knows where, when I flipped the car radio to WPRB, Princeton University’s radio station whose programming is unpredictable, wild and sometimes wooly. A song was in progress, and immediately I liked what I heard. The song moved at a languid pace, buoyed by spare, shimmering keyboard notes, quiet yet urgent vocals and delicate percussion work. It floated, it drifted and it took me aboard. Spacey and wispy, it made me wish that I was 30 or 40 years younger, toking up to enjoy the journey even more. Potless though I was, the song put me in a most excellent frame of mind: Calm, open. Yeah, man . . . a superb way to be.

What song was I listening to? Undoubtedly something by a modern day neo-psychedelic conjurer, I figured. But noooooo. A few minutes later the song ended and the DJ started talking. You could have knocked me over with a magic mushroom when he said that the track, Kingswood Manor (click here), was performed by Hoyt Axton, he whose name, as I mentioned, I hadn’t thought about in eons. I couldn’t recall ever hearing Hoyt sing a song before.

griffin-hoyt-515djbjzfl__sx425_Well, my mini high lasted for a decent spell beyond the song’s end. And I’ve since revisited Kingswood Manor a number of times, diligent and conscientious blogger that I am. It comes from Hoyt’s obscure 1969 album My Griffin Is Gone. Hoyt solely wrote or co-wrote all of its tunes. I’ve listened to it from start to finish on YouTube. MGIG, I imagine, isn’t a conventional Hoyt album, dressed up as many of its songs are with strings and baroque strokes. I also gave a listen online to his 1977 album Road Songs, a country and honky-tonk workout that probably is more typically Hoyt. And I have to say that overall I prefer Road Songs to Griffin. Road Songs’ songwriting seems more focused and stronger. But Kingswood Manor? Sure, lyrically it’s unsettling, what with its trippy looks into a troubled mind. At song’s finish, has the protagonist escaped from madness, finding bliss? I believe you can argue the puzzle either way. Whatever the case, I find the words fascinating. It’s the sonics and mood, though, that I concentrate on, because for me that’s where Kingswood Manor’s power is at. To me the song is magnifique, the type of creation that rings my astral bells just right. I don’t know how the Princeton DJ ever came across Kingswood Manor. It’s one of those tunes that only relative handfuls of folks are familiar with. But glad I am that he did.

 

(Don’t be shy about sharing this story or about adding your comments)

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34 thoughts on “From Out Of The Blue Came Hoyt Axton

  1. Joyce November 30, 2016 / 8:38 am

    I also haven’t thought of Hoyt in years. Thanks for the clicks .

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fran Johns November 30, 2016 / 5:27 pm

    What fun. I just posted it to my Facebook page for anyone interested in a trip down memory lane/

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Janet Sunderland November 30, 2016 / 6:33 pm

    Nice@ nice nice nice. Thank you. I don’t ever remember hearing his voice before although I do know some of the music you referenced. Good job.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. sniderjerry November 30, 2016 / 6:43 pm

    Hey there Neil, Great story. My favorite Hoyt Axton song is, “You’re the hangnail in my life.”

    Rock on…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger November 30, 2016 / 7:33 pm

      Jerry, the song title you just mentioned, “You’re the hangnail in my life,” is one of the best song titles I’ve ever heard! Hilarious.

      Like

  5. Steven Brown November 30, 2016 / 8:02 pm

    I recall that Hoyt’s accountant or money manager bilked him out of just about every dime he ever made. As I recall, Mr. Axton put it well: “You’re fired.” A real talent and a big man who died too young.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger November 30, 2016 / 8:27 pm

      Thanks for visiting, Steven.
      I hadn’t heard about Hoyt being ripped-off financially. What a world.

      Like

  6. dcw0731 December 1, 2016 / 1:19 pm

    Great post it brings back memories of seeing him in the movie “Gremlins”

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger December 1, 2016 / 2:03 pm

      Hi. You know, I never saw that movie. I’ll have to check it out one of these days.
      Thanks for adding your thoughts. Appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. mitchteemley December 1, 2016 / 8:22 pm

    I have fond memories of seeing Hoyt at the Mecca (folk club) in Buena Park, California when I was a wannabe pre-teen singer-songwriter in the 60’s. I can still picture him strumming the hell out of his guitar as his boot pounded the stool on The Pusher. He was bigger than life!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger December 1, 2016 / 9:32 pm

      Hello, Mitch. The Mecca must have been a terrific place. It’s great that you got to see Hoyt in concert. I wish I could say the same!

      Like

  8. jerseydreaming December 2, 2016 / 4:06 pm

    Another fascinating read. I remember the man from his acting days but had no idea there was this entire other persona hiding in plain sight.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Ken Dowell December 4, 2016 / 11:03 pm

    Wow! Surely it has been at least 30 years since I heard the name or thought of Hoyt Axton. I knew him only as a folksinger and for the life of me I can’t remember a single song, although I know I was something of a fan and probably bought at least one album. Listened to Kingswood Manor while reading your blog post and I don’t remember that either. I think he was a little more twangy that that in most of his songs.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger December 5, 2016 / 6:58 am

      Hi Ken.
      Hoyt is one of those people who you rarely if ever hear on the radio. Maybe he will be rediscovered one of these days. You never know.
      Thanks for adding your thoughts. I’ll be seeing you —

      Like

  10. Aunt Beulah December 8, 2016 / 5:11 pm

    Oh my. first you introduce me to Sharon Jones, then you write about a man I still listen to. I had the privilege of seeing Hoyt live several times in the Reno/Lake Tahoe area when I lived in Carson City. He played venues small and large and the shows were always excellent. He had a song with Linda Rondstat that became a hit of sorts during those years, Lion in the Winter, but my favorites were Pancho and Lefty and Snowblind Friend from his 1977 album Snowblind Friend (which includesYou’re the Hangnail in My Life and which I still have). I remember feeling as happy as I have ever felt hearing him play in a small casino where my husband, friends, and I were close enough to see him sweat and his fingers dance as he and his band played song after song, after song. Thanks for the memories, Neil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger December 8, 2016 / 6:18 pm

      Hi Janet. My article makes it obvious that I don’t know too much about Hoyt Axton. I thank you very much for adding your comments, which are among the best that ever have been posted on my blog.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. andrewcferguson December 10, 2016 / 1:27 pm

    Good stuff Neil – a new name to me, but shall give him a listen. So much good music to catch up on, and so little time….

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger December 10, 2016 / 8:45 pm

      Very true. Nearly every time I turn on the radio I hear a good song by someone I never heard of before.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Pazlo December 28, 2016 / 10:28 am

    I live on a big round ball,
    And I never do dream I may fall.
    But even some day, if I do,
    I’ll jump up and smile back at you.

    I don’t even know where we are.
    They tell me I’m circling a star.
    It may be true, I don’t know.
    But I’m dizzy, so it may be so.

    I live on a big round ball,
    And I never do dream I may fall.
    But even the high must lay low,
    When I do fall, I’ll be glad to go.

    Yes, when I do fall,
    I’ll be glad to go.

    – Hoyt Axton
    -Defying Gravity

    Seek peace,

    Paz

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Alyson August 17, 2017 / 6:01 pm

    Just stumbled upon your 100th post (was wonderful by the way) and got curious to know how you followed it up as I got a serious case of writer’s block at post 101! All about the superbly named Hoyt Axton. Was familiar with Della and the Dealer (and that cat called Kalamazoo) but had never known it was by Hoyt until featured on another blog recently. A fine person to use as inspiration for that tricky post 101.

    Liked by 1 person

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