I’ve never been to Canada but I kind of like Hoyt Axton’s music

Web surfing can be quite a learning experience provided one does not take every sentence as fact. Likewise, surfing the WWW provides sort of a spontaneity that I like as a writer. This is exceptionally true since I hardly ever write under deadline these days. It was just a few moments before deciding upon what subject, or person in my case, I would write. And Ta-DA! It is Hoyt Axton.

My selection of singer, songwriter and actor, the late Hoyt Axton, came some 30 minutes after reading about  Canadian musicians. Let me make it clear, Hoyt Axton was not a Canadian. He was in the U.S. Navy, which has nothing to do with Canadian musicians except for the fact I remember one stormy day on the Pacific hearing the sea chanty-like “High And Dry” recorded by Canadian folk-king Gordon Lightfoot. Okay time for me to focus.

Hoyt Axton. U.S. Navy in the early 60s. From hoytsmusic.com. Hope I don't get sued for using this, but great site if your looking for Hoyt Axton info.
Hoyt Axton. U.S. Navy in the early 60s. From hoytsmusic.com. Hope I don’t get sued for using this, but great site if your looking for Hoyt Axton info.

Axton was born in Oklahoma. That fact likely had some kind of unconscious guidance in my clicking on Axton’s Wikipedia page. You see, I had intended starting my post about musicians from the Great North with something like: “Well, I never been Winnipeg, but I kind of like the Guess Who … ” That paraphrases one of many popular Axton songs which were recorded by other artists. In this case, “Never Been to Spain,” released in 1971 by Three Dog Night.

In reality, I’ve never been to Red Deer, Terrace or a Medicine Hat, places in western Canada mentioned by the popular rock group The Guess Who from Winnipeg, in the song “Running Back to Saskatoon.” I’ve never been to Winnipeg or Saskatoon either. Nor anywhere in Canada for that matter. Okay, I’ve strayed off track here again, damn it.

I admired the versatility in songs Axton wrote. I suppose he came by that honestly since his mother, Mae Boren Axton, was known as “The Queen Mother of Nashville.” She co-wrote the initial Elvis Presley hit “Heartbreak Hotel.” Other of hit songs by Hoyt Axton included tales of his own struggle with cocaine addiction. It took quite awhile for me to grasp that Hoyt Axton wrote the anti-drug hard rock songs “The Pusher” and “Snow Blind Friend,” both recorded by Steppenwolf. Axton also penned the lighter but still anti-coke “The No-No Song,” which he recorded but was made famous by solo ex-Beatle Ringo Starr.

Though anti-cocaine, Axton apparently took up pot at some time. He and his wife were arrested with a little more than a pound of reefer at his home in Montana. His wife supposedly later chalked up the drug usage as a means to help control stress and pain Axton suffered after a stroke in 1995. They were, according to his Wikipedia site, fined and given deferred sentences.

The identity of Hoyt Axton may have also been uneasily grasped because his early songs were of the folk genre. He wrote “Greenback Dollar,” for example, which was a hit for the Kingston Trio. Acting, as well, came early in his career. Axton often played a folksy-type character in TV shows ranging from Bonanza and WKRP in Cincinatti. He also had big screen credits, among them the 1984 horror-comedy film “Gremlins.”

Axton sang in a distinguishing baritone-bass voice which were easily noted in his few hit records. Those songs included “Bony Fingers,” the Top-40 country duet with Linda Ronstadt “When The Morning Comes” and my favorite “Della and the Dealer” (and a dog named Jake and a cat named Kalamazoo.)

He died in 1998 at the young age of 61 after never fully recovering from his stroke.

Oh, he also wrote “Joy To The World” likewise made famous by Three Dog Night. Just to bring something a bit less heavy to the end. Although, in reality, Hoyt Axton brought plenty of joy to the world in his music and other artistic endeavors.

Like Axton in life and song — again “Never Been To Spain — I have been to Oklahoma. I’d also like to see Spain someday and definitely would like to visit Canada. I hear they have some good musicians up there.

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