Gary Paxton – The “Kansas Kid”
When I began this Post I thought I would simply lump Gary Paxton in with all the other California types who seemed to make up the movers and shakers in Southern California during the late 1950’s on into the 1960’s (think Gary Usher, Terry Melcher, Jan and Dean, Bruce Johnston, Roger Christian, Bryan Wilson, Kim Fowley, Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart – on and on it goes.
But digging in a little deeper, I quickly learned that Gary Paxton could never be painted with such a basic brush.
Gary Paxton was born in May of 1939 in Coffeyville, Kansas which right there places him in a very small class of rock and roll industry influencials. He was born Larry Wayne Stevens to teenage parents, then adopted at age three.
Skip and Flip – ‘The Poodles’
Nothing about Gary’s early life was easy. He reportedly was a sexual abuse victim at the age o seven, contracted spinal meningitis as 11 while being raised in poverty. Gary took an early interest in rock ‘n roll and joined his first band at the age of 14 in Arizona. He passed through a succession of bands during that time – lost to the ages, before coming into contact with Clyde Battin in Arizona. The two would cut a few records in 1958 which are shown below first as “Gary and Clyde” and then as “The Pledges” both on the Arizona based “Rev” label.
From the “Gary S. Paxton Ministries” web site in his own words: “I hate my testimony. I’m ashamed of my testimony. But I share it, because if just one person can find Jesus, then it is the thing to do. The best testimony in the world is “saved at 6, called into the ministry at 7, and headed for Heaven!”
Their next stop was on the Shad record label (below) where they recorded as “Chuck and the Chuckles” releasing one 45 in 1959 and a follow up in 1960 as “Clyde Gary and His Orchestra”. So things were a bit strange right from the get go.
Things brightened up as the Spring of 1959 came along and Gary had now found his way from Arizona to Hollywood, where he relates that he became part of “the Sunset Strip hippie movement the Sea Witch, the Whiskey A-Go-Go and etc.”. The duo migrated to the Los Angeles area picked up a name from two French Poodles , moved over to the “Brent” label where they would cut five singles, the first three all scoring on Billboard as “Skip and Flip, with their first effort “It Was I” soaring all the way to number 11. The next single “Fancy Nancy” would cool them off for a bit reaching only number 71 in late 1959. Then it was back to a Top 20 success with “Cherry Pie” again reaching number 11 – This was in the Spring of 1960.
That would be all for Skip and Flip and they would go their separate ways. Skip was of course Clyde Battin born in February of 1934 in Gallipolis, Ohio. When he parted ways Skip would go on to record with “The Skip Battin Combo”, a duo called “Skip and Johnny”, groups “Kim and the Skippers”, “Teak Battyn and the Battmen”, solo as “Skip Battyn” and “Skip Battin” taking him all the way for what would be his most successful years musically going to “The Byrds”, then “The New Riders of the Purple Sage” and finally “The Flying Burrito Brothers”.
Skip Battin died on July 6th, 2003 in Oregon losing a battle with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 69.
Gary Paxton was never one to ever sit still, and in the midst of his time recording with Clyde Battin, he stumbled onto something big working with his Los Angeles roommate Kim Fowley and piecing together what would turn out to be one of the most successful novelty songs of all time, “Alley Oop” which was released by Lute Records which was owned Al Kavelin (revived today by his son Frank Kavelin) . It reached the number 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 in mid 1960 and would set the tone for Gary to dabble in bizarre and humorous tracks from then on until his conversion to Country music.
Gary was not permitted to place his own name on “Alley Oop” and so he picked up a name from two intersection signs in Hollywood – “Hollywood Blvd.” and “Argyle Street”. Gary relates that there was not a formal group of “Argyles” during the recording session, simply Paxton, friends and studio musicians. Involved on the session was producer/roommate Kim Fowley and Sandy Nelson on drums (the song was written by country star Dallas Frazier. Paxton also related that he learned after releasing “Alley Oop” that he was not officially under contract any longer with Brent, and stated that if he had known, “Alley Oop” would have been released under his own name.
When it came time to promote the hit smash on tour a group of “Argyles” was quickly assembled consisting of , a touring group was hastily assemble, Ted Marsh (vocals), Derry Weaver (guitar), Marshall Leib of the Teddy Bears (piano), Gary “Spider” Webb (drums), Bobby Rey (sax) and Ted Winters (bass), a lineup without Paxton.
Paxton would depart ways with Kavelin due to a royalty dispute and would thus form his “Paxley” and “Garpax” labels.
Busy, Busy, Busy – Mash ‘Em!
As can be seen below his recording output, whether it be composing, singing, producing, arranging, starting up yet another record label, or contriving the next big novelty hit, he was tireless. Lack of chart success obviously did dissuade him from his mission. By Paxton’s own estimation he stated that he had produced over 1,000 artists during his career. His biggest pop/novelty successes came early and after the success of “Alley Oop”, Paxton would once again guide a zany track to the top spot in the nation.
Robert George Pickett was born in February of 1938 in Somerville, Massachusetts. After serving in Korea for a short time before returning to his home town where he would often do a musical skit imitating Boris Karloff, and usually winning talent contests based on using that persona. In the early 1960’s Robert would make the move to Southern California seeking to become an actor. Before long he was joined by a set of friends – also coming from Somerville, and they formed a group adding Bobby, called “The Cordials”.
Success for the Cordials didn’t follow, but one of his band mates, Leonard Capizzi, teamed up with Bobby and the result was a wacky tune first called “The Monster Twist”, then changed by Leonard to “The Monster Mashed Potato” (since the song was a horror-play on both dance crazes).
The pair headed out onto the streets to shop their demo around and striking out with all the major labels. Then he came into contact with Gary Paxton who liked what he heard and agreed to produce and arrange the song. The artists were called “Bobby ‘Boris’ Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers” – and in the style of Hollywood record producing, once again studio musician pros would be utilized, Leon Russell, Johnny McCrae, Ricki Paige and Paxton all serving as “Crypt Kickers”.
Paxton hit the streets with the final product striking out at all the big stops, and so he pressed a bunch of copies on his own dropping them off at radio stations. The switchboards lit up after a station took a chance. London records called (a label who had turned it down), admitted their mistake, and a deal was struck. The record was released on Gary’s “GARPAX” record label which was distributed by London Records.
“Monster Mash” returned to the charts again in 1970 reaching a modest number 91 and then again in the Spring of 1973 this time going all the way to number 10!. Paxton would work with Pickett on two additional charting singles “Monster’s Holiday” which reached number 30 in late 1962 as a follow-up to the big hit and then “Graduation Day” this time released by “Bobby Pickett” since it was a non-monster release and it managed only a #91 ranking. Beyond that, one more single was produced in late 1964 “Me and My Mummy” b/w Blood Bank Blues” a last ditch effort to revive the monster magic.
The Pop Era Fades – Going Country
Gary’s success locating hit records began to wane in the later 1960’s – and little by little he began to start working with country artists such as Don Brandon, Myrna Lorrie, Larry Daniels & The Buckshots.
PAXTON: “I moved to Bakersfield, California, had a lake marina, hotel and cabins in the mountains. Also, a radio show and a music store. Unfortunately, I wound up in mental institutions twice — once for alcoholism and once for drugs. I had several recording studios in Hollywood and Bakersfield from 1959 to 1970 where I produced over a thousand artists. However, due to drugs and alcohol, I lost it all in 1970.”
So next it was on to Nashville where Gary could immerse himself in the thriving country music scene. He would remain in Nashville for nearly 30 years and in 1971, while high on drugs, Gary states “I walked into a church — stoned on drugs — and got saved!”
Paxton would continue through the 1970’s to produce and compose for country artists and he would begin to dabble in gospel music as well. And then, Gary relates:
“In 1980, two men were hired to murder me over a contract dispute. They beat my head in with a pipe, broke both of my shoulders and shot me three times with a .38. All the while during the attack I continued to yell, “In the name of Jesus, you can’t kill me!” While I was down sick, my studio partner embezzled me out of half-a-million dollars. The FDIC forced me into involuntary bankruptcy and took all of my royalties for ten years. Thenthe IRS billed me for $432,000 for the money the FDIC took! At this point I developed bleeding ulcers, lost 80% of my blood, started having a stroke and was rushed to Baptist Hospital. I was given 8 blood transfusions over time, which resulted in my acquiring hepatitis C.”
Gary and his fiance Vicki Sue Roberts made a move to Branson, Missouri in 1999 and tied the knot in 2002. He began his ministry which continued up until the time of his death on July 17th, 2016 at the age of 77. He died in Branson.
His final comment on his web site was “I’m not a performer. I’m a writer”.
But back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s we were still quite pleased with the performer named Gary Paxton.
The Paxton/Colorado Connection
I’ve written previously about Gary Paxton and his Colorado connection. It dates back to “Alley Oop” and his association with Lute records and Al Kavelin. Through that contact, Gary came to meet composer and producer Morey Bernstein, who worked in a partnership of sorts of Kavelin, via the “Trans-World” and “Finer Arts” record labels in Los Angeles.
Bernstein and Kavelin would part ways and Morey would make his way back to his home state of Colorado, where he would migrate the “Finer Arts” label as well. Initially Bernstein would re-release several singles from Finer Arts’ earliest catalog, by artists who never made an appearance in a Denver recording studio.
One of these was Finer Arts FA-2016 by Otis Redding one the A side and the other by Redding with “The Shooters” on the B side. Bernstein made claims that it was he who discovered Redding and it appears that there is probably some validity in this claim as I learned when piecing the tale together on this pages in a earlier Post.
Another Finer Arts release was surprising to us Denverites, this time by none other that Paxton’s “Hollywood Argyles”, Finer Arts 1002, “See You in the Moring” b/w “The Morning After (The Night Before)”.
I attempted to make contact with Paxton via his web site back a few years ago and was pleased to receive a response from a representative of his who informed me that Gary didn’t really do “email” but wanted me to know that he had never been to Denver and of course had never recorded in the Mile High City, but did work often with Bernstein while in Los Angeles. So no Argyles or any Ally Oops out here in Denver.
Paxton’s talents were utilized on several Colorado based label releases, including work with The Larry Stevens Trio, Terry Miller, Ira Allen, Eddie Pace, Sonny Daye, The Road Runners.
Gary Paxton 1958
Gary and Clyde, The Pledges
Gary Paxton 1959
Chuck and the Chuckles, Skip and Flip
Gary Paxton 1960
Skip and Flip, Clyde Gary and His Orchestra, The Hollywood Argyles, Red West, The Innocents, Carl Dobkins Jr., Paul Revere & The Raiders, Johnny Angel, Miss Bonnie Owens, Bill Woods, Richard Berry, Don Markham and The Marksmen, Gary Paxton/Gary Alley Oop Paxton”, Chris Darlin, Dante and the Evergreens
Gary Paxton 1961
Skip and Flip Johnny Angel, Joe Lover & His Gaylads Band, Doug and Freddy, Skip and Flip, The Rod Marshall Combo, Johnny Restivo, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Richard Berry, The Hollywood Argyles, Terry Miller, The Larry Stevens Trio, Billy Elder, The Idols
Gary Paxton 1962
Hollywood Argyles, The Stompers, Gary Paxton, Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt Kickers, The Rev-Lons, David & Lee, Johnny Angel, The Cordials, Terry Miller, Gary Dean, Ira Allen, Hoyet Henry, Johnny MacRae, The Five Superiors, The Kenny Angels, Jessie Sailes and the Crypt Kickers, Hal Davis, Earl Dean Smith, Jerry Rio and the Stompmen, Eddie Pace, Carl Helm, Roger Christian, Sonny Daye, The Young Men Four
Gary Paxton 1963
Bobby Pickett, Johnny & The Vibratones, Doug Salma & His Highlanders, The Young Men Four, Ray Sharpe, Gary Paxton, Chuck Denman, The Castaways, Earl Dean Smith, The Rev-Lons, Claude Gray, Dick Dale & His Del-Tones, Gary and Johnny & The Puffs, Johnny Fisher, Diane Coleman, The Hollywood Argyles, Don Wyatt, Gene Moles & the Softwinds, Renfro and Jackson
Gary Paxton 1964
Gary Paxton & The ?’s, The Zip-Codes, The Road Runners, The Fashionettes, Ben Benay & Gary Paxton, Buddy Wayne, Grant and April, Don Hinson & the Rigarmorticians, Lani and Boni The Cochrane Twins, Sugar ‘n Spice, The Compulsions, Lord Douglas Byron, Jerry Inman, George Cottos, The Captivations
Gary Paxton 1965
Mary Saenz, The Hollywood Argyles, The Four Freshmen, Ted Cassidy/Lurch, Carl Walden & The Humans, Denny Reed, Gary Paxton, Pete Fountain, The Big Town Boys, Josephine Sunday, Buddy Wayne, The Sims Twins, Vince and the Waikiki Rumblers, Johnny Dark
Gary Paxton 1966
The Art Reynolds Singers, Gary Paxton, Thelma Houson, The Four Freshmen, Myrna Lorrie, Larry Daniels & The Buckshots, Dean Sanford, Don Brandon, The New Hollywood Argyles
Gary Paxton 1967
Myrna Lorrie, The Chocolate Tunnel, Augie Moreno, Thelma Houston, Jerry Palmer, Gary Paxton, Dick Contino, Clarence White
Gary Paxton 1968
Eternity’s Children, The Sanland Bros., The Gosdin Brothers., The Churchhill Downs, Daddy’s Plastic Child, Al Brumley, The Bakersfield Poppy Pickers, The Spencers, Augie Moreno, Leon Copeland, Clarence White, Bob Jackson, Wade
Gary Paxton 1969
Eternity’s Children, The Great Love Trip
Gary Paxton 1970
Bobby “Boris” Pickett & the Crypt Kickewr, Stan Farlow
Gary Paxton 1971
Thelma Houston, Buddy Knox, Gary Paxton & the Nashville Mavericks, Joe Douglas
Gary Paxton 1972
Don Gibson, Scoopie Brucie (Bruce Harper), Kenny Vernon, Lois Jordan, Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass, The Sanfords, Johnny Bond, Big Merle (The Boogie King), Dennis Payne and the Country Mile, Jimmy Dickens, Billy Parker, Little Richie Jarvis & the Good Home Cookin’, June Stearns, Del Reeves
Gary Paxton 1973
Ed Bruce, The Gosdin Brothers, The White Tornado, Bobby “Boris” Pickett”, Little Richard Jarvis & The Good Home Cookin’, Dick Curless, Demetriss Tapp, Scotti Carson, Connie Catto, Gary Paxton, Dave & Lee, The Critters, Willie Ackerman, Pepper Swift, Marti Brown, The Tams, North Junction,
Gary Paxton 1974
Don Gibson, Jack Scott, Roy Clark, Dickey Lee, Gary Paxton & Pax & The Gary S. Paxton Singers, Roy Clark, Durwood Haddock, Billy Parker, Jennifer O’Brien, Roger White, Cal Raye
Gary Paxton 1975
Melba Montgomery, Pepper Hellard and the New Hollywood Argyles, Jeris Ross, Bill Walker, Gary Paxton, Welton Lane, Gary Paxton & Karen Adams, Glynn Guidry, The Supreme Angels, Lynda K. Lance
Gary Paxton 1976
Vern Gosdin, Clarence Perry and The Mercy Blues, Bobby G. Rice, Don High and Mighty, Jimmy Dean, R. W. Blackwood, Sharon Leighton, Jim Ed Brown, R. W. Blackwood and the Blackwood Singers, Mike Johnson, Gary Paxton
Gary Paxton 1977
Vern Gosdin, Bobby G. Rice, The Droids, Mary Dennis, Eddie Billips & The C. C. Cs, Marv Dennis, Sammy Hall, Gary Paxton, Mike Johnson
Gary Paxton 1978
Vern Gosdin, R. W. Blackwood, Gary Paxton, Sammy Hall
Gary Paxton 1979
Vern Gosdin, The LeGardes, Jimmy Tucker, Tammy Faye Bakker, Don Francisco, J.J. Lee
Gary Paxton 1980’s
Ron Hellard and the Party Animals, Bob Anthony, Lindsey Buckingham, Jodi Hackworth, Mark Moseley, Mark Chenutt, H.C. Morgan, Stephanie Boosahda, Gary Dunham, Tom Howard, Brown Bannister, Farrell and Farrell/Jayne Farrell, Noel Paul Stookey & The Bodyworks Band