As a young teenager, I listened to a hit record called, "Greenback Dollar", that I loved. I played it many times. This would be my first connection with Hoyt, though it was not a personal connection. Hoyt wrote that song, which I did not learn until 1999. Hoyt told me that he got ripped off on that song. He was only paid $500 for that number one song. Bummer. The music industry is ridden with stories like that. Opportunistic entrepreneurs, that are absolutely ruthless. Even though Hoyt was a business man concerning his music, he was really what I call a "pure" writer. He did it for the love of the music and the joy of being a storyteller. In case you didn't know, Hoyt's mother, Mae, co-wrote "Heart Break Hotel" for Elvis.
A story comes to mind from 1970 or '71 when Hoyt Axton was touring with us (This story also appears in my online book "The Upside of Rock n Roll", also on this web site). Performing with us really wasn't the best pairing for him, but it did get him some good exposure as a single artist. He usually opened our shows, unless there were other acts on the bill. Anyway, Hoyt had his black Cadillac on the road and would drive from gig to gig, sometimes, state to state. We generally flew or had a tour bus, but from time to time, one or more of us (usually me, Joe Schermie or Floyd Sneed) would bail and say "I'm riding with Hoyt. See ya!". One instance in Mobile, Alabama that Hoyt and I both loved to recount involved me, Floyd and Hoyt. We pulled into a little diner on the side of the road and were having something to eat at the counter. This was after a gig, so you must picture what we looked like. Here was Hoyt, a hulking figure with a southern redneck look to him, then me, with my 70's rock-fag image in all my rock garb and clothing and next to me was BLACK Floyd Sneed, with his huge arms in a sleeveless shirt. I stress BLACK due to the time frame and the geographical area we were in, ALABAMA: 1969. This was a trio fit to be lynched, if you get my drift. An off duty, plain clothed, drunk detective came in and slowly made his way to the end of the counter and sat down. He ordered some coffee from the waitress, who obviously knew him. As we sat there finishing our meals, this guy couldn't help himself. He stared down the counter at us and in his most macho, southern bigot voice. loudly stammered out the question in Foster Brooks fashion, "So tell me, are you guys with the circus or sumpin'?" Of course, with my head way up my butt, in a rock n roll success posture, I answered "No, we just played to a sold out crowd of 20,000 people in your civic auditorium." This fixed things up, all right. Timing has always been my strength. Yeah, right. He then says, "You know, I think I'll just give the station a call and have them send a paddy wagon to get you all and throw you in jail". Everything about us just pissed this guy off. With that statement, he got up and slowly stumbled over to the pay phone, which was behind me on the wall. He pulled out a dime from his pocket and as he tried to put it in the phone, he dropped it on the floor. It bounced a couple of times and then started rolling towards me, finally going around 2 times into a slow, 4-foot circle, before it stopped spinning just short of me. I looked at Hoyt, shrugged my shoulders and smiled a "what the hell" smile, then got off my stool and picked it up. I turned to the cop who was standing there with his mouth open, reached out and said "You dropped your dime". As he stood there, bloodshot eyes burning red with little blue varicose lines of outrage in them, he resumed his stumbling attempt to make the phone call. We were finished with our food, so we just got up, paid our bills, walked out and got in Hoyt's black Cadillac, which had a limo look with dark-tinted windows. Just as we were driving away, the drunk cop came out of the diner. With his hand on the door, he leaned on the door jam and stared helplessly at us, as we drove off. We all rolled the windows down and smiled our biggest "sh_t eatin' grin" and yelled, "bye-bye!!". Not a big ending, but Hoyt and I sure loved reminiscing about that incident. That cop was so drunk, he couldn't even get it together enough to put these "malcontent weirdo's" in the slammer. Funny!
Sometime later, on a different trip, Schermie and I rode with Hoyt, and I was carrying a cassette tape recorder with me. It had an external mic and I was doing my, "man on the street" type irritation, taping. Just on-the-road, garbage-mouthed stuff. You know, locker room mentality, "guy" things. Anyway, Hoyt said, "Give me that mic, I'm gonna do a thing". What transpired was just recently found in my memorabilia, on an old cassette tape. I transferred it to CD to save it, then sent Floyd, Joe and Jimmy a copy. It is a bit lengthy, but hilarious. I plan to upload the file, so you hear it and maybe get some insight to Hoyt's humor and just the old road times in general. It is too big to hear it directly from the internet, unless I can figure out a way to do streaming audio. The mic had an on/off switch built in and you can hear Hoyt getting tickled with himself, from time to time, then having to stop as to not break character. You can also hear me and Joe, trying to hold back laughs in the background. Hoyt was driving while recording this. When I get it ready, you can just click on the underlined link that follows to download and listen to it. It would require a sound player, such as Real Player or any other type. Hoyt, having the look of this character, was a natural for this impromptu dissertation. Just a few weeks before he passed away, I asked him if this was a routine, or had he just made it up on the spot. He wasn't sure, but said it sounded like he just winged it. I'm sure it was off the top of his head. There are some objectionable words in it, such as the "F" word and the racial "N" word, but please don't hold this against Hoyt or me. It was all within the "character" he was portraying. Hoyt was not prejudiced or particularly foulmouthed, either. I'm still a rookie with this web site audio stuff, so, please be patient. Maybe someone will step forward and help me. For now, the link is inactive.
Hoyt cracked up when I brought it to his home in Montana and played it for him, 30 years after the fact. Didn't even know the tape still existed. Somehow, I don't think Hoyt would have objected to me sharing this. -Enjoy-
An article in People magazine after his death. My Friend. OUR Friend. A wonderful character, songwriter, actor and talented storyteller. We miss you, Hoyt.
For years, prior to 1998, I hadn't been in touch with Hoyt. I had gone to the Palamino club in North Hollywood one time to see him perform, but basically, we went our different ways after our connection in the 70's. No reason. Somehow, because his career was doing so good, due to his acting and continued successful songwriting, that I felt a little funny like being a "hanger on-er". Especially from 1985 to 1991, when I was out of Three Dog Night. In retrospect, that was stupid. Hoyt and I were friends. The last time I saw him at his ranch, I told him that his wife, Debbie, had thanked me for staying in touch. I mentioned this to Hoyt, and with a feeling of shame, I looked Hoyt in the eyes, as he lay there in his bed, and said to him, "You know Hoyt, I didn't really stay in touch at all". In his soft-spoken, but nonetheless, "simple truth" style, he answered me with, " No, you didn't, Michael". Then he smiled a forgiving smile and we hugged. (cont.)