In 1998, I had written a letter to Hoyt, and I labored over whether I should include it here. Upon reflection, I see no reason not to. Please enjoy.
Here's a copy of a letter from my cousin in Fresno, California. His name is Ed Parrish. He just turned 57. He is aware that you and I are friends due to the fact we have shared stories about you and because of 3DN having had hits with your songs.
Ed has told me a story about going to see you play in a club in downtown L.A. in the early 60's where you sang a song called "John Henry" ... and brought the house down ... literally. When you started singing ... a tile from the roof fell right on their table! Ed told me this story and how you told him that Nick (from the Kingston Trio) had kind of stole a song from you called Jane Jane ... I think. Anyway, Ed was in a folk group called THE LANDSMEN who attended Old Pepperdine in downtown L.A. They had a group that sounded a little like THE BROTHERS FOUR, THE LIMELIGHTERS, AND THE KINGSTON TRIO. They recorded one album. They also recorded Jane, Jane. Ed was wondering how he came to go see you that night in this little small club. He asked his buddy Bill Tyner (who was in the Landsmen) and Bill related this story to him. I told him I would pass it along to you and that ... RIGHT OR WRONG ... you would certainly get a kick in the butt out of hearing it. Anyway ... here's a copy of some notes my cousin Ed Parrish made so I could pass them on to you.
Bill (Harrison) Tyner calls Ed Parrish Sunday 12-3-98
(About 1961 or 1962)
1. Mae Axton (Hoyt's mother) came to Pepperdine -(L.A.) and met Bill Tyner. She was from Texas (as was Bill). She invited us to go hear her son Hoyt. We got free tickets - went to a small coffee house (L.A.) Sat and talked with Hoyt. When he was singing John Henry - piece of plaster fell from roof and hit Bill on the shoulder and hit our table.
2. Mae Axton just passed away (about a year ago. 1997?) Bill and Mae both lived in Henderson, TN and both attended the Church of Christ there. They had become friends and Bill had visited her fairly often before she died. (Steve Parker was the minister.)
3. Mrs. Axton told Bill many show business stories - probably after she was ill, and many of her last thoughts and stories related to Hoyt. One was: She had booked Elvis early in his career in Florida and at one point he and she were at the beach. He sat in a chair staring at the ocean, and when asked his thoughts said he had "never seen a pond that big". Commented that boats seem to disappear on the horizon, etc. Elvis then told Mae that someday "I'm going to write a big song and bring my Mom here". Mae Axton then, shortly afterwards, co-wrote "Heart Break Hotel" and gave Elvis 1/2 publishing rights. When HH was a hit, Elvis told Mae Axton that he had arranged a trip for his mother and could she join them. Mae had to stay at home with her ill husband, and asked if Hoyt could go to Florida instead. He did. Hoyt went and spent time with Elvis and his mother. ----End of story-----
So there is the story, Hoyt. Ain't it nice to know you are a damned ICON of rock n roll, Americana, and all that stuff? ha. Your famousness. It's good to be the king. It's good to be your friend, Hoyt. Makes me feel proud to do a little name dropping myself. Si, it's true. Not a bit ashamed of it, either. Way proud to say " Hoyt Axton? You darn right!! A good friend of mine".
Give me a call, buddy. And oh by the way....... your butt must be a whole lot older than you ever copped to me. I hate that!! Being strung along by the best !!!!
P.S. Hoyt, were you raised in the Church of Christ? Hmmm. Me too. Funny we never spoke of it. Couple of old heathens that we izzzz. Call me.___________________ Both numbers are at home. Merry Christmas to you and Deborah.
(end of letter to Hoyt)
On a side note: A few days later after Christmas of 1998, during a recording session with Ed Parrish at my home ... out of the blue the phone rang and it was Hoyt. He was tickled to get the letter and hoped we could get together sometime soon. I asked him how he was feeling (partial paralysis) and he said he was coming along just fine. The paralysis had made it impossible for him to play guitar, but, he was working on it. I had to laugh when he said "You know, Michael, ... I'm beginning to be able to play guitar a little. I'm gonna make a comeback and show these guys that I can play guitar even worse than before". What a card he was.
He continued on about the letter I had sent and acknowledged the Elvis story as being basically true, but, thought that a storm or something may have caused that tile to fall in the Los Angeles coffee house. I put Ed on the phone for a few minutes and they got to talk a while. Ed corrected him on the tile business. It definitely DID fall due to his big barrel chested voice singing "Hey ... John Henry!!" Hoyt laughed and admitted he liked the sound of it. Always good for a story: Hoyt Axton.