He was a country singer-songwriter and actor born Hoyt Wayne Axton in Duncan, Oklahoma. His father was a naval officer and his mother, Mae Boren Axton, co-wrote “Heartbreak Hotel” which was a hit for Elvis Presley. His own compositions would also later recorded by Elvis Presley.
The family moved to Jacksonville, Florida when he was young and while there he studied piano followed by the guitar. He had his first stab at writing songs when he was fifteen but chose athletics and was awarded a football scholarship to Oklahoma State University.
He served in the Navy before embarking on his career as a folk club singer and songwriter in San Francisco. In 1962 he released The Balladeer, which would be the first album of many during the course of his career. A decade later in 1973 he had two of his most successful singles, which were “Boney Fingers” and “When the Morning Comes” which was a duet with Linda Ronstadt .
In 1977 he established Jeremiah Records and two years later he achieved his greatest success with the hit “Della and the Dealer”. In 1982 Jeremiah closed down and Hoyt hardly recorded until 1990 when he launched the comeback recording Spin the Wheel, which would become his final album.
As a songwriter other artists often recorded his songs. They included “Greenback Dollar” for Kingston Trio, “Joy to the World” and “Never Been to Spain” for Three Dog Night, “The Pusher” for Steppenwolf and “No-No Song” for Ringo Starr .
His recordings were many and included his own Joy to the World, Life Machine, Mr. Greenback Dollar Man, Pistol Packin’ Mama, Rusty Old Halo, Saturday’s Child, Snowblind Friend, Southbound and Thunder & Lightnin’ as well as appearances on Travel Log by J.J. Cale, Columbia Records: 1958-1986 by Johnny Cash, Texas Cookin’ by Guy Clark, Hobo’s Lullaby by Arlo Guthrie and Martha Reeves by Martha Reeves among others.
Aside from working in the music industry he appeared in TV shows and film such as Bonanza, I Dream of Jeannie and McCloud and the movies The Black Stallion and Gremlins along with a dozen others. He also published a book of original line drawings.
He died of a heart attack on 26th October 1999 in Victor, Montana, when he was 61 years old.
Here’s his “Della & The Dealer”..