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Hawkins, Hoyt (31 March 1927-23 October 1982)

Keyboardist, percussionist and vocalist from Paducah, Kentucky, who was a member of John Daniel’s quartet and attended Peabody College, where he met his future wife, Dorothy.

In April 1952, Hoyt joined The Jordanaires, supplanting lead singer and second tenor, Bob Hubbard.  When Monty Matthews left in October, he took over the baritone slot.  Hoyt was a member of The Jordanaires who are best remembered as recording with Elvis Presley.  Some of their early recordings with Elvis include “Don’t Be Cruel”, “Hound Dog”, “Jailhouse Rock”, “Treat Me Nice”, and “All Shook Up”.  The Jordanaires often appeared in his films, such as King Creole, Clambake, and G.I. Blues.

All of this did not preclude them from recording with other artists, however.  In April 1958, they sang back-up on Hank Snow’s album, When Tragedy Struck.  The month it hit the shelves, January 1959, they were in the studio with Patsy Cline recording “I’m Blue Again”, “I’m Moving Along”, and “Love, Love, Love Me Honey Do”.  They also famously backed her up on her 12 Greatest Hits.

In 1960, Elvis released Elvis is Back! and The Jordanaires were back with Elvis.  Some other cuts from that year included “His Hand in Mine”, “Lonely Man”, and “Surrender”.  The following year, they recorded “Follow That Dream”, “His Latest Flame” and “Little Sister” with The King.

Sometimes, Hoyt would sit in after hours at a night club in Nashville with Larry Womack’s trio.  On one occasion, all four of The Jordanaires stopped in and were requested to sing “Hound Dog”, which they did, with Larry doing a bang-on Elvis impersonation.  It was such a crowd-pleaser, Larry wound up learning more of Elvis’s songs so he could keep the gimmick up.

In 1963, they were back with the real Elvis, recording “Bossa Nova Baby” and “Witchcraft”.  They also worked their magic on a number of Hal Willis recordings, including “North to Alaska”.  In 1965, they were off to the Middle East, recording music for the Elvis flop, HarumScarum.  The ambient tambourine was played by Hoyt, whose other instruments included the cymbals, organ, and piano.  The Jordanaires also found time to cut a single under their own name, “Malibu Run” backed with “Who Does He Think He Is”.

In 1968, Hoyt became ill and Duane West became his part-time, temporary replacement.  By October of the following year, he was well enough to rejoin The Jordanaires on the Waylon Jennings album, Singer of Sad Songs, which hit the shelves in November 1970.

In 1972, they accompanied Tom T. Hall on recordings that would appear on the double-album set, We All Got Together and…/The Storyteller, and Kris Kristofferson on Jesus Was a Capricorn.  They were very busy in 1973, recording background vocals for Ms. Marti Brown, This is Henson Cargill Country, and Now Presenting Troy Seals.  In 1978, they re-emerged to join an all-star cast on the Billy Swan LP, You’re OK, I’m OK.  The album also featured Rita Coolidge, Donald “Duck” Dunn, Booker T. Jones, Kris Kristofferson, and Leo Sayer.

On 23rd October 1982, still active and performing with The Jordanaires, Hoyt died of what was deemed to be cardiac arrest.

His is the baritone that is most closely associated with The Jordanaires’ sound, and it is preserved on Elvis CD compilations such as Good Rockin’ Tonight:  The Best of Elvis Vol. 1, The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll:  The Complete ‘50s Masters, and Amazing Grace:  His Most Sacred Performances.

In 2001, Hoyt was inducted, posthumously, into the Country Music Hall of Fame, with his fellow Jordanaires.

Here’s Hoyt singing background vocals with the Jordanaires on Elvis Presley’s “Stuck on You”…