Okay, we all watched it. Some for the music, some for Loni Anderson and her attributes, glorious as they were.
The writing was sharp, funny, topical and it made us all want to work in radio. The reason, it looked like fun, the music, meeting bands, going to concerts and maybe meeting someone who looked like Loni Anderson.
While there were many incredible songs on the show, by numerous artists, one of my favorites is by Hoyt Axton. Hoyt who? Well, Hoyt Axton wrote many great songs for himself and others, was an actor and was one of those people you knew you’d seen, but didn’t know where.
He is also known in other circles as well. His mother had a hit before he did as co-writer of a little song “Heartbreak Hotel” sung by Elvis Presley.
Here from the April 23, 1979 episode of the show is Hoyt Axton and “Della and The Dealer”.
After his discharge from the navy, he began singing folk songs in San Francisco nightclubs. In the early-1960s he released his first folk album, The Balladeer (recorded at the Troubadour), which included his song “Greenback Dollar”. It became a 1963 hit for The Kingston Trio.
In 1966, Axton made his film debut in the movie Smoky playing the role of Fred Denton, the evil brother of actor Fess Parker. In 1979, Axton appeared on the PBS music program Austin City Limits during Season 4.
Axton released numerous albums well into the 1980s. He had many minor hits of his own, such as “Boney Fingers”, “When the Morning Comes”, and 1979’s “Della and the Dealer”, as well as “Jealous Man” (the latter two he sang in a guest appearance on the TV sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati). His vocal style featured his distinctive bass-baritone (which later deepened to near-bass) and use of characterization.
However, his most lasting contributions were songs made famous by others: “Joy to the World” and “Never Been to Spain” (Three Dog Night), “Greenback Dollar” (Kingston Trio), “The Pusher“, and “Snowblind Friend” (Steppenwolf), “No-No Song” (Ringo Starr), and an array of others, covered by singers such as Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, BJ Thomas, John Denver, Waylon Jennings, Jonathan Edwards, and Anne Murray. Axton also sang a couple of duets with Linda Ronstadt, including “Lion in Winter” and “When the Morning Comes” (a top 40 country hit). His composition “Joy to the World”, as performed by Three Dog Night, was number 1 on the charts for six straight weeks in 1971, making it the top hit of the year. He named his record label Jeremiah after the bullfrog mentioned in the song.
He sang the jingle “Head For the Mountains” in the Busch Beer commercials in the 1980s (and also “The Ballad of Big Mac”, touting McDonald’s Big Mac onscreen in a 1969 commercial he filmed for the hamburger franchise). Axton also appeared in a Pizza Hut commercial in 1985.
Axton first appeared on television in a David L. Wolper ABC production of The Story of a Folksinger (1963). He frequently appeared on Hootenanny, hosted by Jack Linkletter during this period. In 1965, he appeared in an episode of Bonanza, then followed with other TV roles over the years. As he matured, Axton specialized in playing good ol’ boys on television and in films. His face became well known in the 1970s and 1980s through many TV and film appearances, such as in the movies Liar’s Moon (1982) playing poor-but-happy farmer Cecil Duncan who is crushed to death when a stack of metal pipes falls on him, The Black Stallion (1979) as the main character’s father, and Gremlins (1984) as the protagonist’s father.