RIP: Gary S. Paxton, legendary music producer


My friend Gary S. Paxton has passed away a few days ago.

Gary was an extremely talented musician that produced #1 hit records in rock, country and gospel music. As a singer-songwriter of a teenage duo with a hit song that sold a million records, he toured America with legendary DJ Alan Freed in 1959. From 1959 until the time of his passing, he produced thousands of records for a wide variety of musicians. He was both admired and feared by his peers including Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and Buck Owens.

I got to know Gary because of his connection with Richard Berry, songwriter of LOUIE LOUIE, as well as his role as producer of the first album by Paul Revere & the Raiders.

Gary, along with his then-business partner Kim Fowley, produced a handful of Richard Berry records in the early 1960s after Richard’s contract with the Flip Records label had expired.

One of my proudest moments was helping facilitate the proper reissue of these recordings, as well as the original Flip recordings, which both found a loving home with Ace Records of UK.

Gary S. Paxton’s first success in the music business was with the singing duo Skip & Flip, whose initial recording was “It Was I,” which entered the Billboard Top 20 in 1959, peaking at No. 11.

The duo consisted of Gary and Clyde Battin, who were both part of The Pledges, a rock band based in Tucson, Arizona.

As Gary explained to me, the song was originally a demo recording sent to record label that Gary didn’t follow up on. He discovered that the song became a hit record after he moved from Tucson to Tacoma, Washington. He heard the song on the radio while he was working a job picking fruit in an orchard, and didn’t even recognize his own voice. When he contacted Brent Records, the New York label that released this record, they told him they had been trying to get ahold of him, and immediately made plans for him to rejoin his old bandmate for a nationwide tour that included television appearances on American Bandstand.

The duo, which was re-named “Skip & Flip” by the record label, lasted for a few years before it dissolved, as their partnership fell apart when Gary’s wife decided to be with Clyde.

Gary moved to Hollywood, where he linked up with Kim Fowley to produce records together, which included “Alley Oop” by the Hollywood Argyles, their studio project that became a band, featuring with Gary on lead vocals.

After “Alley Oop,” Gary oversaw a similar project that he organized – Bobby “Boris” Pickett & the Crypt Keepers, who recorded a little song called “Monster Mash.”

There’s so much more that could be said about Gary S. Paxton…. so much more than I can share with this little blog post..

My friend Alec Palao, who oversaw all the great Ace reissues of Gary’s rock and roll legacy, shared what is likely to be one of the best tributes ever written for our friend.

PLEASE… click on this and read the whole article. It’s absolutely worth reading from start to finish.

In the meantime, I leave you with a short video… a small sample of some of the footage that I shot with Gary at his home in Nashville in 1998. He talks about his special storage trailer, the band Limey and the Yanks, Red West (Elvis Presley‘s bodyguard) and some of the recordings he did with Richard Berry.

Rest in peace, Gary.

We’re going to miss you…

Reference Links:
The official Gary S. Paxton webpage
The Ace Records obituary on Gary S. Paxton
The Wikipedia entry on on Gary S. Paxton

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