Monday, July 18, 2016

Passings: Gary S. Paxton of Skip & Flip, Producer, Songwriter (1939 - 2016)

by VVN Music

Gary S. Paxton, one half of Skip & Flip and, later, a successful producer and songwriter, has died at the age of 77. No details have been given on the cause of death.

Paxton was born in Coffeyville, KS and, in his own words "I was molested when I was 7. I started writing songs when I was 10. I had spinal meningitis at 11. We moved to Arizona when I was 12 years of age. I had my own rock-and-roll band by the time I was 14."

One of the people he partnered with in the band the Rockabillies was Clyde "Skip" Battin. The two formed a tight bond and recorded for Rev Records as the Pledges before changing their name to Gary & Clyde and, finally, Skip & Flip. Their first charting single was Paxton's song It Was I that peaked at number 11 on the Hot 100 in 1959. They followed with Fancy Nancy later that year which only made it to 71 but, the next year, they equaled their first hit with a cover of the Marvin & Johnny song Cherry Pie.

While they continued to release records through the early 60's, the duo actually broke up in 1960. Battin went on to be a member of The Byrds, New Riders of the Purple Sage and the Flying Burrito Brothers.

Paxton soon began to branch out, going to Hollywood and becoming friends and work associate of Kim Fowley. The two began working with Dallas Frazier, going into the studio to record the song Alley Oop, on which Paxton recorded the "talked" verse, under the name of the Hollywood Argyles.

Paxton and Fowley parted ways in mid-1961 with Gary becoming an in-demand producer for smaller acts including Ron Holden, Sky Saxon, Richard Berry, Clint Eastwood and Elvis' bodyguard Red West. In 1962, he produced another huge novelty record, Monster Mash by Bobby Boris Pickett & the Crypt Kickers.

After a short time in Nashville, Paxton returned to Los Angeles and opened his own recording studio. Among Gary's bigger productions were Sweet Pea and Hooray For Hazel for Tommy Roe and Along Comes Mary and Cherish for the Association. He also produced his first gospel records including the album Tellin' It Like It Is for the Art Reynolds Singers which included the first recording of Jesus Is Just Alright.

In 1967, he moved to Bakersfield and, two years later, back to Nashville where he became more involved with drinking and drugs with his then singing partner, Thomas Wayne. When Wayne committed suicide, Paxton went into a downward spiral that ended when he walked into a church and was "saved" although he spent time in the hospital while detoxing.

In Nashville, he wrote a number of major country hits including Don Gibson's Woman (Sensuous Woman) and Roy Clark's Honeymoon Feelin' but he also began working as a gospel writer, having his first major hit with L-O-V-E for the Blackburn Brothers. He went on to write for the likes of the Bill Gaither Trio, Doug Oldham and the Imperials.

In 1975, he also began releasing his own records with The Astonishing, Outrageous, Amazing, Incredible, Unbelievable, Different World of Gary S. Paxton. Even though he later claimed not to really be a singer, he released five gospel albums between 1975 and 1979.

On December 29, 1980, two men came to Paxton's house asking for help with their car but, after agreeing, they attacked Gary, shooting him once in the hand and twice in the back. According to Paxton, he died twice on the operating table.  It later came out that the men had allegedly been sent by country singer Vern Gosdin who wanted out of a contract with Paxton.

Although he survived, his business partner embezzled $500,000 from their recording company while Gary was hospitalized and, for many of the eight years while he fully recovered, Paxton lived in poverty. In 1990, he developed Hepatitis C, almost dying from the disease.

In 1999, Paxton relocated to Branson, MO where he continued to produce gospel records and, in that same year, was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.