THE HOLLYWOOD ARGYLES
The Hollywood Argyles were not a real group. If it hadn't been for a legal oversight, their only hit would have been credited to Gary Paxton.
Gary Sanford Paxton was born on May 18, 1938, in Coffeyville, Arkansas. As a youngster he moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he met Clyde Battin, with whom he formed a group called the Pledges. They recorded two records for the Rev label in 1958. One of their unissued recordings, "It Was I", was heard and acquired by Bob Shad of Brent Records in New York. It was issued on Brent as by Skip and Flip (this name was the idea of arranger Leroy Kirkland) and peaked at # 11 on the Billboard charts in the summer of 1959. The follow-up, "Fancy Nancy" stalled at # 71, but the third Skip and Flip record, a remake of Marvin & Johnny's "Cherry Pie", also went to # 11. The duo toured for a while, until Paxton got fed up and moved to Hollywood. The first person he met there was Dallas Frazier, who boasted that he was going to make it big as a songwriter. Paxton promised to give him a call the next time he needed a tune. In Hollywood, Gary met the eccentric record producer Kim Fowley, who was still unknown at the time. Together they formed a music publishing company, Maverick Music, using the pay phone at the Chevron station on the corner of Sunset and Argyle as their business number. Paxton and Fowley started cutting masters at low-budget studios for small labels. Fowley's well-connected friend Terry Melcher (Doris Day's son) arranged a recording deal with Lute Records, owned by veteran bandleader and music publisher Al Kavelin. Paxton made his solo debut with "You're Ruinin' My Gladness"/ "The Way I See It" (Lute 5801). Needing a follow-up, Paxton called on Dallas Frazier, who came up with a song that he had already written (and recorded) in 1957, called "Alley-Oop", named after a popular cartoon caveman.
As drummer Sandy Nelson told Charlie Gillett in "The Sound Of the City", all those participating in the "Alley-Oop" session were helplessly drunk on cheap cider and vocalist Gary Paxton had to be held upright within range of the microphone as he read Frazier's lyric from the brown paper bag it had been written on. Many people have claimed that they were present at the session, but Paxton himself mentions the musicians as being Gaynel Hodge (piano), Ronnie Silico (drums), Harper Cosby (bass) and Sandy Nelson, who played percussion on a few garbage cans and empty bottles and provided the caveman yells. The chorus consisted of Dallas Frazier, his friend Buddy Mize, Godoy Colbert, Kim Fowley and Paxton's then-girlfriend ("Diane from Long Beach").
"Alley-Oop" was intended as a solo single by Gary, but then someone advised him that he and "Skip" Battin were still under contract to Brent Records. To avoid any legal hassles, Paxton created the "Hollywood Argyles" moniker, as the studio where the song had been recorded was located at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Street. In spite of competing cover versions by Dante and the Evergreens (# 15) and the Dyna-Sores (# 59), "Alley-Oop" by the Hollywood Argyles became a smash hit, reaching the # 1 position on July 11, 1960. When requests for concerts started coming in, and there was no real group, a touring group was hastily assembled. This consisted of Ted Marsh (vocals), Derry Weaver (guitar), Marshall Leib of the Teddy Bears (piano), Gary "Spider" Webb (drums), Bobby Rey (sax) and Ted Winters (bass). Paxton and his musical associates did manage to record eight further tracks, which, together with "Alley-Oop", its flip and Paxton's first Lute single, were released on an LP (Lute L-101). Two more singles were drawn from the album, but they sold poorly, and seeing that Al Kavelin didn't pay royalties ("We sued him, but I think he paid off our lawyers", Paxton told Wayne Jancik), Gary decided to leave Lute and started his own record label. First Paxley, then Garpax. The latter issued "Monster Mash" by Bobby "Boris" Pickett in 1962 and gave Paxton another # 1. Paxton later became a born-again Christian and recorded theological material. Today he lives in Branson, Missouri, and recently wrote and produced a record by Bill Haley's Original Comets.
Paxton's official website:
Acknowledgements : Wayne Jancik, Fred Bronson, Rob Finnis. Their 1960 LP was reissued by Collectables in 1992, but is not currently in print.
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