‘My Pony Wants To Run . . .’

When folks talk about Hoyt Axton, most often they talk about him as a songwriter, I’d guess. And that’s fair, at least on the pop side of things. His catalog of songs at the BMI site contains more than two hundred titles, and he’s remembered for penning at least five well-known songs: “Greenback Dollar,” a No. 21 hit for the Kingston Trio in 1963; Steppenwolf’s “The Pusher” and “Snowblind Friend,” the latter of which went to No. 60 in 1971; and Three Dog Night’s “Joy to the World” (No. 1 in 1971) and “Never Been to Spain” (No. 5 in 1972).

As a performer, Axton put out twenty-five albums – based on the listing at Wikipedia – starting with Saturday’s Child in 1963 and ending with Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog in 1996, three years before his death at the age of sixty-one. Two of those albums made the Billboard 200: Southbound went to No. 188 in 1975, and Fearless went to No. 171 in 1976. (In 1971, presumably after Three Dog Night’s success with “Joy to the World,” Axton’s similarly titled album bubbled under the album chart at No. 215.)

He had similar results with singles: In 1974, “When The Morning Comes” from his Life Machine album went to No. 54 on the Billboard Hot 100, and a double-sided single in 1975, “Speed Trap/Nashville,” bubbled under at Nos. 105 and 106 respectively.

Things were considerably different for Axton on the country charts, however. According to the information at Wikipedia, nine of his albums made the Billboard country chart between 1974 and 1982; the highest ranking was Life Machine, which went to No. 21. And Axton placed fourteen country singles into the Billboard charts during those years. His highest ranking country single was “Boney Fingers” from Life Machine, which went to No. 8 in 1974.

I don’t know Axton’s music well. I’ve got a copy of Life Machine in the vinyl stacks waiting to be ripped to mp3s. It looks like I picked it up at a garage sale in Minneapolis in 1994, and I evidently played it once and then ignored it. I also have a couple of his albums in the digital stacks, and I have versions of four of the five prominent songs mentioned at the top of this piece. (For some reason, I do not have his version of “Joy to the World,” a gap that’s going to have to be filled.)

So why write about Axton if I don’t have a lot of his music and don’t know very much about him and his life? Well, because I stumbled this week into a video of “When The Morning Comes,” and I recalled hearing it somewhere during June 1974. I’m not sure where that would have been, as the record peaked at the time I was more or less house-bound as I recovered from a lung ailment. So it was either on the radio or on a jukebox when my folks and I went out for dinner. I lean toward the latter, as we often went to places whose jukeboxes were stocked with country records, and “When The Morning Comes” went to No. 10 on the country chart. I might even have walked over to the jukebox to see what it was and then told myself to look into it. I don’t know.

Wherever I heard it back then, I ran into it again this week, and I remembered hearing it and liking it thirty-nine years ago this month. And until this week, I’ve been oblivious to the fact that I’ve had a copy of it sitting between the Average White Band and Aztec Two-Step for nine years.

Whatever I might have thought back then and even though I evidently ignored it in 1994, I caught up with the record this week. And it reminded me that Hoyt Axton remains among the many artists whose music I need to know better. Here, with a major assist from Linda Ronstadt, is Axton’s 1974 track, “When The Morning Comes.”


One Response to “‘My Pony Wants To Run . . .’”

  1. porky says:

    Hoyt’s stuff on Vee Jay is good, especially “Double Double Dare.”


    Hoyt told a great story regarding has irritation in receiving late royalty payments. He called the agency, they asked what song it was and he replied “It’s called ‘I Don’t Give a Damn About a Greenback Dollar.'” Maybe not a true story but funny.

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