Groovy late 60s pop sounds from producer Gary S Paxton’s remarkable stable. Soft psych, mod soul and harmony aplenty.
Gary S Paxton likes to delineate his years in 1960s Hollywood as his “BC” period, before the maverick music maker moved to Nashville in 1971, forsook drink and drugs for Jesus Christ and became a giant in the country and gospel fields. But it was within that earlier decade that Paxton sealed his true reputation. Not just as the quirky iconoclast behind ‘Alley-Oop’ and ‘Monster Mash’, but as a multi-faceted singing, playing, writing, arranging, producing and engineering omnivore who could single-handedly create a hit, from the bottom up.
In those years, Paxton proved adept at any genre he chose to dabble in, but given his proclivities toward the commercial, one might argue his most distinctive works in the late 1960s were those of the pure pop genre. His skills in this area were particularly pronounced, as an arranger – especially with vocals – and as the technician behind the recording desk. The sound of Paxton’s Hollywood and Bakersfield studios, and his regular session crew, is readily audible on many recordings ascribed to the “sunshine pop” genre, from the hits of the Association and Tommy Roe to cherished tracks by Eternity’s Children and the Millennium.
However, sunshine pop, popular catch-all category as it has become, does not fully describe the contents of our survey of the Garpax vaults in “Happy Lovin’ Time”. There is as much introspection and cynicism on display as there is frothy beatitude, not to mention plenty of instrumental muscle too. The Four Freshmen benefited from Paxton’s touch on their hip 1966 single ‘Nowhere To Go’, while Canadian groups such as the New Wing and Jaybees would travel to Hollywood to specifically record with him. Paxton’s secret weapon in this period was Kenny Johnson, whose songwriting is all over this compilation, as well as in recordings by the Chocolate Tunnel and Bakersfield Poppy Pickers. Pop wunderkind Curt Boettcher spent many hours at Paxton’s facilities in 1966 and 1967, and his distinctive voice can be heard not only on the backing vocals to several tracks, but also on two rare publishing demos. As well as a surfeit of harmonies, there’s mod-soul from Johnny Apollo and the Lords and the lazy pop-psychedelia of the Whatt Four’s classic ‘Dandelion Wine’.
With a detailed note and commentary from Kenny Johnson and Paxton himself, the sounds on “Happy Lovin’ Time” come across as fresher and more vivacious than ever, and are yet again proof of the bizarre but undeniable genius of Gary S Paxton.