By Charles “Fatback” Dickens aka F.K.
It was the best of times and the best of times.
1959. Gary Paxton was driving west from Arizona. He needed gas so he stopped at a station in Mojave, CA. In the station office sat two kids with a guitar. Their names were Dallas Frazier and Buddy Mize.
Both of them recognized Gary from fan magazines. Gary was one half of the duo Skip and Flip. They asked Gary if they could play a song for him. What Gary heard was a countrified rendition of a song Dallas had written called “Alley Oop.”
Gary thought they had talent and told them they should look him up if they found themselves in Hollywood.
Gary arrived in Hollywood and eventually got an inexpensive apartment with fellow music business hopeful, Kim Fowley (pictured above). Gary and Kim started a music publishing company, Maverick Music. Their “office” was a pay phone at a gas station on the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Street.
Before he found the apartment, Kim had been sleeping on the floor of the Hollywood gas station. Not long after meeting Gary at the Mojave gas station, Dallas walked into Kim’s “office” and woke him up. He played him “Alley Oop” and Kim was sold. Now, both Kim and Gary were interested in recording the song. What they needed was a record label that would underwrite their venture.
Kim had met Al Kavelin when Al was managing the music publishing interests of Doris Day and Marty Melcher. Kim had befriended Doris and Marty’s son, Terry Melcher. By the time Kim and Gary had partnered up, Al Kavelin was in command of Lute Records. Kim brought Gary in to meet Al so that Gary could describe how he wanted to arrange the song. Al liked what he heard and committed to recording and releasing “Alley Oop” on Lute Records.
Fueled by hard cider, in the wee hours of the morning, “Alley Oop” was recorded, and the rest is music business history.
It was Dallas and Gary’s creativity combined with Kim’s charisma that got the job done. What you actually hear when you listen to “Alley Oop” is a reeling Gary Paxton, backed by hammered studio musicians. The name “Hollywood Argyles” came from the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Street. A band of touring musicians had to be assembled to tour as “The Hollywood Argyles.”
The success of this song made it possible for Lute Records to add many songs and undiscovered artists to its catalog. Some caught on and others didn’t, but they all reflected the times and the genres that emerged during the 1960s.
What if Gary Paxton didn’t need gas when he was passing through Mojave? What if Dallas couldn’t wake up Kim as he slept on the Hollywood Gas Station floor? What if …
You can share in this story by downloading Lute Records’ retrospective album, LUTE RECORDS, VOL. 1 – SOUL, DOO-WOP and NOVELTIES, HERE.
Author’s note: As with so many of these types of stories, certain details may not be accurate. However, I have done my best to synthesize information from many sources and have combined it with my own recollections.
Thank you for your interest in this “best of times” era of popular music.
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