Crate Digger: HOYT AXTON Grizzly Bear
Hoyt Axton with the Chambers Brothers – Grizzly Bear (Horizon Records 1963)
As far as I can tell The Chambers Brothers on this record are potentially the same American psychedelic soul band, best known for 1967 hit “Time Has Come Today”. The ten minutes I spent on google trying to find out turned up nothing to the contrary. However logic tells you a musical marriage between the larger-than-life, roly-poly country star Hoyt Axton and 4 psychedelic gospel soul brothers possibly didn’t take place and these are some other Chambers Brothers whose identities are consigned to the dark corners of the internet that quickie internet searches can’t reach. Like the pages of a book maybe?
Anyway, if they had met up in 1963 and decided to record a cautionary tale about a family that were afraid of Grizzly Bears then this is probably what the tune would sound like. From what I can gather this was a tune Hoyt did a lot throughout his career, there is YouTube footage of Hoyt playing it to what looks like an auditorium full of students joining in with the words Grizzly Bear. The poor innocents look as if they think HA is some sort of Greenwich Village folk traditionalist, his career would in time bear out the opposite. It’s not sophisticated in any way, one simple chord, all verse, the growling bass of Hoyt Axton (such a strange thing to call a child Hoyt, what parent does that?) Almost shouting the hook at you through the speakers.
In the background what I can only presume are The Chambers Brothers in perfect gospel harmony answering back. All over a wild chugging piece of New Breed ish R&B (albeit with a country edge). I’ve seen a brief review describing this as ‘Raunchy’ which in other circumstances with a different set of lyrics might have been true. I suppose if you assume that the Grizzly Bear in question might be a pseudonym for mama’s recently discovered lover it might be a bit sexier? But this is quite a stretch, especially if you know what Hoyt himself looked like.
More likely Hoyt was trying to do a Charlie Rich who before the ‘Most Beautiful Girl’ phase of his later career had wrapped his silver tongue around almost R&B hits such as ‘Mohair Sam’ and ‘That’s My Way’ for Smash Records. Hoyt doesn’t quite pull that off here but the tune is a banger and my recently acquired copy from the wonderful Fonsoul in Barcelona will get many plays in the future.
I saw footage of The Chambers Brothers in the recent documentary ‘Summer of Soul’. They opened the film resplendent in flares and leather waistcoats. Unfortunately, they didn’t invite Hoyt up to sing this tune that day. Surely if this were the same group they would have done so?
Hoyt Axton with the Chambers Brothers – Grizzly Bear
Hoyt Axton photo via My Griffin is Gone (1969)
Produced by David Hubert
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