Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Musician favored old-school sound of country music

Gary Claxton, 1960-2011

Michael Corcoran

Austin singer-songwriter Gary Claxton, whose vocals were a throwback to traditional country singers Webb Pierce and Faron Young, took his own life Thursday, said Andrew Scaturro, his friend of 25 years, who spoke for Claxton's family.

Claxton played the Continental Club every Sunday for more than 10 years in the band Heybale, with super sidemen Redd Volkaert (who recorded and toured with Merle Haggard) and Earl Poole Ball (who recorded and toured with Johnny Cash). Claxton, who was known as a gentleman as well as a smooth singer, was 50.

Police are not investigating the death as suspicious.

Claxton will be buried in his hometown of Pauls Valley, Okla. A memorial will be held Sunday at the Continental Club, where two new albums Claxton had just completed, with Heybale and Flat Top Jones, will be played.

The Stone River Boys will fill in for Heybale on Jan. 16. Dianne Scott of the Continental said its not yet known whether Heybale will continue as a band without Claxton.

"Gary was a completely brilliant singer and songwriter," musician Monte Warden said. "People don't realize how hard it is to write a great honky-tonk song, but Gary did it almost effortlessly."

Claxton moved to Nashville in 1997 after winning a national country songwriting competition. But he soon soured on the type of watered-down rock influencing country music and pined for old-fashioned honky-tonk.

He found his outlet with Heybale, which formed in Nashville but relocated to Austin in 1999.

Claxton is survived by his wife, Mandy.

mcorcoran@statesman.com; 445-3652