In 1972, Gary S. Paxton, the man behind the songs “Ally Oop” and “The Monster Mash,” became a born-again Christian and surrendered his life to the Lord after 15 years battling alcohol and drugs.
“I went through a lot from the time I was 13 until I got saved in 1972,” Paxton said. “In some ways, I have gone through worse things since I got saved than before, but that is OK, because God made sure I was ready to take anything that came my way.”
According to Paxton, his relationship with God would save him less than a decade later.
Paxton said he had worked with an artist during his days in Bakersfield, Calif., in the late ‘60s, with whom he produced two top-five hits. But the partnership hit hard times when the artist insisted upon recording a “drinking and cheating” album, Paxton said.
“I told him before I signed him I was a minister and I wasn’t going to do any dirty albums,” Paxton said. “He told me he was in fact going to do it, and then went and tried to book time in the studio I co-owned.”
Paxton got a court order to stop the recording.
“He told me he was going to have me killed for this,” Paxton said. “I kind of laughed it off and told him he should just pay me a couple nights’ salary and go on down the road and let it be.”
Six months later, on Dec. 29, 1980, two men claiming to have car trouble asked Paxton for help at his home. He obliged, and was grabbed from behind, he said.
“The guy who grabbed me had a pipe, and he started hitting me in the head with it,” Paxton said. “The other guy had a gun and put it to my head. When the guy behind me told him to kill me, I knew it wasn’t a robbery.”
According to Paxton, he had been in training to drive in some NASCAR races and was in top shape. He had been running several miles a day and had even started to box.
“They didn’t know what they had on their hands,” Paxton said. “From the first time he hit me on the head, I told him, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ, you can’t kill me,’ and the more I said it, the madder they got. It was the demons in them.”
Paxton said he was bleeding from his head and had two dislocated shoulders, but was able to grab the gun and fire off a shot, hitting an assailant.
“It was just like in the movies. I reached up with this messed up arm, turned the gun on him and fired,” Paxton said.
The gun fell to the ground and was picked up by the assailant with the pipe, he said. Paxton was shot three times in the back, all but shredding his left collar bone. Paxton tried to grab the gun once again, but was shot through the hand.
Both assailants took off into the night, leaving Paxton for dead, he said.
“God told me right then that if I passed out, I would die,” Paxton said. “So here I was, bleeding and blind, walking in the dark.”
Paxton pulled through after several surgeries while the two men who assaulted him were on trial. Paxton said the pair opted not to testify against the artist who allegedly hired them.
For the first few years, Paxton said he still received threatening letters from the assailants until one of them became saved.
“A friend of mine was running a ministry inside a prison where this man was sent and became a born-again Christian,” Paxton said. “The other man involved was released and six months later, killed his neighbor, so he went right back to jail.”
Soon after, Paxton learned that the hitmen earned between $4,000-$5,000 worth of cocaine for the botched job.
“I was insulted,” Paxton said with a laugh. “I thought I’d at least be worth 20 grand.”
Several months later, Paxton came face to face with his would-be killer.
“We met at a safe place and he comes in, falls to his knees, crawls across the floor and starts kissing my feet,” Paxton said. “He was begging me for forgiveness, and I told him that he had my forgiveness the night it happened, because God says if you don’t forgive somebody, he won’t heal you, and that is the reason I didn’t die.”
The incident knocked Paxton out of the music scene for nearly eight years before he made a comeback.
“So many things happened because of this one incident, which is so bizarre,” Paxton said. “Isn’t it beautiful the way the Lord works?”
Paxton currently lives in Branson with his wife, Vicki, and still writes, produces and performs his own music.