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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


At an early age folk singer Tom Paxton, born Thomas Richard Paxton in Chicago on October 31, 1937, moved with his family to Bristow, Oklahoma. At sixteen he was given a guitar and learned to play, but his ambition was acting. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at the University of Oklahoma and majored in drama. However, when he graduated in 1960, he already had written a few songs in the folk genre, and he moved to New York as a participant in the folk music movement.

In 1963 Paxton was a featured artist at the Newport Folk Festival. Pete Seeger introduced him to the festival audience, and he quickly became a popular singer-songwriter in the folk music world. In 1964 he released his first major album, Ramblin' Boy, for Elektra Records. His songs such as "The Last Thing on My Mind," "Ramblin' Boy," and many others were sung by well-known folk artists, as well as other performers. The songs remain popular in the folk genre, but his satirical ballads such as "You Can Eat Dog Food" are not widely known. He has recorded a diversity of albums that have included children's songs, love songs, and protest songs.

Critics have described Paxton as one of the great folk singers and songwriters of the twentieth century. At the beginning of the twenty-first century Paxton, who lived in East Hampton, New York, continued to compose, sing, perform, and record songs about modern life and culture, as well as write children's books.

Guy Logsdon


George O. Carney and Hugh W. Foley, Jr., Oklahoma Music Guide: Biographies, Big Hits, and Annual Events (Stillwater, Okla.: New Forums Press, 2003).

Agnes "Sis" Cunningham and Gordon Friesen, Red Dust and Broadsides: A Joint Biography, ed. Ronald D. Cohen (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Guy Logsdon, “Paxton, Thomas Richard,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=PA026.

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