Monday, March 11, 2013

Hillbillies With Flare!

Well, I've made my way back here from my last post.  I guess you could call me the 'quarterly' blogger...I'm not much of a writer, and, I've been fighting that cursed cold and flu lately, that I can't seem to shake just yet.  So, whilst we're waiting for my cold to subside, how's about a little Rockabilly storytellin'?   

What we know so far, is that Rockabilly is considered an early form of  'rock and roll', generating back as far as the late 1930's, with groups like Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys and, one of my favorites, Tennessee Ernie Ford!  But, I guess we can say that 'rockabilly' is a combo of rock and roll, hillbilly, blues, and country!  Sheesh!!! Sounds like a lot of fast moving, whooping and hollering, but, somehow, in the grand scheme of it all, we got ELVIS!

Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys

In the early part of the Depression, there was a family from Alabama that made their way to California, and worked as fruit and vegetable pickers, just trying to get by.  They were all musically inclined, and in 1937, they performed on the radio, sponsored by a local furniture store.  They entered a hillbilly band competition at the centennial Sacramento State Fair, won, and, after that, this family became known as California's best hillbilly band.

This group of 4 brothers and a sister, known as 'Maddox Brothers and Rose'  went on to become regulars on the Louisiana Hayride and even appeared on the Grand Ole Opry.  In the early 1940's, the brothers were drafted into World War II, leaving sister Rose to fend for herself in the 'male oriented' music industry.  Although, Rose was the voice of the group, beginning her career at the young age of 11 years, she found it very difficult to get work while her brothers were serving our country.  Rose was quoted as saying, "When my brothers get back from the war, we're gonna show you but good!"  

I guess that by 1946, the Maddox brothers had returned from war, and once again, off they went, becoming famous for their colorful costumes and their variety of gags, and even magic tricks on stage.  The group not only sang cover songs, with a style range from cowboy songs, to folk, jazz, boogie woogie, and even early rock and roll-they also recorded original songs that would be morally questionable, even today.  They did cut some records with Starday Records out of Beaumont, Texas, 4-Star Records, then Columbia Records.  One could say this group, fronted by sister Rose paved the way for outspoken female singers like Loretta Lynn.  While the brothers performed goofy songs like 'Ugly and Slouchy', Rose belted out the likes of "Just get yourself a handsome man and sue for Alimony"!  A racy, but highly entertaining group, no doubt!

~Maddox Brothers and Rose

Now, standing up on the far left of the photo above is Fred Maddox, who played the bass fiddle.  It is said that he developed the 'slap bass' technique that helped produce a faster rhythm, thus, contributing to the 'rockabilly' style.  According to Fred, "You've got to have somethin' they can tap their foot, or dance to, or to make 'em feel it."  Fred Maddox's bass is displayed at the Experience Music Project in Seattle...they believe that he may have hit the first note of rock 'n roll on it!  

Rose went on to nourish her solo career after the group disbanded in 1956.  She is quoted as saying, "People tell me that I was one of the first women to sing what I sang-country boogie.  I guess I was!  There was no rock n' roll in those early days, before 1955."  Rose covered country classics like 'Roll in My Sweet Baby's Arms' and 'Blue Moon of Kentucky', and she had several duet recordings with Buck Owens.  Johnny Cash said of Rose, "She's an American classic.  She held the audience in the palm of her hand and made them do whatever she wanted them to...there'll never be a woman who could outperform Rose Maddox."   

One guitarist, Deke Dickerson, who had, with Dave Stuckey,  backed Rose during her solo years, exclaimed, "God rest her soul, man, Rose was the meanest woman you've ever met!  I could tell she liked us, but she had this thing which probably went back to the Maddox Brothers stage shows, that centered around one person being the brunt of her hate.  And, that person was Dave. She'd walk right up to him during a guitar solo, and hit him...not joking around!  By the end of it, Dave looked like he had just gone through World War II.!"

~Rose Maddox
~August 15, 1925 * April 15, 1998

In the years that followed, Rose had even made her way to Britain, continuing to work even with her health being fragile.  She recorded for several labels like Decca and Starday, and, in 1994, her album, titled, '$35 And A Dream', was nominated for a Grammy.

Now, it seems that even though The Maddox Brothers and Rose were deemed as 'America's most colorful hillbilly band', this group was never inducted into the 'Country Music Hall of Fame'.  It is believed, and, I agree, that this group should have at least been considered for the 'Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, but, now that's an even longer shot.  I mean, these folks came from nothing, and when they hit the stage, everyone stopped to hear the songs they sang.  And, Rose continued to perform up into the mid 1990's, captivating her audiences with her unique voice and exciting performances.

Don Maddox is the only surviving member of The Maddox Brothers and Rose, and, will be featured in the Country Music Hall of Fame's 'Bakersfield Sound Exhibit' in Nashville.  Some of the focal points of this exhibit include stage costumes, outfits worn by the Maddox Brothers and Rose, and musical instruments.  It promises to be highly entertaining, taking us back in time, showing us some of the 'real' heroes of Rockabilly!  And, hey...Dwight Yoakam narrates a video that features the entertainers of that era.  There will be a concert with performances by Jean Shepherd, Don Maddox, guitarist Deke Dickerson, and others.  And, this exhibit  will run through December of 2013.  It sounds like a lot of fun for us 'folks of a certain age'!

Thank you for coming by...please stop by anytime and take a look.  
And, if you get a chance, say hello!

I picked out a song by The Maddox Brothers and Rose that I think you might enjoy. 
 It's called 'Move It On Over 1948'  

"Tonight I'm on stage, 
For my brothers it's over but for me it remains...
I'll join them tomorrow, but tonight I'm on stage."
~Rose Maddox