The last one, Don Maddox, goes to Hillbilly Heaven
September 12, 2021 3:44 PM   Subscribe

The Maddox family walked and rode freight trains from Alabama to California. They came to California with $40 dollars and a dream. They worked the fields and orchards. When they decided to play music, they became the Most Colorful Hillbilly band in California.

I first saw the Maddox Brothers and Rose perform when I was about six years old. I knew who they were because we had a car radio. We listened to our car radio as we drove from one camp to the next, following the crops in the San Joaquin Valley. We knew they were Okies and Hillbillies, just like us. They were who we were, a thing I look back on now, and think, "Well, sure." But at the time it was nothing less than magic, to hear them sing our music.

I met Don Maddox in about 2008, when I joined the Oregon Old Time Fiddlers, chapter 4, in Medford, Oregon. We attended an outdoor meeting at a local park. The group set up a pot-luck dinner for their monthly meeting. When I arrived they were cruising the food table, sitting in chairs and chatting, or standing in a circle, passing the turn from one to the next. At your turn, you would announce your selection and kick it off. After a few bars the circle would jump in.

Don Maddox took his turn as we arrived. I knew immediately who he was, although it was a while before I could believe my ears. I unpacked my guitar and joined the circle.

In the years that ensued, I played in the same group with Don many times. And many times I was the rhythm guitar for his version of Orange Blossom Special. He was a superb showman, but not a flashy one. He delivered great straight lines and had a wicked riposte. He led the group by example. Stagecraft veritably dripped off him, and even the densest among us were better performers for breathing the same air he breathed.

He liked to stand at the end of the group, a bit upstage, and let us amateurs do our thing, while he set his neat chops and incredible fills out to help us move a song along. He knew how to punch up a flagging session. Our audiences loved him. So did I.

Rest in Peace, Don.
posted by mule98J (10 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

He sounds like a wonderful role model. Thanks for sharing your memories.
posted by Silvery Fish at 4:26 PM on September 12 [2 favorites]

i am not an Okie. my daddy was from Texas.
posted by wmo at 5:31 PM on September 12

Maddox Brothers and Rose created some of the most vibrant, life-affirming music ever made. Country-punk decades before that term could possibly even make sense. RIP Don.
posted by quarterframer at 7:03 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]


I can't even begin to explain what a huge influence The Maddox Brothers and Rose had on me. Sad to see Don go.
posted by TheCoug at 8:37 PM on September 12

posted by lapolla at 9:28 PM on September 12

It's always bitter sweet to learn about talented performers only upon their death. (It seems they were regular headliners at the county fair of my childhood. . . but, long before I was there.)

posted by eotvos at 9:59 PM on September 12 [2 favorites]

Move it on over
posted by Ideefixe at 10:38 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]

Better to learn of Don way late than not at all. Thank you for this FPP, mule98J!

posted by Bella Donna at 4:48 AM on September 13

posted by james33 at 5:32 AM on September 13

Maybe this means the Maddox Brothers will finally be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. It's shameful that this didn't happen while Don was still alive to see it. Rose is there, but not the brothers. Somehow, acts like Homer & Jethro and Ray Stevens got in there before them.
posted by PatchesPal at 8:57 AM on September 13 [1 favorite]

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