Fred and Rose Maddox Interviews
“We came out here from Alabama on a freight train. We had one suitcase for the whole gang of us.” – Fred
“You really can’t explain because there was no work. There was thousands upon thousands of migrants looking for the same thing that we were.” – Rose
“I had about 10 pounds in my sack and I sat down and just started thinking…’Fred, what are you doing back there?’ I said, ‘I’m thinking.’ ‘What are you thinking?’ I said, ‘I’m thinking let’s go into the music business.” – Fred
- Fred Maddox Interview, 4/19/82 00:00
Interviewees: Fred Maddox
Interviewers: Chris Strachwitz
- Fred and Rose Maddox interview, part 1 00:00
- Fred and Rose Maddox interview, part 2 00:00
Interviewees: Fred and Rose Maddox
Interviewers: Bob Smith and Chris Strachwitz
Location: Modesto, CA
This is an interview originally recorded for research purposes. It is presented here in its raw state, unedited except to remove some irrelevant sections and blank spaces. All rights to the interview are reserved by the Arhoolie Foundation. Please do not use anything from this website without permission. firstname.lastname@example.org
Fred and Rose Maddox interview Transcripts:
A Note About the Transcriptions: In order to expedite the process of putting these interviews online, we are using a transcription service. Due to the challenges of transcribing speech – especially when it contains regional accents and refers to regional places and names – some of these interview transcriptions may contain errors. We have tried to correct as many as possible, but if you discover errors while listening, please send corrections to email@example.com.
Today is April 19th, 1982. And this is Fred Maddox of the famous, or infamous, Maddox Brothers and Rose, who are having the pleasure of visiting me. Fred, I’ve met your sister and have known her for a good while, but she always said one thing. She said, “Listen, if you want to know about our history, then you should just go down to Toledo some time and talk to Fred because he’s the one.” Aren’t you the one who started the band or got it all going?
Well, yeah. I started it. I just got tired of working. I hadn’t worked much because I wasn’t very old. How we got started in the music business, two of my brothers, Cal and Cliff, well they could play and sing. They played the guitars. [Tape stops]. …95 and you get a guitar free. And they sent him a Martin guitar and 21 lessons, and he learned to play that way. So him and Cliff played a little and sang around.
I found out I could do something, maybe talk or something. And one day there in Modesto, now I think it’s 1936 or ’37, the Happy Hayseeds, Orson Laam and the Happy Hayseeds and Logan Laam and them come down from Stockton and played for the rodeo there and they got $150 for that. I figured, if you could get $150 for singing two or three songs, why not go into the business? So I just told him what we’d do and stuff like that, and I’d be their announcer and the booker. I didn’t know what I was talking about, but I meant what I said. So we did and then Rose, she was 11 years old, so we just … Wright’s Furniture Company there in Modesto. I went to him one day and talked and talked, and told him what I wanted. He never said nothing for about 30 minutes, but I knew I didn’t want to go back to the cotton field anymore. So he gave us a radio show on KTRB in Modesto, 15 minutes a day, and also bought me a bass fiddle and $10 down, $10 a month. Rose and me and Cal and Cliff went on KTRB. In the first week, we got 10,000 letters. That’s how we went into the music business, just about like that.
Amazing. Before we go too much further, would you mind giving me your birthday, when you were born and where?
Yeah. July the 2nd, 1919. And you said today was the 19th October, I know it is because tomorrow is my anniversary. My year’s anniversary that I… The 20th October is when I had my triple bypass and I won’t never forget that, I don’t think. So go ahead now with what you was going to say, I’m through with that.
Okay. Could you tell me who your brothers and sisters were and sort of which one was the oldest?
Well, Cliff was the oldest.
And what did he play?
Guitar and mandolin.
Guitar and mandolin. And he’s the one who passed away early?
Yeah, in ’49.
In ’49. And after him, who was the next oldest?
Cal, and then I’m next. And then Don is next.
Okay. Cal played mostly… What instruments did he-
Rhythm guitar and harmonica.
Rhythm guitar. Ah, he was the harmonica one.
Okay. You always just stuck to the bass, or?
Well, that’s all I could play. I can give lessons on the guitar but I can’t play one because they just don’t seem to jive. But I can do the bass, that’s all I ever did.
You sure got that sound on the bass, yeah. Yeah that really helps with the backup to the [crosstalk 00:04:08]. And then after you, which one comes next?
Rose and then Henry.
And then Henry. He was the one they called the working girl’s-
Friendly Henry, the working girl’s friend.
What did he play?
The mandolin. And then later on, he started on the guitar. To start with, we had two hard hands and this was after we’d come back from the army. We called them hard hands, a steel guitar and electric guitar. Then finally, we got rid of them and got it down to just the four brothers and Rose after Cliff died. Then Henry learned to pick the guitar, and he played the mandolin and guitar too, [inaudible 00:04:57].
I’ll be darned. Your family, I know you mentioned they came from Alabama-
-where you sharecropped [inaudible 00:05:09]. What do you remember about that life? Or were you pretty tiny when you were there?
Well, I was 13 when we left Alabama. Mama and them wanted to come to California, and her and Cal was going to come. And then we decided, papa and us, that we wouldn’t let them come by theirself so we all sold everything we had. Two mules and a wagon, and the milk cow and our furniture for $30. We headed out for California, walking and finally we caught rides and then finally in Raleigh, Mississippi we got on the freight train and then come on to California. And then out here we worked as kind of fruit trams, traveling all over the country and picking whatever. Peaches, grapes, or almonds or whatever and wherever they was out at season time.
When did you meet Woody Guthrie? Do you remember meeting him?
Well in 1938, we used to play for rodeos and for tips and we’d go follow the rodeos. We’d probably both go the same one. One of your Arhoolie albums, well from the front page, I think it’s Volume 1, that picture was took in a bar in Susanville. We was playing for tips, or we’d played down at the rodeo and got paid for it, I guess $30 or $40 for the whole gang. Across the street from us, there was Woody Guthrie and Jack Guthrie playing-
The two of them played together?
Yeah, playing for tips and we messed around like that.
I guess he-
Kind of buddied around, we did. And then…
Did he teach you some songs at all?
Well, that’s where we got the “Philadelphia Lawyer.” It was-
He was singing it then?
Yeah, it was then he called it “The Reno Blues.” And then when we recorded in ’46, well, there had been so many songs out about Reno, searching Reno, then they wasn’t done right. We changed his name of it to the “Philadelphia Lawyer” and when we recorded it on 4 Star… But then later after we got out of the army, me and Cal and Don was in the army draftees in 1947, ’46 or ’47, we was playing at the House of Blue Lights in Stockton and Jack Guthrie was in the VA hospital over at Livermore. I knew about that.
He had TB and he broke out of the hospital and come by Stockton that night where we was at the House of Blue Lights, and he said he’s going to Sacramento to see his sister. But hey, I got him up on the stage and he did two or three songs and everything. So he left and went on to Sacramento. That same night that he was there at the House of Blue Lights, well, he got to his sister’s house and then about 4:30 that morning he died. But it was just… He had to get out of the hospital so he could see his sister and I was, you know…
I guess your mother also sang and played music, or your dad played?
Yeah. Papa played 5-string banjo and sang.
Mm-hmm (affirmative). Did he have kind of an old time style of playing?
He just did it for his own enjoyment.
How did you guys decide? Or can you remember of… How you made up your music. On some of those radio things, we just heard your early ones, it sounds like the older time, with pure hillbilly music but then later on, it became with all that snap to it and seemed like a rockabilly.
Yeah, it had the beat, just a beat that we had, I don’t know. I kind of started the rock-a-beat you know, I guess, because after we got on 4 Star Records where it’s done pretty good all over the country.
People just liked the sound [inaudible 00:09:55].
Yeah. Just a beat that you couldn’t keep your feet still, I guess.
Was that about the first time that you saw people dancing to this kind of music or [inaudible 00:10:04] been doing that?
Well, really the one we had, it was after we got out of… Let’s see, we played for a few dances in ’39 and ’40. There’s ’41 in the army, and then we was gone for four years and came out in ’46, me and Cal.
But do you think that the dancing starts during the war pretty much, or [crosstalk 00:10:34]?
Well, yeah. More or less. I think so. Because mostly after then… Like the guys from the Grand Old Opry and Roy Acuff and people like… I suppose Bob Wills was doing the dances ever since he started playing because he’s got that type, but the Opry people was just doing shows, they’d do shows instead of dance, stuff like that.
Were you the one who had to do most of the getting the bookings, or?
I did all the bookings and did all the getting all the posters, sending them out and the arranging of everything.
Yeah. When your name was getting around pretty good, would you have called the dance halls or would they often call you and say they want you or?
Well, if they didn’t call me, then I’d call them. After we got going and good after this army in ’47, ’48, we worked every night and we still did a radio show. Sometimes we’d have to drive 300 miles to get back to do our shows, but we did do them. Then we started traveling out of state and got all over. I got to go to the Grand Old Opry in 1949.
That was in ’49. Okay. That must’ve been quite a prestigious thing, but you also were on the Louisiana Hayride.
Yeah. Later on ’51 is when we went to the Louisiana Hayride and Hank Williams was on there with us.
Is that when you first met him there?
Yeah. And Slim Whitman, Jim Edward Brown, Maxine Brown, Jim Brown and Faron Young. And you know, and Webb Pierce and Bill Carlisle. I mean, there’s a bunch of them.
Sounds like it was almost a stronger program than the Old Opry’s.
Well, it was an awful good one, but I guess the Opry’s always been stronger than any of them, you know?
Yeah. Maybe the station was. But the Louisiana Hayride, was that over…
Yeah. It was a 50,000 watt station and it… From 8:00 til 12:00 at night. Covered just about all over the country.
I’ve heard of it. Yeah. That Shreveport Station, it’s really powerful. How did you happen to make the recording with Hank Williams? Was he visiting you?
Oh yeah. He came out to California on a two weeks visit and everything. So we were right on down to Riverside Rancho, that’s one of the big dance halls in Los Angeles.
A Note About the Transcriptions: In order to expedite the process of putting these interviews online, we are using a transcription service. Due to the challenges of transcribing speech – especially when it contains regional accents and refers to regional places and names – some of these interview transcriptions may contain errors. We have tried to correct as many as possible, but if you discover errors while listening, please send corrections to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fred Maddox: We was picking cotton down below Fresno, Southwest of Fresno. It was on a cold October … September or October. Got out there that morning, the frost was on the cotton and everything. That’s when you could pick cotton by hand. You had a big old sack, some of them had 12 and 15 foot long sacks. Some of their sacks would hold 100 pounds. We was out there picking it, and I got to thinking. When I’m out in them fields I can think really, what I could do if I wasn’t in that field.
I had about 10 pounds in my sack and I sat down and just started thinking. Mama, Cal, and Cliff was way up ahead of me. They raised up from the row going, “Fred what are you doing back there?” I said, “I’m thinking.” “What are you thinking?” I said, “I’m thinking let’s go into the music business.” Then, they and I got together, we went and weighed our cotton. I told them on the way to the tent … We had a tent under a tree out there in the field, and that was our home. I told them on the way back …
Rose Maddox: Away from home.
Fred Maddox: Yeah, what we’d do, we’d go back to Modesto and get on the radio station and stuff like that. We got home, me and mama went out to Rice furniture store … It’s on the … It’s still there I guess, ain’t it?
Rose Maddox: Yeah, it’s still there.
Fred Maddox: Jim Rice was out there and I started talking to him. I told him what I wanted and what I wanted to do. I talked for 35 minutes, I went on to about 40 minutes and he never said a word. Finally, he said “Fred, I’ll put you on the radio if you’ll do the announcing.” I said, “I’ll do it.” I’ve never seen a microphone, didn’t know what announcing meant or anything. Then they said, “well you got to have a girl singer.” I said, “we’ve got one.” Of course, I didn’t know we had one, but I didn’t want to go back to that cotton field and I wasn’t going back.
They put us … We got home and told Rose about it. Cal and Cliff they played the guitar and mandolin and harmonica.
Rose Maddox: No, you didn’t tell me about it. You just said “you’re going to.”
Fred Maddox: Yeah, I didn’t tell you, I just said “we’re going on the radio.” They put us on for 15 minutes a day. I did the announcing and Rose did the commercials, because I’m not very well at reading, still ain’t. She could read the commercials. In the first week we was on here, we got 10,000 letters. We’ve still got them, I think. That’s the story of us going on the radio. That’s what you wanted to know, how we walked into it.
Then this station h ere, KTRB was 5 miles from town.
Rose Maddox: Yes it was.
Fred Maddox: People would walk out here just to get to see our show. We had one in morning, 6:30 and one at 5:15 in the afternoon. The one in the afternoon was sponsored by Asbuild’s (SP?) appliance store at 14th and D street here in Modesto. They’re still around too.
Rose Maddox: Just like we are.
Fred Maddox: We’re glad. It’s your turn Rose, now.
Rose Maddox: No, you’ve done told it all Fred.
Fred Maddox: Oh brother. How about you …
Bob Smith: 1987, 50 years.
Fred Maddox: Yeah, right.
Bob Smith: The Maddox Brothers and Rose. How did you come to KTRB? Who did you know here? How did you …
Fred Maddox: We didn’t know anybody, Jim Rice, Rice furniture store. When I went to, me and mama went to him. Mama was kind of our stepping stone, or we was hers. I don’t know which. Anyways, she is more or less the overseer of us. I turned out to be the manager and all of that stuff. The Booker and the promoter.
Rose Maddox: Oh, that’s what happened.
Fred Maddox: Well, I was the only one that could handle it. It had to be me or somebody and it was throwed on me. I’d go through her to get what I wanted done from the kid, because the brother and sister ain’t going to listen to other, “you ain’t telling me what to do,” so I had to do it through mama. She’d do it for me. What was the question now?
Bob Smith: You did pretty good, for somebody who couldn’t read a commercial.
Fred Maddox: Well, I still can’t read a commercial. I can ad-lib a commercial, but I can’t read a commercial, I’ll tell you that.
Rose Maddox: We did not know anybody at KTRB. Jim Rice …
Fred Maddox: He did the whole thing.
Rose Maddox: He did the whole thing.
Bob Smith: All right.
Fred Maddox: Then, we went along like that for a while. After we come back from the service everything was sewed up. The dance halls and everything in the Valley was sold up. Bob Wells and them had them leased and wouldn’t let nobody play at them. You couldn’t get through to nobody. I went to Jim Cardwell …
Rose Maddox: I don’t know ….
Fred Maddox: Jim Cardwell, he was a used car dealer here, and he was a slick one. I went to him and told him that I was having a heck of a time getting started again. We’d been out of the Army two days already. Jim said, “I’ll get you the California ballroom and I’ll put you on the radio again. Mel Cardwell, is who it was.
Rose Maddox: Yeah, Mel Cardwell.
Fred Maddox: Mel Cardwell, a used car dealer. He put us on the radio. Start us on Monday and on Saturday night we had the dance at the California ballroom.
Rose Maddox: The California ballroom is still there too.
Fred Maddox: Yes, sir. He give us 75 dollars, and on the count of the union we had have 7 people on the stage, and we only had 4 or 5. We had to hire these other musicians. We didn’t need them, but we had to have them on account of the union. Mel give us the 75 dollars for that whole shebang. The crowd was so big you couldn’t move in that place. Then when I went to get my pay, he give me a 50 dollar tip. What do you think about that?
Old loud mouth me, I had to tell the rest of them about it and we split it. That’s the way we did everything. We split everything, right down the middle.
Rose Maddox: Equal.
Fred Maddox: Each one of us got the same. It didn’t matter what we’re doing.
Bob Smith: How long where you on the air at KTRB?
Fred Maddox: About a year the first time. Wasn’t it?
Rose Maddox: Yeah, I think so.
Fred Maddox: Something like a year.
Rose Maddox: Something like that. Yeah.
Fred Maddox: Then we …
Rose Maddox: Then we won that contest in Sacramento.
Fred Maddox: Oh, yeah. We won a contest. Got into the centennial … The 1939. They had the centennial in Sacramento, and they had a contest there. They had 15 hillbilly bands in it. We was lucky enough to get in the contest and we won the contest. The contest was a 2 year contract on KFBK in Sacramento, through the McClatchey Broadcasting System. They had 64 station hookup, and we covered the whole Western part of the states, plum into Texas, on McClatchey network. Our sponsors was Color Back for your hair, Snarol to kill snails, and ……….. Toothpaste.
Rose Maddox: And Anacin.
Fred Maddox: Anacin, yeah.
Rose Maddox: Yeah.
Fred Maddox: Those sponsors came out of Chicago.
Rose Maddox: “Chicaargo”?
Fred Maddox: Yeah, the station got them for our show. We didn’t know how they got them or what, but they was on our show. Frank Nicholson was the MC for our show, because it was a network deal. He is a big disc jockey here, spokesman out of San Francisco. We’d start our theme song and he’s say, “lets hold that corn down now.” I didn’t know for years what he was talking about, I didn’t know we was corn. He’d say, “hold that corn down.”
Bob Smith: Fred, when you started on the air at KCRB you did a lot of touring. How far did you travel from?
Fred Maddox: We’d go to Bakersfield Los Angeles … We’d work Bakersfield … Like you was talking a while ago. Punkin Center community hall, we’ve worked there. Get off and drive up here and do our show at 6:30. We actually did that. Now a days, I doubt if you could get there from here now. You know?
Rose Maddox: Yeah, you can Fred, I just did it.
Fred Maddox: I did too. Anyway, we’d go to Los Angeles, work at the 97th Street Corral. That was a hot spot, kind of like Grand Ole Opry in Nashville Tennessee. They broadcast all night long from there, over the KXLA radio in Pasadena. Then we’d go … Finally after we got out of the Army in 47′ I guess it was, we started going into Oregon. We got in there real good and first thing you knew we was down in Texas.
Then in 1951 we ended up on the Louisiana hayride in Shreveport Louisiana. It’s a thing like the Grand Ole Opry. Our partners there, they would do the show with us. Maddox Brothers and Rose, Hank Williams, Slim Whitman …
Rose Maddox: Jim Reeves.
Fred Maddox: Jim Reeves.
Rose Maddox: Faron Young.
Fred Maddox: Faron Young.
Rose Maddox: The Browns.
Fred Maddox: The Browns and the Wilburn brothers, Dirty Doyle, Terrible Teddy. They was all with us, and Red Sovine.
Rose Maddox: Yeah, Red Sovine.
Fred Maddox: Was all on there. We’d come in from our dates … That station was 50,000 watt station. It covered the whole territory, wherever we’d work. We’d come in and do that show, just for advertisement.
Rose Maddox: On Saturday nights.
Fred Maddox: For where we where working the week. No pay on it. It’s kind of like the Grand Ole Opera, no pay there but you get the publicity of where you’re going. Now, I think they have to pay union’s scale, but then it doesn’t matter.
Rose Maddox: The union scale don’t amount to a hill of beans.
Bob Smith: On the first appearance you did on the Grand Ole Opry, that show was carried live. I think, normally you can only get the Grand Ole Opry if you’re in the Eastern part.
Fred Maddox: Right.
Rose Maddox: Yeah.
Fred Maddox: Bill Bates got the consent from the FCC, to carry the show that night.
Rose Maddox: Because, we was local here on this station.
Fred Maddox: On our albums we’ve got that deal, the night we was… Like the night Hank Williams come to town. It’s when the Maddox Brothers and Rose came to town that night.
Bob Smith: That’s right.
Rose Maddox: We hit that stage at the Grand Ole Opry, and we took them by storm. They didn’t know what had happened.
Fred Maddox: They first …
Rose Maddox: Until it was over with and they still didn’t know what had happened.
Fred Maddox: Me and Rose and Cal, went to the Grand Ole Opry in ’41. Mama was with us, of course. We had just got us a brand new black Chevy, 2 spotlights on it, 2 fog lights, the skirts, everything and them things that went over the windows that kept the sun out and a Venetian blind in the back. We’d drive up through them towns in Alabama and we’d stop and they’d gang around us. It was ‘cause of the California license on the car, because it’s from California and really fixed up. The parts on it cost more than the car did.
Anyway, we went on up to the Grand Ole Opry and we got an audition to try out. We did Sally Let Your Bang’s Hang Down for starter. Jack Stapp wanted to know where we was from, and I said “California, we’d been out here since 1933.” He said, “no, you’re not hillbillies if you’re from California.” I said, “we are”, he said ” you’re a made hillbilly if you’re from California.” I said, “we’re not made hillbillies, we’re hillbillies and we’re from California.” That was the end of that story.
I found out later, that anybody that was on there had to be from Alabama, Georgia, or Florida, or they wasn’t hillbilly. We was from Alabama but I didn’t know to tell him that then. Then they called us to go on for the Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet, no Philadelphia Lawyer.
Rose Maddox: No, it was Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet.
Fred Maddox: Yeah.
Rose Maddox: We had a big smash hit on that on 4 star records.
Fred Maddox: They wanted the Philadelphia Lawyer, but we couldn’t clear it through the … What’s the …
Rose Maddox: Whatever it is.
Fred Maddox: No, it’s the Tucson company.
Rose Maddox: BMI and ASCAP.
Fred Maddox: Yeah. They couldn’t clear. Then you had to clear all the song. They didn’t know and I still haven’t told them till yet that we was that hillbilly band in ’41 that was from California.
Rose Maddox: That they turned down.
Fred Maddox: That they turned down. We drove up … I just got my first Cadillac it was ’49, it was 2 tone grey. We had met Roy Acuff out in Hollywood. We drove up in the back and Roy came back there and he seen that car and he’s “my God Fred, I’ve got to have me one of them.” The next week he had one, it was a ’49 Fleet wood about a mile long. He had one the same color and everything. I guess we really started the musicians to driving Cadillac’s. Anyway, I know that we did.
Bob Smith: How many Cadillac’s did you have at one time?
Fred Maddox: Well …
Rose Maddox: We had 1 apiece.
Fred Maddox: I had 2.
Rose Maddox: Oh, did you?
Fred Maddox: Yeah. By 6 months …
Rose Maddox: I had 1, and mama had 1. Mama couldn’t even drive.
Fred Maddox: Every year she would trade it for a new one but she couldn’t drive. It would be wore out by the time 6 months is on it, 200,000 miles. I’d let my wife have the oldest one and I’d take the new one on the road to wear it out, and than in 6 months … From ’49 to ’59, I owned myself 14 Cadillac’s. From ’49 to ’59.
Bob Smith: Lets back track a little.
Rose Maddox: Now these days the price of them, you can’t afford to buy even one.
Bob Smith: That’s true.
Fred Maddox: You can if you don’t want a home.
Rose Maddox: Yeah, or anything else.
Bob Smith: How did you get your first recording contract?
Fred Maddox: We heard about the records and everything. We couldn’t all get away or anything. We sent mama and Rose down to Los Angeles.
Rose Maddox: We had a big acetate. We didn’t have tapes then…
Fred Maddox: Yeah, that they cut here.
Rose Maddox: They cut it here at KTRB
Fred Maddox: Capitol Records wanted us, we got wind of that. They got down there and … What’s his name?
Rose Maddox: Cliffie Stone.
Fred Maddox: No I mean the other one, not Stone.
Rose Maddox: Lee Gillette.
Fred Maddox: Gillette was gone and Cliffie Stone was kind of running things. He wanted us and everything, but he didn’t know whether to sign us with them.
Rose Maddox: He couldn’t sign us without Lee Gillette consent. Lee Gillette was home sick and they wouldn’t let him through to him, to talk to him. Me and mama left Capitol, we had went to Decca and all of those, and nobody was in or at least nobody would see us. We walked out of Capitol and I said, “T Texas Tyler’s on 4 star and seems to be doing pretty good, so let’s go see them.”
Fred Maddox: He really started this. They signed us up and I signed the contracts.
Rose Maddox: No, in there first place Fred, the played the acetate, and they said, “we want her, we don’t want the boys.” Me and mama called Fred and Fred said, “there ain’t no way they’re getting her without us.”
Fred Maddox: I wasn’t going to let that out. I was keeping that a secret.
Rose Maddox: Anyway, we called him and he said, “they can’t have you without us.” We told them what you said and so they said, “well we’ll take the whole group then.”
Fred Maddox: Then I signed the contract and two days later we got this telegram from Capitol, “come on down, we’ll sign you us.” We was already signed with 4 star and already had a release out. It was going great guns, but with 4 star us and T Texas Tyler there was a pushiness. That’s what a record company does, they get somebody they want, they’ll push them. The big companies … We finally later after we got what we wanted, went with Columbia and that was a sad mistake, because they wouldn’t even let us play our own instruments on there.
Rose Maddox: They had to have all sides men.
Fred Maddox: They wanted it …
Rose Maddox: Studio musicians.
Fred Maddox: They wanted us, but they didn’t want us … 4 star wanted us like we was. Real hillbilly and country rock. Rock-a-billies, is what we was, really.
Bob Smith: What was your first record?
Rose Maddox: The Midnight Train.
Bob Smith: Midnight Train.
Rose Maddox: What was on the other side to it, Fred?
Fred Maddox: Careless Driver.
Rose Maddox: Yeah, Careless Driver was the first one.
Fred Maddox: Roy Acuff, recorded the Midnight Train, in the same week that we did. Bunch of people did, it was a new deal. It’s done all right but …
Rose Maddox: Nothing spectacular.
Fred Maddox: Then I think the next one was Sally Let Your Bang’s Hang Down, then Philadelphia Lawyer.
Rose Maddox: Whoa Sailor.
Fred Maddox: Whoa sailor.
Bob Smith: Then the role started.
Rose Maddox: Yeah.
Fred Maddox: Yeah, that’s what started to moving. Them foot kicking songs.
Bob Smith: Rose while …
Rose Maddox: Foot stomping Fred.
Fred Maddox: Oh, stomping.
Bob Smith: While the brothers where in the service, what did you do?
Rose Maddox: I got married and had a baby.
Fred Maddox: What’s new Rose.
Rose Maddox: To my sorrow, mama said “the boys are gone, I think you should get married” so I did. The next thing I knew I had a kid and was separated before … After I got pregnant we separated. That’s the story of that.
Fred Maddox: He didn’t want you no more after you got pregnant.
Rose Maddox: Apparently not.
Fred Maddox: You can’t hardly blame him.
Rose Maddox: I know.
Bob Smith: When you guys came back from the service?
Rose Maddox: No excuse me.
Fred Maddox: She worked.
Rose Maddox: I worked with Arkey and his Hillbillies around the area here and I worked some with Dave Stogner out of Fresno at the Fresno barn and people like that. I couldn’t get a job anywhere because just after the boys and I split up they would … ’57 wasn’t it?
Fred Maddox: Yeah.
Rose Maddox: Everybody said, “she can’t do nothing without her brothers.” They wouldn’t give me an opportunity to show them whether I could or not.
Fred Maddox: First they wanted you without us, then after seen you with us wanted us without …
Rose Maddox: Not me without you.
Fred Maddox: We’re a mixed up bunch of people, ain’t we.
Rose Maddox: We still are Fred. Anyway, I did some singing and I played a bass to. I did some singing and playing with the local groups around here, but that was the extent of it. I followed Bob Wills all over the country when he was going strong, when the boys where in the service.
Fred Maddox: Let me come in right here.
Rose Maddox: Okay.
Fred Maddox: I had come back from overseas. I’d been over there for a year, in the South Pacific. I came back, they sent me and a bunch of boys back to train men at Camp Haan, it’s down by Riverside. Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys came to San Bernardino to a big dance hall. I met Tommy Duncan and I got to talking with Tommy, and I was telling him about my sister Rose. He said, “you ought to talk to Bob.” I said, “well introduce me.” He did and I talked with Bob and everything. I was telling him at that time they had a radio show from 12 to 1, KMTR in Hollywood broadcast it, because his work in this area. They use a radio show everywhere they went.
I got an appointment for Rose to come down there a certain day. She drove all the way from Modesto, her pregnant and everything like that. I told him she played the bass fiddle and all that. We got down to that studio and talked to Tommy, Bob wasn’t there yet. Pretty soon here came Bob through the door and stopped him me, Tommy and Rose. Tommy said, “this is Fred Maddox, this is his sister he brought down.” I said, “I talked to you over at the Riverside, over at the ballroom in San Bernardino the other night, and you told me told me to come here an bring my sister.”
I told him what all she could do, the yodeling and all the good stuff that went on then, in those days. She plays the bass and everything and Bob said, “well honey, you ought to go a long way in this business.” Turned, went on in and did his radio show. That was the last we seen of that interview. Then while we was still in the Army and everything, he came to Modesto.
Rose Maddox: He was all over this country, around here.
Fred Maddox: He was a work …
Rose Maddox: He had a girl singer named Carolina Cotton, and she had just quit. I figured he needed another …
Fred Maddox: Then he got Laurie Owens.
Rose Maddox: Yeah. I figured he needed another, this was in between.
Fred Maddox: I know.
Rose Maddox: Needed another girl singer, so I wanted to audition. Every place I’d go he would say, “I don’t have time here, come to such and such place.” I’d show up, he didn’t have time there either. Finally he told me to come down to Hollywood, they was doing a TV show or something down there. I went down there and he still didn’t have time and that made me mad. I told him, “when my brothers get back out of the Army I’m going to put you out of business.” He was telling a promoter a few years later. He said, “you know she damn near did too.”
Fred Maddox: That’s right. We got at him right.
Rose Maddox: I never did get that audition with him, never did, but at least I tried.
Fred Maddox: One night, we was playing on a Wednesday night for the Riverbank Club house riding … Riverbank riding club.
Rose Maddox: Yeah.
Fred Maddox: It was at Norwegian and McHenry. Bob Wills got himself booked into the uptown ballroom, downtown Modesto that same day, night. I told mama I said, “we better cancel our date”, we did it every Wednesday. She said, “why?” I said, “Bob Wills is in town that night.” She said, “that don’t make us any different, whether Bob Wills is in town or who.” She made me go ahead and keep it and we had the biggest crowd we’d had at that dance hall that night.
Rose Maddox: Yeah, we did.
Fred Maddox: It was kind of a Legion Hall or something down here. It was great. Then we wasn’t afraid about nobody then. If you got above Bob Wills, you’ve got it made.
Bob Smith: When did the group break up?
Rose Maddox: In ’57. Wasn’t it?
Fred Maddox: ’57, yeah. Things where changing, just like it does now.
Rose Maddox: Everything was changing.
Fred Maddox: Dance halls where all over the country then. They started going out and you couldn’t book in a club because they had their bands.
Rose Maddox: They had house bands.
Fred Maddox: They couldn’t afford to lay to let a band in. One person could get as much money as a whole band could. That’s the way the trend went. Rose had to go out on her own and we went on our own. Finally, each one of us went on our own, and got just as much money as we was getting for the whole group.
Rose Maddox: Don went to agricultural college, and wound up with a ranch up in Oregon, he raises Black Angus cattle. Henry wound up in San Diego, I think. Didn’t he?
Fred Maddox: Yeah. Picking and singing.
Rose Maddox: Fred he went on to the nightclub business.
Fred Maddox: I went into the nightclub business. I own more nightclubs than you’ve ever seen.
Bob Smith: Rose you did pretty good, because you came out with some good records.
Rose Maddox: Yeah, I went with Capitol Records in ’58 I guess it was. I went with Capitol Records as a single. I did quiet a few albums and I had a lot of hit singles with Capitol. That was it.
Bob Smith: You and Buck Owens, I think was one of the first to make the duet …
Rose Maddox: Yeah.
Fred Maddox: Yeah. As far as we know it was them.
Rose Maddox: We was number 1 duet in ’63 and ’64 both.
Bob Smith: This was a big year for you because a lot of people are giving you the recognition that deserve for that 50 years.
Rose Maddox: Yes they are.
Bob Smith: It’s happening every day, every week, every month. There’s something some place that’s going on for Rose and Fred Maddox.
Fred Maddox: Right, that’s true.
Bob Smith: You’ve had some pretty good celebrations here in the last few months and you’ve got a few more coming up.
Rose Maddox: Bakersfield gave us one and Sacramento gave us one, and KTRB in Modesto is giving is one.
Bob Smith: That’s true.
Rose Maddox: We’re going to have gobs and gobs of everything there too.
Bob Smith: Your Modesto one should be pretty good, because you’re known all over this part of the country.
Fred Maddox: Yeah, this is our hometown.
Bob Smith: It’s your hometown.
Rose Maddox: I was raised here and this is where we started in the music business, October 24 it’s on a Saturday.
Bob Smith: What we want to do is recreate the Maddox Brothers and Rose. We’re just wondering how many Cadillac’s we’re going to have to have.
Rose Maddox: I think it’s impossible to recreate the Maddox Brother and Rose.
Bob Smith: That’s true.
Rose Maddox: The best part of us is still here.
Fred Maddox: Yeah, that’s the way we figure it.
Bob Smith: Let’s talk about some of your records and your albums. What are some of your favorites? Some of the best that you think you’ve done or some of your all time favorites.
Fred Maddox: That’s hard to say, because …
Rose Maddox: They where all good.
Fred Maddox: Some of them didn’t do much and some of them did. Our spiritual songs did terrific.
Rose Maddox: They did excellent.
Fred Maddox: Sally let Your Bang’s Hang Down did terrific.
Bob Smith: Philadelphia Lawyer?
Fred Maddox: Philadelphia Lawyer, Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet and Whoa Sailor, they was are real top ones.
Bob Smith: Let me ask you this. What about your records … Do you have things that are available that people can write you or whatever they want?
Rose Maddox: Yes we do. They can actually get them in the music stores. If music stores don’t have them all they have to do is order them, because they are available through the catalogs. Arhoolie Records has the Maddox Bothers and Rose volume 1 and volume 2, from ’46 through ’51. They have old radio shows on the Maddox Brothers and Rose, which includes …
Fred Maddox: Some of them KTRB.
Rose Maddox: KTRB.
Fred Maddox: The whole album.
Rose Maddox: It’s volume 1 and volume 2 of the old radio shows on the Maddox Brothers and Rose. Arhoolie also has albums of … An all gospel album called Beautiful Bouquet of Myself, with the Vern Williams blue grass band backing me. Also, This is Rose Maddox with the Vern Williams band. Then Rounder Records had our Verrick Records, they are subsidiary of. Rounder has one out called the Queen of the West on me with Merle Haggard and the Strangers backing me, and Emmy Lou Harris is singing on a couple of it, doing harmony with me. That’s about all that’s available I think.
Fred Maddox: We sit at personal appearances we sale them and everything.
Rose Maddox: Yeah.
Fred Maddox: We’ll have plenty of them up here for 24th of October.
Rose Maddox: Yeah, because we’re going to have the 50th anniversary album there.
Bob Smith: There you go, that will be available.
Rose Maddox: Courtesy of KTRB in Modesto.
Bob Smith: Now you’ll have a lot of the stories to tell and also you have a lot of music on that special 50th anniversary.
Rose Maddox: Sure will. It’s going to be a good one.
Bob Smith: There is another album. I don’t know if that was from the country music hall of fame or what, but there was an album with Rose, you and I think your brother Don where singing with Jim Reeves.
Rose Maddox: No that was my brother Cal.
Bob Smith: Was that Cal in there?
Rose Maddox: Yeah. Someone just gave me that album, and it’s called Jim Reeves Live at the Grand Ole Opry. I’m singing with him on it, on one of the songs. It’s Cal and I that’s singing on it not Don, because Cal and I was … They brought me back to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry and Cal went with me. This was after the group split up. They called and said they needed a good girl singer, so I accepted and went back. I was there for 6 months and things didn’t go right so I just said you can … What’s his face says, take this job and shove it. I’m going back to where the grass is greener, which is California.
Bob Smith: What is …
Fred Maddox: Thank you Rose.
Rose Maddox: You’re welcome Fred.
Bob Smith: What is happening now with Rose and Fred Maddox?
Fred Maddox: Rose is working all over the country and old Fred tags along sometimes. I don’t do much anymore, just where I can paid for it.
Rose Maddox: Just special occasions he comes out for really. I work basically the whole year round. Either here or there or somewhere else. I go anywhere they pay me to go, let’s put it that way.
Fred Maddox: After I went into the nightclub business, I made so much money that I just don’t have to do much anymore. Now everywhere in the country I go into the nightclub business.
Rose Maddox: Yeah, maybe we’ll get some more work Fred out of it.
Bob Smith: I think I heard someone ask Rose a few weeks ago, when she was going to retire.
Rose Maddox: What is that? What does that mean? I have no intention of retiring, I cannot do without my music. I’ve got to have it. If I didn’t have my music I would just wither up and die and I’m not ready for that. I’ve got another 100 years ahead of me.
Fred Maddox: Well dog my kittens.
Rose Maddox: You might not have Fred, but I have.
Fred Maddox: What do you mean old Fred might not have?
Rose Maddox: I have no intention of retiring. Music is my world, so I’m going to stick with it. It’s my world and my life.
Fred Maddox: Welcome to my world.
Rose Maddox: Thank you. When we first started, we was following basically the rodeos around the Valley here. Every weekend there was one at someplace or another up in the Foot Hills and around. We would go in and ask them if we could set up and play in one of the bars. Play for the kitty, they didn’t pay us we set up and played for the kitty on the weekends during the rodeo and we slept in tents out on the ground.
Fred Maddox: Not tents, one tent.
Rose Maddox: One tent, and we carried … What year was that Ford we had?
Fred Maddox: 1931 model A.
Rose Maddox: ’31 Ford model A, and we carried Fred’s bass in that and me and Fred and mama and Cal and part of the time Cliff.
Fred Maddox: Part of the time Cliff was with us.
Rose Maddox: Everyone of us rode in that with his bass fiddle. The PA system ..
Fred Maddox: It was one of them that didn’t have the trunk, it had a wheel on the back because the only one we could get. It was the second car that the Maddox family had ever bought in their life.
Bob Smith: Do you have any funny experiences? Anything that happened while you where out on the road, that you want to talk about?
Rose Maddox: Not really.
Bob Smith: Maybe something you don’t want to talk about?
Fred Maddox: I don’t know of anything that happened.
Rose Maddox: We was strictly business. We was in that for …
Fred Maddox: This was our job, it still is. We wasn’t out for the fun of it. Every musician I know, even big or small …
Rose Maddox: Or in between.
Fred Maddox: Out for the fun of it. We was in it for our business, to stay out of the fields for the work. We made that stick and if we hadn’t have showed up … One of us hadn’t have showed up on a day that night, sick or not sick, one of the boys. The people would’ve said “Fred ain’t sick, he’s out with a bottle and his woman.” That’s the way people think.
Bob Smith: That’s right.
Fred Maddox: Many of them are that way. First time I got to go overseas without being in the service, military service, was in 1969 and I went to Europe. I landed in Frankfurt Germany, and I went and got my band out of London England and worked with them for 21 days. They’re my band. I was rehearsing and a telegram came for me that my mother had died. The bookers over there, had me for 21 days, they said, “Fred you can go home if you want to” and I said, “no I won’t do that because that’s not the way that I work things.” I said, “if I don’t show up on this job I’ll never get another chance to do it.” Which I wouldn’t have.
They would’ve said he didn’t show up because he was drunk and out with his women. While I was on that same tour over there, we had … This band from London had for their car it was a hearse. Really, and it was kind of old to. I said, “I ain’t riding in that hearse, I’m not dead yet.” They’d carry us around. Finally I said, “okay I’ll go to the places with you.” We was out on the turnpikes over there. It ain’t the turnpikes it’s the …
Rose Maddox: It’s not turnpikes, it’s autobahns.
Fred Maddox: Autobahns. Boy, that thing just came unglued and we finally coasted into this little old town. It was in the afternoon, over there in the afternoon everything is a siesta, it just shuts down and that’s it. We couldn’t get nothing done, couldn’t get a hold of our bookers and the agents in Wiesbaden Germany … No it’s Frankfurt. The second times when I had them in Wiesbaden. They said, “put Fred on the train and send him back to Frankfurt.” So, the band did.
In the meantime, while I was on the train getting back to Frankfurt, my bookers met me there at the train that night and carried me back to my hotel. He said, “I finally got a hold of the boys and I got them a car, I rented them a station wagon.” They went on to the place where I was going to work that night. They’re there now doing the job and he said, “I want you to call that sargent and tell him.”
I called the sergeant to tell him what had happened. He said, “Fred you better lay off of that bottle and leave them darn women alone.” That’s why he thought I wasn’t there. That’s something that we’ve never done. We make the date whether we’re sick. If I’m sick now Rose takes my place and if she’s sick I take her place. Still keep it going.
Rose Maddox: Yeah, I just took Fred’s place going overseas this last March.
Fred Maddox: Right.
Rose Maddox: Went to Europe and did dates over there, because his doctors wouldn’t let him go, so I took his place. Went over doing rockabilly. To us when we was recording this stuff it was country music, hillbilly music, but it turned out to be what they call rockabilly now a days. I went over doing that, and you never seen the like of teenagers that turned out to see me in your life. It was absolutely fantastic. From 1,500 to 2,000 at every performance.
Fred Maddox: They just love this stuff over there.
Rose Maddox: Yeah they do. They really do.
Bob Smith: Speaking of types of music Rose, you’ve been very deeply involved in bluegrass music.
Rose Maddox: Quite a bit, yes. I’m one of the fortunate ones, I can do it all.
Bob Smith: You do a lot of blue grass concerts and shows.
Rose Maddox: Yes I do. I just did one in New York, about 3 weeks ago.
Fred Maddox: We came out here from Alabama on a freight train. We had one suitcase for the whole gang of us. We never did open it. We don’t know what was in it yet. Except we know Cal’s .22 was in it. He took it apart and brought his .22 with him. Anyway, when we got off of the train in Oakland, there was a photographer there from the Oakland Tribune. It’s on the back of one of our albums, took the picture of us and it was on the front page of the Oakland Tribune: “Maddox Family Tours the World on a Freight Train” or something like that.
Rose Maddox: No, searching for work.
Fred Maddox: Yeah. It was … There was nothing like it. You can’t explain what it was like.
Rose Maddox: You really can’t explain because there was no work. There was thousands upon thousands of migrants looking for the same thing that we were.
Fred Maddox: I bummed our way from Alabama. I’d go to restaurants, stores, or anything to get our food. We sold everything we had. We sold our 2 mules, our wagon, and a milk cow, and all of our furniture and got $30 for it. This was 1933, the winter of 1933. We left there a walking. We walked to Gaston, Alabama, which was about 12 or 14 miles. We stayed all night with Mama’s brother that night then we walked to Birmingham, Alabama. That was 75 miles. Stayed with her other brother down there. We got on the streetcar that night about midnight and we got off of it and we were walking down this dark street. We saw a guy coming up … Barely seen him, it was pitch dark.
He had a lunch pail bucket. Mama asked this guy where a certain street was and he told her down there and so and so. We went on down there and went to his house, her brother’s house, and we said, “Where’s Uncle Ruff” She said, “Well, he went to work a while ago.” Come to find out, we didn’t know ’til the next morning. He came in and he said to, Aunt Flora I believe was her name, “Flora, you know what I seen last night? A family a walking down the street. 5 kids and the mother and daddy.” And she said, “You know what, they’re in the living room.” And it was her brother we asked where he lived. Then we left there and walked and walked.
Rose Maddox: Still walking, hitchhiking.
Fred Maddox: After that we stayed in Pine Thicket that night and slept on pine straw. Next morning we started walking and I went to a farmhouse way over in the field. I told her we was headed for California and we needed something to eat. She said, “Well, I got some biscuits and I got some sorghum.” She fixed us some sorghum biscuits and I said, “That’s my family over there, way across on the road over there.” “Oh, I see now.” She fixed that all up for us … It started raining. Here come a Greyhound or something, bus, some kind of a bus. Papa flagged it down and they let us ride on into Meridian, Mississippi on that bus. No, not into … It was Tuscaloosa I believe is where it was, something like that. Anyway, the next night we was hitchhiking, walking, walk, and hitchhike. A truck came by, stopped and he said, “Hop in, if you want to ride with a cow, it’s okay.”
We got in there, it was so dark we couldn’t see … When we got to Meridian, Mississippi it was about daylight. He stopped and let us out and said, “Well, there’s the cow you’ve been riding with and there’s the buffalo.” Big old buffalo we’d rode all night with. (laughs)
Fred Maddox: (Laughs) We met some folks there and got to talking to them. They told us how to catch the freight trains. We started on the freight trains then, from there on to California. We got to Bakersfield, we stayed 7 days in Bakersfield because we was staying with the Salvation Army and they had a restaurant, it was almost a block big. Everything you had was one penny. Bowl of oatmeal was a penny. Glass of milk was a penny. We ate pretty good there off of about $2 for 7 days. Then we went on through Fresno and on in to Oakland then, like I told you we got off in Oakland.
Rose Maddox: From Oakland we went to Tuolumne.
Fred Maddox: That was the end of the railroad and we stopped there.
Bob Smith: Where did you pick cotton at in the valley?
Fred Maddox: That was southwest of Fresno.
Rose Maddox: We picked it all the way.
Fred Maddox: All over, all around Fresno and all down in there.
Bob Smith: How much did you get a hundred?
Fred Maddox: It was 50 cents a hundred, then. Cliff, the oldest boy, he was a worker. He could pick 400lbs a day and never even bat an eye. But we couldn’t. I mean, I couldn’t even pick 50lbs a day and I batted some eyes, too.
Rose Maddox: We followed the fruit crops, mainly.
Fred Maddox: Peaches, mostly.
Rose Maddox: We went clear up into Washington for the apples and things like that and the hops up in northern California and on into Oregon and Washington for the hops and the apples, too. And clear down into Arizona for the lettuce crops and all such as that.
Fred Maddox: Long stable cotton.
Bob Smith: Doing all this migratory work that you did, how did you find time to learn to play musical instruments?
Rose Maddox: Sitting around the campfires at night, after work was all over with. My brother Cliff already played guitar.
Fred Maddox: It was in the Maddox family, music was. Our uncle, Papa’s brother, was a music teacher. He played every instrument there is, I guess, and he learnt Cliff how to play. Cliff buck danced, too. He was awfully good at that. Sang and played the guitar … When we left Alabama, Cliff and his wife, he was married, he said, “Well, we’ll see you out in California in about a week.” We had been out here a year or two before he ever got here. (Laughs) By that time, we’d got us a radio. Rose has still got the radio up at her house. Papa’s radio, that old round one.
Rose Maddox: Yeah, yeah.
Fred Maddox: We’d listen to the XERB in Rosarito Beach, it was 50,000 Watt, all clear channel station. They were advertising 24 guitar lessons and a guitar for $14.50 and Cal sent after that package. 24 lessons and the guitar, and when he got there it was a Martin guitar. He learned a little on the lessons that they sent. By that time Cliff was out here and he showed him a lot more, and they were playing and singing together. Cal and Cliff used to be on Mrs. Glass’s Children there on KTRB here. Every Saturday morning they’d have this children’s hour and the children that could play and sing … Grown-ups got on it. So Cal and Cliff was on that. When was it they had the Treasure Island in San Francisco?
Rose Maddox: That was in ’39.
Fred Maddox: They built Treasure Island out there and had the World’s Fair.
Rose Maddox: Yeah, that was ’39.
Fred Maddox: Mrs. Glass got us, the whole gang of us, on that then. We was all going by then. She got us the World’s Fair. That was the biggest job we’d ever had then.
Rose Maddox: If I’m not mistaken, KTRB broadcast it from over there, too.
Fred Maddox: Yeah.
Rose Maddox: Yep, they did.
Chris Strachwitz: That was one of your first gigs ?
Fred Maddox: We were playing around for tips and stuff but …
Rose Maddox: We’d sit around the campfires and cotton fields and things and migrant camps. We’d play and everybody would get up and dance and have a good time with us. That was the entertainment that you had in the migrant camps. It was us.
Fred Maddox: Do you know where Angels Camp is here in Modesto? That’s where we lived, Angels Camp, in a tent. When we were around Modesto. After we got out of the first peach orchard out here on McHenry Avenue, then we up to big times, Angels Camp.
Rose Maddox: Yep, Angels Camp.
Fred Maddox: We had the Model A Ford by then. Then finally we got us a trailer and we could haul the stuff around to wherever we were going, and stuff like that. While I was in the Army in 1942, when I come back from overseas the first time, I was lucky enough to get to go overseas twice (laughs) and that’s where I met my wife, Kitty.
Rose Maddox: Overseas? (Laughs)
Fred Maddox: No, at Angels Cam sp. (Laughs) We’d go by there every now and then just to reminisce which spot our tent was at and where hers was at when I met her.
Rose Maddox: We wound up having a 2 room cabin down there, too.
Fred Maddox: We had a cabin there. That was when …came to California, because she lived with us.
Chris Strachwitz: Where was your wife’s family from?
Fred Maddox: Texas. They were migrants, too, but this was later, after we was out of the war and everything. I met her while I was in the service. She didn’t know who I was, just thought I was a soldier. Well, that’s all I was. I was a soldier. A friend of mine introduced me to her. He took me down there and Kitty was out there in that wash-house just scrubbing them clothes. He said, “Fred, I’m gonna marry that girl.” I said, “If you don’t I will.” And here I am. (Laughs)
That’s the way it was. If I wanted anything I went and got it. That’s the way everything turned out. You had to go get it, the business, in anything we’d done. I had to go after it. You ain’t never begged so much for jobs when you’re wanting to get into some place, a booking, and things like that. You had to just beg. It was a mess but we made it, finally, after we got started on KTRB again after we got out of the service. It went great.
Chris Strachwitz: A lot of people give up, though, after a while. What kept you going?
Fred Maddox: Just the thoughts of what was going to happen.
Rose Maddox: Of what could be, if we kept at it.
Fred Maddox: Yeah. We knew something was there, and we wanted it. And we finally got it.
Rose Maddox: We wanted it so bad that we just kept hanging in there, the whole family.
Fred Maddox: Every one of us was the same way. Me and Rose, mostly, I finally got her to helping me a little on the stuff … Sometimes I couldn’t get the jobs without … I’d bring her and they were, “I got to see her,” and stuff like that. Kitty wants me to tell you how we got everybody into the band. It was just me and Cal and Rose to start with. Cliff would help us sometimes. When Don got old enough, about 16 I’d say, so he could get out of school, I put him on the fiddle. We wanted the fiddle. We were up in Sacramento, there in KFBK Sacramento by that time, on that show I was telling you about with McClatchy. We were staying at this motel. I got up to wandering around and I went up in the attic of this motel and there was a fiddle case laying there and I opened it. In there was a fiddle laying there but it was just like an old skeleton, just flopped away. I told this lady that owned the motel about and she said, “Do you want that thing?” And I said, “I sure do.” And she give it to me.
I took it down to the music store in Sacramento and that guy said, “Well, sure, I can put that back together,” and he put it back together and you could never tell it’d been that way. He only charged me $9 for it. We put Don on that fiddle and he’d go to the dances with us and he’d saw like this …
Rose Maddox: ‘Til 10 o’clock.
Fred Maddox: Yeah, then he’d go to the car and go to sleep.
Rose Maddox: I was younger than Don was and I had to stay there the whole night while he’d go out in the car and sleep when it came 10 o’clock.
Fred Maddox: He started that way and then, Henry, we put him on the mandolin. He started on the mandolin the very same way. He started picking a little while we were overseas …
Rose Maddox: That’s when he learned, while you guys were overseas.
Fred Maddox: Yeah. We just put each one on what instrument we wanted them. I had the bass fiddle, I didn’t tell you that, in the process of Jim Rice going to put us on the radio, I told him that I had to have a bass fiddle. I’d never played one, I’d never touched one. But I wanted to play one. Arkie and his hillbillies are good friends of ours and we had been to their dances and seen what that, I guess it was Jackie Lloyd playing the bass fiddle, seen what you could do with it …
Rose Maddox: Him and Juanita.
Fred Maddox: Juanita Sharpe. They’re still around, too. I told Jim Rice that I needed the bass fiddle and he said, “Well, I’ll order you one.” I said I ain’t got no money, he said, “I’ll give it to you for $10 down and $10 a month.” It was here in less than a week, but when we first went on KTRB here, I had the jews harp. You know, the kind you put in your mouth and go “pyong, pyong, pyong, pyong.” Then when the bass fiddle came in, we went and got it and Cal and Cliff strung it up for me and they tuned it for me. I started playing it, that day, right here in this studio where we’re sitting now. I slapped it just like I do now. I do a triple slap and I do it the same way that a rhythm guitar plays for country music. I do the same beat as he’s doing. I learned to play by Cal’s rhythm guitar.
Bob Smith: How did you start playing bass, Rose?
Fred Maddox: While I was gone you started it.
Rose Maddox: I learned it from watching you. I needed to play an instrument while they were gone in the service so …
Fred Maddox: She used my bass fiddle.
Rose Maddox: I used his bass fiddle and started playing. That’s all I know.
Fred Maddox: And when I come back …
Rose Maddox: They didn’t have drums back in those days.
Fred Maddox: We played 20 years without using a set of drums in our band and people say, “Well, we can’t use you, you ain’t got drums.” I said we don’t need drums.
Rose Maddox: We use 2 bass fiddles.
Fred Maddox: For the rhythm. We still never used drums, but you couldn’t tell no different, when we didn’t have drums. First drummer I ever used was at the Turlock Ballroom in Turlock. The union made me put 12 men in there with a band and they sent this drummer down. He started …
Rose Maddox: Whether they could play or not you had to pay them.
Fred Maddox: Had to use them, the union said you did.
Rose Maddox: The union is …
Fred Maddox: Pretty soon, that drummer stood up and he said, “I can’t do nothing, that darn bass fiddle player’s playing the same thing I am.” I said, “If you don’t like it, get your drums and get out of here,” and he did. I gave him his $13 that the union’s … Hey, I had to pay him, and he went back to Stockton. We learned that you can just send the money in for each man to the union and they would give it to whoever they thought needed it for that night. Anyway, while I was overseas the last time, Saipan, Okinawa, and Japan in the infantry, I got the special service to get me a bass fiddle. I had a hillbilly band on the front lines on Okinawa. After we got through and were mopping up, I had a radio show there.
I was a Mess Sergeant. All the musicians I had picked up over the camp were in the 27th Infantry Division, I got them together and I got them transferred into my kitchen. I learned them how to cook and we were the band … We played all night and cooked all day. (Laughs) But we’d done all right. When we were on Okinawa, I was fixing to leave to go to Japan. I’d boxed the bass fiddle up so we could ship it to Japan and we got it on the plane and everything. We got on the plane and before we got to Japan, that typhoon hit Okinawa and just wiped everything out. But I got my bass fiddle out and got ready to come home from Tokyo and they let me bring my bass fiddle with me. When we went over there, we were over in San Francisco at Angel Island, that’s where we sailed from. That night there at Angel Island some of the boys knew that I played and everything … Fred, go down there to that band and get that bass fiddle and he had a guitar and we’d play a little. I went down tried to borrow the bass from the special service band and oh no you can’t do that.
When I came back from overseas I got off of the boat in Seattle, Washington. I had a duffle bag, a Jap rifle, and a bass fiddle. I walked down that gangplank and that Army band was standing there playing and that bass fiddle was standing there. I said, “Looky, buddy, I got one of my own.” (Laughs) That was the funniest thing. I got one on him that time, I guess. Tickled me to death, seeing him stand there. He wasn’t going to let me use it when I was going overseas and he was playing for me when I got back off of the boat there. I don’t know. What is to be, will be. What ain’t to be might just happen.
Rose Maddox: That’s true. That’s true.
Fred Maddox: When we’d do our theme song …
Rose Maddox: Fred, anyways, me, I’m talking.
Fred Maddox: We’d come in and I’d come in and I’d say, “Yes, sir, and howdy, folks. How are y’all out there this evening? Give us a great big smile, will you?” And that got the people to going.
Rose Maddox: Especially when Cal would let out that high-pitched laugh.
Fred Maddox: That got us going. That was my slogan for 20 years, that saying as we came on the air. We’d sign off with the theme song and I’d say, “Until we see you tomorrow morning at 6:30 or tomorrow afternoon at 5:15, this is Fred speaking for himself and the gang, the Maddox Brothers and Rose, not saying goodbye, just saying. So long to you all, and I do mean ‘you all.'” (Rose and Fred singing) I want to live and love under the stars above, I want to hold you close to my heart. You gave me hopes anew when I was sad and blue and nothing’s gonna keep us apart. I sang a lonely song until you came along. I’m heading for the bright sunny days and I’m telling you what this love can do I want to live and love always. (End singing)
Rose Maddox: That was our theme song.
Fred Maddox: In a pair of cowboy boots.
Chris Strachwitz: There you go.
Fred Maddox: (Singing) I met a gal from Kentucky, she was happy and go-lucky, She called me honey bunny just to make me spend my money, Sally let your bangs hang down. Sally, she can land ’em. She loves ‘em and , she leaves ’em. Sally let your bangs hang down. I’ll find out what Sally’s got, make’s a man think she’s so hot. Sally let your bangs hang down. I saw Sally changing clothes, she was in a perfect pose. Sally let your bangs hang down. She caught me a peepin in, I don’t think it was a sin. Sally let your bangs hang down. Sally, she can land ’em. She loves ‘em and, she leaves ’em. Sally let your bangs hang down. Sally calls me her man, she’s a getting all she can. Sally let your bangs hang down. Now, I’ll have to be confessin, Sally’s always kept me guessing, Sally let your bangs hang down. She jumped up on a filly and she rode away with Willy, Sally let your bangs hang down. Sally, she can land ’em. She loves a man, she leaves ’em. Sally let your bangs hang down. I’ll find out what Sally’s got, make’s a man think she’s so hot. Sally let your bangs hang down. (Ends singing)
In a pair of cowboy boots.
Chris Strachwitz: Where did you get that song?
Fred Maddox: Well, I wrote it, really. In a pair of cowboy boots. Picked it up from an old drifter. It was his, I guess, but he didn’t know you could do anything with them so …
Rose Maddox: And we didn’t either.
Fred Maddox: We didn’t either until a long time later, when we recorded it and found out you could.
No, it’s Who’s Gonna Chop My Baby’s Kindlin of mine that George Jones’s just recorded.
Chris Strachwitz: That sound that you just banged out, you just heard that from a guy …
Fred Maddox: Drifting cowboys singing in the bars and stuff. A lot of our songs we picked up that way. Like the Philadelphia Lawyer.
Rose Maddox: Philadelphia Lawyer was Woody Guthrie singing it in a bar.
Fred Maddox: They had traveled the rodeos with us, Woody and Jack Guthrie, and they’d play on one side of the street and we’d play on the other. We’d visit back and forth and we got to hear him sing and listen and everything. He called it the Reno Blues and it kind of suited us … I started to sing it first and when we started to record it, Rose started then. She did it, see, and made the hit, you see.
Chris Strachwitz: Them Guthrie brothers weren’t famous then, were they?
Fred Maddox: No.
Rose Maddox: No, not hardly. Not hardly.
Chris Strachwitz: But you heard them sing songs that you liked, is that what attracted you to them?
Rose Maddox: Oh yeah.
Fred Maddox: There’s another group traveling around, them 3 boys, we got one of theirs. They just found it somewhere, Girl I Love Don’t Pay Me No Mind. We’ve got it on the albums, our albums … Our Arhoolie record. Our Arhoolieo I say.
Rose Maddox: I know.
Fred Maddox: Arh-e-hoolieo
Chris Strachwitz : Where’d you get that song about fried potatoes? I always loved that song.
Rose Maddox: (Laughs)
Fred Maddox: Friend of mine down in Selma. Sammy Molezzo wrote that.
Rose Maddox: His brother Bill was out to see us last Sunday in Porterville.
Fred Maddox: Yeah. We Sammy Molezzo every now and then.
Rose Maddox: He owned the Casa Dome Ballroom in Selma. That’s one that he wrote and was always singing. Fred stole it, too. (Laughs)
Fred Maddox: It goes something like this, (Starting singing) Fried potaters, they’re always on my mind. Fried potaters, I eat ’em all the time. I love ’em in the morning, I love ’em late at night. I never eat fried chicken when potaters are in sight. Now take a plate of vegetables with collards and tomaters. Don’t that sound good but better still just add some fried potaters. Fried potaters, they’re always on my mind. Fried potaters, I eat ’em all the time. I love ’em in the morning, I love ’em late at night. I never eat fried chicken when potaters are in sight. I’ve got a gal I’d love to date ’cause every time I date her, we always head for Joe’s Café and eat some fried potaters. fried potaters, they’re always on my mind. Fried potaters, I eat ’em all the time. I love ’em in the morning, I love ’em late at night. I never eat fried chicken when potaters are in sight. (Ends singing)
Rose Maddox: And that’s the end of that.
Fred Maddox: Now lay there and wiggle. They came out here …
Rose Maddox: You got your song after all, Kitty. She requested it the other night and we never did get around to it.
Fred Maddox: Here awhile back, a few years ago, this song came out, Pushin Up Homegrown Tomatoes. I got to thinking about Fried Potaters and all of a sudden Chris Strachwitz released that on me. Of course, it ain’t made the hit that that did yet but it will, give us time. After all, we’ve only had 50 years.
Chris Strachwitz: You should make another record of it. Without the scratch on it.
Fred Maddox: Yeah. We’ll cut a goodin’ somehow.
Rose Maddox: We’ve been intending to talk to you about that, Chris Strachwitz.
Fred Maddox: We couldn’t get all the scratches off of the old records. They had laid out in the barn. The termites had been on them and everything. We couldn’t get the dirt off of them. Chris Strachwitz cleaned them up, he made a fortune off of them. We’re doing pretty good ourselves. (Laughs)
Rose Maddox: Oh, dear. They laid in the attic up here at KTRB for years. You guys were going to throw them away so we got them.
Fred Maddox: I guess you’re lucky, Chris Strachwitz, that we came up here and got them. Then you didn’t think about things like, “Why don’t we just keep this old Model A, it’ll be famous one of these days.” Or why didn’t I keep a ’39 Chevy with all the spotlights on it and there ’41 with all the spotlights … Nowadays people take their new cars, they buy a brand new car and set it in the garage and cover it up, keep it for years later, and all of a sudden there’s that brand new car. It’s a collector’s item. It ain’t never been drove or anything. We didn’t think of these things.
Chris Strachwitz: I’m sure you couldn’t afford if either.
Fred Maddox: No, not really.
Chris Strachwitz: I mean, you needed your car for what it was for.
Fred Maddox: We had to use them for what they were for. (Starts singing) 50 years from now, 50 years from now, we’ll be down where they can’t reach us with a plow. It’s hard on some beginners to do without their dinners, but we won’t remember a thing about it 50 years from now. (Ends singing)
Chris Strachwitz: Go on, there’s some more of that?
Fred Maddox: That’s all I know of it. I used to sing it. I didn’t know that I was going to be in the business for 50 years, now I still remember something about it … It’s a pretty good deal, I’d say. Me and Rose has been down some rough roads, I’ll tell you.
Rose Maddox: We’ve had some rough roads to hold to. Still got a few ahead of us that still needs hoeing. But we wouldn’t trade it, at least I wouldn’t. I don’t think Fred would either. He played somewhere or another and he’d sleep every night.
Fred Maddox: Somebody steals my car when I go outside to take my bass fiddle or my bass fiddle tears up on the stage or something. It’s just a mad house in my bed every night at home. Kitty said, “What’d you tear that bed up for?” I said if you’d played where I did last night you’d have tore yours up too.
Rose Maddox: When I got back from overseas in March, I went by Fred’s on my from LA to home and he came walking around the side of the house. I said, “God, you look awful, Fred.” He said, “I’ve been on tour for 2 weeks, Rose.” He had been working every single day that I’d worked overseas.
Fred Maddox: It was a hell of a job, too.
Rose Maddox: I know.
Fred Maddox: In the ballrooms, we would get a flat guarantee, if we could. If we couldn’t and we wanted that job and knew we could draw, we took it on a percentage, 60-40. We got 60 and they got 40. Most of the times, when you take a job on percentage, you might as well not to take it. I found that out, because they don’t have to advertise because they’re not guaranteeing you no money. They guarantee you some money and they’re going to advertise, otherwise it comes out of their pocket. We did a flat guarantee of whatever we got. We got anywhere from $50 to $1,000 a night. If we were on the road or something and I couldn’t get this job in between this next day …
Rose Maddox: See, we did all of our own booking.
Fred Maddox: I would take this place there in between, just so I wouldn’t have to lay off and spend what we made that night. I’d take this job for a little less, 200 or 300 or maybe something like that. That’d get us on to the next job. After ’47, we was a driving 1,000 miles a day between each job. We left Lubbuck, Texas one night, when we got through working there, and the next afternoon, Sunday afternoon, we played in Colorado.
Rose Maddox: I don’t remember it, so I don’t know.
Fred Maddox: Yeah, with Hank Snow and all us on tour. Cops got after me for ……..
Rose Maddox: I still can’t think of the name of the place, though, but it’s in Colorado.
Fred Maddox: It’s 70 miles south of Denver. We just barely did get there in time for the 1 o’clock show. Drove from 1 o’clock in the morning to 1 that afternoon just stopping for gas.
Chris Strachwitz: How did you get those jobs if you were on the road?
Fred Maddox: I learned how to do all this by my own self. I’d contact these people. I’d find out from other musicians where they’d worked and stuff. Next thing you knew, I was on the phone with that person. I did all the booking. We went with MCA, a big booker now and they were big bookers then, they couldn’t do much for us because everybody they’d call, “I want a book from old Fred, I want a book from him.” They weren’t asking as much money as we were getting.
Rose Maddox: They would have to come to us to get the names of places to book us at. That just didn’t get it either.
Fred Maddox: We signed up with Colonel Tom Parker and he booked us in the South. We was broke. He booked us in these schoolhouse and everything, we pulled out from that and nothing flat. Then he got Elvis. When we were on the Louisiana Hay Ride, Elvis and Bill Black … What was his guitar picker’s name?
Rose Maddox: I don’t remember.
Fred Maddox: Anyway, they all came down there that night and wanted to get on the show. Horace Logan, the manager and everything of the Louisiana Hay Ride, told them we can’t do it. We’re all booked up.
Rose Maddox: Scotty Moore.
Fred Maddox: Scotty Moore, I knew him. I met him up in Seattle where we played at a barn dance up there. I knew him and he said, “Fred, you ought to here this guy.” I said, “Why don’t you all come on up to my dressing room?” In the auditorium everyone had a dressing room. Got up there and he played 2 songs for me then I went back down there and I told Horace Logan, I said, “Horace would you put Elvis and the boys on?” And he said, “I can’t, Fred.” I said, “I’ll guarantee him.” He said, “I’ll put them on on your word.” They got out there and Elvis did this, something like I Got A Woman or some kind of little rock deal, and he got 7 encores on that one song. The next day he was on Sun Records in Memphis, Tennessee. Just off of that one show there. Then he signed up with Sun Records and then later Colonel Tom Parker bought Elvis for $40,000 and stuff like that.
Anyway, I was the first one to get Elvis on the road to fame. He got on the road to fame, all right. I was kind of proud of him. Me and him were pretty good boys. Matter of fact, me and him took in the town of Houston one night and they know’d we had been there. That was after the dance of course. There wasn’t much to it. We just took in the dog-gone town and did it up right. I said, “I’m hungry, Elvis,” this was about 3 o’clock in the morning. Of course, mom and them hadn’t woke up yet. I had to get home before … I had to get to the motel before they got up. We found a Chinese restaurant that was open and I broke off my front tooth that night. Kitty didn’t know until the other day I told her. She knew I broke it off in Houston, Texas but she didn’t know how come and I told her it was that time me and Elvis painted the town and I was eating Chinese food and I bit the fork and it broke my tooth. Let me tell you, we never had such a time in our life.
Chris Strachwitz: That’s a famous loss.
Fred Maddox: Yes, sir.
Rose Maddox: I think that should about do it.