Cliffie Stone Archives
Publicity photo of “Maddox Brothers & Rose.” (L to R): Henry, Cliff, Don, Rose, Cal, Bud Duncan (steel guitar) and Fred. Jonny Whiteside is the author of an authorized biography titled: “Ramblin’ Rose: The Life and Career of Rose Maddox” which was published on March 1997. (See ‘Later Years’ gallery, Row 5, #3 photo caption.) Jonny interviewed Rose and her siblings - Alta, Fred and Don (Cliff, Cal and Henry had passed on) and numerous key people ‘who were there’ during the Maddox Brothers & Rose’s historic pioneering journey and Cliffie Stone was one of them. I’ll be using Jonny’s well-documented book as a guide outline as I write their mini-bio and I’ll also be using quotes from some of these key people from his book, because reading what someone has said gives validity to the subject matter. Cliffie Stone became good friends with the charismatic Maddox Brothers & Rose (herein referred to as MB&R) because they appeared numerous times on his Hometown Jamboree TV show in El Monte, CA. It didn’t matter to Cliffie that they couldn’t read music or weren’t accomplished musicians, and he explains why it didn’t matter in his interview with Jonny: “The Maddox Brothers & Rose came down from Modesto and hit this part of the country by storm. They came up with stuff nobody had ever heard. The boys were wild! They weren’t great musicians, but it doesn’t make any difference how good a musician somebody is – if the public likes them, who the heck cares? I can go and hire a great guitar player for scale and nobody will come to see him, or I can hire Fred Maddox of the Maddox Brothers & Rose and we’ll draw twenty-five hundred people. They were the hottest thing around at that time. They billed themselves as ‘The Most Colorful Hillbilly Band in America,’ and they certainly were that! When they hit the stage, it was exciting and, of course, it was all built around Rose. She’d start stompin’ her foot, sing for an hour and wipe these people out.” MB&R’s mini-bio: Charlie and Lula Maddox and their seven children (Cliff, Alta, Fred, Cal, Don, Rose and Henry) were all natives of Boaz, Alabama; they were sharecroppers who worked and lived on Lula’s brother’s large cotton farm. Rose and her siblings inherited their music genes and deep love for music from their family roots - Lula (mandolin) and Charlie (banjo) who played for their own enjoyment; Charlie’s father, R. E. Maddox, loved to play the fiddle and he passed his love for music on to his children, especially Charlie and Foncy. Although Charlie was a very good banjo player, his younger brother, Foncy, was an exceptional musician who could play multiple instruments as well as being a charismatic showman who became popular in the entire area. Foncy taught Charlie’s son, Cliff, how to play the guitar and after Cliff became a proficient guitarist, he and his Uncle Foncy would perform together at shows in the area. Lula was a strong dominating woman who liked to be in charge, which Charlie accepted; she enjoyed reading western novels and became obsessed with the idea of moving to CA. When the Great Depression occurred and times got financially tough, Lula and Charlie decided to move out west. They sold their belongings for $35, and in March 1933, they started hitchhiking and ‘riding the rails’ to California with five of their seven children (their two oldest children, Cliff and Alta, were both married and stayed in Alabama). About a month later, the Maddox family jumped off their boxcar near a railroad station in a Los Angeles suburb called Glendale; they were disheveled, weary and half-starved (a forerunner scene out of John Steinbeck’s future award-winning book “The Grapes of Wrath”). Jonny got a firsthand account of their hardships during their arduous journey through his candid interviews with Rose, Fred and Don. Rose told Jonny how lucky they were to have had sympathetic railroad brakemen who helped them along the way to catch the right trains and she said that some of them gave them food. It was Lula’s strong will and belief in her fervent California dream that kept the family motivated during their grueling trip. From Glendale, they rode the rails north to Bakersfield and from there they jumped another freight train to Oakland where they temporarily stayed in a migrant settlement called Pipe City, which had its own hobo mayor and city council members; and their living quarters was a huge culvert pipe. The Maddox family left Oakland and jumped another boxcar to Modesto, which is located by the Tuolumne River in the fertile farmlands of central valley in Northern CA.  Modesto became their home base, and Charlie and his sons picked fruit and worked in canneries until he got a steady job at Talbot’s Ranch, where they lived in a tent near the fields. All of them picked crops except for Rose who was too small. After a hard day’s work, they’d always sit around their campfire and sing and play songs. Since they were ‘following the crop harvest,’ Charlie used a large portion of their $35 nest egg and bought a 1931 Model A Ford. In the next few years, they would follow the harvest season throughout California; then they’d start the whole crop cycle process all over again. In 1935, their oldest son, Cliff and his wife, Gordie, joined their family in CA; and soon after, Alta (who had gotten a divorce) would also join them. Cliff’s cousin, Kurt Tony, was a musician and he, too, migrated to CA. Cliff and Tony started performing together at small gigs in the area and one of these gigs was on radio station KTRB in Modesto. Lula always encouraged her kids to play music and she gave Cal her blessing when he wanted to send away for a guitar via the mail order catalog. It was Cliff who taught Cal how to play. Rose was always singing and sometimes the schools she attended along the crop route would have talent shows which she would enter. One of their crop stops was Ingle’s camp where they lived in a cabin; and they started listening to the music stations on the radio; they heard c/w artists such as Jimmie Rodgers, Roy Acuff, the Carter Family and the Sons of the Pioneers. They followed the crop back to Modesto and in this time frame, Rose saw the Sons of the Pioneers perform in person at a Modesto theater. She became inspired and it then became her dream to become a singer. Fred, too, was soon to become inspired and have his own dream which would include the whole family. He was a fun loving gregarious eighteen year old who, like his Uncle Foncy, had a gift of gab. In 1937, he went to a rodeo where he saw a Stockton hillbilly band called the Happy Hayseeds perform and someone told him that they were paid $100 for their gig. It shocked him and that’s all he could think about for the next week or so. When he went with Mama Maddox and his brothers to pick cotton in the fields, he stopped working and sat down. Lula admonished him and to quote Fred from Rose’s bio, he said, “I’m a thinkin’ we should go into the music business.” He then told Mama Lula and his brothers about the band and the money they had made for performing, etc. When they got back to their home in Modesto, they had a family meeting and the entire family soon became inspired with Fred’s idea. In short, Fred would be the manager and get the bookings; they put together a song list and chose the name of the “Alabama Outlaws” (which they’d soon change to “Maddox Brothers & Rose”). With Fred’s innate gift of gab, he got them on radio station KGDM in Stockton several times and their confidence soared. Fred learned that they’d need a sponsor if they wanted to continue being on the radio; so he had the moxie to contact the owner of Rice’s Furniture Store, who quietly listened as Fred gave his band pitch with his drawling southern accent. Mr. Rice was impressed by Fred’s salesmanship and he told him to the effect that he’d sponsor his band on the radio on two conditions: one, that Fred would be the announcer/emcee and two, that there would have to be a girl singer. To quote Fred’s self-confident response in Rose’s bio: “So I told him we had the best girl singer there was! I didn’t know that we had one for sure, but I knew that Rose could sing louder’n the dickens. And I told Mr. Rice that I wanted a bass fiddle. I’d seen ‘em playin’ one at the rodeo, and he ordered one for me - ten dollars down and ten dollars a month. When it came in, Cliff and Cal strung it and tuned it for me.” Fred, Cal and Rose then performed on KTRB and in the next few days, the Modesto radio station was swamped with letters from listeners all over the area. This lead to their first daily radio show, which Jim Rice’s furniture store sponsored; the letters continued to pour in and they became very popular in the Stanislaus County. Later, Cliff joined them with his superb guitar playing. MB&R took to performing like a duck takes to water! Charlie and Lula were both proud of their kids, who were no strangers to hard work and they kept on improving as musicians and expanding their song repertoire. MB&R used their KTRB radio show to publicize themselves in conjunction with ‘following the rodeos’ to whatever town the rodeo was in; they’d pick out a honky-tonk and offer to play for tips. This is how they first made money, honed their act and accumulated a following of loyal fans. Before going any further in MB&R’s early career, it should be noted that one of the reasons the Maddox band would become so successful was because of their mother, Lula, who would later be known as Mama Maddox. She was the epitome of being a dominating matriarch! From the beginning, she immediately took charge. She was well aware of the pitfalls and the lusting ways of the world, of alcohol and of unscrupulous greedy business people, etc. So she was very protective of Rose and her boys. With four big brothers and Mama Maddox to watch out for her, young Rose was protected from any rowdy cowboy or drunken customer who got out of line. If Rose needed to go to the restroom, Mama Lula went with her; she could stare down anyone and they’d quickly back down. The Maddox boys introduced themselves as the Maddox Brothers & Sister Rose in order to thwart any ideas that anyone might have; and it was probably Mama Maddox who thought of this (as well as having the creative vision of dressing her kids in matching fancy outfits in the future when they could afford it). MB&R’s antics such as yelling, suggestive quips and/or suggestive lyrics in some of their songs about the high life were the direct opposite from their personal lives. Mama Maddox had strict ground rules: no drinking, no smoking and no carousing around, etc. Rose and her brothers towed the line (except for Fred who, in the future, would use his own guile to sneak away to be with the ladies). This was a family undertaking and MB&R’s music was first and foremost a business; Lula’s business acumen was an innate trait, which she developed and sharpened as MB&R became more popular wherein she had to deal with more venue owners and managers. She allowed no one to take advantage of her or her kids. Mama Maddox also handled the family band bank account, and later she’d have a reputation for getting cash for her kids’ performance and stashing it in her ever present handbag. Cliffie Stone was also a product of the Depression Era, so he understood Mama Maddox as his interview with Jonny for Rose’s bio so aptly describes: “…And, of course, Mama Maddox herded them around. She ran a tight ship. She was something of a problem on my television show, but I had an aunt just like her, so I knew where she was coming from. They were itinerant workers; they’d been scrounging and starving to death and she raised these kids and put them together and kept them together. I don’t think without her that it would’ve ever happened.” Now let’s get back to MB&R’s early career. In 1939, California’s capitol, Sacramento, held its annual state fair and a hillbilly band talent contest was among their numerous activities to draw people to the fair. The Maddox family got wind of it and they were among the fifteen bands that entered. They wowed their audience and the judges with “Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down” and won hands down. They received a one year contract (sponsored by Anacin) to perform on Sacramento’s KFBK radio station, which was owned by the powerful McClatchy Broadcast Network. The Maddox family was in high cotton because their KFBK radio shows gave them huge exposure throughout California and outlying states such as Nevada and AZ. And this is when Cliffie Stone first became aware of them because he had his own radio shows and one of them was a deejay gig in Southern CA. The Maddox band members and Mama rented a home in Sacramento, which would be their home base (Charlie, Henry, Alta and Don would continue to live in Modesto). MB&R continued their routine of performing on the radio show and then performing at popular honky-tonk gigs and dance halls. Somewhere down the line, Rose learned the basics of playing the bass, which added to their unique act. When World War II started, several of Rose’s brothers joined the service. In this time period, Rose had a difficult time getting a singing job and one of the reasons was that clubs were starting to use house bands. Since Mama Maddox wanted to protect Rose, she encouraged her to marry one of MB&R’s most ardent fans, Enoch B. Hale. They had a son, Donnie, and when Enoch joined the service, she’d get his army check to help defray living costs for their son; they eventually got a divorce. In this time frame, Mama Maddox also encouraged her younger sons, Don and Henry to learn how to play instruments. After the war was over, Don (fiddle) and Henry (mandolin) joined their sister and brothers’ band. Since Mama Maddox thought the band needed to have a fuller sound, two more musicians were added - Bud Duncan on steel guitar and Jimmie Winkle on guitar. Rose now had a new responsibility to emotionally deal with - career and motherhood, and she did the best she could, because singing was the only way she could support herself and little Donnie. At this point in time, MB&R were also looking for a record company; and Capitol Records was the first one they went to because their friend, Cliffie Stone - whose versatile music career included being an executive - was involved with Capitol’s country division wherein Cliffie reported to Lee Gillette (head of Capitol’s A&R department). To quote Rose from her bio: “Cliffie wanted us real, real bad, but Lee Gillette who had the final say, was sick in bed at home, and they wouldn’t even let Cliffie through to talk with him on the phone.” Because MB&R only had several days before going back on the road again, they felt they couldn’t wait and so they met with 4-Star executive, Bill McCall, who signed them to a contract with his 4-Star label. Although Cliffie was disappointed that they didn’t wait, he was always there for them whenever they needed a helping hand, such as getting them into the popular Riverside Rancho wherein Cliffie talked Marty Landau, the manager, into booking them and they packed the place. MB&R’s stage persona started to evolve along with their music. Fred cleverly and creatively gave everyone nicknames; he introduced Cal as the “laughing cowboy,” Henry as “Friendly Henry,” Rose as “the Sweetheart of Hillbilly Swing” and Don as “Don Juan.” (Don would later evolve his part of the act by having a prop trunk filled items and do country slapstick humor.) Fred always introduced their sidemen as the “hired help.” MB&R’s nightclub act also evolved to be ‘a show and dance act’ and their song repertoire expanded too. It included rockabilly, country, gospel, folk and bluegrass songs such as “Pay Me Alimony,” “Philadelphia Lawyer,” “Flowers for the Masters Bouquet,” “Water Baby Blues Boogie,” “I Want to Live and Love,” “Dark as a Dungeon,” “Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down,””Blue Moon of Kentucky,” “Down, Down, Down,” “Honky Tonkin,” “How Can You Refuse Him Now,” “Whoa, Sailor, “Tall Men” and the list goes on. MB&R’s on the road itinerary included being on West Coast TV shows such as Cliffie Stone’s “Hometown Jamboree” show and “Town Hall Party,” as well as performing in honky-tonks and dance halls such as the “Riverside Clubhouse” near Modesto, the “Cotton Club” in Texas, Bakersfield’s “Rainbow Gardens” and BlackBoard Café, “Riverside Rancho” and countless venues all over the country, including Las Vegas hotels, wherein they drew huge audiences. They appeared numerous times on the “Louisiana Hayride,” which was broadcast on KWKA. During this time frame, their successful recording of “Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet” garnered them an invitation to appear on the “Grand Ole Opry” at the Ryman Auditorium which was broadcast on WSM in Nashville. Afterward, Ernest Tubb invited them to appear on his ‘Midnight Jamboree’ WSM radio show, which followed the Opry; and other future CMA Hall of Famers such as Bill Monroe and Hank Williams also respected their talent. As Bill told Jonny for Rose’s bio, “I had heard their records quite a bit and was really glad to meet ‘em when they got to Nashville. She had a beautiful voice and was a beautiful lady.” Hank Williams went out of his way to meet Rose, who had recorded two of his songs, “Honky-Tonkin’ and “How Can You Refuse Him Now,” with her brothers. MB&R also performed with Buddy Holly and an up-and-coming rockabilly artist, Elvis Presley, whom they had also worked with on “Louisiana Hayride.” Fast forward: In 1956, the band split up and Rose began her long solo career accompanied by Cal and Mama Maddox. Cliff left to play with another group. Fred, Don and Henry (and Henry’s wife, Retta) performed as the Maddox Brothers & Retta for several years. Around 1960, the band went their separate ways. Fred continued to perform whenever he could; and, at one time, he was a deejay on three radio shows and also owned three nightclubs. Don and his wife, Nila, had previously bought a ranch in Ashland Oregon and he went back and focused on raising steers. Rose and Cal (who remained a bachelor) bought several acres adjoining Don’s property and built a home where Rose lived with Mama Maddox and soon Rose’s son, Donnie would join them. The foregoing caption simply highlights MB&R’s career. In Later Years, Row 5, #2 photo, there will also be highlights of Rose’s solo career. MB&R’s historic recording product can be obtained through two independent record labels: Arhoolie Records’ ( collection includes: (1) Maddox Brothers & Rose’s “America’s Most Colorful Hillbilly Band, Volume 1;” (2) Maddox Brothers & Rose’s “America’s Most Colorful Hillbilly Band, Volume 2;”  (3) Maddox Brothers & Rose “Live on the Radio;” German-based label, Bear Family Records’ ( collection includes: (1) Maddox Brothers & Rose “The Most Colorful Hillbilly Band in America;” (2) The Maddox Brothers & Rose – “Ugly and Slouch.” As Cliffie Stone, wrote in his “You Gotta Be Bad Before You Can Be Good” talent show book: “Here on the West Coast, there was a wonderful family hillbilly act called The Maddox Brothers and Rose, who were famous not only for their unique hillbilly music, but also for the flashy outfits they wore. They would come driving up to the nightclub in two or three Cadillacs with the neck of the bass sticking out of one of the windows. They were a delightful sight to behold! Real show business stuff! Rose Maddox was a no-nonsense performer. She would get up on stage, start tapping her foot to the tempo she wanted for each song and say, “Play it in the key of G, boys!”

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