Top 5 Maddox Brothers & Rose Songs
The look and sound of West Coast country music begins with the family band the Maddox Brothers & Rose.
Groundbreaking vocalist Rose Maddox (1925-1998) and brothers Cliff (1912-1949), Cal (1915-1968), Fred (1919-1992), Don (1922- present) and Henry (1928-1974) were all born in the Sand Mountain region of Alabama, the historically fertile starting point of fellow singing kinfolks the Delmore Brothers, the Louvin Brothers and the band Alabama. However, the Maddox siblings' career began in California, where their family migrated in 1933 by hitchhiking and riding boxcars.
In 1937, the siblings formed a band and found quick success via live radio. For nearly 20 years, “The Most Colorful Hillbilly Band in the World” would innovate country music style with their matching outfits and an upbeat style more akin to the coming sound of rock ‘n’ roll than pre-war string band music. The family band toured as well-rounded entertainers with a sound that competed with Roy Acuff and other contemporaries while teasing the arrival of Elvis Presley and rockabilly.
A rapidly changing genre found Rose going solo in 1956. In the coming years, she cut successful sides for Capitol, including the Buck Owens duet “Loose Talk” (1961), and recorded a bluegrass album at the behest of Bill Monroe.
For a small sampling of the Maddox clan’s wide range of talents and immense influence on country music’s West Coast blueprint, check out these five cuts from their career.
This B-side to “Midnight Train” stands out among the group’s fantastic gospel repertoire (“Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet) and Hank Williams covers (“Honky Tonkin’”) in part because it's an early topical song about the dangers of drinking and driving.
Many of the band’s Hank-honoring honky-tonk sides sound like in-studio house parties. For instance, Rose lets out her instantly recognizable, whimsical laugh as her brothers shout encouragement during this textbook drinking song.
Just as Sara Carter shattered gender expectations over 20 years earlier by singing “Single Girl, Married Girl,” Rose previewed the boldness of Reba McEntire, Miranda Lambert and others by speaking her mind about settling down and having babies.
One of the Maddox Brothers & Rose's greatest accomplishments came when they reinterpreted Woody Guthrie’s “Philadelphia Lawyer” as a country tune about the original Beverly Hillbilly catching his wife cheating with an affluent attorney.
In any decade or within the expectations of any country offshoot, this oddly lighthearted tale of divorce and alimony would qualify as dark humor. It proves Rose and her brothers as some of country’s first proto-punk rebels.