The Maddox Brothers (Cliff, Cal, Fred, Don, and "friendly Henry, the working girl's friend") and their sister Rose called themselves "America's Most Colorful Hillbilly Band." They weren't kidding. It wasn't just a matter of hillbilly couture -- though with their matching Turk suits and spangles the family had style in spades. But colorful described their sound, as well. On the air in Modesto, CA, by 1937, the group made their first records, for the 4-Star label, in 1946. From 1951 till 1956, they recorded for Columbia. At that point, the family act broke up, though Rose maintained a successful solo career for many years after. But throughout the 1940s and '50s, the Maddox Brothers and Sister Rose tore down the honky tonks from the Pacific Northwest to the Gulf Coast with slap-bass boogie and an iconoclastic attitude towards the stiffer mores of conventional country. In other words, they rocked the house.
It all started in 1933, when the Maddox family -- Charlie and Lula, and five of their seven children -- hitchhiked and rode the rails from Boaz, AL, to California, where they worked in the migrant labor camps of the San Joaquin Valley. Fred quickly tired of picking fruit and wrangled a radio spot on KTRB Modesto for his intensely musical family (which featured 11-year-old Rose on decidedly raw lead vocals). In addition to playing on KTRB, the group performed at local barns and festivals, and in 1939, they were named the best band at the California State Fair. Early the following year, they began playing at KFBK in Sacramento, and their show was syndicated throughout the West Coast.
Though the future was bright for the Maddox Brothers and Rose, their career was interrupted by the advent of World War II in the early '40s. Fred, Cal, and Don were all drafted into the military (Cliff was too ill and Henry was too young to serve), leaving the remaining members to play with different bands during the course of the war. Rose sang with Arky Stark and Dave Stogner; she also was turned away from the Texas Playboys. Meanwhile, Cliff headed his own band, the Rhythm Ramblers. Following the war, the Maddox Brothers and Rose re-formed, settling at KGDM in Stockton, CA. Over the next decade, their fan base steadily grew, as their blend of music and comedy played well not only in concert, but on the radio as well. During the '40s and early '50s, they cut a number of records for 4-Star.
In 1951, the Maddoxes switched labels and signed with Columbia Records. Over the next six years, they recorded over 40 singles for the label. During the '50s, the group appeared on both the Louisiana Hayride and the Grand Ole Opry, often performing with an augmented lineup that featured steel guitarist Bud Duncan and either Roy Nichols, Jimmy Winkle, or Gene Breeden on lead guitar. At the end of their stint with Columbia, Rose began to pursue a solo career, leading toward the band's breakup in the summer of 1956. Rose began a solo career with the assistance of Cal, while the remaining members operated as a new band. Despite the breakup, the Maddox Brothers and Rose recorded a final session for Columbia in the summer of 1957.
Following the disbandment of the Maddox Brothers, Rose had a successful solo career on Capitol Records, while the band comprised of the remaining members quickly fell apart. Fred opened a nightclub, the Fred Maddox Playhouse, which was quite successful during the late '50s and early '60s. Henry went on to accompany Rose on her recordings for Capitol. Over the course of the '70s and '80s, all of the members of the Maddox Brothers -- with the notable exception of Rose, who continued to perform into the late '80s -- quietly retired from music. ~ Dan Cooper