Stuff You Should Know About: Maddox Brothers And Rose

"America's Most Colorful Hillbilly Band"

Lonesome, Onry and Mean was watching a YouTube of Merle Haggard's "Daddy Frank (The Guitar Man)" recently and, as he introduced the song, Merle commented that the inspiration for the song was the Maddox Brothers and Rose. According to Hag, "No one remembers the Maddox Brothers and Rose anymore, but I do."

Well, Merle's not the only one who remembers them. LOM's uncle Jack Manning of Odessa was a huge fan of the band that came to be called "America's Most Colorful Hillbilly Band" - if you don't believe it, look at the print underneath their name on most of their records - and it wasn't uncommon to hear their albums being spun at his house in the 1950s.

LOM always thought the band was funny and borderline crazy.

The ultimate party band and masters of risqué roadhouse-ready double entendre, they had these playful, imaginative, utterly magnificent song titles that captured the spirit of honky tonk as well as anything out there:

  • "Shimmy Shakin' Daddy"
  • "Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down"
  • "Bring It On Down To My House Honey"
  • "Burrito Joe"
  • "Hold That Critter Down"
  • "I'm a Little Red Caboose (on the Choo-Choo Train of Love)"
  • "Kiss Me Quick and Go"
  • "Meanest Man in Town"
  • "Mama Says It's Naughty"
  • "That'll Learn Ya Durn Ya"
  • "You've Gotta Have a License"
  • "Why Don't You Haul Off and Love Me"

The band also cut a demo of "Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain" in 1947, although it wasn't released until 1976.

Along the way they found time to, if not invent, then perfect the hillbilly novelty song with tracks like "The Hiccough Song," "The Hoot-Owl Melody," and a huge crowd favorite that became one of their signature pieces, "The Donkey Song."

But our absolute favorite was their arrangement of Blind Boy Fuller's "Step It Up and Go." This is rockabilly in its infancy.

The band almost single-handedly invented the rockabilly genre, although at the time it was referred to as country boogie. Fred Maddox was one of the first musicians to use the slap technique on the upright bass, and that slap-bass sound became rockabilly's rhythmic backbone.

While the band limped along during the World War II years as three of the brothers were drafted, their full reformation in 1946 marks a watershed in country music history as the band became not just a West Coast phenomenon but legitimate nationwide stars.

They toured constantly. Look closely in the Record Ranch section the next time you're at Cactus Music and you'll notice a photo of the band taken during an in-store performance in Houston in the early '50s.

To quote former disc jockey James "The Hound" Marshall, "The music they made was wild and anarchic, their stage act full of much ad libbed goofing off, bizarre comedy, sound effects and all manner of mania. They sounded like no other group before or since, much of their output was pure rock'n'roll a decade before most of America had heard of such a thing." *

To complete the circle, Merle Haggard's original lead guitarist, Roy Nichols, was formerly the lead guitarist for Maddox Brothers and Rose, America's Most Colorful Hillbilly Band.

* For those interested in a detailed, well written history of the band, check out The Hound Blog.

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