Rose Maddox Biography

Roselea Arbana Brogdon, 15 August 1925, near Boaz, Alabama, USA, d. 15 April 1998, Ashland, Oregon, USA. Maddox began performing in the late 30 in a family group with her brothers Cal, Fred, Don and Cliff. Their career was interrupted by WWII following which they re-formed as the Maddox Brothers And Rose. Cliff died in 1949 and his place was taken by another brother, Henry. By the mid-50s, with an act that included comedy as well as songs, they were regulars on The Louisiana Hayride and had recorded extensively for Columbia Records in 1951. Their successes included ‘The Philadelphia Lawyer’ and ‘The Tramp On The Street’. Rose also recorded with her sister-in-law, Loretta, as Rosie And Rita.

By the mid-50s, Rose was beginning to look towards a solo career. In 1957, she signed with Capitol Records and about that time the Maddox Brothers nominally disbanded. Rose soon established herself as a solo singer and, during the late 50s and early 60s, had several country chart hits including ‘Gambler’s Love’, ‘Kissing My Pillow’, ‘I Want To Love Again’, ‘Conscience, I’m Guilty’, ‘Lonely Teardrops’, ‘Down To The River’, ‘Somebody Told Somebody’ and her biggest hit ‘Sing A Little Song Of Heartache’ (number 3, 1962). She also had four very successful duet recordings with Buck Owens, namely ‘Mental Cruelty’, ‘Loose Talk’, ‘We’re The Talk Of The Town’ and ‘Sweethearts In Heaven’.

In the late 60s, Maddox suffered the first of several heart attacks that affected her career, but by 1969 she had recovered and made the first of her visits to Britain. She continued to work when health permitted throughout the 70s, but had no chart success. After leaving Capitol in 1967, she recorded for several labels including Starday, Decca Records and King Records. In the 80s, she recorded a number of albums for Arhoolie Records and the famous Varrick albumQueen Of The West, on which she was helped by Merle Haggard And The Strangers and Emmylou Harris. Her son, Donnie, died in 1982: she sang gospel songs with the Vern Williams band at his funeral. She frequently appeared with Williams, a popular west coast bluegrass musician who also provided the backing on some of her 80s recordings. Later she worked with long-time friend and rockabilly artist Glen Glenn, recording the albumRockabilly Reunion with him at the Camden Workers Club, London, in March 1987. The same year Maddox suffered a further major heart attack which left her in a critical condition for some time. Her situation was aggravated by the fact that she had no health insurance but benefit concerts were held to raise the funds. Her mid-90s album, $35 And A Dream, was nominated for a Grammy. She continued to perform and record on an occasional basis before succumbing to kidney failure in April 1998.

Rose Maddox possessed a powerful, emotive voice and was gifted with the ability to sing music of all types. Her recordings ranged from early hillbilly songs and gospel tunes through to rockabilly numbers that endeared her to followers of that genre. Many experts rate the 1962 album Sings Bluegrass as her finest recorded work. On it she was backed by outstanding bluegrass musicians such as Don Reno, Red Smiley and Bill Monroe.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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