May
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Don Maddox Recalls One Of George Jones’ First Big Breaks

May 2, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Outlaw History  //  21 Comments

don-maddoxToday was the funeral and public ceremony for country music legend George Jones, with many of George’s peers, many national dignitaries, and many younger artists who have benefited from the stature of country music that George Jones helped create, coming together to pay tribute and reflect on the life of “The Possum.”

But few, if any can give perspective on George Jones that 90-year-old Don Maddox can–the last surviving member of the pioneering and influential band The Maddox Brothers & Rose. How influential were The Maddox Brothers & Rose? Many artists can speak about how George Jones helped them get their start in the music business, but Don Maddox can speak about how The Maddox Brothers & Rose helped George Jones get his start in the mid 50′s when they stopped in Beaumont, TX to play a show.

Maddox Brothers & Rose

Maddox Brothers & Rose (Don on right)

“The guy that was booking us in there said, ‘We got a young feller in the audience, he’s just getting started, and I think he’s gonna go a long way. I was wondering if we could let him get up on the stage and do a song with you guys.’” Don recalls to me from his home in Ashland, OR. “We didn’t know who he was, but we said, ‘Sure, bring him on up!’ So he brought him up and it turns out to be George Jones. Of course he was just getting started then. He wasn’t well known, but this guy [the promoter] said he had what it takes and thought he would go a long way, and any help we could give him, they’d appreciate it… And lo and behold, he did go a long way!”

The promoter of the show at the Beaumont Auditorium was a local businessman by the name of Jack Starns. Along with a record distributor from Houston named Harold W. Daily, they formed Starday Records in 1952. Starday was George Jones’s first ever record label, releasing his debut album Grand Ole Opry’s New Star in 1957.

george-jones-young

Young George Jones

“So we got up on stage and we were dressed in our fancy Western outfits,” Don continues. “And George got up there and he had on his old street clothes. He got up there and he said, ‘Being up here with these guys, I feel like Minnie Pearl.’ And I said [jokingly]‘ ‘Well you look a little like Minnie Pearl too!’ He was a little bit upset by that so he came over and pretended to beat me up for saying that. But it was just part of the show.”

Don was the fiddle player, and just as importantly, the comedian of The Maddox Brothers & Rose. Don had a comedy skit with his brother, bass player Fred, that resolved in Don yelling out, “That’s right!” in a high-pitched voice. The phrase became one of Don’s trademarks over the years, and every time George Jones saw Don Maddox afterwards, he would yell toward him,”That’s right!”

“Back then George Jones needed exposure. Now I’m the one that needs the exposure,” the 90-year-old Don Maddox jokes.

The Beaumont Auditorium is also where The Maddox Brothers & Rose are given credit for influencing the style of Elvis Presley. The band was playing a package show with Elvis, Slim Whitman, and others, when it’s said Elvis was caught parading backstage in one of their coats, saying, “One of these days I’m gonna get me a fancy outfit like this.”

Listen / Read Interview with Don Maddox

21 Comments to “Don Maddox Recalls One Of George Jones’ First Big Breaks”

  • Speaking of George’s funeral, I was (personally) a bit annoyed that the powers-that-be decided to make it a public, televised event. WTF? I know that it was intended as a “celebration” of his legacy (or that was the official reason, anyway) but it all seems just like a money-grab to me.

    More on the subject of the article, it’s too bad that George is from a time with few survivors left. It’s interesting to hear how these legends got started in the beginning. When they’ve been around for decades, they begin to seem like a constant presence and one has to be reminded that they got their start just like everyone else.

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    • I understand what you’re saying. There was a private ceremony the night before, but I don’t blame the family for also allowing there to be a public ceremony, and for it to be as public as possible. There were a couple of moments when I did wonder if it was being taken too far (would George Jones want Kid Rock helping with his eulogy?), but all of this George Jones coverage has resulted in a massive resurgence of interest in his music, and honestly, and lot more of a resurgence than I expected. I do think the event is helping turn his music on to a new generation of fans, and if broadcasting the public funeral helps facilitate that, then I am all for it.

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  • It is always of great interest to me how the big stars got their start. Seems that young truly talented aspiring musicians cannot get the same breaks these days without millions……..and a marketing plan to sucker the kids in.

    Anyway, that said, I agree that if going public helps with a resurgence of real country music, then it’s a good thing. However, I was listening to some of the tribute and was really put off by the screaming fools in the front rows. Are these the paid “street people,” or just rude inconsiderate groupies? (Forgive my old school terminology). :)

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  • Great story. I thought the service was great, but also felt Kid Rock was out of place. With as much true country singers and talent in that building, why is Kid Rock singing a song thats not even proper for the occasion. Alan Jackson and Travis Tritts performance of Kristoffersons “Why Me Lord?” were superb. One of the highlights for me was Charlie Daniels speech, man told it like it was

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    • Kid Rock was the only one I couldn’t stand. :p (Also, I was looking forward to Wynonna, and she still sounded great — but her performance of “How Great Thou Art” was so drawn-out I couldn’t help being reminded of Bleeding Gums Murphy singing “The Star Spangled Banner” on ‘The Simpsons’.)

      But yeah, I thought it was a very lovely tribute overall. Besides Alan Jackson’s cover of “He Stopped Loving Her Today” at the end, the most memorable moment for me was Vince Gill’s “Go Rest High on That Mountain” with Patty Loveless on backup — bless their hearts, poor Vince got so choked up in the middle of the song that Patty briefly had to take the lead…

      ***

      Back to the main topic — always cool to hear from Don Maddox. This was a pretty neat story! :)

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      • I thought Wynonna was trying to recapture the magic that Elvis found when he performed the song at his very last concert. It’s one of those things that if you do not positively nail, it doesn’t come across right.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dRS4XI28Vs

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        • Thanks for the clip! That’s actually one of my favorite hymns to sing in church, so I’m not really used to hearing it slowed down or drawn out so much; but that Elvis performance was downright awesome.

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  • Grand Ole Opry and CMT = lame. Video of the public funeral is no longer available online except for a few clips floating out there.

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    • The Grand Ole Opry is notorious for severely restricting any type of image capturing devices at any of their shows, or allowing any rebroadcasting of anything that happens on their premises. They also police YouTube extremely hard to pull any unauthorized footage. They tape every show and archive it, but that footage is only made public in the most extreme of cases.

      Don Maddox had the privilege of playing the Opry a couple of years back with Marty Stuart. Don wanted to share the moment with friends and family that couldn’t be there, but the Opry would not allow him to make any footage public. One of the trappings of having the public funeral service at the Opry might be that now all the footage falls under the Opry’s restrictive guidelines.

      I wouldn’t blame CMT, The Family, or anyone else for this. My guess is having no re-airing, no footage on YouTube etc., is the call of Pete Fisher at the Opry. It really is a shame. This was a special moment in country music history, and I don’t see the harm of wanting to share that with the rest of the world.

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      • RFD-TV did run the service again on their channel, I’ve got it saved on the DVR. I don’t know if they will air it again but I would keep an eye on that channel in case they run it again.

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  • Could not agree with you more Trig. I’ll say this Alan Jackson closing out the service with he stopped loving her today was a heckuva a way to close out the memorial. Folks do not realize how much influence the Maddox family had on early country music. They should be in the Hall of fame.

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    • “Folks do not realize how much influence the Maddox family had on early country music. They should be in the Hall of fame.”

      This reminds me — I’ve been meaning to ask about this for a while, but has anybody here heard the Laura Cantrell song “California Rose”?

      She focuses on Rose in particular as a pioneering female country artist, raising the question “Where is your name in the Hall of Fame?” But I think it works as a poignant tribute to the family as a whole…

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KqqNwTWX5c

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      • Thanks a lot! I didn’t know that there’s a song about Rose Maddox. Great!

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  • I don’t really understand why some are dwelling on Kid Rock being there and taking part in the service. They told the story of how he and GJ met, how they had become closer over the last decade and how he asked Kid Rock to write a song for him. Even Kid Rock made a joke about being a long haired, country rock-n-roll hip hop artist but it seemed like his being there was genuine and that the two developed some sort of friendship. Seems like nitpicking to me just because you don’t like the guy.

    I thought the main focus should be on 1) what Charlie Daniels said and the crowds reaction to it. Very neat. And 2) the fact that none of the young stars of current mainstream country music were there. No Aldean. No Shelton. No Bryan. And on and on. (At least I didn’t see any of them, maybe I’m wrong?) Alan Jackson rescheduled his tour so that he could be there. Kenny Chesney was there. A lot of people showed up but this new class was absent.

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    • Scott,

      The problem with Kid Rock’s involvement doesn’t necessarily have to do with Kid Rock himself. It is that there are so many other people who would have been so much more appropriate to fill that position than Kid Rock. I have no doubt of Kid Rock’s sincerity, and appreciate that he himself pointed out how he didn’t necessarily belong. But both Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow are these ubiquitous artists that get tapped for occasions like this every single time, regardless if they fit or not, simply because organizers decide it is a way to branch out to other genres and demographics who would otherwise not care about the event. The problem is that they’ve played this card so many times with Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow, people have come to expect their involvement in things like this, and so there’s no potency to their presence, it just simply feels out of place. I don’t know if it is the planners that reach out to Kid Rock, or if it is Kid Rock’s peeps who reach out to the organizers. But either way, it creates a polarizing situation that is not appropriate for a funeral, a Kennedy Center Honors ceremony, or any other event where reverence is supposed to be shown.

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    • Blake Shelton has been around since 2001. While he has certainly hit his commercial stride in the last year or so, he isn’t at all one of the “young stars.” And what are you implying by pointing out their absences, anyway? Lack of affinity for the legends? (To be clear, I’m not trying to sound like a troll or someone that doesn’t think that they deserve criticism, because they do).

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      • I know Blake has been around for awhile but I would still consider him one of the younger country stars right now regardless. I’m implying that these ass clowns name drop George Jones, Hank, Strait, Willie, Waylon Cash, etc every single chance they get and then don’t show up at the Grand Ole Opry to honor one of the guys they claim inspired their careers. I find it contradicting and downright disrespectful. I don’t always like Brad Paisley’s or Kenny Chesney’s music but I don’t think there was any way those guys would miss this service and I can respect that and I respect their careers. Those other guys I mentioned, not so much.

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        • I understand, and I hope it was clear that I was only asking for clarification. I agree that it’s disrespectful, but their absences could have been due to circumstances other than a lack of respect. After all, you are naming off a bunch of new blood that are in the height of their careers; perhaps they couldn’t get time off from touring? And to be quite fair, I haven’t heard many songs in which the ol’ Possum is namedropped (at least not when compared with his peers). It’s hard for me to decide: on one hand, I don’t think that the funeral should have been televised at all and on the other, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt before I start flinging accusations at them. Plus, regardless of the funeral’s public status, I think that such services are reserved more for family and friends than fans, which could have also played a part. I can be influenced by music all day long, but it doesn’t mean I’m friends with the person. Regardless, I completely understand where you’re coming from.

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          • No worries, I didn’t take offense. But I believe an Aldean song that he stole from Brantley Gilbert goes “drivin down a dirt road, swerving like I’m George jones” or something like that, and I’m sure there are others. Alan Jackson was on tour too but he managed to change some dates and be there for the service. And I could be wrong but I was under the impression that it wasn’t the actual funeral, more like a memorial service, maybe someone else clarify.

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  • I agree the public ceremony was great for George’s fans and his music. I read where Nancy said she followed George’s requests. Great music performances but Kid Rock should have been replaced by Jamey Johnson, Darryl Singletary, or Mark Chesnutt. I’ve got much respect for Alan Jackson and Charlie Daniels.

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  • Getting a little bit off the topic of the Funeral.Maddox brothers and Rose (the great band, of course) is another example of country music influence on other music genres, which is often uncredited, when speaking of music history. That’s kinda obvious that the old, traditonal country music is kinda disdained by music critics and historians, which is sad.

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