Last weekend I went by one of my favorite vinyl spots, Trolley Stop, to dig for some Jody Miller albums. The owner, John, let me go to his back storage where he has multiple boxes of classic country lps. I was successful in finding many Millers, but I also came across an artist I don’t see often, Rose Maddox.
The career of Maddox is largely a mystery to me and a lot of her career still remains this way. I knew she had hit songs, yet I couldn’t name them. I mostly heard her name when she had been cited as an influence to many greats like Dolly Parton, Kitty Wells, Wanda Jackson, and Emmylou Harris. So there has to be something about this lady.
My limited research foretold that Maddox started her career with her brothers, Fred, Cal, Cliff, Henry (after Cliff’s death in 1949), and Don. They performed what I would classify as “rhythmic country.” The music they performed ranged from bluegrass to classic country and a bit of early rockabilly. The band eventually dismembered and Rose set out on a solo career.
The album I found was 1961’s, A Bouquet of Roses. This album contains her top 20 hit, “Conscience, I’m Guilty.” It’s a mix of western swing and country. It contains the classic country and pop hit, “Lonely Street” and the rock and roll smash, “Jim Dandy.” The versatility of Maddox’s vocals are well on display in this bouquet.
My biggest take aways from this album are “Tall Men,” “Early in The Morning,” and “Read My Letter Once Again.” Maddox’s voice doesn’t flow over these tracks, it demands sentiment. She sings gently at times, yet she always has command. Her voice is a pillar of strength, portraying both a strong person with a gentle heart and one who isn’t to be messed with.
From this album it is easy to see where the above mentioned singers found inspiration. Maddox was one of the first “flamboyant” western swing singers, wearing full rhinestoned, sequined, fringed, and ric-raced ensembles. Although her influence is obvious, she doesn’t receive the recognition she deserves. She should be mentioned with Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline, yet I discovered her in a dusty shed.
Many founders are rarely recognized for their complete impact, but the greatest country stars have cited Maddox as an influence. It seems that she didn’t seek the spotlight, it looked for her. Her legacy is cemented in those who are performing today. The stars of yesterday look at her as an influence and today’s stars look at them as their influences.
So in essence, she may not be an obvious rose, but she has received a lot of water through the years. Her vocal style, fashion, and pioneering performances are mimicked time and time again.
Her legacy and influence is apparent through her voice. She’s heard all the way
from Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” to Miranda Lamberts “My Little Red Wagon.” You see, Rose’s voice is as pretty and soft as a rose petal, yet she can cut you with her thorns if you do her wrong.
That is the essence of the female country singer. They are always pretty, yet never mess with them, they have thorns, shotguns, and skillets. Maddox has taught me that’s not something new. They have had it them for a while.