Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always on the turntable. Rose Maddox has today’s Classic Album Review. The One Rose was her debut effort for Capitol Records, and only her second album, overall, despite many singles with her brothers on both 4 Star and Columbia. Rose Maddox’s hit list may be short, but she and her brothers’ influence casts a long shadow over Country music, even today.
The Alabama-native started with her brothers, as a child, after the family had moved to California in the early 1930’s. By the 1950’s, The Maddox Brothers and Rose became one of the West Coast’s most popular acts, with a completely unique sound that literally mixed all kinds of genres and sub-genres together. Though their West Coast popularity didn’t translate to nationwide acclaim, they are still considered a highly influential act, as the sound they created was a precursor to the Bakersfield Sound, as well as Rockabilly. It’s also said that Fred Maddox was one of, if not the first bass player to use the slap bass technique that was used on many Rockabilly and early Rock ‘N Roll records.
By 1960, the brothers had retired from the band, and Rose Maddox was a solo act, signed to Capitol. As stated, The One Rose was her debut Capitol effort. Eleven of the twelve tracks are rerecordings of songs that The Maddox Brothers and Rose previously released on 4 Star, though many are more closely associated with other acts. The One Rose was recorded during three sessions in June 1959 at Capitol’s Hollywood studios. The sessions were produced by Ken Nelson. Rose’s brothers Cal and Henry played on the sessions. The album entered the market in January 1960. There was no Country album chart, yet, so no chart action for this LP, and as for singles, none of these tracks were released.
How do you best describe Rose’s vocal style? Probably the best way to describe it is a loud, slightly gruff alto; I’d say a rawer and edgier variation of what you hear in Wanda Jackson. I’ve yet to hear anyone with her style of vocals.
The album kicks off with the Hank Williams song “Honky Tonkin’”, which the Rose and her brothers had also recorded in 1948. Hank’s version is tame, compared to this one. An out and out smoker, here, with an arrangement that is like what the Buckaroos would make famous.
Wayne Raney had the big hit version of “Why Don’t You Haul Off and Love Me” in 1949. Again, slow and tame compared to Rose’s version. Breakneck speed, but never out of control. This is a great track.
Perhaps the record that is best known of the Maddox Brothers and Rose was 1949’s “Philadelphia Lawyer”, a song written by Woody Guthrie. A 3/4 ballad, yet still with a beat, both in the original and the remake. Some of her best vocal work, right here. This track is as good as the original.
Rose’s version of the Hank Williams hit, “Move It on Over” is pure Rock ‘N Roll, with a sound closer to the later George Thorogood version, rather than Hank’s. Hang on to your hat when this one blows out of the speakers!
“On the Banks of The Old Pontchartrain” is a song that Hank Williams wrote, and features a vocal by Rose, similar to “Philadelphia Lawyer”. Again, good vocal work on this medium-up tempo track.
Though a hit by Hank Thompson, “Whoa Sailor” was also released in 1948 by The Maddox Brothers and Rose. This version features an uncredited Cal Maddox on the verses, with Rose bellowing the chorus. A rousing end to side one.
Side two opens with another song that was long a part of the Maddox Brothers and Rose’s repertoire, “Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down”. Their original recorded version came in 1950. This version is another rousing example of up-tempo West Coast Country music.
Things do slow down, some, for “At the First Fall of Snow”, which subdues the electric instruments (though their still present). It includes a strong dose of mandolin playing, thus giving it a strong Bluegrass feel. In fact, the song is one that many Bluegrass groups have included, over the years. Also, being about a dead child makes it a classic song for Bluegrass.
From what I could find out, “Live and Let Live” doesn’t appear to have been previously recorded by Rose and her brothers. This one is more of a traditional hard Country recording, and an excellent one, at that. One wonders why this one didn’t find daylight as a single. Single-worthy, and good enough to have made a significant chart impact, in my opinion. Rose’s vocals are nothing short of outstanding, here.
Hank Williams sang it, Molly O’Day’s version is considered the standard, but after hearing Rose’s version of “Tramp on The Street”, I have to say, it’s in the same neighborhood as the Molly O’Day classic. This is a great Country Gospel track.
While Rose and her brothers had a cut on “Chocolate Ice Cream Cone” in 1950, it was the versions by Red Foley and Kenny Roberts that were hits. A bouncier version than those two, again, like the other up-tempo tracks, here, breakneck, but in control. It’s a song that falls just over the line of a novelty number. Some would say a cute song.
One more Gospel number wraps the disc, and it’s one of Rose’s best vocals on the disc. “Gathering Flowers for The Master’s Bouquet” was first recorded by The Maddox Brothers and Rose in 1948. Again, more of a Bluegrass feel, here, with the strong mandolin work. A great end to what turns out to be a very good album.
The One Rose is available as an MP3 download. While I don’t believe it was ever released on CD, you should be able, with a little effort, find a good used record. My check of prices on Amazon were outlandish; $89! eBay was much more reasonable. There, copies ranged from $5.99 to $20. The Goldmine publication lists near-mint copies as valued at $30 for mono pressings and $45 for stereo copies (which I have).
Overall, this is an album that should be given “classic” status; it’s that good. There’s not a weak, or even ordinary track, here. Growing up in Indiana in the 70’s and 80’s, I heard virtually nothing about the Maddox Brothers and Rose; in fact, the first time I heard them was middle school age on a friend’s various artist album. After first hearing this album, several years ago, it gave me a whole new appreciation for Rose’s vocal works, and it’s easy to see why she’s considered a seriously underrated performer in Country music history.
Your thoughts are always welcome. Let me know what you think in the comments below.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, model railroader, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, focusing on classic country and top 40 oldies music. He convinced Vincennes University to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting. He’s worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.