|At Jacks Sugar Shack in Hollywood, California|
Country music pioneer Rose Maddox died of kidney failure on 4-15-98.
What follows is an account of one of her last public performances.
There was a big crowd. Ronnie said this makes five good Barn Dances in a row. Some other shows this Spring were not so well attended, leading Ronnie to sometimes say that the Barn Dance was dying out.
I missed the opening set by folk singer Joyce Woodsen. Ronnie said she performed near solo, with backup from just a steel guitar player. She has a new CD called Capistrano Girl.
Wylie Larry Dean
There were also opening sets by Wylie & the Wild West Show, followed by Larry Dean & the Shooters.
Wylie is one of the most successful of the barn Dance alumnae. He and his group have appeared on the Grand Ole Opry thirty times. But he still finds time to fit a Barn Dance into his busy schedule. His set featured some excellent country yodeling on several songs, including a heartfelt rendition of Eddy Arnold's classic, "Cattle Call."
Dean is an authentic honky-tonk singer, similar to Dale Watson and Cisco. His excellent upbeat material had the crowd up and dancing.
It was now past 11:30 p.m. The Barn Dance crowd usually dwindles about this time of the evening, this being a weeknight. But the place was still packed. All seats were taken. People were standing in the middle of the dance floor, blocking the view of some at the front tables. Others sat on the floor at the foot of the stage.
Everybody was waiting to see Rose Maddox, a legend many of them had only heard about.
Looking tiny and frail, she had to be helped up onto the foot-high stage. Wearing what looked like a warm-up suit, she didn't look the image of a country music pioneer. But any doubts about that were erased the moment she started singing.
She was here to promote a new album (on Country-Town Records) that she recorded with guitarist John Jorgenson of the Hellecasters. Jorgenson appeared with her tonight. Also in the backup band was J.D. Manus [sp?] who is known for playing steel guitar on the Byrds' "Sweetheart of the Rodeo" album.
She was also plugging Jonny Whiteside's new biography Ramblin' Rose (published by the Country Music Foundation/Vanderbilt University Press), which she said is going to be made into a movie.
Despite the new album, Rose Maddox stuck mainly with her older repertoire, yielding to audience requests. These ranged from the sublime (Haggard's "Shelly's Winter Love") to the ridiculous ("Ugly and Slouchy"). There was a duet with rockabilly pioneer Glen Glenn, with whom she has toured Europe. Her set also included gospel chestnuts "Amazing Grace" and "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot."
The amazing thing about Rose Maddox is that her voice is the same as ever. She has the pipes of someone a fraction of her age (said to be 72).
Nearly as entertaining as the music was her between-song patter, full of quick-witted retorts to things shouted out by people in the crowd. She was especially funny in her gentle teasing of some hardcore fans from Belgium and the Netherlands who had apparently talked her ears off before the show.
On a few songs she forgot the lyrics, but nobody seemed to mind. It was enough that she was here at all.
Maddox gave the requisite five-song Barn Dance set plus more. After being helped off the stage, she slowly made her way back to the booth where she had earlier waited her turn to perform.
After the show I was told that Rose had actually been feeling ill, having caught some kind of bug in Europe. Old friends reported that she was considerably thinner than she used to be. With an upcoming trip to Nashville in the works (to promote the new record), we hope she regains her health.
After the main show, the crowd thinned noticeably. But the music did not stop. Ronnie Mack and the Barn Dance Band played and backed up a number of sit-in guests.
Ray Campi, who would be leaving for a date in London in two days, borrowed Russell Scott's bass and played two songs.
When it was Russell Scott's turn to sing, I was struck by how hoarse his voice is these days. If it gets any worse, he's going to sound like Rod McKuen.
Melba Toast brought Wylie back to the stage to recreate the "Back to Bakersfield" demo they had recorded a few years ago.
Dan Janisch was also among those sitting in with Ronnie Mack and the Barn Dance Band.
This page established: July 26, 1997 Last updated: February 22, 2023
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