Author: Rhynes, J.D.

Remembrances of Rose
Tonight as I sat here watching the sun go down, I was listening to my favorite Native American flute player, R.Carlos Nakai, as he played several traditional Native American [Indian] melodies, on a flute that is made of cedar, and has 5 or 6 finger holes on it. The Native American flute is made of native cedar and is a most basic instrument to say the least. It has NO provisions for playing the necessary sharps or flats that are inherent in all kinds of music, YET, Carlos can bend the notes to perfectly hit the melody in KEY! What does all of this Native American flute music have to do with one of the great ALL time female country artist's you may ask? Simple! The last song on this CD is the song Amazing Grace.

At the Memorial Day festival at Ghost Mountain in May of 1980, Rose Maddox was appearing with the Vern Williams Band, (in Pollock Pines, CA.) Towards the end of the Sunday morning gospel set that Rose was performing with Vern's band, someone asked for her to sing the song, "Amazing Grace". She said, I'd be glad to, BUT I donít know all of the verses! Our banjo player, Keith Little, told her, I know all of the words, so lets play it for the folks! Keith stood next to her and gave her the words as we played the song and we got a standing ovation for that song.

Fast forward to September of the same year, 1980. We were in the Arch Street Studio in Berkeley that fall, recording the album, This Is Rose Maddox with The Vern Williams Band. Amazing Grace was one of the songs that Rose insisted that we would record on that album, and we were having a hard time getting a good Ďtakeí on it. We were on about our fourth or fifth take and the way we were positioned in the studio, I was looking Rose right in the eye, across the sea of microphones and musicians. I had my bass pretty much isolated from the rest of the instruments, due to the fact that solid panels surrounded me. Every time Rose would sing the line, "When we've been there, ten thousand years," I would start to cry. I really tried NOT to, but I couldn't help myself! After the fifth take, we were getting ready to take another cut and I was bent down behind the panels that surrounded my bass, wiping my eye's. Rose knew that something was wrong and told the engineer that she needed to get a drink of water. She slipped over to where I was and asked in a real quiet voice, Honey, what's wrong? I told her, Rose, when you sing that one line, it makes me cry, and I donít know why! She hugged me and whispered in my ear so lovingly, Honey, when Rose sings that line, you're SUPPOSED to cry!

Tonight at sunset, as Carlos played Amazing Grace, accompanied by the Canyon Symphony Orchestra, it brought back all of those good memories of playing with Vern and Rose, and of all of the good times that we had together. The haunting melodies that Carlos conjured up on that most basic of instruments flooded my soul with memories that I will cherish to my dying day. What I would give to live them all over again! If you want to experience music at it's primal best, get yerself a CD of R. Carlos Nakai's music, and listen to the music of my Native American forefathers, and you will understand why I cry my eye's out when he plays Amazing grace! I canít wait to hear Rose sing this song with Him!

Posted:  5/20/2007

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