Author: Judd, Brooks

My brief encounter with the wonderful Rose Maddox

My father, like J.D. Rhynes, was an avid admirer of the wonderful talented Rose Maddox. Though my father never knew Rose personally or played music with her, he did go out of his way to see her shows in the Central Valley back in the early 50’s and enjoyed her shows many years later at the CBA Festivals in Grass Valley.
I worked in Hayward from 1962 to 1981 and even though I lived in other cities than Hayward: San Lorenzo, Oakland, Dublin, and Tracy, during these years I had always called Hayward my home. One reason for this other than blind loyalty was the fact Hayward was the site of the prestigious West 40 Club, a honky tonk bar, featuring live music, line dancing, drinking, and laughter in a large smoke filled dimly lit room. The West 40 Club on A Street in Hayward was off of Hesperian Blvd. just a few blocks away from Chabot Junior College and a few yards away from the tiny Hayward Airport. The West 40’s popularity was based on their ability to book country western groups of some stature and hire them to play in Hayward.

One day in 1975 my father called me and asked if I would like to see Rose Maddox at the West 40 Club. I had a vague memory of seeing Rose Maddox and her brothers on a local TV show called the Black Jack Wayne show in the mid 50’s, but I could be wrong. Black Jack Wayne did have a show (I checked on it) and he did own a venue with his brother Chuck called the “Garden of Allah” in Niles where country stars would perform and the local denizens would dance, drink Falstaff beer, and enjoy the music. I thought it would be fun to share this experience with my father.
Friday night arrived and I hopped into my company car, a little Ford Courier and drove to my father’s home. He was freshly showered and scrubbed and had excitedly splashed a few extra ounces of Mennen Skin Bracer onto his carefully Gillette Blue Blade shaven face. He had foraged around the depths of his cluttered hall closet for a couple of Rose Maddox albums he was hoping to get signed. We walked down the stairs (albums clutched to my fathers chest like a crate of gold ingots) to my Courier and off we ambled from the heights and grace of the Highland Hills to the lower nether land regions of red necks, cowboys and mule skinners on A Street, home of the notorious West 40 Club.
We opened up the door and were hit by a thick cloud of cigarette smoke. My eyes immediately began to water. We fought our way through the haze and found a table. We ordered a drink and my dad lit up a Camel. A few minutes later the MC announced Rose and she sauntered onto the stage to wild applause. She greeted everyone with a great big ‘Howdy” and proceeded on put on a great show. My father didn’t stop grinning once. After the set my father brought up the two albums and asked Rose to sign which she graciously did. My father chatted with Rose a few minutes and she went backstage to prepare for her second set. My father was like a little kid as he began telling me his favorite stories (again) of seeing Rose back in the 50’s. It was a great night.

Now I told you that so I could tell you this. (With apologies to Mr. Ron Thomason) Twenty-one years later in 1996 this whole event would be brought out of the cobwebs of my mind as a whole new scenario with the gifted Ms. Maddox would take place.
I had just begun playing the bass in an old timey, Irish/ bluegrass band called the Heartland String Band. We had a “fan” that took a liking to us and decided to become our unofficial photographer. The young man stated proudly that he was related to the talented Rose Maddox. I told him the story about my father and he said he would contact Rose and invite her to our upcoming gig at The Columbia House Restaurant on the first week-end in April.
I was excited and saddened at the same time. My father had just passed away a few months earlier and he would have loved to see Rose at the Columbia House Restaurant. Being able to see his beloved Rose and his son play music together would have really busted the buttons on his shirt.
The big day came and our group drove up to Columbia. Our photographer was waiting for us at the restaurant. We began our first set and Rose didn’t show up. Then I realized what was going on. It was April Fools Day. Our photographer was pulling a grand joke on the gullible bassist. I was really upset because I had told a lot of friends that the famous Rose Maddox was coming to Columbia to see our band. Most of them had said, “Sure she is.” Now I realized that they were probably right.
During the break before our second set I was as down as I could be. To make matters worse, our photographer decided he wanted to take some pictures of the group. It took all I had to not tell him what he could do with his camera. I forced myself to smile as the shutter clicked away. We began our second set just before noon as the luncheon crowd began to fill up the restaurant. We played with our backs against the retaining wall that separated the kitchen from the dining room. We could see the front of the restaurant and keep tabs of who came in and out as well as what was going on outside the restaurant on the busy main street of Columbia.
After our third song I saw a couple of older women and a gentleman walk through the doors. I couldn’t believe it. It was Rose Maddox! She had actually come to see us. They immediately walked over to our photographer friend and began to quietly talk with him. He motioned for them to sit down at our table. We finished our set early and made it over to the table that housed the legendary Rose Maddox.
I introduced myself and told Rose how much I admired her and how much my father absolutely loved her singing. I went on to tell her about the stories my father told me about going to see her play in the Central Valley. She smiled and joked and said she “wasn’t that old.” I asked Rose if she would be willing to sing at least one song with our group. To my surprise she agreed. She said she would do Amazing Grace with us. Now I had seen Rose on stage at Grass Valley and knew she had a penchant for playfully punching musicians. Rose was no wilting flower she. I was a bit worried as we got up to play. I loved Rose but was adverse to pain.
We made it through the song and to my relief Rose’s tiny but hardened fists made no contact with my body. The crowd applauded and we went back to our table. Rose said she had to leave and I wanted to give her a memento. All I had were some semi-expensive cigars I had been smoking at the time. They were enclosed in fancy plastic tubes. I pulled out my last cigar and handed it to her. She gave me a look like I had just handed her a clear sandwich baggie filled with reindeer poo. Her frown did not go unnoticed. I explained to her how my father and I liked to smoke cigars and listen to her albums and thus the gift of the cigar seemed appropriate. She smiled at me and said she understood. I extended my hand to shake her hand, we shook hands, she placed the cigar in her purse, said good by and off she went. We went back on stage to finish our set.
I just wish Dad would have been there.
Until then, read a book, hug a child, pet a dog, stroke a cat, and say something nice behind someone’s back.

Posted:  1/6/2012

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email