The Last Maddox Brother, Don Maddox, Dies

Pictured: The Maddox Brothers & Rose. (Don Maddox, far right). Photo: Courtesy Robert K. Oermann

Don Maddox, the last survivor of the legendary honky-tonk/rockabilly pioneering band The Maddox Brothers & Rose, has died at age 98.

From 1937 to 1956, The Maddox Brothers & Rose became known as “the most colorful hillbilly band in the land.” Their stage act was packed with wildly raucous, unpredictable antics and they were among the first country acts to embrace sequined, spangled “Nudie” outfits.

The Maddox sound was a bold, loud fusion of electric guitars and barroom rhythm that helped define the evolution of honky-tonk music in the 1940s. The brothers’ slap-back bass “country boogie” undertow and Rose’s exuberant vocals prefigured the rise of rockabilly music in the 1950s.

The band also popularized the songwriting of Woody Guthrie. The ensemble’s version of his “Philadelphia Lawyer” in 1949 became both his and the group’s biggest country hit. Other notable Maddox recordings featuring Don include “Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down,” “Mean and Wicked Boogie,” “Whoa Sailor,” “Water Baby Blues,” “Alimony” and “Hangover Blues.”

The Maddox saga is one of the most cinematic in country-music history. Sharecropper mama Lula Maddox and husband Charlie left dirt-farm Alabama poverty with their kids in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression. Don, then aged 10, and his siblings learned to ride the rails to California, where they made newspaper headlines as residents inside lengths of large drainage culvert pipes.

They became crop pickers in the San Fernando Valley and began entertaining in the labor camps. The Maddox band was comprised of Cliff (1912-1949), Cal (1915-1968), Fred (1919-1992), Don (1922-2021), Rose (1925-1998) and Henry (1928-1974), who replaced Cliff when the latter died. Lula became the manager and domineering stage mother.

She and her outgoing son Fred talked KTRB in Modesto, California into hosting a radio show for the family act in 1937, leading to performances for tips in honky-tonk dives and hillbilly nightclubs. In 1939, The Maddox Brothers & Rose won a talent contest that rewarded them with a regionally syndicated radio show in California, Arizona, Oregon and Washington. Their popularity soared.

After Don and his brothers served in the armed forces during WWII, the band retooled its act to become more entertaining. The siblings adopted eye-popping costumes, resplendent with satin sleeves, long fringe, embroidered designs, spangled trim, elaborately tooled boots and flowing kerchiefs. The Maddoxes gaudy, flower-encrusted cowboy/Mexican outfits defined the country-music look for generations to come.

Their onstage behavior was equally showy, as the brothers incorporated shrieking comedy routines, blaring honky-tonk vocal wailing, hepped-up hillbilly versions of R&B tunes, zany ad-libbing sound effects and cackling laughter into their flashy performances. “Don Juan,” as he was dubbed, was the band’s fiddler and chief comedian, as well as a vocalist. The five spangled crazies traveled in a fleet of matching, gleaming black Cadillacs.

After the band’s breakup, Rose Maddox went solo, scoring a dozen top-20 hits in the 1950s and 1960s and giving the little-known Buck Owens a boost as her duet partner.

Following a successful career as a cattle rancher in Ashland, Oregon, Don reemerged as a performer, too. He began appearing at music festivals in the 1990s as a representative founder of rock n roll.

Don Maddox opened for Big & Rich at the Britt Festival in Oregon in 2005. He performed at the Muddy Roots Festival in Cookeville, Tennessee in 2011 and 2012. He appeared on Marty Stuart’s Nashville TV show, earned a standing ovation at his guest appearance on the Grand Ole Opry and recorded three solo fiddle albums.

Maddox was featured in the “Bakersfield” exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2012-14. He headlined in Las Vegas at the first annual Rockabilly Rockout convention in 2014. In 2019, he was featured in the Ken Burns PBS documentary Country Music.

Don Maddox passed away on Sept. 12. He is survived by his wife Barbara, who he affectionately referred to as his “child bride.”

The family has donated Maddox’s fiddle along with other memorabilia to Stuart for a planned “Congress of Country Music” facility to be built in Philadelphia, Mississippi.

Maddox will be remembered at a graveside service at 11 a.m. Monday, Sept. 27, at Scenic Hills Memorial Park, 2585 E. Hills Dr. in Ashland, Oregan. Maddox’s wife said the service, which will include military honors, is open to all.

Nashville Musician, Publisher & Producer Ron Cornelius Dies

Ron Cornelius with 1959 Gretsch Country Gentleman Guitar. Photo: Courtesy Terry Bell

Ron Cornelius, a Music Row session musician, publisher, and producer, passed away on Aug. 18 following complications from a stroke. He was 76.

Cornelius got his start in music as a teen guitarist in California, cutting his musical teeth while backing a list of artists including Chubby Checker, Martha and the Vandellas, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Jan & Dean, Bobby Rydell, Glen Campbell, Sonny & Cher, Jackie Wilson, Mary Wells, and more. At age 16, he landed a label deal with his own group The Untouchables on Dot Records.

Ron Cornelius. Photo: Courtesy Terry Bell

After years as a backing guitarist, Cornelius formed the group West. In 1967, they signed with Epic Records and cut two albums in Nashville. A single, “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” (a Bob Dylan composition), climbed to No. 17 on the national charts. The group went on to record a final LP for Paramount Records before dissolving. Altogether, Cornelius had five major label deals as an artist including one with A&M Records and his release of “Tin Luck” for Polydor Records.

In 1969, Cornelius was part of the production team for Johnny Cash’s album Live at San Quentin. He also served as lead guitarist on albums by Cash, Marty Robbins, Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, Hoyt Axton, Loudon Wainwright III, and many others. Cornelius also played lead on seven multi-Platinum albums for the legendary Bob Dylan. During this time, Cornelius also helped assemble a band for singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen, serving as band leader for six major world tours, four albums, and a movie. He also provided guitar on several film soundtracks including I Walk the Line starring Gregory Peck, Concrete Cowboy, Little Fauss and Big Halsy, and The Big Lebowski.

He moved to Nashville in 1980 and pursued a career as a producer, songwriter, and publisher in addition to his work as a guitarist. Joining forces with Pete Drake, he served as professional manager and producer of Drake Music Group’s Nashville publishing administration service, and later headed and produced for The A.T.V. Music Corporation’s Nashville office. At that time, A.T.V. was the fourth largest publisher in the world, administering the works of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, as well as a 6,000-song catalog of country greats.

In 1986, Cornelius founded The Cornelius Companies, an independent Nashville-based production and publishing company. Cornelius represented and administered catalogs for Cabin Fever Entertainment, Inc., Charlie Daniels/Miss Hazel Music, and The Lowery Music Group out of Atlanta. In 1995 Gateway Entertainment, Inc., a division of The Cornelius Companies, was created, and Cornelius racked up 11 Top 10s, eight Top 5’s, and two No. 1 singles, all produced by him.

In recent years Cornelius worked on projects for Colt Prather for Epic Records, the band Cooper Berry for Warner Brothers Records, California country singer Summer Schappell, and Miko Marks. Cornelius was featured in the Country Music Hall of Fame museum’s 2015-2018 Exhibition of Dylan, Cash, and the Nashville Cats: A New Music City. He loaned the museum his custom made 1959 Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar and other artifacts for the exhibit, and participated in a 2015 panel discussion about his work with Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. He is also the author of the book, The Guitar Behind Dylan and Cohen.

Music Executive Stan Moress Dies

Stan Moress

Beloved music executive Stan Moress died Monday afternoon (Sept. 6). Although Moress’ cause of death is unknown at this time, he fought a 10-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.

Moress was born on April 26, 1938 in Rochester, New York. He was the eldest of three and was very close to his family throughout his life. Moress graduated from Rollins College in 1960, where he was on the water skiing team.

Stan Moress. Photo: Courtesy Joe Galante

He started his career in the mailroom of the PR firm Rogers & Cowan. Moress moved to Nashville in the 1980s and went on to become an A&R executive and manage the careers of countless of country artists throughout his career, including Eddie Rabbitt, K.T. Oslin, Roger Miller, Lorrie Morgan, Don Williams, Clint Black, Tammy Wynette, Ronnie Milsap, Mindy McCready, Donna Summer, and many others. He also led Gloria Estefan and The Miami Sound Machine from South Florida nightclubs to international acclaim.

Along with Bernard Porter, Mike Martinovich, and Al Schlitz, Moress was a partner in Nashville-based artist management and consulting firm the Consortium. The firm’s management clients included Joe Diffie, Sherrie Austin, Tammy Cochrane, Mandy Barnett, Catherine Britt and Red Saturday. This partnership was part of the team that helped launch Broken Bow Records.

As a champion of people, Moress encouraged and helped many to recognize and live to their fullest potential. He mentored notable Nashville manager Clarence Spalding, as well as many others in the industry. Moress also served as a Country Music Association board member.

Moress is preceded in death by his sister Shelley, and is survived by his brother Stephen; nieces Hilary and Romi; and nephews Ryan, Steven, and Jordan.

Memorial details for Moress have not yet been announced.

Ronnie Milsap Mourns Loss Of Wife, Joyce

Joyce Milsap, Ronnie Milsap, and Todd Milsap. Photo: Ronnie Milsap

Joyce Reeves Milsap, wife of Country Music Hall of Fame member Ronnie Milsap, died on Sept. 6. She was 81.

Reeves was born on July 25, 1941 in Gainesville, Georgia. At a dinner hosted by her cousin, she met a young Ronnie Milsap. Together, they started chasing Milsap’s dream of becoming a singer and married in 1965.

Always a fierce believer in her husband and the way he heard music, Reeves supported Milsap as the couple moved to Memphis and then eventually to Nashville as the singer made his transition into country music. The pair created a home in Music City, where they decided to settle at the end of 1972.

Her support carried him through three songs produced by Cowboy Jack Clement, which became his first country hits, and led Jerry Bradley to sign him to RCA Records in 1973. That faith sustained until Milsap scored his first two No. 1 songs in 1974–“Pure Love” and Kris Kristofferson’s “Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends,” the latter earning Milsap the first of his six Grammy awards and the 1974 CMA Male Vocalist of the Year.

Reeves was the muse and inspiration for many of Milsap’s biggest hits, including “Daydreams About Night Things,” “Smokey Mountain Rain,” “Show Her,” “Don’t You Know How Much I Love You,” “A Woman In Love” and “What A Difference You’ve Made in My Life,” as well as what the loss of that love might be informing “Almost Like A Song,” “Still Losing You,” “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It For The World” and the 1985 and 1986 Grammy-winning “Lost in the ‘50s Tonight.” To date, their love created 40 No. 1 hits.

Reeves and Milsap shared that love with their only son, Ronald Todd. Todd, who precedes his mother in death, died at the age of 49. She was also a grandmother to Kye, Asher, Mya and Wyler.

“There are no words, and not enough songs in the world to explain how much I love my Sapphire,” says the country icon. “She was the music and the feeling inside all of those songs, so if you loved my music, you understand some of how much I loved my beautiful, beautiful wife. It’s all in the songs, but she was even more. She was the love of my life, the mother of my son, the world’s happiest grandmother—and someone who woke up every day curious and ready for whatever adventure she could get into.

“When people tell me they love my music, I always smile, because that music is pure Joyce. We went through lean times laughing, good times beyond our imagination, tough times where we held on to each other for dear life,” he continues. “Blessedly/Thankfully, she’s in heaven with our Todd—and I know somehow from heaven, she’s still here with me every day, because that’s just how she was.”

Due to COVID concerns, Joyce will have a private family service.

Acclaimed Keyboardist Tim Akers Passes [Updated]

 

Tim Akers. Photo: Anthony Scarlati

Keyboard player, session and touring musician, songwriter, arranger and producer Tim Akers passed away on Aug. 30 due to complications from pneumonia following multiple treatments for Leukemia. He was 59.

Hailing from Hendersonville, Tennessee, Akers was the keyboard player and band leader for his band, Tim Akers and The Smoking Section. The 17-piece R&B band, comprised entirely of Nashville session players, have all played on countless records across all genres.

An acclaimed studio session player, Akers had a variety of recordings to his credit, including those for Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, Faith Hill, Keith Urban, Megadeth, Michael Bolton, Rascal Flatts, SHeDAISY, Jewel, LeAnn Rimes, Trace Adkins, Glen Campbell, Barry Manilow, Pam Tillis, Patti LaBelle, Joss Stone, Wynonna, Kid Rock, Josh Gracin, and many others. His music has also been featured on a handful of soundtracks for movies like Chicken Little, Evan Almighty, Herbie Fully Loaded, The Prince of Egypt, We Were Soldiers, Kissing Jessica Stein, and Anastasia.

Akers was the Music Director for TNN’s show, Prime Time Country, from 1997-1999, and as a conductor/arranger/bandleader, he directed shows with artists to the likes of Stevie Wonder; Earth, Wind & Fire; Patti LaBelle; Donna Summer; John Legend; Michael McDonald; Kenny Loggins; Christopher Cross and more. Akers was also a touring keyboardist with country music trio Rascal Flatts, and also toured with LeAnn Rimes, Faith Hill, Amy Grant, and Vince Gill over the years.

“It’s a heartbreaking loss for Tim’s family, friends and our music community,” says AHP Records President Steve Emley. “The times I spent with Tim in tour busses, on stage, in the studio and over a great cup of coffee were filled with compelling conversations, lots of laughter and awe of his genius talent. Recently, the way he walked through his illness with such grace and peace, I found inspiring. In brief, Tim leaves a beautiful legacy as a joyful and talented believer, Husband, father, grandfather, friend and musician. I’m confident Heaven has some amazing new arrangements of some classic hymns now that Tim’s there.”

Akers was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2017. Akers is survived by his parents, his wife Dianna, son Chase Akers, daughter Camille Akers Blinn, her husband Jesse and their two children.

A GoFundMe has been set up to help pay for memorial and living expenses. To give to the Akers family, click here.

Paradise Artists Agent Charlie Davis Dies At 68

Longtime Paradise Artists agent Charlie Davis passed away unexpectedly on Wednesday (Aug. 25). He was 68.

Davis’ career in the music industry began in his early twenties as the road manager for Peter Frampton on the “Frampton Comes Alive! Tour.” He later worked as Chubby Checker’s manager for over thirty years before he joined Paradise Artists in 1996. He remained working there until his death. Davis served on the IEBA Board of Directors for over a decade.

Over his career, he has worked with a variety of artists including REO Speedwagon; Bad Company; Blood, Sweat & Tears; Steppenwolf; Joan Jett and the Blackhearts; Weird Al Yankovic Foreigner’s Lou Gramm, Tommy James & The Shondells, Gary Puckett & The Union Gap; and many more.

Pictured (L-R): Charlie Davis, Kell Houston, and Christine Barkley. Photo: Courtesy IEBA

“Charlie Davis was one-of-a-kind. He was universally loved and was a dear, dear friend. It is an understatement to say that he will be dearly missed,” says Howie Silverman, owner of Paradise Artists.

Charlie is survived by his wife Cheryl Mahoney-Davis, stepdaughter Heather Philips, and granddaughters Shannon and Sonia Philips.

In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting that donations be made in Charlie’s memory to the Schuylkill Haven School District Music Department located at 501 East Main Street, Schuylkill Haven, PA, 17972.

Touring Veteran Randy “Baja” Fletcher Passes

Randy “Baja” Fletcher at the Touring Career Workshop in 2016. Photo: Courtesy Chris Lisle

Touring industry veteran and tour production manager Randy “Baja” Fletcher passed away today (Aug. 27), MusicRow has confirmed. Fletcher recently fell at a show site and was critically injured.

Fletcher worked as a Production Manager for ZZ Top, Waylon Jennings, Randy Travis, Brooks & Dunn and most recently with Keith Urban. He was honored with the first-ever CMA Touring Lifetime Achievement Award at the annual CMA Touring Awards in 2017 for all of his contributions.

Fletcher started his near 50-year career in Virginia Beach, Virginia when he was 17. With Bill Deal and the Rhondels, Fletcher traveled with the band up and down the East Coast on solo dates. He also worked with shows of the era that included pop and Motown artists.

In 1978 Feltcher started a 10-year run with Waylon Jennings. During this time he also toured with Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Willie Nelson, and many more. In 1988 he began working with Randy Travis on his first headlining tour, whom he would continue with for five years. In 1992 Fletcher started working with Brooks & Dunn, where he served as the duo’s production manager for 18 years.

In 2011 Fletcher took his current role as production manager for Keith Urban.

After being awarded with the CMA’s first-ever Touring Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017, he was awarded Production Manager Of The Year in 2019 among other industry honors.

Fletcher served in the United States Army, and did a tour of Vietnam.

Memorial details have not yet been announced.

Prolific Drummer Kenny Malone Passes

Kenny Malone. Photo: Courtesy Dave Pomeroy

Lauded drummer and studio musician Kenny Malone died today (Aug. 26) after being hospitalized earlier this week due to COVID-19. He was 83.

Born Aug. 4, 1938 and raised in Denver, Colorado, Malone served in the Navy band in Washington, D.C., eventually becoming head of the percussion department at the Armed Forces School of Music. He made the move to Tennessee in 1970 and quickly found success as a session musician.

Malone was known for his unique hand drumming technique that allowed for a special combination of sounds for his recordings. Spanning folk, country, and other genres with early sessions for John Prine (Sweet Revenge), Dolly Parton (Jolene), Waylon Jennings (Dreaming My Dreams), Ronnie Milsap (Night Things), Wanda Jackson (I’ll Still Love You), and Amy Grant (Amy Grant), among others.

Throughout his nearly 40 year career, Malone has been asked to record for an array of artists, including Carl Perkins, Ray Charles, George Jones, Janie Fricke, Johnny Cash, Don Williams, Dobie Gray, Donna Fargo, David Allen Coe, Merle Haggard, The Whites, Crystal Gayle, Charlie Pride, Moe Bandy, Floyd Cramer, Dr. Hook, Barbara Mandrell, Johnny Paycheck, Kenny Rogers, Michael Johnson, Dottie West, Lynn Anderson, John Hartford, New Grass Revival, Béla Fleck, Barefoot Jerry, B.J. Thomas, Bobby Bare, Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs, John Anderson, and Lacy J. Dalton.

Malone is thought to be one of most recorded drummers in Nashville history, although the complete list of his credits is unknown.

“He expanded the vocabulary of Nashville drumming, and was always an innovator who invented his own unique style of hand drumming, often combining sticks and brushes with hand percussion to create a unique sound and feel that left lots of space for other instruments and the vocals. He was well known for asking for a lyric sheet instead of a chord chart, and always put the song first in a way that was very special,” Dave Pomeroy, president of the AFM Local 257, says of the 51-year AFM 257 member.

Malone will be remembered by the Nashville music community for his influence on music and his joke-telling.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

Hit Songwriter Kim Tribble Dies

Kim Tribble. Photo: Courtesy SESAC

Songwriter Kim Tribble passed away last night (Aug. 25) after a battle with Lewy Body Syndrome.

The songwriter was born in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and became an active writer in Nashville in the ’90s.

Among Tribble’s hits are “Guys Do It All the Time” (Mindy McCready), “I Can Still Feel You” (Collin Raye) “A Feelin’ Like That” (Gary Allan), and “One in Every Crowd” (Montgomery Gentry). Tribble also wrote songs with and for Shania Twain, Aaron Tippin, Martina McBride, Jason Aldean, and more. He was a frequent collaborator of David Lee Murphy, having written songs on all of his albums.

Tribble was a SESAC writer, and was honored by the PRO in 2013 for his hit with Chris Cagle’s, “Let There Be Cowgirls.”

Tribble is survived by his wife Patti, daughter Samantha and two granddaughters. An outpouring of tributes to the songwriter on social media remember Tribble’s humor and laugh.

Memorial details have not yet been announced.

Songwriter Craig Karp Dies At 76

Chart-topping country songwriter Craig Karp died on Aug. 15 in Nashville at age 76.

He was the co-writer of “If It Don’t Come Easy,” which hit No. 1 for Tanya Tucker in 1988. Karp also hit the top of the country hit parade with “There’s No Stopping Your Heart,” recorded by Marie Osmond in 1985.

Born Ronald Craig Karp, he came of age in California before embarking on his Nashville songwriting career. His earliest big success was “Second Hand Heart,” a No. 7 country hit of 1984 sung by Gary Morris. He co-wrote two big hits for Southern Pacific. “Honey I Dare You” was a 1988 single by the group that reached No. 5 on the country charts. “All Is Lost” made it to No. 19 on the A/C chart for Southern Pacific in 1989.

Craig Karp also co-wrote songs recorded by T.G. Sheppard, Lynn Anderson, Dave Gibson, Burrito Deluxe, Eddy Raven, Jimmy Fortune, Matt King, Rob Crosby, James House and Wayland Patton.

Carla Monday and Rustie Blue are among the independent-label acts who charted with Karp’s songs. More than two dozen such singers recorded his songs in 1980-2010. Several of them were European recording artists.

Craig Karp is survived by his wife Helen, daughter Casey, son Cody Blue and granddaughter LaDonna Eby. Arrangements are being handled by Woodbine Funeral Home. A celebration of his life will be held at a later date.