Remembering Rose Maddox and Paul Robeson

From The Folknik July/Aug 1998

Rose Maddox 1925-1998

Rose Maddox, whose recording career spanned six decades, died April 15 in Ashland, Oregon.

Rose and her family moved west to California in the thirties when she was seven years old. The family was quite musical, and sang around the campfire at night after picking fruit all day in the San Joaquin Valley.

In 1937, her brother Fred, tired of the fruit-picking way of life, decided to get a gig playing at one of the local bars. The bar owner asked Fred, "Do you have a girl singer?" Fred said, "You bet!" At the time, Rose was 11 years old and had never sung professionally in her life.

The other brothers joined the act, and soon the "Maddox Brothers and Rose" became known for their singing and their antics. This continued until 1956, when the group disbanded and Rose embarked on a solo career.

Rose was the first female vocalist to record an all-bluegrass album in 1962, then, in 1963, she hit the charts with a double-sided hit that she recorded with Buck Owens.

Johnny Cash said of her: "There'll never be a woman that can out-perform Rose Maddox. She's an American classic!"

Paul Robeson-100 years

Paul Robeson was born just 100 years ago and died in Philadelphia at the age of 78. His career included winning 15 varsity letters at Rutgers, to which he had an academic scholarship, being twice named to the All-American football team, getting a law degree at Columbia University and finding his niche in the theater and on the concert stage. He appeared on Broadway in plays that included "Othello", Eugene O'Neill's "All God's Chillun Got Wings" and "The Emperor Jones" and was in 11 movies. His singing of "Ol' Man River" in "Show Boat" was a triumph of histrionic and vocal art.

Attempts this year to secure a postage stamp in his honor were unsuccessful.

When the House UnAmerican Activities Committee asked him why he didn't move to the Soviet Union, he replied: "Because my father was a slave and my people died to build this country and I'm going to stay here and have a part in it just like you."

The San Francisco Bay Area Robeson Centennial Committee will present a "Tribute to Paul Robeson" during the San Francisco Laborfest July 12 at 7:30 p.m. For location phone (415) 642-8066.

Back to this folknik issue's contents page...