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Don Maddox: fiddle legend

When you first see Don Maddox, he looks like the retired — farmer he is.

But once you start talking to him, you realize he is an — American treasure located right here in Ashland.

For Maddox, along with his brothers Cal, Fred, Henry, — Cliff and sister Rose, formed one of the groups that pioneered Western — Swing music in America.

His recent induction into the Seattle Western Swing Music — Society Hall of Fame is one more feather in the 81-year-old performer's — cap.

And the family's fame continues today worldwide.

"The Maddox Brothers and Rose were big in the 40s and — 50s," Maddox said. "We recorded and played all over the world. We recorded — over 200 records in that time. Bear Family Records in Germany recently — released a four-CD box set of our records."

Maddox, who plays the fiddle, said the family started — out in Alabama in the 40s before moving to Modesto, Calif.

"We were the 'dust bowl' generation and the 'Okie generation' — even though we weren't from Oklahoma," he said. "We started out playing — around campfires and then it grew from there."

Maddox has seen a revival in his fame since he joined — the Old Time Fiddlers Association.

"I have been out of the business for 50 years," he said. — "I joined the Old Time Fiddlers Association and went to one of their meetings. — I figured no one would remember us. But I had a shirt on with our name — on the back.

"When they saw the name and found out who I was, they — rolled out the red carpet. They all still remembered the band and I was — treated like a star."

Lew Holt, past president of the OTFA, said it was nice — to see Maddox in the organization. He said he first heard of The Maddox — Brothers and Rose in 1952.

"I knew that Rose had retired and lived in your area," — he said. "It never crossed my mind that Don might be there also. He is — the most recognizable member of our organization and he identifies with — the group more than anyone else."

When the band broke up in 1955, Rose continued to perform — solo. Maddox came to Ashland 46 years ago, bought a farm and raised Angus — cattle. He also stopped playing music.

He said Western Swing music is somewhat of a lost art — in America.

"I played shows with Bob Wills, Cowboy Copas and even — Elvis," he said. "I am interested in trying to preserve Western Swing. — We were pioneers of that genre."

And, as one would expect, Maddox has a few stories of — crossing paths with some of the greats of music.

"In 1950, in Beaumont, Texas, the promoter of our show — told us there was a young fellow in town who was pretty good," he recalled. — "He asked us if we would let him sing a couple of songs with us. He was — George Jones."

He also recalled meeting a young man on that same tour — in the same situation.

"They asked if he could come up and sing a song or two," — he said. "It was Buddy Holly."

The Experience Music Project Seattle was opened by co-founder — of Microsoft Paul Allen. He included many other greats of the music business, — including The Maddox Brothers and Rose.

"I finally visited the exhibit and when I walked in the — front door, we were right up front," Maddox said. "They recognized us — as being the pioneers of Rockabilly. The people at the museum told me — it was a good thing I visited it as it was going to be replaced in September — by an exhibit for some young guy I never heard of, Bob Dylan."

He was joking of course.

After joining the Old Time Fiddlers, Maddox discovered — he could still play the fiddle and wasn't half bad. He entered two competitions — in the past year and finished well in both of them. He also was given — the honor of closing the show when he attended the state competition.

Holt said there is a new light in Maddox's eyes.

"Music has come alive for him once again," he said. "Don — has been attending our events and he has been involved in several contests — we have."

Maddox said he is not fond of the current state of country — music but understands why it had to change.

"They had a core audience that was devoted to the music," — he said. "But in order to grow they had to cross over. When they did, — country music had a new audience."

Maddox agreed wholeheartedly with what country music legend — Ray Price said about the business. Price called today's country music — "watered down pop."