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As It Was: Don Maddox Rides the Rails to California

One of the Rogue Valley’s most famous residents is Don Maddox, son of a sharecropper and a country music legend at age 96.

The Oakland Tribune told how 10-year-old Maddox and his family left Alabama for California in 1932, walking and hitchhiking until they realized in Mississippi that riding the rails was a better way to travel than riding in the back of a truck with a cow.

When they reached California, they got off in Tuolumne County to pan for gold.  Two weeks’ hard work yielded only 87 cents, so they moved on to an Oakland camp called Pipe City.

By 1937 the five brothers and their sister had formed a hillbilly band. Soon they were performing as the Maddox Brothers and Rose in Las Vegas, Nashville, and other country-music hotspots, and recording for two major studios.

The group disbanded in 1956 and Maddox bought an Ashland farm alongside Interstate 5.

Recalling the early days, Maddox was once quoted as saying, “We didn’t have a match to light a fire.”

Maddox is the last surviving member of the band.  

Source:  Heuston, Laurie.  “Maddox Gets His Due,” Revels, Ashland Tidings, March 30, 2012. “Don Maddox with Step and Go,” Jefferson State Vibes, October 2014.

Maryann Mason has taught history and English in the U.S. Midwest and Northwest, and Bolivia. She has written history spots for local public radio, interviewed mystery writers for RVTV Noir, and edited personal and family histories.  Her poetry has appeared in Sweet Annie & Sweet Pea Review (1999), Rain Magazine (2007), and The Third Reader, an online Journal of Literary Fiction and Poetry. In 2008 she published her first chapbook, Ravelings.  She organized a History Day for Southern Oregon.