RAMBLIN' ROSE by Jonny Whiteside


The Life and Career of Rose Maddox
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 A future country music legend travels with her family from rural America to the ``promised land'' of California, only to find herself embroiled as she grows up in unexpected fame, domestic strife, and teenage pregnancy. The similarity of at least part of this story to The Grapes of Wrath is not lost on journalist Whiteside. Rose's mother, Lula, was, in her way, as determined as Steinbeck's great heroine Ma Joad. She and her husband left Alabama in 1933, walking and hitchhiking to California, with five children in tow. Once there, they found life to be at first little better. It was music that saved them. Rose, born in 1925, was the youngest and from childhood a gifted singer. The iron-willed Lula helped her children form the Maddox Brothers and Rose in 1937, a singing group that enjoyed steady regional (and intermittent national) popularity for 20 years. Following the breakup of the group, Rose, having finally escaped the control of her domineering mother, went on to a successful solo career. Interviewed extensively for this biography, Maddox demonstrates both frankness and true southern charm. She offers salty recollections of her career and her famous contemporaries, including Patsy Cline, who accused her of having more body than talent (``I do not get up there and shake,'' Rose heatedly observes, ``my body keeps time with my singin', is all''), and an enamored Johnny Cash, whom she rebuffed (``And that's when he hired June Carter. . . . You know what happened then''). The record of her life is also a fascinating portrait of the once thriving West Coast country music scene. A somewhat rushed synopsis of the postBritish Invasion years is balanced by a wonderful introduction, a previously unpublished letter about Rose and her brothers written in 1949 by folk giant Woody Guthrie. A solid biography, and a welcome addition to the history of modern American popular music. (50 illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: March 14th, 1997
ISBN: 0-8265-1269-0
Page count: 322pp
Publisher: Vanderbilt Univ. Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1997