Even with his own star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame, Johnny Maddox is hardly a household name-not anymore. Back in the day (the day being the 1950s), ragtime/blues pianist Maddox sold records like nobody’s business. His first record, “Crazy Bone Rag” backed with “St. Louis Tickle,” made its way into 22,000 homes in the first five weeks of its release. That’s not a big number by today’s standards, but remember: times were simpler then. Maddox went on to record and sell, sell, sell; his “The Crazy Otto Medley” was the first ragtime record to sell over one million copies.
Maddox recorded for the Dot and MCA labels and his sides enjoyed wide distribution then, but his music has been hard to find lately. The Crazy Otto label has stepped in to remedy that problem, though. On October 29, they’ll release three Maddox CDs: Back Home in Tennessee, Cowboys and Indians and Where The Southern Crosses the Yellow Dog. CD by CD descriptions:
Back Home In Tennessee celebrates Johnny’s return home to Gallatin, Tenn. after a lifetime spent performing around the world–and living in Austria for a time. The title track, “Just Try To Picture Me Back Home In Tennessee,” is one of the most famous songs associated with the state and an Al Jolson standard. Other songs include “Are You From Dixie,” and “Waiting For The Robert E. Lee” as well as obscure songs such as the previously unpublished “Corsica Rag.”
On Cowboys And Indians Johnny plays favorite songs of the Old West, inspired by his summer residency at the historic Strater Hotel in Durango, Co. Bob Wills’ “San Antonio Rose” was Johnny’s first million seller, and it is reprised here, along with songs associated with Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter, Eddy Arnold and Bing Crosby. Songs by turn of the century composers such as Percy Wenrich, Grant Clarke, Harry Williams, and Albert and Harry Von Tilzer, are represented and discussed in the extensive liner notes that accompany each release.
On Where The Southern Crosses The Yellow Dog Johnny pays tribute to W.C. Handy, playing Handy classics such as “St. Louis Blues”, “Yellow Dog Rag”, and “Joe Turner Blues.” Eleven additional tracks of popular blues, rags, and Dixieland jazz complement the Handy material. Included in the accompanying booklet are color reproductions of rare sheet music cover art–including controversial covers published by Handy himself–from Johnny’s collection of over 200,000 pieces of sheet music.