A Real Hillbilly Gentleman: Remembering Earl “Bubba” Maddox Before Bubbapalooza 22

Posted on: May 23rd, 2013 By:

Earl "Bubba" Maddox.

By Eve Wynne-Warren
Contributing Writer

Editor’s Note: If Gregory Dean Smalley was the founding father of Bubbapalooza, the annual rockabilly/roots festival every Memorial Day Weekend at Star Bar, then Earl “Bubba” Maddox, who passed away from cancer in March, had to be its lovably crazy uncle.  Earl drummed for a slew of seminal bands such as the Diggers, the Convicts and Gregory Dean and the Bubbamatics, and lately had been a character actor in movies. Events like Bubba, places like the Star Bar and the musicians who play there are at the heart of why we do ATLRetro. In this companion feature to our Bubbapalooza preview, Eve Wynne-Warren asks some of the Bubba regulars who knew Earl well for a few stories. It wasn’t hard for them to think of a few. For more about Earl, also check out the warm tribute by James Kelly (Slim Chance) that appeared in Creative Loafing here.

Earl Maddox had his own way of seeing the world and thought outside the box more than anybody you ever met. Atlanta musician, entrepreneur and Star Bar institution Billy Ratliff recalls some instances that beautifully illustrate Earl’s uniquely creative charm:

Billy Ratliff: “I met Earl in the late ‘80s at the [Euclid Avenue] Yacht Club. He was on his way out of town; he always was a bit of a gypsy. About 3 a.m., Earl said before I leave, let me show you something. So we headed out to his car, and he opened the trunk and there lay an antique cannon of some sort – something like a Gatling gun off an old ship. Did I want to buy this item? I had no need for a cannon at that point.”

Earl Maddox in THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (2008).

That was Earl. Random bits of dreamlike appearances always with a story, an offering and a new friend; things that don’t transpire in the day-to-day lives of most. And he was down to earth and approachable. He made some of the most unlikely friends just about anywhere he went.

Billy : “One day I ran into Earl. ‘I haven’t seen you in a while, where’ve you been?’ Earl said. ‘Oh, hanging out at Webster’s studio.’ ‘Pardon?’ ‘Yeah, I was fishin’ down off a dirt road down south of the airport and outta the woods came Webster.’ ‘You mean the little guy from TV?’”

Yep, that was Earl.

Earl’s free spirit took him places so unimagined and sometimes unexpected by many. I asked writer-painter and fellow free spirit/barstool philosopher Greg Theakston to share his favorite memory of Earl..

Eve: Do you remember asking my advice as a Southerner for a Southern-sounding nom de plume? I suggested the name Earl to you (ironically many years before the TV show MY NAME IS EARL). Earl Maddox was my inspiration for that answer.

Greg Theakson: I remember. My favorite memory of him was one night in the Little Vinyl Lounge [the downstairs bar in the Star Bar]. Earl jumped up and announced that he was gonna go to Hollywood and be an Actor…and by God he DID! He was what I call a real ‘Hillbilly Gentleman.’”

Earl’s film and TV appearances can be seen on his Internet Movie Data Base listing.

Faylynn Owen (the former booking agent for the Star Bar, presently found behind the bar at the Yacht Club): “My favorite memory of Earl is the last time I saw him. He came into the Yacht [and] was very excited about being in DJANGO UNCHAINED, and we just talked for a little while. Earl was always fun.”

Bassist Bill Lattner first met Earl at the first rehearsal of the Diggers. He immediately knew he’d found one helluva drummer, but more than that, a lifelong friend.

Bill Lattner: It was the [previous] drummer’s loft. He hit the drums so lightly, he may as well not have been there, couldn’t hear him at all, and I knew, the kind of band it was supposed to be, we needed somebody knocking the shit outta the kick and snare! Earl was living in NOLA, just in town visiting Greg. I told him how frustrated I was with the drummer situation. During a break, Earl said I’ll be back in a minute and came back in with a cinder block, out of his truck. He put it in front of the kick, and sat down, and gave the pedal such a whack, the block moved! The rest of the guys came back in, and Earl said, mind if I play one? So, we kicked a tune off, and there was the snare and kick, that I knew we sorely needed! He played three tunes, I think; this was the fuckin’ drummer we need!! I think we had to do one or two gigs with the other guy, to give Earl a couple weeks to move up here. And then he became my roommate, one of my best friends and a true brother, to me! I miss him every day.”

Raise a PBR to the memory of Earl “Bubba” Maddox this Friday May 24 and Saturday May 25 at Bubbapalooza 22 at the Star Bar!

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All Hail Bubba! Why You Should Swing Down to the Star Bar for the Best Rockabilly/Roots Family Reunion on the Planet Every Memorial Day Weekend

Posted on: May 22nd, 2013 By:

Spike Fullerton plays an early Bubbapalooza. Clipping courtesy of Spike Fullerton.

By Eve Wynne-Warren
Contributing Writer

Bubbapolooza is a celebration of American roots music held every Memorial Day weekend at the Star Community Bar in Little 5 Points. This year marks the 22nd year that friends, fans and family have gathered together to hear some of the best rockabilly, country and rock music around, and the line-up is mighty exciting. On Friday May 24 starting at 8 p.m., hear The Belmont Playboys, Hi-Test, Ghost Riders Car Club, Blacktop Rockets, AM Gold and Slim Chance & the Convicts. Then on Saturday May 25 with doors at 4 p.m. (music at 5), the roster includes an even bigger herd of ATLRetro Kool Kats such as Caroline & the Ramblers, Cletis & His City Cousins, and Grim Rooster, plus Nashville’s The Billygoats, with Jason Ringenberg (of Jason and the Scorchers), Ohio’s The Twistin’ Tarantulas, Jimbo Mathus & The Tri-State Coalition up from Missississippi, El Capitan & The Band With No Name (surf meets Ennio Morricone!) and McPherson Struts. And that’s not to mention a triad of surf bands – Kill, Baby, Kill, The Intoxicators and The Mystery Men? – downstairs in the Little Vinyl Lounge.

There used to be a bumper sticker adorning the rear of many an Atlanta vehicle that read, “The Star Bar, where things go Twang in the night.” The gracious booking agents who have worked the offices there over the years have, as any live venue does, varied the types of bands and shows offered since the doors opened on Halloween, 1991. However, few other Atlanta venues have been so inclined to offer as much Roots Americana as the Star. It’s not what you’d think of a swank place to “be seen”; it’s a Honky Tonk. People come there for the music. I’ve always enjoyed the fact that you didn’t have to be a certain age, race or one of the “beautiful people” to feel at home there…just love the music. That is the essence of Bubbapolooza, which was founded by Cabbagetown songwriter/guitarist Gregory Dean Smalley. Since Greg passed away from AIDS in the mid-1990s, every Bubba has been dedicated to him and the Boones Farm toast to his legacy is always an emotional moment. This year’s event also pays tribute to the memory of Earl Maddox, another Bubba godfather who passed away from cancer last year. Earl drummed for a slew of bands such as the Diggers, the Convicts and Gregory Dean and the Bubbamatics, and lately had been a character actor in movies. [Ed. note: read a companion story about Earl here and check out our 20th anniversary retrospective for some more history.].

This year ATLRetro decided to catch up with some Star Bar regular suspects, musicians and fans to give those “Bubba virgins” an idea of what it’s all about.

“My goal for this year’s booking of Bubbapalooza was to have a few more regional and national acts to go along with our great regulars and keep the spirit of the event alive,” says Bryan Malone, who does the booking for the Star Bar. “We have more touring acts this year than in the past few years. With Twistin’ Tarantulas, Jason Ringenberg and Jimbo Mathus, I feel we’ve done that.

One of the things that makes this event special is that it is a chance for some of the older fans to come out,” he adds. “Bubbapalooza is almost like a Star Bar family reunion. It’s the one time of year that we see faces and groups from the days of the club’s inception having a great time and enjoying great music.  It is not uncommon to hear the phrase “Happy Bubba” throughout the course of the weekend. This year as always, we donate a portion of the proceeds to the family of Gregory Dean Smalley who created Bubbapalooza. But this past year we lost an old friend when Earl Maddox passed, so we will also be doing something special in honor of him and his family. The whole thing is a family reunion with great friends and great music. There ain’t much else like it anywhere. Happy Bubba!”

Richard “Spike” Fullerton currently plays with Ghost Riders Car Club, on the Friday Bubba playlist, and in the first few Bubbas, with the HotPoint Rangers and later Kingsized, or so he thinks. “My memories are pretty dim,” Spike admits. “The first one, as I barely recall, was very much about humor and the feeling that Atlanta had a pretty good crop of young players in a genre that was on the way back. In the few years I’d been here the rockabilly/country scene had been evolving out of second rate clubs and into better venues. It felt like a sort of coming-out party that our music was vibrant enough to have a club to call our own. The Star Bar really became something vaguely akin to The Ace or Dingwalls in London, where our group just would naturally go there first and check who’s on the marquee later. I really feel fortunate to have had that moment in my musical career. One of my very first gigs back after work had kept me away was with the Ghost Riders Car Club at Bubbapalooza. It’s a very gratifying experience to come back to old friends in a familiar place, and find you’ve still got something to say to each other, musically and spiritually. I thoroughly enjoy the festival and what it has come to mean, to me anyway. I hope to play many more.”

I then asked drummer Mike Hammer to relate what might be his favorite year of playing the event. He said he had not been to every Bubba, but to most of them. “I became good friends with Greg Smalley back in those days,” Mike recalls. “My memory of a great gig was ‘94 or ’95, I think. [Ed. note: Mike was playing with Caroline and the Ramblers then]. The Lost Continentals were the next to last band, and the headliner was to be Scott Miller and his band, the Viceroys. At the last minute, we were told they could not make it for some reason, so we had the stage for the rest of the night. I think we even had Ben Friedman from Cigar Store [Indians] up with Amy Pike singing something. It turned into a wild show and the place was packed. I think it really pushed the Lost Continentals’ rep over the top here in town.”

The Billygoats play Bubbapalooza 20. Photo credit: Al Laipple.

I remember that. Those Bubba pickin’ party/encore sets are definitely some of my favorite memories. Mike will be at the drums with Cletis and the City Cousins on this year’s line-up. I asked Clete, who just may have been at every Bubbapolooza (even some only known to fans in an alternate universe), the same question. Alas there was a Braves game on and I got no reply. I will be sure to ask him in the middle of his set at the show.

Faylynn Owen, bartender at the Euclid Avenue Yacht Club, booked the bands for the Star Bar in the early years, and damned, if she didn’t do great job of it, too. I asked her what year stood out in her mind. Drive by Truckers is probably the most now famous band to play Bubba,” Faye Lynn says. “I don’t really have a favorite memory of Bubba. I loved them all.”

This year’s Bubbapolooza is headlined by the one and only Jason of Americana Roots Rock royalty Jason and the Scorchers, backed by The Billygoats, one of my all-time favorite Star Bar bands, also from Nashville. I asked them how many Bubbapoloozas they’d played. “I can only say that, even though I know that we played Bubba may more times than this, we only remember the last three – ’cause we were sober.”

There you have it. Come early; there’s real good Bar-B-Q on the patio courtesy of Slope’s BBQ. And try to plan on coming both nights; choosing which night to be there is too hard. Bryan Malone booked the line-up this year and I gotta give him extra credit for doing a fine job and setting the ticket price so it’s easy to come both nights ($10 Friday/ $15 Saturday). Wear something comfortable and think about cabbing there and home if you like to have a drink with your “Twang.” If you’ve been before, find me and give me a hug. If it’s new to you, come join the friends and family, and we’ll raise a toast together to Greg Smalley, Earl Maddox and George Jones. I bet you’ll come back next year.

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Raising a big PBR toast as Star Bar’s Bubbapalooza turns 20

Posted on: May 26th, 2011 By:

Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend may be a lot bigger and more famous, but down home here in Atlanta, the heartland of the Redneck Underground, we have our own mighty fine shindig called Bubbapalooza. Like all good and crazy ideas, it started with a man with a dream. Gregory Dean Smalley was a prolific guitarist and songwriter who settled in Cabbagetown and used to play in one band or another practically every night in Atlanta and Athens bars and clubs until he succumbed to AIDS in the mid-‘90s.

While Greg’s physical presence may have passed away, his no-holds-barred musical soul still burns brightly every Memorial Day weekend at the Star Bar. It’s hard to believe that Bubbapalooza is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and yet to anyone who’s been in the Atlanta scene for any amount of time, it seems impossible to imagine that there ever

Ghost Riders Car Club

was a time when it didn’t happened. On Friday May 27 (doors at 7 PM) and Saturday May 28 (doors at 3 PM), feast on BBQ, knock down a PBR, see some of the city’s most lovingly restored pre-‘70s hot-rods and rock and ramble to 20 rockabilly, Redneck Underground, cowpunk, surf and county-inspired bands, as well as have a chance to win prizes from Little 5 Points retailers in a raffle and have your 20th anniversary picture taken at the PBR Photo Booth.

ATLRetro caught up with Star Bar Booking Agent Bryan Malone (The Forty-Fives) and Ted Weldon (Truckadelic, Ghost Riders Car Club) for a sneak preview.

Bubbapalooza 20 is dedicated to Gregory Dean Smalley who founded the first Bubbapalooza and raffle proceeds go to his family. For those who haven’t been in Atlanta that long, can you briefly recap who he was and how Bubbapalooza got started and got its name?

Blacktop Rockets

Greg Smalley came down from Cedartown GA. in the ‘80s and was a founding member of The Grease Guns, The Diggers and The Bubbamatics and played with The Chant, Blacktop Rockets, Slim Chance & the Convicts & who else?

He played with Amy Pike, Kelly Hogan and several more. God, everyone from those days. But, yeah, Bubbapalooza was his bastard love child from the early days of 1991. It started as a festival to showcase the Redneck Underground which was a bunch of bands from the Atlanta/Athens area and even North Carolina. Plus it was to celebrate the early Star Bar’s trailer trash extravaganza of bad ideas & all things southern. It was a great excuse to have a show where all your friends play a bunch of rowdy songs & drink all night.

There’s more bands than we could even mention that have played Bubba, but here are a few: Southern Culture on the Skids, Deacon Lunchbox, Drive-By Truckers (they have a song about Greg Smalley called “The Living Bubba”), Kevn Kinney, Dex Romweber, BR-549, The Delta Angels, Kingsized, Truckadelic, Charlie Pickett, Redneck Greece Delux, Slim Chance & the Convicts, The Belmont Playboys, Greasepaint, Rocket 350. This list could go on and on.

Every year seems like a big family reunion for Atlanta’s rockabilly/Redneck Underground/old Star Bar scene crowd. Having hit a milestone 20th year this year, do you think it’ll be even more so?

 

A ton of the bands that are playing this year were actually onstage during the first Bubbapalooza, so yeah it is most definitely a homecoming. There will be a lot of friends and family all weekend and the kind of familiar faces that you only see at certain shows or in some cases just this one time of year. Even Mama Smalley will be here also to oversee the proceedings.

Are you doing anything special for the 20th year?

Hahahaha. The big thing is we’re still doing it 20 years later. That’s pretty crazy. It’s unbelievable having a get-together like this that’s lasted that long. It kind of says something about the crowd that was here at the very beginning, as well as all those who’ve joined in over the years. You can count on three things these days: Death, taxes & Bubbapalooza. Hahaha.

But, yeah, we have 20 bands this year, enough bands for a three-day festival. It’s gonna be a great mix of the regulars like the Blacktop Rockets, Caroline & the Ramblers, The Billygoats, plus a whole bunch of newcomers this year like Bareknuckle Betties & Uncle Daddy & the Kissin Cousins, Midway Charmers & some crazy surf from the Disasternauts, too. There’s so much music we’re even having bands downstairs in the Little Vinyl Lounge and tons of stuff on the back patio as well.

[Web-based radio station] Garage 71 is hosting a pre-1970 hot rod car show on Saturday. We’re expecting 20 or 30 entries for that. Oh, yeah, and there’ll be free Slope’s BBQ Saturday afternoon. Haha. It’s just gonna be a big old helping of Bubba hyjinks.

Can you tell us a little bit about the Redneck Cruise-In Hot Rod Show?

The car show will be hosted by Garage71. All the cars and motorcycles will be pre-1970. That will be Saturday afternoon starting at 5 PM. There’ll be some cool stuff down here for sure. There’s a trophy, too, I hear, so someone will drive out a winner of something to brag about. Not sure what the trophy looks like, but I’m sure it’ll come with something greasy like a bucket of chicken. Anything’s possible.

Uncle Daddy & the Kissin' Cousins

Expect a healthy dose of good country music, rockabilly, country-punk, southern rock, surf bands, hot rods, BBQ and a whole lot of good times and cold beer. You don’t necessarily have to drink PBR but it sure helps. Helps with most things really. Ha.

This is the kind of event that could really only happen at the Star Bar though, and it’ll be full of people who like good country and rockabilly music and are ready to let loose for Memorial Day weekend. Every year someone comes up and says “Happy Bubba” and makes a toast. It’s down-home stuff.

Sonoramic Commando

What’s the craziest, funnest thing that’s ever happened at a Bubbapalooza?

One of the funnest things that happens every year is when the stage is packed with about 40 people for a drunken rousing rendition of “She’s Breakin My Heart While I’m Drinkin’ Her Beer”—the old Diggers tune. It’s always brings down the house and is quite a moment.

What question did I not ask you that I should have and what’s the answer?

What’s a bad idea that became a tradition? Boone’s Farm Saturday.

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