By Eve Wynne-Warren
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.”
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!