With the release of two new albums — Up Close, his sixth studio LP, and the archival Live from Austin TX ’84 release — Johnson’s music has been in my headphones a lot over the past few weeks. One of the things I’ve always appreciated about him, as a fan, is the way he surrounds himself with musicians that are not only great players but great people as well. Johnson and his friends are making music because they love to play — it’s not all about chasing the almighty dollar, and that’s a great way to be.
Events like Maddox’s death, as unfortunate and heartbreaking as they are, can help educate music fans about people like him who are often bit players buried within the liner notes. In his 57 years on the planet, Maddox racked up some interesting career highlights besides his gigs with Johnson — the pair have a recording history and friendship stretching back to 1974 — including a lengthy employment stint at Dell before the computer company was even operating under that name.
According to bassist Chris Maresh, who performed alongside Maddox in Johnson’s side project, Alien Love Child, Maddox was able to afford a hobby collecting vintage Fender guitars thanks to the many stock options he’d purchased during his time at Dell. Maresh also shared high praise for Maddox’s drumming in Alien Love Child, calling him “the glue of the group” in an interview with Austin360.com and comparing his drumming to that of the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Mitch Mitchell. Maddox had recently wrapped up work on a solo project, and he shares a cowriting credit on “Brilliant Room,” a track that, in my opinion, is one of the best on Up Close, featuring lead vocals by fellow Austin compadre (and Alien Love Child associate) Malford Milligan.
I never got the chance to catch an Alien Love Child gig, but plenty of their jams have been captured in high quality for posterity. A good chunk can be found on the trio’s official Live and Beyond release, recorded over three nights at Antone’s in Austin and released in 2000 on Steve Vai’s Favored Nations label. Having heard audience boots of those three shows, I can assure you that if any doctoring was done to the soundboard audio for Live and Beyond, it was subtle. Johnson and crew were on fire for that weekend’s worth of shows. (A really cool personal account of the three concerts can be found at the blog Texas Oasis.)
On November 4, 2000, a couple of weeks after the release of Live and Beyond, Alien Love Child played at Antone’s to celebrate the album’s release; the full show was broadcast by KLBJ in Austin. ALC’s set lists were a mix of Johnson’s solo material, including the always beautiful “40 Mile Town,” and stretched-out ALC jams like “Last House on the Block,” which rolled for nearly 14 minutes on that November night. I’d always hoped that Johnson, Maddox, and Maresh would regroup one day for another tour and album.
Popdose’s thoughts are with the family and friends of Bill Maddox as they grieve the tragic loss of a much-loved musician.
Nothing Can Keep Me From You
40 Mile Town
Trail of Tears
Last House on the Block
The Boogie King
Shape I’m In
Spanish Castle Magic
World of Trouble