Here is a picture i had taken of old time fiddler Dave Madron (1894-1978) at Calico Ghost Town in 1972, with my flesh and blood older brother Mike beside me. Originally hailing from Indian City, Oklahoma, in Payne County, Madron was to become a hero to me in the guise of musical inspiration and leanings towards and about the devil’s box. I remember visiting his home, a humble fruit picker’s shack, a floor lamp making tea stain shadows on the walls, while outside lurked the disappearing farmland of Norco, California. The picture above is the day i first met him. He eventually gave me the fiddle pictured. It had a lion’s head scrawled into the peghead, dime-store diamonds around the bouts (like the kind Stratovarius used), and a stain made assaultingly by rubbing in plugs of tobacco.
(here i am in 1971 flanked by a couple of my garage band cronies, Bill Bergan, and Jeff Morning, rehearsing our group, The Shadders (shadows) in my family’s Date Street basement, a group of which i am the only surviving member)
I was nineteen years of age, lived in a steel town burg called Fontana, and had no dreams of ever moving away, and i had the bedside stack of dogeared Steinbeck novels to prove it. Not even being yet of drinking age, I so wanted to pass-go and move straight into being a clone of 90 year old Dave Madron. I cherish the moments i got to spend with him and clutch those hard scrabble wet horse-blanket memories tightly still today. I studied just by watching in witness as he’d fiddle, or spool on the shiny brown reel to reel tapes of old Oklahoma western swing groups that he had history with. His wife Bertha Ellen (1895-1977) would work behind coke bottle glasses and sweat, making a deep dish apple pie, which smelled great braided with his briar pipe smoke. I went out almost immediately, haberdasherly, to J.C. Penny and nabbed me a matching janitor outfit like the one he wore under his suit jacket. As far as working at the drawing board, i’m sure i felt deep down, that if i could combine Raymond Chandler, John Singer Sargent, and Dave Madron together into one sack of bones, that i couldn’t possibly miss. He had a daughter i remember who had a peroxided ‘dairy queen’ beehive hairdo and would often accompany him at festivals dressed in a carnival of clothing. She once later confided to me the fact that all the times i was coming over to visit, on account of his failing vision and my long hair, he thought i was a female the whole time.
One of the times there he gifted me with a faux leather red letter King James Bible and saw fit to sign it in arthritic roller coaster cursive in front of the New Testament. I’ll have to admit, if nothing else, that it’s pretty great to be able to say that you have an autographed copy of the Bible.
The Madrons, Dave, Bertha, and Ruby, early on.
Here’s a picture of Dave as a baby with his father John Madron in Oklahoma (circa 1894).