Interview by Scott Preston
(Dwights own words) I have always loved music. I grew up listening to bands like Ramones, The Clash, Jim Carroll, Lou Reed, the whole punk and new wave scene. I will never forget, when I was 15, listening to The Clash’s “London Calling” album and thinking “WOW! I would love to be able to play guitar like that!” After I told my brother, Dann, I wanted to play guitar, he gave me his old Tesco Del Ray to start learning on. Believe me, this was no Fender Stratocaster! After a few weeks, the cords started coming to me naturally, the only problem was that the guitar sounded terrible! I put new pickups in it, a new bridge, keys, everything. It still wasn’t what I was looking for. I later introduced it to a router, killing the only guitar I had. I didn’t have enough money to go buy another guitar so this left me with two choices; give up on playing the guitar or make my own.
Cincy Groove: How’s it been going lately?
Dwight Maddox: Pretty good, just getting ready to hit the road again with Cowboy Mouth. We are going to the Bahamas for a week, then we play some gigs up the east coast. In the beginning of March we are going to Iraq for 2 weeks on a USO tour. They are going to fly us around in Blackhawk helicopters so it should be pretty cool. But I was warned about combat landings where they drop 33,000 feet in less than 10 minutes.
Cincy Groove: Tell me about the Better Life Foundation Ink Pens.
Dwight Maddox: I started making them just for some extra income because they were easy to make. I also was making them for gifts, then it occurred to me I just made this pen out of scrap wood from Michael Houser’s guitar, maybe I need to rethink this (laughing). I then thought that I should involve a charity since I was making these pens out of scrap wood from the guitars I was making. I finally hooked up with Chris from 3 Doors Down, I told him about the pens I was making and he thought it would be a great fit for the Better Life Foundation. I have been making the pens for a long time, its just taken a while for me to get it going since I’m on tour with Cowboy Mouth so much.
Cincy Groove: What are some of the different pens you have made?
Dwight Maddox: I made some pens for Chris Henderson from 3 Doors Down, John from Cowboy Mouth, Clay Cook who is playing with Jackson Browne right now, but did some touring with Marshall Tucker as well, and Freekbass.
Cincy Groove: How did you get hooked up with Freekbass?
Dwight Maddox: Its kind of a funny story. Back in 1997 a friend of mine had gone to this bar to see this funk band which turned out to be Freekbass. He ended up talking to Chris and giving him one of my business cards. It was a weird time for me also, my brother had passed away and then a month later my mother passed away. I obviously was really depressed and bummed out. My sister had let me come out to Texas to clear my head out and relax. I ended up getting this phone call from Chris saying he had this design for a bass and he couldn’t find anyone to make it. I didn’t want to tell him that I was thinking about quitting so I told him to go ahead and send me the design. So he sent me the drawings and his wife had made a scaled down model of his first 1,2,3 bass. You should have seen it, it was about 10 inches long and she had carved it out of balsa wood and painted it yellow and purple. There was no way I could turn it down. It was an incredible design. Chris’ phone call really came at the perfect time, it really kept me going.
Cincy Groove: Was it complicated to make Freekbass’ bass?
Dwight Maddox: Its funny you mention that. There is a video I made up on youtube. Basically I was showing that anybody could make a guitar in their dad’s garage with simple tools you could get from Sears. I made Freekbass’s last bass with a total of 10 tools.
Cincy Groove: Do you use different types of wood for different guitars?
Dwight Maddox: It depends on the weight, tone and the kind of sound you want. I’ll start with the musician telling me what kind of amp they use, what kind of effects and then I’ll go from there.
Cincy Groove: When did you start making guitars? What else are you involved in?
Dwight Maddox: Back in 1985 and started making them full time in 1992. I became the guitar tech for Cowboy Mouth in 2004. This past year when I have been off the road, I have been working with a Master Jeweler. So now I can cast custom guitar parts for the guitars that I make.
Cincy Groove: Was your family supportive when you decided you were going to make guitars for a living?
Dwight Maddox: They were supportive. They kind of had thing where they said, go ahead and do that kid thing and you’ll wise up someday. But when I started to get good at it, it was kind of hard to stop me.
Cincy Groove: Do you have any favorite guitars that you have made?
Dwight Maddox: I love the Freekbass stuff just because its so unusual. I have made quite a few suede covered guitars, they are really sweet. I really just love them all, they are my kids.