Johnny Maddox is a ragtime pianist and collector of ragtime memorabilia.
His interest in the era of ragtime and blues was fueled by his Aunt Zula Cothron. She played ragtime piano at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, and taught Johnny to play. Johnny played his first public concert when he was only five and began his professional career at the age of twelve.
In 1950 Maddox worked with his friend, Randy Wood, at Randy?s Record Shop in Gallatin when Randy launched Dot Records. Maddox became the first artist to record for Dot Records, and his instant first success helped build the label into one of the most successful labels in the 1950s. His very first single “Crazy Bone Rag” with “St. Louis Tickle? on the flip side sold over 22,000 copies in five weeks. He continued to record for Dot through its acquisition by MCA into the 1970s. During his career with Dot and MCA, Johnny recorded 50 albums and 87 singles. From these he racked up nine gold records with total record sales of over 11,000,000.
In 1955 Maddox recorded “The Crazy Otto Medley,” made up of pieces written by German comic performer Fritz Schulz-Reichel under the persona Otto der Schräge. It spent 14 weeks at #2 and became the first million-selling ragtime record, eventually selling more than two million copies. Crazy Otto soon became Maddox’s nickname, as well as Schulz-Reichel’s. In fact, the reference to Crazy Otto in the Grateful Dead song “Ramble on Rose” is a reference to Maddox. Creedence Clearwater Revival also did a song called “Crazy Otto”, although it is not known if this is a reference to Maddox.