Maddox, William Leslie [Bill] (1953–2010)

By: Gary S. Hickinbotham

Type: Biography

Published: July 23, 2015

Updated: October 19, 2015

William Leslie “Bill” Maddox, drummer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, was born to Ray and Trudy Maddox in Abilene, Texas, on February 15, 1953. His father was a dentist but had studied at New York’s Julliard School of Music in the 1930s. Ray Maddox could play six different instruments and was the frontman of the Ray Maddox Orchestra, which played for decades in the Abilene area. His son Bill showed musical talent at a young age and was playing in bands by his early teens. He primarily played drums but was also proficient on guitar and piano, and was a fine vocalist and songwriter. While in high school Maddox and some friends, Keith Landers, Noel Kelton, and Stephen Barber, started a cover band, Cadillac, which became very popular in both Abilene and Austin.

Maddox and the other members of Cadillac moved to Austin in 1971 after he graduated from high school. They played on weekends, and he studied percussion with George Frock at the University of Texas. Bill became more serious about his playing and, along with Barber, wanted to branch out into progressive rock and fusion. This led to the breakup of Cadillac. Kelton and Landers then founded Johnny Dee and the Rocket 88’s, a popular Austin-based oldies group. In 1973 Bill started and led a new group called the Electromagnets, and by 1974 this fusion band featured Maddox on drums, keyboardist Stephen Barber, bassist Kyle Brock, and guitarist Eric Johnson. The band was a cult favorite but only recorded one album and did not achieve commercial success beyond Texas. Maddox and Johnson had become close friends, and when the Electromagnets broke up in 1977, he played drums in the Eric Johnson Group.

Maddox wanted to pursue his own interests also and started another band, Project Terror, which he fronted, playing guitar and singing. During this time he also developed a substance abuse problem and often drank heavily. In the mid-1980s Maddox joined Alcoholics Anonymous and enrolled at the Southwest School of Electronics. By all accounts, his recovery strengthened his character and gave him a new appreciation for life.

He left the music scene and went to work as one of the first ten employees of PCs Limited, which later became Dell Computer Corporation. Maddox took stock options as part of his compensation, and when Dell became successful he was able to retire and pursue music again, without worrying about paying the bills. In the mid-1990s he and Eric Johnson formed another band together, Alien Love Child, with Chris Maresh playing bass. This group also had a huge cult following and was more successful than the Electromagnets. Maddox won the 2001–02 Austin Music Award for best drummer. He continued to work with Johnson and played drums in another band, the Fabulous Chevelles, until his untimely death on December 27, 2010.

At about 7:30 in the morning on that day, a mentally confused neighbor broke into the Maddox residence and attacked Bill’s wife, Rhonda. Bill went to her aid and during the struggle was shot and killed by the intruder. Maddox, before he died at the scene, fatally injured the attacker, who died three days later.

His death sent shockwaves through the Austin musical community. Known for his musical passion and accomplishments, he was also lauded for his compassion for fellow substance-abuse sufferers. Bill Maddox was proud of being sober for twenty-four years and during that time gave help to many people with their struggles with addiction; he often gave talks and seminars on the subject. Maddox was survived by his wife, Rhonda Maddox, and brother, Ray Maddox.

Austin Chronicle, March 18, 2011. “Celebrating the Life of Billy Maddox,” program, Cook-Walden/Forest Oaks Chapel, Austin, Texas, December 31, 2010.


  • Music
  • Genres (Rock and Roll, Rhythm and Blues, and Rockabilly)

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Gary S. Hickinbotham, “Maddox, William Leslie [Bill],” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 20, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

July 23, 2015
October 19, 2015

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