REGION — Local musician Chris Maddox is getting quite the attention these days posting videos from his closet, calling himself The Crisis Crooner.
Maddox is turning some of the biggest hits into parody songs to bring much-needed humor to people in this time of uncertainty and fear.
Take his rewrite of ‘Sweet Caroline’ by Neil Diamond, which he turned into ‘Hand Sanitize’. “Before this began, I was called a hugger, and I was told my embrace was strong. But now in the spring, and probably through the summer, we gotta be smart all day long. Hands, washing hands, reaching out, don’t touch me, I won’t touch you. Hand Sanitize, for 20 seconds would be so good. We will get by, tough times don’t last but tough people should.”
Maddox, who typically performs throughout San Diego and Los Angeles as an Elvis Impersonator in his 12-piece band Graceband, pens the parody songs with his wife, Heather. He records the videos in his bedroom closet at their Carlsbad home, where the couple lives with their 12-year-old son Ryder.
“These are my protest songs,” Maddox told The Coast News. “It’s protest against doom and gloom, and panic and fear. I do try to not just take the low hanging fruit, stupid fart jokes. I like to try to aim a little higher. I’m not like Lennon and McCartney here, but I’m trying to be fun and clever.”
Maddox said he was inspired to start writing the songs at the beginning of the pandemic last month after he visited a Vons supermarket and saw that it was slim pickings.
“All the bread’s gone, and all the bagels, even the lousy bagels with the onion bits, those were gone,” he recalled. “And it was like, ‘Whoa, this is real!’ The news was so overwhelming and at the same time, though, I’m like, we’re going to get through this. So it’s like, ‘What can I do?’ I’ve got to do something here, be a little ray of light at least for my friends and family.”
Soon after Maddox, who’d never written a song before, penned his first parody song, with wife Heather’s help. They wrote ‘Hand Spray,’ a spoof of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”: “And now the end is near, I touch my face, my fate is certain. My friends, they are nowhere near, I live in fear of COVID’s 19th version. I want to live a life that’s full. I got to prepare but not in a shy way, I got a plan, it’s Costco man, to get all of the hand spray.”
During the past three weeks, the Maddoxes have written six parody songs that can all be found on his YouTube channel, Chris “Crisis Crooner” Maddox, his Graceband Facebook page, or his band’s Instagram page @gracebandlives.
Maddox calls Heather “my Garfunkel” and said he has enjoyed their newfound collaboration.
“I never found a creative way to include her before, so that has been a little bit of a silver lining to this whole thing. It’s really fun,” he said. “I’ll do the heavy lifting and come up with the basic stuff and she’s quality control manager, she helps me go through it and refine things.”
The ‘Sweet Caroline’ parody came about after Diamond posted a video of himself singing it, where he changed the lyrics “hands, touching hands” to “hands, washing hands.”
“I have to admit, initially I was offended that Neil was going to come into my lane,” Maddox teased. “He only did two lines from his song so I’m like I can jump on this easy and fill this in.”
That parody helped catch the attention of the national TV magazine “Inside Edition,” which featured Maddox on a recent episode.
His latest collaboration is a duet with San Diego-based singer Douglas Benson, who fronts a Johnny Cash tribute band called Cash’d Out. The duo remade Cash’s hit “Ring of Fire,” turning it into “I’m For Hire.”
Maddox said while he’s lost about five gigs so far because of COVID-19, he’s still got his day job with a Telematics company and is working from home. Bands like Cash’d Out are national touring artists and performing is their livelihood.
“That’s why I wanted to particularly get that song out there and remind people that we’re for hire,” he said.
Maddox said he’s constantly playing with more ideas – a spin on ‘Come Together’ by The Beatles: “Home Together, right now, quarantine;” or turning ‘Sabotage’ by the Beastie Boys into ‘I’m in the Garage” – and seeing what sticks.
“I’m always just thinking random thoughts like ‘Ooh, that could be fun, or ‘No, that’s too much of a stretch’,” he said.
As for why he sings in the closet, Maddox said “My funny answer is it’s not a closet, it’s a music studio where I choose to hang my clothes. But the true answer is because it’s the place where I least offend the neighbors and my family.”
Maddox said he’s not looking to capitalize on his parody songs. He’s using any attention they may get to direct people to donate to two places: the San Diego Food Bank, sandiegofoodbank.org, which helps the elderly and at-risk, and Belly Up Live, bellyuplive.com, which supports local musicians. Graceband has performed at the venue 20 times.
Maddox said he’s been having the time of his life doing the parody songs and he plans to keep doing them.
“When this (pandemic) is all over, I want to know I was on the right side of it and I did what I could,” he said. “I’m not a doctor but I can spend a few hours and make a silly song, I have that ability. And if people laugh and enjoy it I’m going to keep doing it. The entire reason for this is to laugh and then go back to your life.”
He added, “I want to be the San Diego Chicken of our times. And then I want to put this persona behind glass and save it for the next emergency and be done with this one as soon as possible.”
Tawny McCray is a native San Diegan and graduate of San Diego State University. She has known she wanted to be a journalist since writing for her Jr. High School newspaper in 1991. She has worked at The Star News in Chula Vista, The San Diego Union Tribune and ABC 10News San Diego. She has recently freelanced for Scripps Ranch News and The Poway Eagle and is a longtime freelancer with creators.com. She is working on authoring books with her twin sister, Nyla. She and her husband have two kids and live in South Park.