From the Silver Screen to Boyne Falls, four decades of entertainment is a most unexpected folk musician.
You’ve probably seen him, but not on stage; Cox is actually an acclaimed character actor on screen. He’s held down pivotal roles in such hit films as RoboCop, Bound for Glory, Total Recall, and Deliverance. But it’s music that really has a hold on his heart.
BANJOS TO CYBORGS
Cox’s film career debuted in a well known scene in the backwoods dramatic thriller Deliverance. He played the infamous tune “Dueling Banjos” on his guitar while kid actor Billy Redden matched him as a banjo-playing mountain boy. This critically acclaimed film would be the entryway to an extensive movie career spanning more than 40 years.
“Deliverance means a lot to me because it was my first film and practically everything that’s happened in my career is a direct result of that iconic movie,” Cox said.
Other roles are favorites of Cox’s for a range of reasons.
“Bound for Glory has a special place in my heart because it was about Woody Guthrie and led to my friendship with Woody’s daughter, Nora, and then to becoming friends with Arlo and his wonderful family,” Cox explained.
His turn in Beverly Hills Cop was his first stint in a blockbuster, “and I loved working with Eddie Murphy,” Cox said.
And RoboCop, he points out, was “almost as big a boon” to his career as Deliverance because he got to play a bad guy for the first time. “They’re always the most fun characters to play,” he added.
FILM TO FOLK
Growing up in Portales, New Mexico, Cox had an early involvement with music. He was calling square dances when he was ten years old and he started making records with his rock n’ roll band, Ron’s Rockouts, when he was in high school.
“I was struggling as a musician simultaneously while trying to make it as an actor,” he explained, “and the fact that I could play the guitar was instrumental - pun intended - in my getting the role of Drew in Deliverance.”
Music and acting, he contends, are both very similar and very different. But in spite of his film success, music has always had a stronger pull on him.
“You can’t step through the camera while acting, but you can talk directly to a folk music audience,” Cox said.
Another inspiration in Cox’s life was his wife, Mary, whom he met while they were still in high school. The couple married in 1960 and spent the next 46 years together until Mary passed away in 2006. At this point, Cox had to reevaluate his life; resolved to focus on his music from that point forward, but it would take a little more work to reach his musical destination.
After floundering around with a country music deal with Nashville’s Mercury Records, Cox finally found his calling in folk music.
“When I lost Mary, I made a life decision,” Cox said. “I now turn down about 90% of the film and TV roles offered to me. I won’t let any acting job interfere with a music gig. I love doing the music shows.”
CAMERA TO STAGE
Cox’s shows are very eclectic with a Southwestern flair, and he often talks about Mary in his musical performances. He’ll tackle any genre of song, as long as it’s a tune he can weave a story around.
A few you might hear in his set list are his unique covers of Randy Newman’s “Louisiana 1927,” Gene Autry’s “Trail to San Antone,” plus classics like “Hot Water Cornbread” and “Long Black Veil.”
“I perform with two wonderful musicians - Radoslav Lorkovic on keyboard and accordion, and T. Bruce Bowers on fiddle and mandolin. They are world class players, and there is no direction we won’t go,” he said.
Cox and his trio mates have a repertoire of over 75 songs; his favorites to perform change every week, but his goal, he says, is simply to create shared evenings with his audiences that tap in to the emotions of music.
While his films may last as an on-screen legacy, Cox’s performances on stage, while more fleeting, are moments he treasures on an even more personal level.
“I want the show to feel like we’re all sitting in the kitchen or on the back porch,” he explained. “My goal is to make you giggle out loud on one song, and weep on the next.”
Ronny Cox will be in concert Saturday, August 16 at Aten Place in Boyne Falls. For tix and more info call 231-549-2076 or visit www.atenplace.com.