CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Wheeling native will take the stage with the Experience Hendrix Tour for a sold out show at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in Charleston on Wednesday night.
“It’s fun because we all decided, early in life, what we wanted to do and music stimulates all of our souls and our spirits,” said Billy Cox, a bassist, of those on the tour on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
On the bill with Cox were Buddy Guy, Zakk Wylde, Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Dweezil Zappa, Brad Whitford, Eric Johnson, Cesar Rosas & David Hidalgo, Doyle Bramhall II, Chris Layton, Eric Gales, Mato Nanji, Malina Moye, Dani Robinson and Stan Skibby.
“When we leave to do this tour, we leave our egos at home. We leave them home on the kitchen or dining room table,” he said of his fellow musicians.
Apart from Jimi Hendrix himself, who died in Sept. 1970, Cox is the only player to be part of both the Band of Gypsys and the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
He first met Hendrix in 1961. “We were in the military together, the 101st Airborne, and, just by chance, I heard this fella playing in the service club in a practice room and I joined him with one of the basses that I rented from the service club,” said Cox.
After they left the U.S. Army, Hendrix and Cox kept playing together and formed the King Kasuals. Cox said he knew his role. “He was the leader and my job was to follow and support him and, wherever he went, I was on him like a rat on cheese,” he said.
Hendrix would go on to get his big break in Europe. Cox declined to make the trip across the Atlantic Ocean for several reasons, including financial ones, and continued to play bass in the United States.
In 1969, Hendrix contacted Cox about playing together again. Cox said his first paid gig with Hendrix, following the break-up of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, was Woodstock.
Even today, Cox said Hendrix appeals to all ages. On tour, “At the merch (merchandise) booth when I’m out front, we see six, seven, eight, nine, ten, 11, 12 year old kids with guitars who want guitars signed who are following (us) and most of them start off with who — Jimi Hendrix.”
Cox has built an impressive resume over the years, having played with or for Sam Cooke, Buddy Miles, Charlie Daniels, Etta James and Gov’t Mule among many, many others.
He was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2011. During the Wednesday tour stop in Charleston, Cox will receive the Distinguished West Virginian Award.
After Charleston, the Experience Hendrix Tour will move on to Pittsburgh, Pa. for a Thursday night show at the Benedum Center. As of Tuesday morning, tickets were still available for that show.