Groove – Episode #52: Billy Cox
As we hit the big 50th anniversary of Woodstock, it’s important that we all sit back and marinate on just how profound of a time that was for music, rock and roll, and the electric bass. Billy Cox was there, but his road to Woodstock (and into today) is one of the chance encounters, a great friendship, and legendary music.
Billy met Jimi Hendrix while they were serving in the Army at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in 1961. Ducking into Service Club #1 to get out of a sudden rainstorm, he heard someone playing guitar inside. Impressed with what he heard, he introduced himself, told Jimi he played bass, and they were jamming soon after. They formed a group now known to history as the King Kasuals. They played at Nashville clubs and traveled all over the southeast and as far north as Indianapolis playing what was called the “Chitlin’ Circuit”.
Jimi eventually left Nashville and continued to struggle all over the country until he was discovered by Chas Chandler in New York. Chas took Jimi to England, (and the rest is history). But before Jimi left, he called Billy and asked him to join him. Billy had no resources or money to travel to New York, so he thanked Jimi and wished him well. Billy continued to play, backing some of the greats in R&B until the Jimi Hendrix Experience broke up in mid-1969. Jimi then called again. They recorded together and Billy went on to play at Woodstock and played a series of shows with Jimi and Buddy Miles as the Band of Gypsys.
After Jimi’s death, Billy played for a time with the Charlie Daniels Band. Following that he continued to perform sessions and club dates. He later reunited with Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell, and guitarist Gary Serkin and did a series of shows under the name Gypsy Sun Experience.
As of November 2008, Billy is the only surviving member of both The Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Band Of Gypsys. He recently was inducted into the Musician’s Hall of Fame and continues to honor his friend, performing dates with the Experience Hendrix Tour.
Enjoy the conversation…