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|Born||October 16, 1939|
Wheeling, West Virginia, U.S.
William "Billy" Cox (born October 16, 1939) is an American bassist, best known for performing with Jimi Hendrix. Cox is the only surviving musician to have regularly played with Hendrix: first with the experimental group that backed Hendrix at Woodstock (informally referred to as "Gypsy Sun and Rainbows"), followed by the trio with drummer Buddy Miles that recorded the live Band of Gypsys album, and, lastly, The Cry of Love Tour trio with Mitch Mitchell back on drums. Cox continues to perform dates with the Band of Gypsys Experience and the Experience Hendrix Tour.
In addition to Hendrix, he has either been a member of the house or touring band or recorded sessions for Sam Cooke, Slim Harpo, Joe Simon, Charlie Daniels, John McLaughlin, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Lou Rawls, Etta James, Jackie Wilson and Little Richard.
Cox met Jimi Hendrix when they were serving in the Army at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, in 1961. While using the bathroom at Service Club #1 during a sudden rainstorm, he heard guitar playing inside. Impressed with what he heard, he introduced himself, told Hendrix he played bass, and they were jamming soon after. They became, and remained, fast friends. They left the military around the same time and they played clubs around Clarksville, Tennessee, finally moving to Nashville. They formed a group called the King Kasuals. They played at Nashville clubs, mostly the Del Morocco, and occasional outlying gigs in the southeast, once as far north as Indianapolis playing what was called the "Chitlin' Circuit". Cox and Hendrix also played in the backing band for Marion James around this time.
Hendrix eventually left Nashville, playing all over the US in the backing groups of several famous artists (most notably Little Richard and The Isley Brothers) until he was "discovered" by Chas Chandler in New York. Chandler took Hendrix to England (from which began Hendrix's meteoric rise to fame), but before Hendrix left, he called Cox and asked him to join him. As Cox "only had three strings on [his] bass" and no money to travel to New York, he simply thanked Hendrix and wished him well.
During this period, Cox played bass on such pioneering R&B television shows as Nashville's "Night Train" and "The!!!! Beat" from Dallas, Texas, working closely with Hoss Allen and John Richbourg of WLAC Radio.
In 1969, several months before bassist Noel Redding left the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Hendrix called his old friend Cox, who joined him in New York as his studio bassist. Following the break-up of the Experience, Cox became a member of Hendrix's experimental group, informally called Gypsy Sun and Rainbows. This group went on to play at Woodstock and two low-key New York gigs. Hendrix then formed another short-lived group with Cox and Buddy Miles, that recorded Band of Gypsys, the live album that he owed former manager Ed Chalpin as part of a legal settlement. Following their demise, Cox recorded and toured with Hendrix and Mitch Mitchell for The Cry of Love Tour, when promoters sometimes billed them as the "Jimi Hendrix Experience".
Cox's bass playing can be heard on many posthumously released Hendrix albums, including The Cry of Love (1971), Rainbow Bridge (1971), and War Heroes (1972). Most of the tracks from these albums were consolidated as First Rays of the New Rising Sun (1997), which is the most complete attempt to present Hendrix's fourth studio album (see Hendrix's posthumous discography and videography for a complete list). Additionally, Cox appears on many live albums and films from the Cry of Love Tour.
In 1972, Cox released his album Nitro Function with Char Vinnedge (from Luv'd Ones) and Robert Tarrant. Cox played with others, including the Charlie Daniels Band, as well as session work and live dates. Throughout the '70s and '80s, Cox would continue to be a part of Jimi's music as posthumous releases continued to pour out.
In 1995, Cox along with Mitchell, Redding and Miles began participating in Hendrix tributes and tours. In 1999, Cox appeared on the late Bruce Cameron's album, Midnight Daydream, that included other Hendrix alumni Mitchell and Miles along with Jack Bruce and others. Cox has also performed some dates along with Mitchell and guitarist Gary Serkin with a Hendrix-tribute outfit called the Gypsy Sun Experience.
Cox worked on First Rays of the New Rising Sun, Hendrix's fourth studio album, which was cut off by Hendrix's death. Cox has also been known to guest speak at University level music seminars. In this capacity he has been helpful to the aspiring musicians by spending time with them in discussion and demonstration sessions. This spirit of sharing and helping other musicians is similar to his former bandleader Hendrix's vision of providing musicians with a no-pressure (including cost breaks if needed) recording environment in the now legendary Electric Lady studios located in Greenwich Village, NYC.
In 2004, Miles reunited yet again with Cox of the Band of Gypsys to re-record songs from the original live album of 1970 with guitarists Eric Gales, Kenny Olsen, Sheldon Reynolds, Andy Aledort and Gary Serkin. The album, titled The Band Of Gypsys Return, was released in 2006.
As of November 12, 2008, Cox is the only surviving member of both The Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Band Of Gypsys. On Monday, October 12, 2009, Cox was inducted into Musician's Hall of Fame in ceremonies held at The Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville, Tennessee. He currently plays with the Experience Hendrix, a semi-regular touring Hendrix tribute band featuring top guitarists and former Hendrix collaborators. Billy's solo album Last Gypsy Standing was released in 2009. In 2009, he was also inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, TN.
Today, Billy Cox owns a video production company. He has produced numerous blues and a myriad of gospel shows. He co-authored the books Jimi Hendrix Sessions and Ultimate Hendrix with John McDermott and Eddie Kramer. Cox has been the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including these: In 2009 he was inducted into The Musicians Hall Of Fame; he received The Founders Award in 2010, given by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. In 2011 Cox was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall Of Fame. He released Old School Blue Blues in 2011, and continues to tour with "The Experience Hendrix Tour" each year and his own Band of Gypsys Experience. He released the single Run featuring the androgynous singer and songwriter Marlon Alarm in November 2011, and his latest release, Unfiltered, came out in late 2014.