Forty-five years later, he has more than 125 movies and TV shows under his belt, but singing, playing guitar and writing songs still give him the most pleasure in life.
“I do love acting, and I’m good at it,” he said by telephone from his home in Los Angeles this week. “I just don’t love it quite as much as the music.”
Cox, 78, performs 50 to 100 shows a year at small theaters and folk festivals across the country. On March 10, he’ll be at Espenschied Chapel in rural Mascoutah.
The 1928 restored brick chapel seats 120 people, making it a perfect place for Cox to break through the imaginary wall between performer and listener.
“I’m a storyteller, and I want my show to feel like a shared evening with family and friends,” he said.
He’s such a famous actor, but a lot of people don’t recognize his name. When you see his face, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I know him.’
Espenschied board member Jeanne Bullard on Ronny Cox
“He’s such a famous actor, but a lot of people don’t recognize his name,” said Jeanne Bullard, 64, of Mascoutah, president of the Espenschied board. “When you see his face, you’re like, ‘Oh my God, I know him.’”
As a musician, Cox performs an eclectic mixture of folk, blues, jazz and Americana with stories in between.
At Espenschied, he’ll be joined by Sal Garza and Matt Margucci, who play instruments ranging from the muted cornet to fiddle, accordion, harmonica, keyboards and spoons.
This will be Cox’s second appearance at Espenschied. He teamed up with folk musician Jack Williams in 2011.
Retired teacher Susan Scheider, 61, was in the audience. She loves the chapel as a concert venue.
“What a gem,” she said. “Acoustically and visually, it’s so beautiful. It’s laid back, out in the country. It is truly a listening room, and that’s hard to find.”
Tickets for the March 10 concert cost $15 in advance or $20 at the door (additional $10 for pizza-and-beer reception with the band).
Proceeds will go to the Espenschied renovation fund. Board members hope to build an addition for meals and other gatherings that also would make the chapel handicap-accessible.
I’ve been lucky. I’ve had a great career. I’m not rich, but I have enough to live on, and the thing that gives me the most pleasure is playing music.
Actor and musician Ronny Cox on his priorities in life
Cox grew up in New Mexico, surrounded by music, particularly Western swing.
“I was calling square dances when I was 10 years old, and I was cutting records when I was in high school,” he said.
Young Ronny played in a rock ‘n’ roll band called Ron’s Rockout. He married high-school sweetheart Mary Lee Griffith and earned a degree in theater and speech at Eastern New Mexico University.
Cox was a struggling stage actor in New York when he was tapped for “Deliverance,” playing Drew Ballinger, an Atlanta businessman who takes a terrifying river trip with three friends.
“It changed my life in so many ways,” he said.
Cox, his wife and two sons moved to California so he could pursue a career in movies and television, and the rest is history.
Mary died in 2006, 50 years to the day of their first date. Cox has two grandchildren.
He admits that performing concerts in small venues pays a lot less than acting in Hollywood films, but he considers the former his priority at this point.
“I’ve been lucky,” he said. “I’ve had a great career. I’m not rich, but I have enough to live on, and the thing that gives me the most pleasure is playing music.”
At a glance
- What: Ronny Cox in concert
- Where: Espenschied Chapel, 317 N. County Road in Mascoutah
- When: 7 p.m. March 10
- Admission: $15 in advance; $20 at the door
- Post-show reception: $10 additional for beer and pizza
- Tickets: Visit www.espenschiedchapel.org or go to Bee Hollow Market, 217 E. Main St. in Mascoutah
- Information: Visit the website, call 618-566-7425 or email to email@example.com