Billy Cox

Jimi Hendrix Bassist and Friend
Bassist Billy Cox played regularly with guitar master Jimi Hendrix at the beginning and end of his carrier.  In the early 1960s Hendrix and Cox formed the band the King Kasuals and played regulary in Nashville and through the South.   After Hendrix made it big Cox recorded and toured with Henrix in the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Band of Gypsys. He has also played with many other noted musicians including Sam Cooke, Slim Harpo, Joe Simon, Charlie Daniels, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Etta James, Gatemouth Brown, Maxine Brown, Nappy Brown, Patti Labelle, Freddie King, Earl Gaines, Wilson Pickett, Little Milton, Johnny Taylor, Earl Gaines and Gov't Mule.

Cox was
inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville in 2009 and the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2011.

Growing Up in Wheeling and the Hill

William “Billy” Cox was born on October 18, 1941 in Wheeling, West Virginia. His dad was a Baptist minister and math teacher. His mother a classical pianist introduced young Billy to the music of Mozart, Handel, and Liszt. His uncle played sax for Duke Ellington. As a child Billy studied piano and saxophone. Living near Wheeling’s Capitol Music Hall Billy listened to concert through an open side door.

The Cox family moved to the Hill District of Pittsburgh when Billy was in his early teens. Cox was exposed to the many talented musicians who performed in the Hill District’s many jazz clubs. He was inspired by Charles Mingus and Pittsburgh's Ray Brown to learn the bass. At Schenley High School Billy learned the double bass and played in the school Orchestra. After school his also played in jazz bands. His taste in music changed from bebop to Blues and R&B.

Meeting Jimi Hendrix

After graduating from High School in 1961 he enlisted in the Army. He was stationed at Fort Campbell Kentucky. There he met guitarist Jimi Hendrix. Walking past the base's Service Club one evening Cox heard guitar playing. He went inside and introduced himself to Hendrix. They began jamming.

Hendrix and Cox were discharged from the Army about a month apart in the summer of 1962 and moved to nearby Clarksville, Tenn and later Nashville. There they formed the R&B/ Blues band the King Kasuals. They performed regularly at the Nashville's Del Morroco club and played gigs on the Chitlin Circuit in the Southeast and as far north as Indianapolis.

In 1964 Hendrix left Nashville to move to Harlem in New York. Cox stayed behind in Nashville. In New York Hendrix played with his own band the Blue Flames before touring the US playing in the bands of Little Richard and The Isley Brothers. Cox turned down an offer from Little Richard to join him and Hendrix on the road as he had commitments in Nashville.

Cox stayed in Nashville from 1962 to 1968. He played bass in the house band of the Nashville R&B television show“Night Train”. He also performed on the Dallas TV show “The!!!! Beat” one weekend a month. Cox also owned a publishing company and a recording studio that produced R&B recordings. In 1966 Chas Chandler, the bassist for the Animals bassist heard Hendrix playing in an Greenwich Village club and offered to take Jimi to the U.K. to launch his solo career. Hendrix called Cox asking him to come to London and join his new band. Cox turned Hendrix down again wanting to staying with his recording and publishing business in Nashville.

Hendrix won international stardom in 1967 with the release of his first album
"Are You Experienced" that included the classic psychedelic songs "Hey Joe," "Fire" and "Purple Haze." Hendrix was hailed as a guitar master. He recorded two more albums with his band the Jimi Hendrix Experience that was comprised of bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell.  "Axis: Bold As Love" was released in 1967 and "Electric Ladyland" came out in 1968.  Hendrix took the music world by storm with his performance at the Monterey Pop Festival.

Gypsy Suns and Rainbows at Woodstock

Hendrix broke the Experience band in in 1969 and formed a new band called the Gypsy Suns and Rainbows. Looking for a new bass play Hendix once again called Billy Cox. This time Cox accepted Jimi's offer. He joined with Hendrix, rhythm guitarist Larry Lee, ex-Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell, and percussionists Juma Sultan and Jerry Velez to form the new band. They backed Hendrix at his historic performance at Woodstock in August of 1969.

Band of Gypsys

The Gypsy Suns broke up after Woodstock. Hendrix then formed the funk based the trio Band of Gypsys with Cox on bass and drummer Buddy Miles. They record a self-titled live album on New Year's Eve 1969 at New York's Fillmore East. Released on Capital Records in 1970 its was the only live recording of Hendrix released before his death. calls it one of the greatest live albums ever recorded.

Jimi Hendrix Experience

Buddy Miles left the group in 1970 and Hendrix replaced him with Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell. The trio of Hendrix, Cox, and Mitchell began recording tracks for Hendrix's fourth studio album at Hendrix's own studio Electric Lady. The trio toured the U.S. and Europe playing arena's and festivals. They planned to complete the album (with the working title of "First Rays of the New Rising Sun" at the end of 1970.

Death of Hendrix

In September of 1970 Cox returned to the United State suffering a nervous breakdown caused by a bad acid trip and exhaustion.  The Experience canceled the rest of their tour.  Hendrix went London where on Sept 18. 1970 he died from an accidental drug overdose at age 27.

"First Rays of the New Rising Sun" with Cox's last studio recording with Hendrix was released in 1990.  Cox also appears with Hendrix on the posthumously released albums as "South Saturn Delta", "Live at Woodstock", "Live at the Fillmore East", and "Nine to the Universe".  He also appears on the videos "Live at the Isle of Wight" (1970), and "Live at Woodstock".

After Hendrix

Cox went on to record several solo albums, several Hendrix tribute releases and releases with other artists. In 1970 Coxed toured and recorded with the Charlie Daniels Band on the album "The Charlie Daniels Band" He also appeared on the Charlie Daniels release "Whiskey" (1977).  Cox played bass on J.J. Cale's 1979 album titled '5'. He appeared on Bruce Cameron 1999 release Midnight Daydream".  Working with guitarist Gary Moore and drummer Mitch Mitchell Cox appeared on the 2012 release "Blues for Jimi".  In 2013 Cox performed on the Slide Brothers release "Robert Randolph Presents: The Slide Brothers".  In addition to his music career Cox also ran the Nolensville Road pawnshop in Nashville.

Solo Albums

Billy Cox released his solo album on Lizard Records entitled "Nitro Function" in 1971 backed by Char Vinnedge, Robert Tarrant and Jim Dant. "Last Gypsy Standing" was released in 2009. He released "Old School Blues" in 2011.

Hendrix Experience Tours

In 1995 the first Hendrix Experience tribute concert was held in Seattle. The tribute concert evolved into a regular tour in 2004. Cox joined former Hendrix players Mitch Michell, Buddy Miles and Noel Redding and guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepard for the Hendrix Tribute Tour. In 2010 the Hendrix Experience Tour had an all-star cast of guitarists Steve Vai, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang, Eric Johnson, Brad Whitford, David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas (of Los Lobos), along drummers Chris Layton (Double Trouble and Living Color and Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers.

Band of Gypsys Return

In 2006 Billy Cox produced the album "Band of Gypsys Return" with Buddy Miles on drums and guitarist Eric Gales, Kenny Olson (of Kid Rock, Jimmy Stewart, and Andy Aledort. The album features records of several Hendix classics such as "Machine Gun" and "Stone Free" and two song written by Cox.

Cox continues to tour with "The Experience Hendrix Tour" and and his own Band of Gypsys Experience. 
Billy Cox Recordings
Billy Cox at Woodstock with Hendrix
Billy Cox Interview about meeting Hendrix
Cox and Hendrix in 101st Airborne
The King Kasuals with Hendrix and Cox
Gypsy Suns with Hendrix and Cox 1969
Band of Gyspys with Cox, Hendrix, and Buddy Miles