Jesus and Jimi Hendrix are permanent sidekicks for Nashville Harley enthusiast, gospel artist, TV producer and rock ‘n’ roll bassist Bill Cox.
Actually, the world knows him as Billy Cox, the former Fort Campbell paratrooper who kicked into Nashville back in 1962 with the late guitar legend.
The born-again son of a preacher, Cox talks freely about his friendship with Hendrix and about his personal commitment to Jesus — almost as if they’re both in the room — during a spirited session inside his upscale home not far from the state prison.
“I’m a collector of rare junk,” he says, motioning around the converted garage, its walls lined with mementos and knick-knacks, “things from my life.”
Many of the pieces of Coke memorabilia and trinkets were collected during his ramblings around the world with Hendrix. “He’d be sleeping in the hotel. He was lazy. Me and Mitch (drummer Mitch Mitchell) liked to get up and go antique shopping, go to the flea markets.”
Half of the garage is dominated by a pool table, something he uses every day. The rest is left for his office and studio, from which Cox runs his various business affairs and projects, including a pair of public access TV shows as well as his video production company. It’s also where he practices his music, whether for a church performance or a tribute to a friend.
On this day, he’s been on the phone with Japanese radio in regard to a new Hendrix tribute, Billy Cox & Buddy Miles: The Band of Gypsys Return. The original Band of Gypsys included those two plus Hendrix. Arguably history’s most influential rock ‘n’ roll guitar player, Hendrix’s music crossed racial barriers in the 1960s. Although he overdosed at age 27 in 1970, his estate continues to release albums.
On the new tribute album, bassist Cox and drummer Miles try to recapture the spirit of the original Band of Gypsys and their landmark live album from New Year’s Eve 1969 at the Fillmore East. Various guitarists take their turns playing lead on this project.
“There are only two types of guitarists,” Cox says. “Those who admit they were influenced by Jimi Hendrix and those who don’t admit it.”
Later in the day, he’s expecting a call from shock-rocker Alice Cooper, who is interviewing him for his satellite radio program.
By TIM GHIANNI
Purple Haze (Jesus Saves)