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Bill Cox
Born:  August 4, 1897
Died:  December 10, 1968
WOBU Charleston, WV

About The Artist

Bill Cox ranked as West Virginia's second most recorded artist in the pre-World War II era. Nicknamed the "Dixie Songbird," either singly or in duet with Cliff Hobbs (1916-1961), he had nearly 150 sides released and composed two widely recorded country standards. Yet, because of a reckless life style and bad decisions, he died in poverty.

The son of a railroad worker, Bill learned to sing and play guitar entertaining at local parties around Charleston by the 1920s. He worked alternately at the Kelly Axe Factory and as a stationary engineer at the Ruffner Hotel.

When radio station WOBU (WCHS after 1933) went on the air in 1928 with a studio in the hotel, Bill soon had a program on the station. Sometimes absent from his own show, owner Walter Fredericks got Cox a contract with Gennett Records (which also owned the Champion, Supertone and Superior labels), so that the records could be played whenever he failed to appear.

As a result, from 1929 through 1931, Bill had over forty sides released. Many of his numbers were covers of Jimmie Rodgers songs, but also originals in the Rodgers style, or humorous looks at his own troubled domestic life: "I Love the Jailor's Daughter," "Rollin' Pine Woman," or "Alimony Woman."

In 1933, he switched over to the American Records Corporation, continuing to turn out similar material under the direction of Art Satherley. With harmony duets increasingly in demand, "Uncle Art" suggested the Cox add a tenor singer to his recordings. Bill got Cliff Hobbs, a young man from Cedar Grove, West Virginia who recorded some sixty songs with him through 1940. The latter included his two best known numbers. Some of his later compositions were commentary on the Great Depression and New Deal. "Filipino Baby" was a re-composed version of a Spanish-American War number originally written by Charles K. Harris that became a major hit for Cowboy Copas, T. Texas Tyler (both of whom learned it from Cox), and Ernest Tubb during World War II.

The second song, "Sparkling Brown Eyes" was widely covered at the time by Wade Mainer, Bill Carlisle, and Cliff Bruner. It has been periodically revived by Webb Pierce, Jerry and Sky, Dickie Lee, and Joe Val.

Meanwhile the Dixie Songbird drifted into obscurity and by the mid-sixties was living in a converted chicken house in the slums of Charleston.

In an era when folklorists and old-time record collectors were searching for still living country recording artists from the 1925-1935 era, old fiddler Clark Kessinger told Ken Davidson about Bill. Cox recorded a new album for Kanawha Records and was visited by scholars (including myself), but died the following December prior to being able to mount a comeback.

Credits & Sources

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Recordings (78rpm/45rpm)

 
Conqueror
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  8231 A When The Women Get In Power
  8231 B Barefoot Boy With Boots On
  8330 A Ramblin' Hobo
  8330 B My Brown Eyes
  8402 A Home In Sunlit Valley
  8402 B The Model Church
  8454 A Trial Of Bruno Richard Hauptmann Part 1
  8454 B Trial Of Bruno Richard Hauptmann Part 2
  8543 A Fate Of Will Rogers And Wiley Post
  8543 B Will and Wiley's Last Flight
  8771 A Democratic Donkey Is In His Stall Again
  8771 B Franklin Roosevelt's Back Again
  8883 A Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down
  8883 B Fiddling Soldier
  8934 A Answer To What Would You Give In Exchange For Your Soul
  8934 B The Golden Train
  8961 A Horse Neck Daddy
  8961 B Run Away Train Blues
  9094 A Don't Make Me Go To Bed
  9094 B I Still Write Your Name In The Sand
  9104 A Filipino Baby
  9104 B Sparkling Brown Eyes
  9218 A The Last Letter
  9218 B I've Found My Love
  9219 A Oh Sweet Mama
  9219 B Didi-Wa Didi
  9220 A The Battle Axe And The Devil
  9220 B Dang My Pop-Eyed Soul
  9221 A Old Pinto And Me
  9221 B The Hobo's Lullaby
 
Decca
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  5497 A Are You Tired Of Me, Darling?
  5497 B In 1992
  5509 A Travelin' Blues
  5509 B Leaving Town Blues
 
Gennett
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  6928 A California Blues (w/Cliff Hobbs)
  6928 B Jackson County (w/Cliff Hobbs)
  6946 A Daddy and Home (w/Cliff Hobbs)
  6946 B My Old Pal
  6974 A Hungry Hash House (w/Cliff Hobbs)
  6974 B She'll Coming Round The Mountain No. 2
  7037 A Moonshine In The Hills
  7037 B Back Home In Tennessee (w/Cliff Hobbs)
  7052 A When We Sing Of Home (w/Cliff Hobbs)
  7052 B Death Of Frank Bowen
  7080 A Alabama Blues (w/Cliff Hobbs, Luke Baldwin)
  7080 B Guitar Blues
  7155 A I Love The Jailer's Daughter
  7155 B It Won't Happen Again
  7226 A My Rough And Rowdy Ways (w/Cliff Hobbs)
  7226 B The Yodeling Cowboy
  7266 A My Old Log Cabin Home
  7266 B This side by Luke Baldwin
 
Melotone
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  12797 A Midnight Special
  12797 B Alimony Woman
  12798 A Lay My Head Beneath The Rose
  12798 B Where The Red Red Roses Grow
  12859 A The Best Friend I Ever Had
  12859 B Bring Back The Sunshine And Roses
  12884 A New Mama
  12884 B Blue Ridge Mountain Blues
  12941 A I've Got Those Drunken Blues
  12941 B When The Women Get In Power
  6-02-60 A The Fate Of Will Rogers and Wiley Post
  6-02-60 B Will And Wiley's Last Flight
 
Montgomery Ward
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  4942 A I Found You Among The Roses
  8051 A Hand Car Yodel
  8051 B Pray For The Lights To Go Out
 
Perfect
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  12943 A Lay My Head Beneath The Rose
  12983 A When The Women Get In Power
  12983 B I Got Those Drunken Blues
  13049 A Browns Ferry Blues
  13049 B Long Chain Charlie Blues
  19943 B Where The Red Red Roses Grow
  6-02-60 A When Once Again We'll Go Home
  6-02-60 B Sweethearts And Kisses
 
Romeo
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  5349 A Sparkling Brown Eyes
  5349 B Barefoot Boy With Boots On
 
Supertone
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  9476 A Daddy and Home (as Jim Morgan)
  9476 B My Old Pal (as Jim Morgan)
  9489 A Moonshine In The Hills (as Charlie Blake)
  9489 B Back Home In Tennessee (as Charlie Blake)
  9534 A California Blues (as Charlie Blake)
  9534 B Hungry Hash House (as Charlie Blake)
  9556 A In The Big Rock Candy Mountains No. 2 (as Charlie Blake)
  9556 B She'll Coming Round The Mountain No. 2 (as Charlie Blake)
  9600 A Guitar Blues (as Charlie Blake)
  9600 B Alabama Blues (as Charlie Blake)
  9641 A I Love The Jailer's Daughter (as Charlie Blake)
  9641 B It Won't Happen Again (as Charlie Blake)
  9714 A My Old Log Cabin Home (as Charlie Blake)
  9714 B Down In Arkansas (as Charlie Blake)
  9722 A The Hand Car Yodel (as Charlie Blake)
  9722 B The Yodeling Cowboy (as Charlie Blake)
  9724 A Since We Landed Over Here (as Charlie Blake)
  9724 B My Rough And Rowdy Ways (as Charlie Blake)
 
Superior
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  2558 A Down In Arkansas (as Clyde Ashley)
  2558 B My Old Log Cabin Home (as Clyde Ashley)
  2605 A Ramblin' Railroad Boy (as Clyde Ashley)
  2605 B Pray For The Lights To Go Out (as Clyde Ashley)
  2636 A Got Them Drunken Blues (as Clyde Ashley)
  2636 B The Hand Car Yodel (as Clyde Ashley)
  2676 A Aint Cha'comin' Out Tonight (as Clyde Ashley)
  2676 B High Silk Hat And A Gold Walking Cane (as Clyde Ashley)
  2711 A Don't Ever Marry A Widow (as Clyde Ashley)
  2711 B The Bootlegger's Plea (as Clyde Ashley)
  2723 A Leaving Town Blues (as Clyde Ashley)
  2723 B Blue Ridge Mountain Blues (as Clyde Ashley)
  2751 A Are You Tired Of Me Darlin' (as Clyde Ashley)
  2751 B My Alabama Sunshine Girl (as Clyde Ashley)
  2778 A Travelin' Blues (as Clyde Ashley)
  2778 B Alimony Woman (as Clyde Ashley)
  2833 A In 1992 (as Clyde Ashley)
  2833 B I Found You Among The Roses (as Clyde Ashley)
 
Oriole
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  5-11-54 A The Fate Of Will Rogers and Wiley Post
  5-11-54 B Will And Wiley's Last Flight
  8380 A Browns Ferry Blues
  8380 B Long Chain Charlie Blues
 
Panachord
Rec. No. Side Song Title
  25605 A Lay My Head Beneath The Rose
  25605 B Where The Red Red Roses Grow


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