Three Rivers Commercial News | Robert Tomlinson, Staff Writer
THREE RIVERS ― Singer-songwriter, storyteller and actor Ronny Cox will bring his musical talents to the Riviera Theatre stage in Three Rivers Friday.
Cox, who is perhaps better known for his acting career, performing in such classic movies as “Deliverance,” “Beverly Hills Cop,” and “Robocop,” has carved out a music career for himself throughout the years as well.
“I love acting, and I’ve had a wonderful career, but I don’t love it quite as much as I do music,” Cox said in an interview with the Commercial-News. “I found through the years that nothing cuts through to the heart quite like music does, and the personal connection that music has makes the world to me.”
Growing up in Portales, N.M., Cox said he “never ever” wanted to be anything else but a performer.
“Growing up, I was calling square dances and playing music, and I knew from the time I was 12 or 13 that I wanted to be an actor,” Cox said. “I spent my whole youth and childhood and my early years in high school playing music and being in plays. I remember when i was in junior high, people said, ‘what are you going to do?’ and I said, ‘one of these days, you’re going to look up on the big screen and you’ll see my name,’ and no one ever believed me. But that’s all I ever really wanted to do.”
Cox said he put himself through high school and college playing in bands, and was a theatre major in college. One of the groups he played in in high school caught the eye of legendary record producer Norman Petty, whose studio in Clovis, N.M. was 19 miles from Cox’s hometown.
“Norman Petty saw a group I was with at an exchange assembly in high school, and hired us to sing backup,” Cox said. “So, I was cutting records when I was in high school, and I was actually around the studio when Buddy Holly cut ‘Peggy Sue.'”
Cox said he never was in the studio with the legendary singer, but while he became a fan of Holly’s later, he said he “wasn’t that knocked out” by Holly at the time.
“To my great chagrin, there were other people there cutting records I thought were better than him,” Cox said with a laugh.
Stylistically, Cox said he has always been drawn to folk music for a variety of reasons.
“I was playing rock and roll because that’s what I started out with, but I gravitated rather quickly toward folk music, because I loved the simplicity and the everyman quality of folk music,” Cox said.
When asked why he liked music a bit more than acting, Cox said it was because of one thing: the ability to connect o an audience on a personal level, which he said is something he does at every concert.
“With acting, television, plays, you name it, there is and must be that imaginary fourth wall between you and the audience. You can’t step through the camera and talk to people. But with the kind of show I do, that doesn’t always happen,” Cox said. “There is the possibility of a profound one-on-one sharing that can take place, and that is an opiate that is undeniable.”
Cox said he wants his shows to be “as informal and as inclusive as possible.”
“I want my show to feel as much like it used to feel when we were kids sitting around the living room or the front porch or sharing stories and music with families,” Cox said. “Because of that, even if I’m playing for 500, 600,700 people, I will have a conversation with them. My show starts as soon as they start letting people in I want to have a conversation with everybody before the show starts, because I want the audience to be as near me as possible.”
Cox said he believes that the stories behind the songs are more important than the songs themselves, and that is evidenced in one of the songs he performs at every concert, “The Night John Huston Died,” named after the writer and director of one of his favorite movies, 1948’s “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.”
“That’s the film that made me realize I wanted to become an actor,” Cox said. “I had been going to western movies every Saturday afternoon, but that film touched me in a way that none has ever since. Toward the end of his life, I got to be friends with Jon Huston, and the song is a tribute to him.”
Overall, Cox said audiences will have a great time at his show.
“I want my shows to feel like a real experience we all had together,” Cox said. “Places like the Riviera, it’s one of the few places you can do that.”
Ronny Cox’s performance at the Riviera is at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6. Tickets are $15, and can be purchased on the Riviera Theatre’s website.