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Ronny Cox plays the Unitarian Fellowship

With a career that spans more than 40 years working in films and television, Ronny Cox turned back to his first love, music, about 20 years ago.

"I got my first film, 'Deliverance,' because I could play guitar," Cox says. "I played Drew, the good one with morals. It was quite a film. It opened up all kinds of doors for me. I've been in 145 movies and television shows." 

Cox's second big film was "Bound for Glory," an account of folk singer Woody Guthrie, played by David Carradine. Cox played Ozark Bule, a country singer and union organizer who would take Guthrie to play migrant work camps.

"I feel fortunate," he says. "I just came from a meeting at Universal Studios about a television series. But these days I don't let acting jobs interfere with my music schedule."

Cox, along with pianist and accordion player Radoslav Lorkovic and fiddle and mandolin player T. Bruce Bowers, will present "Songs, Stories and Out and Out Lies" at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27, at the Unitarian Fellowship, 87 Fourth St., Ashland. Tickets cost $20 in advance and can be purchased at Music Coop, 268 E. Main St., online at stclairevents.com or by calling 541-535-3562. Tickets will cost $22 at the door, $10 for ages 12 through 17. Kids 11 and younger get in free.

"Between the piano, accordion, fiddle, mandolin and me on guitar, we can get a lot of colors," Cox says. "I'm also a storyteller. The stories are equally as important to me as the songs. My show is much like sitting around the living room or front porch sharing music with family and friends. It's most informal. I ask to leave the house lights up, and I like the audience as close to me as possible."

The show will feature music by songwriters Jack Williams, Jonathan Byrd, John William Davis, Mickey Newbury and Wayne Carson, along with Cox's own music.

"I do other songwriter's songs, not covers per se, but I'm always looking for songs I think I can do well. It's part of the job of being a folk musician. If I know a wonderful songwriter, and the audience hasn't heard his songs, it's my job to introduce you to that songwriter and let you check out his music."

Cox and Carson have been friends since '91.

"He's a brilliant songwriter," Cox says. "He wrote 'Always on My Mind,' 'A Horse Called Music,' 'The Letter.' We have several songs we've written together, 'Santa Ana Winds,' 'We're Not Us Anymore.' Willie Nelson titled one of his albums 'A Horse Called Music,' I recorded the song later, and Randy Travis did, too.

"Wayne says that my version is his favorite," he laughs. "I don't mean to brag. I wouldn't put myself in the same class with Nelson, but I think I do that song well."

In a way, Cox says, his shows are like a throwback to Garrison Keillor's "Prairie Home Companion." There will be plenty of humor, too.

"My shows start as soon as people come in," he says. "I like to meet them at the door. I will visit with the audience before the show starts, and it doesn't end until everyone goes home."

Singer, songwriter, guitarist and actor Ronny Cox landed his first role in the film 'Deliverance.' Though he's appeared in nearly 150 film and TV roles, his first love is music. Photo courtesy of St. Clair Productions