DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

Johnny Cox -From His Sisters

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on March 27, 2009
Johnny Cox (courtesy Randy Humble)

Johnny Cox (courtesy Randy Humble)

I received this from Johnny’s sisters and they have given me permission to post it here.

Memories of Our Brother, Johnny- by Jill Cox Parris and Debbie Cox Sloan

Many people only knew the musician, Johnny Cox, a member of The Jays, The Sparkletones, The Barons, The Swingin’ Medallions, Sassy, Rhythm Brothers, Griff & Johnny, The Out-of-Towners Band, and many more. We would like to honor his memory and introduce you to more about him as a son and a brother- the Johnny we knew and loved.

Johnny’s mother lovingly called him “Junebug” and she called him this throughout his life and reminded him (and us) many times that his favorite book was still “The Pokey Little Puppy.” In the first grade, he was asked to be the director of the 1st grade musical group in the school program, but had to relinquish the title of Director and play the cymbals instead because he was the only one who could “feel the beat” and play the cymbals at the right time. He loved playing midget football and idolized his daddy who was the coach of his team. “Johnny Rex”, the apple of his grandmother’s eye and the apple of many of his aunts’ and uncles’ eyes, would put on his “Davy Crockett” coonskin cap, and go “hunting” behind his home with his Daisy BeeBee rifle, accompanied by his beloved dog Rags. He would take his little sister to Sunday school with him and try to make her comfortable by sitting in her class with her until he could “sneak out” to his own class. Johnny’s first “normal” job was behind the soda fountain at Stinson’s drug store, where he made the best cherry cokes in Woodruff. He spent his first paycheck on a jacket with a fur-lined hood for his little sister, but in the next moment would send her screaming as he terrorized her by chasing her as he pretended he was “Frankenstein”. By the way, speaking of scared, the movie that always terrified him was “The House of Wax” starring Vincent Price.

At 13, he cut his first record with the Barons. It was called “Jaywalk”, a song he wrote and played on his saxophone. He was recruited by a band called the “Sparkletones”. The group had a hit called “Black Slacks” and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Johnny toured with them in Canada, playing sax, at the age of 14. Upon his return home, his 6-year old sister kissed his hand over and over because it was the hand that shook the hands of Ricky Nelson, Fabian, and Paul Anka!!! However, if the truth is known, his sister adored him much more than those other stars and grieved every time he went away!! He loved getting his mother to hum or sing a song to him, and then he would play it back to her on his sax…….Always amazing her!

He loved taking pictures of his sisters with his black and white film camera……..posing his little sister like Zorro or a dead cowboy, and taking pictures of his baby sister because he said “She looks like a baby model.” He taught his little sister to shag and loved bouncing his baby sister on his knees.

Johnny had many girlfriends, or those who wanted to be his girlfriend. His aloofness (which was really shyness) seemed to make him a good catch…but there were a few (Janet, Jean, Nancy, Martha, Becky, and Kay) who really captured his interest and attention. Back then, he did not like the fact that he wore glasses, so he would wear prescription sunglasses at night. When he was asked why….he would say, “Because the street lights hurt my eyes!” Johnny was the lead in the school play, and his little sister practiced his lines with him diligently. He drove a school bus, was in the Beta Club, and was voted Best Looking AND Most Talented out of his senior class……a fact he never let his family forget. He talked of taking his dates home ON Saturday nights in time to get back up to the “Wenoka” to watch “the Fugitive” on TV with his friends! On a couple of occasions, we witnessed a few of his buddies making fun of him on Sunday afternoon because he always took a Sunday afternoon ride or picnics with all of us and then went back home with us to watch Bonanza together as a family. He said it didn’t matter, because that was what he wanted to do. Daddy liked “Pa”, Lorne Green…Mama liked Brother Adam, Johnny and Debbie liked Little Joe, and Jill liked “Hoss Cartwright”….that was our favorite show.

As a Furman student, he wanted his mother to see how he had arranged his dorm room. Before he would let her in, he turned on the lamp beside his bed and started a jazz record by Dave Brubeck on his record player. This prompted his roommate to say, “Johnny, you would think you were bringing Marilyn Monroe in to see your room”, to which Johnny replied, “No, I just want Mama to like it”…he loved his mother deeply. Johnny came home on weekends to teach the 13-year old boys in Sunday school. One Sunday, as the family got ready for church together, his baby sister could not find her Sunday black patent leather shoes….so someone had to stay home with her….it was Johnny, who then promptly fell back asleep while his baby sister rode “round and round” him on her tricycle, trying to wake him! He also orchestrated a Christmas Eve service at home, directing his family members to read the Christmas Story from the Bible, and to kneel around the Christmas tree together to hold hands and pray.

Years later, when his baby sister yearned to drive the family car, Johnny took the opportunity to teach her all he knew about driving. Johnny was 29, and Jill was 13. Nearly 10 years had passed since Johnny had lived at home with the rest of the family, but he still had a big brother’s heart. Not surprisingly, he managed to get the family car and his baby sister home safely. After only 30 minutes, Johnny was sitting in the passenger seat while baby sister drove as they rolled up in the driveway. Our parents were not surprised at all….. that was typical “Brother Johnny.”

We were always proud of Johnny and the fact that he was a great musician. We’ve always held a soft spot in our hearts for musicians, since both our Dad and brother played music. You know, most “normal” families back when we were growing up had formal living rooms where the mothers kept the nicest furniture in the house… you know, the room where children were not allowed to play? Well, our home’s living room was filled with guitar amps, a Hammond organ, a Farfisa keyboard, a saxophone stand, and drums. Our family’s house is where our Dad and brother’s band rehearsed many times. While we rode bicycles up and down the street outdoors, or did homework in the adjoining room, we could hear the sounds of our Daddy and Johnny playing their songs, laughing and talking with their band mates. That was what occupied our mother’s living room (it takes a special breed also to be a musician’s wife)! We can’t help but smile when we remember the smells and sounds of laughter, leather guitar cases, cigarette smoke, and chord progressions being discussed and shouted out above the tunes. Over and over again, they would play, until the song was perfect. Looking back now, we laugh about how we never realized this wasn’t “ordinary.” We never stopped to think that other living rooms in Woodruff were not filled with bulky music gear, microphones, and long, black, winding cables plugged into amplifiers. It all seemed normal to us then, and we never thought otherwise….. until now.

A very early memory of our brother is of him performing at the American Legion Hut in Woodruff with a group of teenage boys. He was playing his beloved saxophone, of course, and we were in the crowd watching the band and swaying to the music as he played the song, “Last Night”. His baby sister was 3, his little sister was 11, and Johnny was 19 at the time. At one point he came down from the stage area and began to hold our hands, dancing with us and laughing. We also were privileged to be with him and see him play the last time he performed on his beloved sax in December, 2008…..a memory we will cherish forever. We now realize with the passing of our brother (and our Daddy 3 years ago), that their presence in our lives made our family’s life as extraordinary and un- typical as you might imagine. Looking back on these memories, we wouldn’t have had our lives any other way!

By the way, no one will ever play “Danny Boy” as good as our big brother did!


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