A thing about growing up in New Mexico is you come to grips pretty early with the concept of rattlesnakes. When I was in elementary school we lived in Roswell, it was town, so we heard about rattlesnakes but hardly ever saw one. But our parents always put the fear of God in us about rattlesnakes. As my dad was fond of saying, “Rattlesnakes might not hurt you, but they can damn sure make you hurt yourself.”

As a kid I lived in abject fear of running into a rattlesnake. I had never even seen one until I was about 10 or 11 when we moved to Hot Springs, which then became Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. It’s on the Rio Grande River, which goes through the Elephant Butte Lake and then on down to Las Cruces, El Paso and Mexico.

When we first moved to Hot Springs my parents were the care-takers of a motel. It was a very small motel. Only had six, or seven units. It was across the street from the river.  It was one of those really, really cheap motels. My dad worked as a carpenter/ handyman or whatever job he could find in town, and he also took care of the maintenance around the motel. Mom was in charge of cleaning and managing the rooms.

We never had very many customers. You’d think since we were right across the street from the Rio Grande, we might have had more customers, but we weren’t on the best side of town. Across the street nestled against the bank of the river was a small tackle shop that my friend Joe’s dad owned.

Unless you’re on the river, it is a parched, bone-dry desert all around T or C,… so whenever it rained the gullies would immediately fill up, and the resulting flash flood would wash all the rattlesnakes into the river. After a big rain, there would be a gazillion rattlesnakes floating down the river. We’d watch them make their way to the bank and try to slither out, and for the next two or three days, you’d better be careful where you stepped.

My friend Joe was Native American… I think, Navajo, but I’m not sure. He and his parents lived about four miles out of town, and sometimes I’d go out there and spend the day. Most of the time I was scared to death because their place was smack dab in the middle of rattlesnake country. Joe had told me that a couple of times his mom had gone into their laundry room and found a coiled rattlesnake among the clothes. That’s when he introduced me to Max! 

Joe had a black Lab named Max… and Max could kill rattlesnakes. I saw it happen. We were in Joe’s back yard and Max, always on the lookout, saw a rattlesnake. He noisily went charging toward it. The snake coiled as Max came running toward it, enticing the snake to strike, (Max made sure he stopped short of the distance the snake could’ve struck him). The snake quickly coiled itself up again. (I found out later a snake can strike about three-quarters of its length.)

Max had lured the snake to strike in order to establish the distance it COULD strike. Max, then stayed just far enough away that both he and the snake know it can’t strike that far. Now Max starts circling the rattlesnake.  He walks very slowly… The rattler’s eyes are glued to Max’s movements,  and as Max goes behind the snake, it quickly swivels it’s head to pick up Max on the other side as he passes behind him. At first, it’s so fast, that it almost seems like the snake’s head can endlessly turn. Now, Max slows down even more… slowly… slowly… even slower. Max is hypnotizing the snake. As he walks slower and slower… the snake begins to get a little lazy.  It doesn’t whip it’s head around quite as quickly… and when the snake finally gets sluggish enough and turns his head slowly enough, Max lunges in from behind and doesn’t let go until the snake’s head is off.

I asked Joe if Max had been trained to kill rattlesnakes… Joe said, “Talk to my dad, and he will tell you the myth of the coyote who could kill rattlesnakes”.

My dad (on right) and his brother

My dad was born in the Territory of New Mexico in June of 1911, some seven months before it became the forty-seventh state. He had a terrible childhood. I don’t have much first-hand knowledge since he almost never talked about it. There were five girls and two boys, he was the youngest son. His parents were homesteading ten acres of hard scrabble on the Texas border near the town of Rogers. They were trying to scrape out an existence where the average yearly rainfall only yielded a crop about once every seven years.

The requirements of the Homestead Act were that the occupants were required to live on the property for five years, to make improvements by building a dwelling, and the cultivating the land. In those hard times, only a few families were able to hold on for five years. Many farms were abandoned within the first two or three years and oftentimes nearby families would move in and continue to work the land in an attempt to complete the five years required in hopes of combining it with their own.

That decision to work two homesteads was blamed for the tragedy that befell my dad’s family. The family living on the adjoining homestead had finally given up and were abandoning their place. My grandfather decided that he would try to work both farms. He took three of the kids: his oldest daughter, his middle daughter and my eight-year-old dad to the new farm. He left his oldest son and three daughters to help my grandmother work the one they were on.

This is hard to talk about.. and it left life-long scars, not only for my dad but for his entire family. My grandfather started sleeping with his oldest daughter… and she became pregnant. My grandfather was arrested for raping his own daughter. There was a trial, he was convicted and was sent to prison. The sheriff came to the farm and arrested him while they were working in the field. The only time I ever heard my dad talk about this was when a relative asked dad if he remembered how he felt that day. My dad finally said. “Just happy”. I’ve heard from other relatives that my granddad would hit you with whatever he had in his hands if he was mad. More proof of that legendary “Cox temper”.

So… with the old man in prison, my grandma eventually lost both homesteads and the family was scattered to the winds. My dad started living with his older brother… quite a bit older, actually. (I think 8 yrs., but I’m not sure). And I don’t know really know what happened to the other siblings and my grandma. Dad never talked about this very much either. I do know that when my dad was eleven, he and his older brother got into a fight and my dad won the fight. His brother kicked him out…. So, at eleven years old, my dad was out in the world on his own. He started work, as a man, on the Heart Ranch in Texas. (the second largest ranch in Texas). I’ve seen pictures of him when he was eleven…. and he looked like a man. There was nothing boyish about him.

My dad and I had a really stormy relationship, and now that I’m older I can see how I could have been more understanding of my dad and of his views of parenthood. You see, I’ve always been a bit of a smart-ass, which got me into a world of trouble with dad. His view was: he was the Dad, that By God that meant he was the “boss”, and anything that challenged his authority meant he wasn’t being respected and that was not to be tolerated. My brothers, and of course my little sister, got along with my dad a whole lot better than I did. Dad would say something that we all knew was ridiculous and my siblings would bite their tongues until they got outside and then giggle about it and go about their business. Why couldn’t I do that? Why couldn’t I see that he needed us to respect him… why was I such a pain in the ass?

There was a quirk about him that was always dangerous… especially for me. Anytime you asked permission to do something, even as simple as going across the street to play with a friend, his first answer was always “No”… it was expected, and then the ritual would start… you would go through the reasons why it was no big deal… you’d be right back… etc. etc. and then he would eventually, although grudgingly, say “Okay”. Ninety-five percent of the time, that was the predictable outcome…. BUT… every now and then you would ask and it would be as though you had committed the most unforgivable offense. He would come down on you in a very bad way… sometimes violently. “How dare you talk back to me”… and the full force of his anger and violence would rain down on you… it was terrifying. So… ninety-five percent of the time, it was easy as pie to sweet talk dad into almost anything, but always lurking in the background ……not pretty when that happened.

In hindsight, I wish I had understood my dad better when I was younger. He died before we ever patched up our differences. I’ve talked to my brothers and sister about their relationship with dad. It’s shocking that their view and their relationships with him are so different than mine.

It wasn’t until I became friends with John Huston, in the last year of his life, that I realized how much I loved my father and could look at our relationship in a different light. It took me lots of years to get there, but I finally tried to write a song about our relationship… I haven’t played it in years and I listened to it the other day… I’d like to revisit it someday. It’s on my Acoustic Eclectricity album….. “To Say Goodbye”.

  1. To Say Goodbye Ronny Cox 4:45


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The Car Movie Poster

Other than Deliverance, the only time I’ve had a real close shave on set was while making The Car with James Brolin back in 1977. It was directed by Elliot Silverstein.

At the end of the film, we are scrambling to escape as the car plunges over a cliff as it’s trying to run us down. The script called for a huge explosion when the car hits the ground. The FX crew had put a gazillion gallons of gas down in that canyon to guarantee a spectacular cinematic fireball. We actors were a good 40 or 50 feet back from the edge of the cliff and we were essentially just being foreground extras witnessing our spectacular final triumph over the Car.

None of us thought that it was going to be a dangerous shot. Sure, there was gasoline down in the canyon, but that was a couple of hundred feet down THERE and we were up HERE. On paper, the explosion was just supposed to be a big fireball that we deputies who had been terrorized by The Car, finally got to exult in the damn thing meeting its doom. But… somehow when they detonated the explosives and gasoline –  instead of a ball of flames shooting high over our heads, they folded over the edge of the cliff, only six or eight feet off the ground and soared straight towards us.

The heat was incredible as we scrambled away from the edge and dove to take cover behind the fake movie rocks, the film crew had strategically placed. Once we were behind the rocks, I looked back toward the camera crew and saw that they were leaving the equipment and running for their lives too.

There were about six or eight of us actors in the rocks and we all got blistered during the scene. Nothing serious, but we had to be treated by the medic on the set. Looking back, we may well have dodged a bullet on that one, if those flames had come down another foot or two. A few actors – including yours truly – could’ve ended up being fried.

In a roundabout way, I might owe my life to Stephen Spielberg! I still find it kinda spooky whenever I think about how it could’ve been me who was killed in a freak accident on a movie set back in 1982. Even more unsettling, this tragedy occurred on my birthday. I’m only talking about this because I lost out on the movie role.

My agent called and told me that John Landis wanted to meet with me. This was not a typical casting call. It was late on a Friday afternoon, and there were no other actors there… only me. He wanted to discuss a role in a new movie he was directing and co-producing with Steven Spielberg. I was a big admirer of both, so I was excited by the prospect of getting to work with them.

Landis and I hit it off immediately. (I’m struck more and more how casting decisions often come down to the personal chemistry between the people involved) At the meeting, he enthusiastically told me about the big budget movie version they were planning to make of Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone.

During the meeting, since there wasn’t a script available yet, Landis told me about the segment that he was going to direct, which was going to be the first short story in the movie. It was about a racist character who ends up going back in time and redeems himself by rescuing two Vietnamese children.

It sounded like a wonderful part, and I was excited to be considered for it. At the end of the meeting he said, “Ronny, you’re the person I want for this .. The role is yours… It’s a done deal.” I went home with a bounce in my step and told Mary and the boys the good news.

But on the following Monday morning, I got a call from Landis.
“Ronny, I’m so embarrassed,” He told me. “I know that I said the role was yours but, over the weekend, Steven Spielberg met with Vic Morrow and offered him the role and Vic had accepted it. “Ronny, I don’t know what to say to you.”

Obviously, I was disappointed… but what are you gonna do? After all, Stephen Spielberg WAS the Executive Producer and he had final approval on all casting decisions. I wished them well… no use cryin’ over spilt milk.

I bounced back fairly quickly as I was deep into co-writing with Mary my first screenplay and making preparations for our next project – a film called Raw Courage. I ended up co-producing the film as well as starring in it. We shot the film in my home state of New Mexico, and we were there shooting in July of 1982. Raw Courage is an outdoor adventure film, reminiscent in some ways of Deliverance, which required us to run in scorching heat through the desert for hours on end. It was really grueling physically and required more stamina than I had ever imagined. On my forty-fourth birthday, after running all day…I had just collapsed on the bed in our hotel room in Las Cruces when Mary told me about the tragic accident on the set of The Twilight Zone: Vic Morrow and two child actors were killed when a helicopter crashed on top of them.

It freaked me out… but it bothered Mary in a way I’d never seen before or since. She was always the most calm, level-headed person anytime things went South, but it affected her in a really traumatic way. She couldn’t get it out of her mind of how instead of celebrating my birthday that she could be mourning my death. For years after that, the image of the tragic accident bothered her a lot. So much so that she avoided the details of the accident like the plague. If, at any time, anyone mentioned that movie… Mary would leave the room. So, my forty-fourth birthday is one that I’ll never forget.

This is what’s kinda sick about my reaction to the terrible tragedy. I’m such an egotist, (or maybe this is a defense mechanism), I believe that if I had been on that film set the tragedy might not have occurred. As I understand it, there were some safety issues with the helicopter hovering so closely over them – after several close calls and near tragedies we had during the filming of Deliverance …. I have never been shy about making sure that all safety protocols were being observed. I like to think I would’ve refused to let them shoot that scene under those conditions…

Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas…..or any of the plethora of phrases we all exchange during this season…… My Best to All of You! Christmas is always a double edged sword for me. Mary’s favorite time was always Christmas… and she died on Dec. 18. Gosh, it’s ten years ago now, so hard to believe. I’m gearing up for a bunch of shows in the New Year and I’m truly excited about what is, essentially, a brand new band. I have discovered an amazing fiddle/mandolin player, Salvator Garza and I’m getting back together with my old friend Matt Margucci. Matt and I haven’t played together for over 10 years, but I have to tell you, I always felt my band was best and our sound the most unique when Matt was with us. He plays muted coronet… yeah, yeah… I know, a muted coronet in a folk band? But it works! It gives us a more swingy, jazzy, bluesy sound. And the amazing thing is he can play along with my acoustic guitar – truly remarkable. He also plays other instruments too: accordion, harmonica, flute….. he’s amazing, so I hope you’ll try to get out to see us when we play in your area.

Also, I’m gearing up for my ninth trip to Ireland, and it is truly the trip of a lifetime. We are going to Cork, Kerry and Clare in the south and west of Ireland. Each evening we go hear top-top Irish musicians, or they come play privately for us. I limit my group to 22… I don’t want a bigger bus, otherwise we couldn’t get down some of those narrow Irish paths they call roads! Actually, I only have two slots left for my  2017 tour… either one couple or two singles. Occasionally people need to cancel, so w do keep a waiting list. I’m also taking the love of my life, my granddaughter Catherine, with me again this year. She will have just turned 16.

Last – I’m contemplating writing a new book. It’s in the early thinking-about-it stage and I’m pondering a new CD to show off my new/old players. 2017 is going to be a busy year!!!

All the best to you in the New Year!

PS. I also did a TV movie with Willie Nelson and I got to sing one of my songs in the movie! It should be out in the spring.  Here’s a sneak listen.

  1. Silver City Ronny Cox 3:35


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Hello friends! This newsletter is actually being written by Ronny’s manager, Barb. Ronny didn’t want to miss getting some news out……….some big news! He is currently in New Orleans filming a TV movie with none other than Willie Nelson, and he will be singing one of his own songs in the movie. The song is Silver City, which is on his CD Cowboy Savant – there’s a link to it at the end of this newsletter. He’ll be doing a more up tempo version of the tune in the movie, and he’ll be sure to let everyone know when it’s scheduled to screen. He is thrilled to be on location in the Big Easy!

You may have noticed on his professional Facebook page that we have started to put some bits of movie trivia up. Even though many folks know of his acting career, there are lots of really interesting hidden facts that will be featured from time to time. Not only is Ronny an accomplished actor and singer/songwriter, he is also an author. His book “Dueling Banjos: The Deliverance of Drew” was published in 2012 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the release of his first movie, Deliverance. It is a fascinating read that takes you behind the scenes of the film and the ride he experienced during his first time in front of a camera. The book is also available in an audio edition, available at live shows. Ronny will be in Harbor Springs, Michigan, at Lamb’s Retreat for songwriters November 10 – 13.

Ronny also wants to remind everyone that he leads a tour of beautiful Ireland every summer, and there are only a few seats left on his 2017 tour! Next year’s dates are July 28 – August 6, and will go to Counties Cork, Kerry and Clare. His tour always sells out, and there are always a few disappointed folks who waited too long……… so if you think you might want to go, now is the time to speak up! You can find all the information about the Ireland tour on his website as well. It’s the trip of a lifetime!

Hope you are all enjoying a beautiful autumn, enjoying some music and making plans!

*And here’s a little note from Ronny: “Yeah……….what she said!”

Join Ronny for a musical tour of Ireland…
July 28 – August 6, 2017


The 2017 tour is now SOLD OUT but we occasionally have cancellations so please contact us to get on the waiting list.

Ronny will host a special adventure with Inishfree Irish Music Tours to the Emerald Isle. The trip includes a 9 day tour of Counties Cork, Kerry and Clare, where by day Ronny and his fellow travellers will visit ancient ruins, castles, small fishing villages, the Aran Islands, the horse races, and more. By night they will share music in the local pubs with Irish players. A very unique trip indeed!

Ireland14How can you see a lot of Ireland, but see it at Ireland’s pace? How can you have the convenience of group travel, without the herd-like drawbacks? And what about people who usually travel on their own, but who really want to get to know the place through its traditional culture – the music, the language, the stories? The answers to these questions are the seeds of this special tour…

…tours created for people who hate tours – no big buses, name tags, large groups, or hurried stops. We’ll find the best music sessions, the least touristy pubs, the most beautiful backroads, and the longest lasting memories

….tours small enough that they feel more like we are showing a group of friends around Ireland.

ireland4We take 20 or so guests and travel in a small luxury coach/bus, generally staying 2 or 3 nights in one town and spending our last evening back near the Shannon airport. Our lodging is in small hotels and an occasional B&B.  By day we will hike scenic landscapes, visit old castles, abbey ruins, and stone circles, see beaches, mountain tops, bogs, small fishing villages, islands, and festivals – whatever comes our way. And by night we will share music with local Irish singers and players.

Ireland11Our deluxe luxury coaches are just roomy enough to be comfortable, but small enough to fit on the narrowest back roads…. Our tours focus on the traditional arts and culture of Ireland, especially the music…. Our size and the way we plan our tours allows us maximum flexibility. (Want to take a walk..shop at a store… take a nap… get a snack … take a solo tour.. or a detour?) With our tours, this is all possible. We go at Ireland’s pace- fast enough to pack in a lot of incredible experiences, but slow enough so that those experiences are meaningful.


Ireland9Cost for 2017 tours is $2350 per person based on double occupancy. We will do our best to match up room mates if preferred. Single rooms are an additional $500 total per person for all 9 nights (limit 4 singles per tour). The fee also includes all ground transportation, all lodging including full breakfast. We also provide 3 evening group meals, and the cost for our featured Irish musicians, poets, writers, and artists.

(The increase in the single room fee is necessary to fully cover the costs of accommodating single travelers. We regret any inconvenience this causes.)

Guests pay for their own flights to and from Shannon International Airport, all lunches, 6 dinners on your own, ferries and optional activities, drinks, tips, and personal expenses. A $500 deposit is required to hold slots after confirmation of your reservation. Balance is due in two payments, 6 months and 3 months prior to the tour dates. Travel to Ireland does require a passport.

For information and reservations, email or call:

Barb Bowers
(207) 380-9070

Hello Friends!

It’s hard to believe that summer is winding down. I led a great group of folks on my tour to Ireland in late June / early July, and was thrilled to be able to take my granddaughter Cat with me.  We had some good weather, some great music, and a really wonderful time. It’s a trip I truly look forward to every year.

I’ll be making a short visit to Kerrville on September 2nd, and will be attending SWRFA (Southwest Regional Folk Alliance) in Austin at the end of the month. October will find me back on the road in Wisconsin, Illinois and Missouri, with more songs, stories and out & out lies!

I’m afraid I’ve been the victim of the dreaded summer doldrums. Not too many gigs, spending time with Cat and my grandson Phillip…. it’s been hot and I’ve been lazy! And even though it has been nine and a half years years since I lost Mary, I’ve thought a lot about her this summer. I had writer’s block for almost three years after she died. Even if I was writing a “silly” song….. I just couldn’t seem to finish it.  The legendary songwriter Jack Hardy took me aside one day and suggested that I go in a room and force myself to write a song. He said don’t come out till it’s done. It didn’t have to be good. I didn’t ever need to play it for anyone. I just needed to complete it.

This the song I wrote. I’m not saying it’s one of my better songs, but it is the one that got me through writer’s block. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope to see you all soon!

All the best,

  1. Wishes of My Heart Ronny Cox 3:30


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Wow…. here it is, nearly June already! This is gonna be a busy month for me! I am doing shows at The Folkhouse in Omaha on June 3rd, Green Guitar Folkhouse in Lenexa, KS on June 4 and a private house concert in Mission Hills, KS on June 5.

Then we’re off to Colorado for 4 concerts, June 9-10-11- and 12 in Alamosa, Palmer Lake, Broomfield and Ft. Collins. Check my shows page for the particulars… and come out and see us if you can! I’m really enjoying playing with Chip Dolan and Lauren Lee. Our shows in Auburn, Oakland and Felton, CA were great… ha ha, no rest for the wicked!

I’m really excited to be returning to Ireland for my eighth trip on June 26 thru July 5. The trip is sold out again for this year, but if you’d like to join us next year, I can promise you the trip of a lifetime! Details about these trips are available on my website by clicking on the “Ireland” tab – and the information about 2017 will be posted as soon as it’s available.

Best of all… this year I’m taking my granddaughter Catherine with me to Ireland. She’ll be 15 soon and this will be her first trip out of the country. We’ve gotten her passport and Global Entry documents so she’s prepared and ready to go. (As a side note, Cat and I have been taking Irish dancing lessons. Don’t get me wrong – we suck at it, but it sure is fun!)

Hope to see you all soon, either at one of my gigs or on a trip to Ireland.

Your friend in song and stories,

Wow…. here we are in April already!  Where does the time go? Greetings from your traveling folksinger / storyteller… lots of news this month.

First, a reminder about the wonderful tour I lead to Ireland every year. It has rightly been called the trip of a lifetime. It’s a fantastic trip to Counties Cork, Kerry and Clare to touch base with our connections to Irish heritage and especially to the music. I’m sold out this year, but if you’re interested in joining us next year, check out the “Ireland” section on my website and someone will be in touch with you and fill you in on all the details.

I’ve just returned from three fantastic shows in Texas. Sandra Walters hosted a  wonderful, sold out house concert for us in Houston. By the way, I was honored to do all three of the shows with Will Taylor, a virtuoso fiddle player, and Karen Mal, the most amazing mandolin player and harmony singer on the planet. In addition to Houston, we also played Will Taylor’s “Strings on the Grass” concert in Austin and a great house concert in Wiley, TX hosted by Tom Noe. The shows went really well and I’m extremely grateful for the warm reception we received from everyone.

This month, I’ll be playing with my regular bandmate, Chip Dolan and the newest member of our band… Lauren Lee, fiddle player and singer extraordinaire.  We’ll be in Wisconsin Rapids, WI at the McMillan Memorial Library, then in Michigan City, IN at the Blue Chip Casino, then one of my favorite house concerts in Hebron, IL and then at the Riviera Theatre in Three Rivers, MI! Yeah, yeah, I know –  the routing stinks!…it’s causing us to start referring to it as the “star of David tour”.  But check out my shows page for all the particulars….I’d love for you to come to a show if it’s near you, and please come by and say hello. That’s half the fun for me.

I’m doing a rather new thing.  As most of you know, as a matter of philosophy, my show is largely comprised of a lot of other people’s songs. I don’t do “covers” per se, even though I’m a songwriter.  I like showcasing other writer’s songs, especially if I feel I can bring some fresh slant to them.  Well, the songs I’m doing for these shows will – almost without exception – be songs I have written.  Somehow, the stories starting feeling more connected and the show, at least to me, almost feels like a two act play….. with music.  “Songs, Stories and Out N Out Lies”.  Hope to see you soon, and here’s a song for the road.

Yours in song and stories,

…. I don’t write very many autobiographical songs… other than, perhaps, this one.

  1. From Here to There Ronny Cox 3:42


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