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William Jennings "Billy" Cox


Musician William Jennings ‘‘Billy’’ Cox (August 4, 1897-December 10, 1968) ranked as one of West Virginia’s premier country music vocalists and songwriters during the 1930s. Born near Charleston, Cox learned to play guitar and harmonica in his youth and started performing on WOBU (later WCHS) radio in 1928. He recorded for Gennett, 1929–31, and from 1933 to 1940 for American Record Corporation, which later became Columbia. From 1936, Cliff Hobbs (1916–61) of Cedar Grove sang harmony on Cox’s records, to provide the popular country duet sound. Among his 150 recordings ‘‘Sparkling Brown Eyes’’ and ‘‘Filipino Baby’’ became country music standards. Several songs celebrating the New Deal have attracted scholarly attention. Cox, who became known as the ‘‘Dixie Songbird,’’ recorded versions of traditional British ballads, as well. A reckless lifestyle prevented Cox from realizing much benefit from his skills. He died in poverty.

Written by Ivan M. Tribe


  1. Tribe, Ivan M. Mountaineer Jamboree: Country Music in West Virginia. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1984.