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0488-MUS-02/2010
Cox Family
Music

Willard Lawrence Cox, along with his late wife and his children formed a singing group, The Cox Family, of Cotton Valley, Louisiana. Willard was born in the small, Webster Parish town as one of nine children to Levi Cune Cox and Molly Ethredge Cox. Both families were musically talented. While attending public schools, Willard learned to play guitar and fiddle. He joined a band, The Country Squires, with Floyd Coker and Dewey Keen, which often performed at school. Willard married Sue Marie Coleman on June 12, 1958. (They would have four children: Evelyn Marie, Peggy Lynn, Sidney Lawrence, and Marla Suzanne.) Like their parents, the children quickly learned to play musical instruments, such as guitar, mandolin and fiddle, with Willard helping with instruction. "When they came up," Willard says of his children, "they were exposed physically, mentally and emotionally to music." The youngsters also learned while watching adult family members perform. Sidney, commenting on familial musical abilities, recalls Willard and "Uncle Red" (James Lewis Rhodes) playing together for hours. "I've seen them start playing in the afternoon like this and play until twelve o'clock and one o'clock and never sing the same song twice," he recalls. Meanwhile, Willard was working for Louisiana-Nevada Gas Company, a job with "no step up to it," he recalls. In 1975 Willard resigned and The Cox Family began performing professionally full time. "I never missed anything but the paycheck," he recalls of his decision. Among the family's first "gigs" were at Columbia County Hayride, in Calhoun, Arkansas; Old South Jamboree in Baton Rouge; and North Caddo Hayride in Vivian, Louisiana. They worked on weekends, often at bluegrass events, while performing at churches during the week. "We never charged a church to play," Willard recalls. "We'd just go and they'd have a love offering for us." Meanwhile, Marie drove a school bus to help family finances. The group soon began recording, including an album of gospel music at a studio in Chickamauga, Georgia. In 1990 the Coxes began a long association with Allison Kraus, whom they met at a bluegrass festival in Perrin, Texas. Soon, the group signed with Rounder Records, where they recorded three albums, including two of their own. They also recorded for Asylum Records. They won their first Grammy on an album with Kraus. Sidney wrote four songs, plus the title tune, I Got That Old Feeling. "She's like a sister," remarks Sidney, who has written "eight or nine or ten songs" for Kraus and other stars such as Alan Jackson, John Anderson, and Garth Brooks. The family also appeared in the film, O Brother, Where Art Thou? They also recorded for a live album sound track and DVD of the movie, in which they performed I Am Weary. In 1994 they toured as an opening act for the North American Tour of the band, Counting Crows. Family members continued to perform. Suzanne and Evelyn sang on a new CD, Charlie Daniels and Friends, while Sidney, Suzanne and Evelyn appear on Grand Ole Opry. Sidney works often in studio performance and production in Nashville. Marie passed away February 16, 2009. Allison Kraus visited her often during a final illness and attended the funeral. Lynn, Evelyn, Suzanne and Sidney are teaching their children instruments and singing. Lynn sums up the success of the musical family: "Daddy's love for music brought our love for music."