By Ray Routhier
Ronny Cox is one of those artists who realizes nobody makes it on talent alone. Everyone needs a little help.
In Cox's case, he got his first big break as an actor in the 1972 film "Deliverance" because he could play guitar. He landed a role in the 1970s TV family drama "Apple's Way" at least partly because he could sing.
And now, after a 40-year acting career that has included supporting roles in blockbusters such as "RoboCop," "Beverly Hills Cop" and "Total Recall," Cox continues to be able to sing and perform music at least partly because of his fame and financial success as an actor.
Cox knows this. And he isn't shy about using his name and talents to help others. That's part of the reason he'll be performing at a fundraising concert Saturday for the Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath.
"Acoustically, it's one of the most wonderful places I've played," said Cox, 73. "It's a very old building, and it needs all the help we can give it. Having a place like that is so vital for a community."
Cox will be performing in "Art of the Songwriter" with Bill Ward and Ray Younkin. The show is being put on by Music Doing Good, a nationwide nonprofit group that specializes in raising money for various causes through music.
The group has sponsored other shows in Maine, partly because some Music Doing Good officials spend summers in the Boothbay Harbor area. But Cox has played Chocolate Church in the past, and had become friends with the venue's executive director, Barbara Bowers.
So when Music Doing Good approached Cox about doing some shows, he mentioned Chocolate Church as a place worthy of a benefit concert.
All the costs of Saturday's show will be picked up by Music Doing Good so all proceeds can go to the Chocolate Church. And, thanks to the venue's relationship with Cox, Music Doing Good last year was a season sponsor of the Chocolate Church, providing about $25,000 for programming, Bowers said.
The venue is trying to raise about $600,000 to rebuild its historic bell tower while also applying for a shrinking pool of grants to fund its musical and arts programming.
"We're grateful that they felt what we're doing here is worthy of them getting involved," said Bowers.
Cox and Bowers have been friends since Cox first played the Chocolate Church a couple of years ago, and Cox had Bowers edit his new book, "Dueling Banjos -- The Deliverance of Drew."
The book is a collection of stories of the making of "Deliverance," which also featured Burt Reynolds, Ned Beatty and Jon Voight, and focused on friends who get lost in a backwards wilderness while on vacation. Cox's character, Drew, is seen famously playing the tune "Dueling Banjos" on his guitar with a banjo-playing mountain boy.
While he still acts -- he recently played a serial killer on the Showtime thriller series "Dexter" -- Cox loves playing folk music as much as he can. He's at the point in his career where he turns down acting gigs if they interfere with his playing.
"I don't want to sound cavalier about this, because I know how hard it is for actors to get work, but I'm at the point where I won't take acting jobs if they interfere with my music," Cox said.
He added that his wife died a few years ago, and that playing music is the thing "that gives me the most pleasure."
Cox knows that, for some people who know him only as an actor, coming to see him sing might seem a little odd.
"In the last 25 years, I've played a lot of men with authority, and then to see me with a guitar in my hands singing a song probably messes with their heads a little bit," said Cox.
Cox grew up in a small town in New Mexico, near Clovis, and was a teenager when Buddy Holly and other early rockers were recording in Clovis. Cox had a rock band -- Ron's Rockouts --before turning to folk music.
For Saturday's show, Cox and the other musicians on the bill will perform in a round, where one performer does one song, then the next does one and so on. Each performer will have two or three backing musicians, Cox said. He'll do some originals, but also traditional folk songs and other tunes that appeal to him.
"Coming from the world of movies, I'm very comfortable with being an interpretive artist," Cox said. "I really like to do that."
Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:
Inside the Chocolate Church
Music Doing Good, which specializes in raising money for various causes, is underwriting Saturday’s show. The Chocolate Church is trying to raise about $600,000 to rebuild its historic bell tower – as well as fund musical and arts programming.