August 4, 1897: Dixie Songbird Billy Cox Born

Billy Cox

Country-and-western musician Billy Cox was born near Charleston on August 4, 1897. He started his career in 1928, singing and playing guitar and harmonica on Charleston’s WOBU radio station, which later became WCHS.

During the 1930s, Cox was recognized as one of West Virginia’s premier singer songwriters.

Among his 150 recordings were future country standards like “Sparkling Brown Eyes” and this song, “Filipino Baby,” which he performed with Cliff Hobbs of Cedar Grove.

Several of Billy Cox’s songs celebrated Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal. But the Great Depression, along with personal problems, cut Cox’s career short.

He soon left the music business and worked various odd jobs, including a stint at Charleston’s Kelly Axe Factory. He was later discovered by musicologists in the 1960s living in poverty. Billy Cox, known as the “Dixie Songbird,” died in 1968 at age 71.