Music is in his soul

Courtesy photo Ronny Cox, who performs a mix of folk, western, jazz and blues music, said he became a registered speech therapist in case his plans to entertain didn’t work out.

Portales’ most famous actor is still acting. But that’s not all Ronny Cox is doing these days.

“There’s an old saying that there’s dozens of dollars to be made in folk music,” Cox said Thursday in a telephone interview from his home in Sherman Oaks, Calif.

The Eastern New Mexico University graduate, 71, was born in Cloudcroft and moved to Portales in the seventh grade. He’s best known for his roles in films that include “Deliverance,” “RoboCop,” “Total Recall” and “Bound for Glory.”

Most recently he played a role in the 2009 film “Imagine That,” starring Eddie Murphy, and had recurring appearances in the TV show “The Starter Wife” in 2008.

But Cox said he’s long been a musician as well, performing a mix of folk, western, jazz and blues music.

He has a long list of show dates that extend through 2011, as far away as Ireland. Next week he’s performing in Oxford, N.Y., and White Plains, N.Y.

“When I lived in Portales, Clovis was a hot bed of recording,” Cox said. “I was cutting records in high school at Norman Petty’s recording studio. I put myself through college in a blues and rock band.”

Cox attended ENMU on a theater scholarship and said he could afford college because it was nearby.

“I enjoyed ENMU. It was a typical, small, little college. But you got the education you wanted,” Cox said.

Cox studied theater, literature and speech correction. He said he became a registered speech therapist in case his plans to entertain didn’t work out.

“Because, you know, everyone said ‘Whoever heard of an actor from eastern New Mexico?’” Cox said. But he’s never used the speech degree.

Cox said he spends about half his time acting and half his time playing music. His favorite entertainer is singer songwriter Jack Williams, with whom he will perform several times over the next year.

“I love folk music. I love music that communicates. I’m a part of a small little niche that appreciates that kind of music,” he said.

“I love acting and I’m good at it. But there’s that imaginary fourth wall between you and the audience. With music, especially the kind of music I do where I also tell stories, there is a possibility of profound one-on-one sharing that can take place. That kind of human connection is the opiate I find as the most compelling in the world.”

A quick chat with Ronny Cox:

When you were a kid, what did you think you’d be doing as an adult?

“I knew I was going to be an actor and singer from the get-go. I would tell people they would look up and see me on billboards (from the time he was) 10-12 years old.”

If money were no object, what would you do to make the world a better place?

“It would be to treat everybody the way you want to be treated yourself. I know it sounds altruistic, but it truly is. I’m especially reminded with our political situation. Rancor seems the order of the day. Certain segments of the population don’t care about other segments of the population and that really bothers me.”

Who is your hero and why?

“John F. Kennedy because for a time there was such hope and such promise for our country and he was sort of the embodiment of that.”

Tell us how you met your spouse.

“I knew Mary (Griffith) since she was 11 and I was 14. I remember the first day I saw her. It was around 1950. In those days, little 11-year-old girls didn’t have paper routes but she did. I was a shoeshine boy at a barber shop and I saw the little girl that had a paper route.

“Mary and I started going together when she was 15 and I was 18. We were married when she was 19 and I was 22. I’d literally never been on another date. Being without her the past three years has been very hard.

“She died of lung cancer. She was a non-smoker, was in cancer research, had a Ph.D., ran five days a week, did all of her errands on a bicycle. She was truly a remarkable woman.”

Did you know: Cox has played two fictional presidents of the United States: President Tom Kimball in Captain America (1990) and President Jack Neil in Murder at 1600 (1997), according to The Internet Movie Database.