Could not authenticate you.followers
A crowd of elementary school children on a field trip at the La Brea Tar Pits gathers around Charlie Cox, who is standing near the mammoths, playing his banjo.
A growing circle of jumping children dance along to Cox’s rendition of the “Virginia Reel”. Parents and teachers wait seated and resting on the stone benches in front of the museum’s entrance, where Cox commands the attention of the school children like a passionate teacher.
“The kids love it. The most I’ve ever gotten was about 80 kids at one time. Nowadays, I get about six to 10 kids,” Cox said.
Cox, donning a typical cowboy hat, striped vest, long-sleeved white dress shirt, beige slacks and soft leather shoes, is a renaissance man.
He has done everything, essentially. Cox sold Christmas trees in New York City for 14 years, served his country in the U.S. Coast Guard for four years, sold art prints at Costco, painted houses, traveled around the U.S., learned Russian at the behest of his father, joined the Church of Scientology and eventually settled in Los Angeles where he found himself playing guitar and banjo for tips at the La Brea Tar Pits — or what he calls “busking.”
“Busking basically means to make things ready, to make audiences ready by singing or doing things,” Cox said.
Cox became familiar with busking when he saw people miming and playing music in front of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1975.
Cox has been playing guitar, banjo and his most recently added instrument, a mandolin — which was donated to him by a visitor to the La Brea Tar Pits several years ago — on-and-off for 40 years at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the George C. Page Museum. He plays in front of the museum at the La Brea Tar Pits five to six days a week.
“I entertain folks. That’s my job. I take it seriously with a light heart,” Cox said.
Originally from northern Florida, Cox has been on the move since he was a young child. His father, James T. Cox, was in the U.S. Air Force. They moved to North Carolina and Iowa before settling in Tallahassee, Fla., where his father taught English and creative writing at Florida State University.
Cox leaves his instruments with the staff at the George C. Page Museum, which welcomes him as an unofficial extension of the museum and park experience, according to the museum’s manager of interpretation and education initiatives Dan Keeffe.
Keeffe has watched Cox play in front of the museum for approximately eight years — ever since Keeffe started working for the museum.
“Everyone here knows him. At the start of our tours through the park, people see him play and they love him. The first experience they have is seeing Charlie playing the banjo,” Keeffe said.
Cox’s music is not only available at the La Brea Tar Pits — he has an album available for purchase, “Songs from the Tar Pits”, which at one point was available for purchase at the George C. Page Museum shop. The album is available for purchase online at www.cdbaby.com/cd/charliecox.
Cox makes approximately $400 to $500 per week in tips from playing his instruments in front of the museum. Tourists tend to provide most of the money but some weeks vary, he said.
“The first week of March, I made $190. It varies unbelievably,” he said.
For Cox, this isn’t a side job or a supplemental way of making money. Cox treats it as a serious job, starting in the morning and playing from 10:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
“I like playing for folks bright enough to enjoy my music,” he said.
Visitors can find Cox in front of the George C. Page Museum generally from Tuesday through Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.
Leave a Reply