I met him sometime during the late summer of 1986. I was about nine months into my first programming job, a very small Burroughs mainframe shop, and had just become the senior programmer. With nine months of experience.
About three months earlier, the company had hired a new IT manager from the rival Burroughs shop across town. He came in, held a meeting in which he said he wasn’t going to hire or fire anyone. Twenty-four hours later, he introduced us to his new hire, the creepy programmer guy that had worked with him across town. And the two of them immediately began to dismember our system and start making up a new one. When that didn’t go so well, they decided to purchase some software that had been successfully deployed at a similar company. After a couple of months of fiddle-farting around with that, they decided to hire someone who had actually worked with the software.
And…that’s how I met Johnny Cox. He was going to be the brains that would make this installation work. Poor guy, he hadn’t spent enough time with the new guys to know what he was up against. He walked up to my desk that first day, around 5:00 and said, “There’s no way in hell I can work here.”
I had come to a similar conclusion right after the new guys came in, had my resume out, and was in therapy. Johnny was an experienced systems man; he only needed about 5 minutes on-site to figure out how screwed up the place was. It took me 6 months.
Turnover being what it was, we had some awesome going-away parties every time someone else escaped. People were escaping with frightening regularity, so we were doing some hard partying that fall. (Ask me how many Long Island Iced Teas I consumed at one time….) Johnny was from North Carolina, and had decided he wasn’t staying at this place very long (it was VA), so he lived in the company apartment, didn’t know anyone except us, and was more than happy to party with us.
Somewhere during the parties and the stress of our work environment, we started talking and discovered that we had a common interest: music. One day he mentioned, in passing, that he had been in a band during the 60’s, but I probably wouldn’t have known who they were, what with me being a kid during the 60’s. But, I was a kid during the 60’s who spent some time with my teen-aged aunt and uncle…..so I recognized the song title right off: “Double-Shot of My Baby’s Love”.
Johnny was the saxophone player for the Swingin’ Medallions.
Finally, after 13 months (I used to know the days, hours and minutes) of working in this miserable place, I got a job offer that brought me to NC. And, we got to have MY going-away party. There were maybe 5 or 6 of us; everyone else was already gone. We went to a dance club, had margaritas. Johnny tried to teach me the Shag, official dance of the Carolina beach scene.
And we parted company.
I heard a few months later that Johnny, too, had managed to escape, but no one seemed to know where he’d landed. I knew that he came from the area of NC where I now live. I tried to look him up a couple of times, but never found him.
I always thought we’d meet up again sometime.
Last Friday I decided to put together the ULTIMATE Carolina beach music playlist which, of course, includes “Double-Shot”. I had it on a CD I purchased about 15 years ago called “Preppy Deluxe”, so into my playlist it went. And I started wondering about Johnny, where he was now, what he was doing, etc. And, being the geek that I am, I started doing some internet searches. I had tried to find him before, but with no luck. Sad to say, I did find him this time.
Johnny died March 28 (I think), 2009. I did some Youtube searching and found several videos of Johnny playing the sax at a beach club in Ocean Drive, SC during 2007 and 2008. He was indeed a helluva player.
As Greg Haynes said,
“Another ticket has been issued for “The Party to End All Parties”
May Johnny Cox rest in peace.