Welcome to the msa spotlight page!

Once a month we pay tribute here to an MSA Family Member

Please take the time to read about the special people who make the MSA Family what it is!

Johnny Cox

Johnny started playing steel in 1967 at age 10. Johnny's first steel was a home built 8 string non-pedal given to him by a family friend in 1968. By 1970 Johnny was playing with local school bands and shows around Nashville.
In 1972 he began his professional career with Lonzo and Oscar. Thoughout the years Johnny worked the road, the Grand Ole Opry and recorded with such artist as ‪Del Reeves‬, The Singing Rambos, ‪Roy Drusky‬, ‪Jim Ed Brown‬, ‪Cal Smith‬, ‪Ernest Tubb‬, ‪Charlie Louvin‬, Jimmy C. Newmen, ‪Connie Smith‬, ‪Gene Watson‬ and others.
In 2002 Johnny got his first MSA Millennium. A few months later Kyle and Maurice invited Johnny to join the team as a builder at MSA. Johnny moved to the Dallas area and worked with MSA until 2008 helping to develop the the MSA Millennium, Legend and Studio Pro pedal steel guitars.
While in Texas he played with ‪Ray Price‬, ‪Johnny Bush‬, Jody Nix, Jason Roberts, Justin Trevino and others. Johnny was Mel Tillis' last steel player and now lives outside Nashville.
Johnny is a family man and now drives truck for ‪Tyson Foods‬ and still plays his MSA Legend D12 for fun. Johnny is one of the most talented pedal steel players in the business. His style, tone, and touch are second to none. We are fortunate to call him family.

"I've played and/or owned most ever brand of pedal steel and MSA is hands down the best guitar I've ever played."
Johnny Cox


Darvin Willhoite started playing pedal steel around 1972 and wanted an MSA soon after he saw them at the ISGC in 1974, but there was no way he could afford one then. The first one he bought was a nice, used Classic SS, around '98. After that one, he was hooked for sure, buying a new Legend, and a new Millennium, within a few months of each other in '06. Then a new Studio Pro and a Superslide.

Darvin Willhoite has always played in the Praise and Worship band at the churches he attended. He never had the time or inclination to play with any other bands. Darvin could never see the sense of driving a long distance to a gig, and returning late at night or early morning and all for a very small paycheck. He’s never aspired to be a professional musician, and always treated it as a hobby. Darvin played at Christian Life Church in Austin for around 17 years, playing steel about 98% of the time, occasionally subbing on guitar or bass. He did a few songs where he also played mandolin. He had a great group of musicians, but about 5 years ago it was time for some life changes since he’s getting close to retirement age. Darvin moved about 14 miles farther from CLC, which made it about 45 miles away.
Darvin has retired from playing although he has played steel a few times at LCRR.

Darvin has several MSA's in his shop to be refurbished and has very little time to work on them, so it may be a few years before they're all finished. Darvin has bought, refurbished, and sold, several Classics and others through the years, and currently has two Classic SS's, a Classic S12, and an SD12 Vintage XL either awaiting, or in various stages of restoration. A couple of his highly prized MSA's are Maurice's "The Universal" that he restored with Mark Giles help on the body, and the Plexiglas Classic that was built in the early '70s. He plans to hang on to these as long as he can attempt to play the steel guitar.

Darvin is a devoted family man and one of the kindest men you will ever meet. Needless to say, Darvin is one of our most treasured MSA Family members.

Joan Cox

Joan  Cox has been playing steel guitar professionally since age 18. She is  originally from Troy, MO. While living in Nashville, Joan played for  Grand Old Opry stars Jeannie Seeley, Jack Greene, Johnny Russell, Del  Reeves, and Connie Smith.

Joan moved to Texas  in 2004, and was the steel guitarist for the house band at the Silver  Saloon in Terrell, TX for eight years. Since being in Texas she has  worked for Texas favorites Johnny Bush, Darrell McCall, Justin Trevino,  Bobby Flores, Tony Booth, Doug Stone, Monte Good, and Gary Morris.

Since  1990, Joan has been a featured steel guitarist on the Texas Steel  Guitar Jamboree held in Irving Texas every year. She was a regular part  of the International Steel Guitar Convention schedule of players since  1999, as well as other state and local steel guitar shows around the  country for the past thirty years.

She has  three instrumental projects to her credit. She was awarded the Texas  Steel Guitar Association Player of the Year (Honorable Mention) in 2012.
She enjoys playing music, funny movies, doing puzzles, reading, and  hanging out with her musician friends. She plays regularly with  different bands in the DFW area, and mainly works now with the 104 Proof  Band. She has been with them for close to 3 years. They work a lot in  the East Texas area.

During the day, she works  for Parkland Hospital as the Manager of the Cancer Registry. She’s been  there for 9 years. She holds a degree in Health Information Management  and is a Certified Tumor Registrar. She has worked in the field of  oncology medicine/cancer registry for the past 24 years.

Joan  plays one of the very last MSA Millennium M3’s with factory Lfrets. Her  words...“I love this guitar so much. It’s beautiful! It’s very  comfortable like putting on a glove. I always get compliments on my tone  and Lfrets is a high cool factor.”

Joan is  was one the sweetest, kindest ladies you will ever meet, but a “killer”  on the pedal steel guitar. We are honored and blessed to have her as a  member of our MSA Family!

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