These pages contain a collection of stories and humorous experiences gathered
from stars of the 40s, 50s and 60s, the Golden Age of Country Music,
such as Hank, Tubb, Red Foley, Kitty, Lazy Jim Day, Monroe, Grandpa Jones,
Patsy and others. They are complemented by many colorful side men and
characters who performed then. Memories abound of antics devised to get them
through each day. Howard White says they just had so darn much fun.
A time when voices were identifiable one had to establish themself to become
an Opry member. Conditions were hard and rewards limited. Fiddler, Bill
Stewart once asked a fellow musician why he did it. He answered, “I jist
cain’t hep it.” Ronnie Pugh noted the incredible perseverance of the few
who made it. Ralph Emery noticed that performers then were rural, poor and
formally uneducated but wrote and sang with great sensitivity. Audiences came
from similar backgrounds and they connected on that level. Bill C. Malone
observed that when we hear a really good country song it feels like someone
has been reading my mail.
All this is woven around the life and career of Cowboy Copas, major Grand
Ole Opry star whose story has never been told. Lloyd Copas interacted with
a life of music. The middle child in a musical family he was mentored by
Blue Creek entertainer, Freddie Evans. He then partnered with Lester Storer.
Their manager, Larry Sunbrock formed their cowboy and Indian act, Cowboy Copas
and Natchee the Indian and they succeeded. Pee Wee King invited Copas to the
Opry where his King recordings caught fire. He formed his own band, became
an Opry member and his career flourished. An energetic performer, gifted singer
and exceptional guitar player he carried great bands, was well liked and
never “affected.” A leading star in the 40s Copas’ career slowed in the 50s.
He stuck with his traditional identity and with Don Pierce and Starday he
had a great comeback with “Alabam” in 1960. The song from his father is
carried by his voice and thumb guitar lick. A star of three decades, both
before and after the changes in music, Cowboy Copas died in a plane with
Randy Hughes, Patsy Cline and Hawkshaw Hawkins returning from a Kansas City,
Kansas benefit. Mildred Keith and Billy Walker recall events of that benefit.
Dyersburg, Tennessee airport managers William and Evelyn Braese give a
thorough account of the four stars’ harrowing attempts to reach home.
What an experience to research such a passionate and humorous age
of Country Music and to unfold the life of this respected man, Cowboy Copas.