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Cowboy Copas and the Golden Age of Country Music
By John Roger Simon
Jesse Stuart Foundation
414 Pages
ISBN:  1-931-67248-2

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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.


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