Author: John Roger Simon
These pages gather some of the best stories and the funniest experiences of the Golden Age of Country Music. Performers popular in the 1940s 50s, and 60s, like Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, Red Foley, Lazy Jim Day, Bill Monroe, Grandpa Jones, and Patsy Cline, make an appearance here, along with their many colorful sidemen and friends. These talented men and woman, as Howard White put it, just had so darn much fun, despite the fact that breaking into the Grand Ole Opry was hard work and the rewards were limited. Fiddler Bill Stewart once asked a fellow musician why he did it. He answered, “I jist cain’t hep it” The people who succeeded in the industry---typically rural, poor, formally uneducated singers---showed an incredible perseverance and dedication to their art, as well as the striking ability to bring together audiences who related to their struggles. They could sing and write with great sensitivity; Bill C. Malone described this by observing that when you hear a really good country song, it feels like someone has been reading your mail.
But the real heart of the book is the life and career of major Grand Ole Opry star Cowboy Copas, whose story has never been told. The middle child in a musical family, Lloyd Copas lived a life of music. He was mentored by Blue Creek entertainer Freddie Evans and then partnered with Lester Storer. Their manager, Larry Sunbrock, formed their nationally-famous cowboy and Indian act, Cowboy Copas and Natchee the Indian, which convinced Pee Wee King to invite Copas to the Opry. Despite setbacks, he formed his own band, became an Opry member, and flourished personally and professionally. An energetic performer, a gifted singer, and an exceptional guitar player, Copas carried great bands, was well-liked, and never “affected.” Although his career experienced a brief lull in the 50s, he made a great comeback in 1960, when he recorded “Alabam” with Don Pierce and Starday. Copas remained true to his traditional identity, and the song, written by his father, was carried by his voice and thumb guitar lick. He died tragically in a plane crash with Randy Hughes, Patsy Cline, and Hawkshaw Hawkins returning from a Kansas City, Kansas benefit concert. 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. Cowboy Copas’ life mirrors the best feats of the Golden Age of Country Music. Humorous, passionate, and dedicated, Copas was a talented star who weathered tastes, and you’ll just have so darn much fun reading about him.