John Roger Simon, author of a new book on legendary country singer Cowboy Copas, headlined a panel at the Cincinnati Public Library on Saturday (April 25). The topic was the "golden era of country music," focusing on Copas and Cincinnati's contribution to that time through King Records.
Copas' daughter, Kathy Copas Hughes (who was hit by double tragedy by the 1963 plane crash: not only did she lose her father, but her husband, Randy Hughes, was the pilot of the ill-fated airplane that crashed in a thunderstorm near Camden, Tennessee), was also on the panel, along with former Mercury Records singer and WLW/Midwestern Hayride performer Judy Perkins.
For two and a half exquisite hours the trio, moderated by Cincinnati Library's music librarian Brian Powers, discussed Copas, his importance to country music (to quote Eddie Stubbs every time he plays a Copas song, "Cowboy Copas did a lot more in country music than just die in a plane crash with Patsy Cline"), his time in Cincinnati on King Records, many of the other musicians he worked with, and a general overview of the immediate post-World War II era of country music that was the advent of what many historians consider the greatest time of the genre. Several clips, both audio and video, were played, including Copas' version of "Tennessee Waltz" (he was the first person to record the tune), his masterful "Signed, Sealed and Delivered," and a rare Pet Milk Opry video clip of him performing "Alabam," his massive 1960 "comeback" hit.
Judy Perkins, who was a regional star but never achieved national stardom despite a beautiful voice, was also shown on the Midwestern Hayride from the early 1950s and featured in a couple of audio clips, including one from her days on Eddy Arnold's radio show for the Mutual Network.
Kathy Copas shared many memories of her father's career. She was also represented in audio, as she recorded with her father.
Simon, author of Cowboy Copas and the Golden Age of Country Music, presented an overview of Copas' career from his days with Natchee the Indian through his stint as the lead singer of Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys to his solo superstardom and 16-year stay on the Grand Ole Opry.
The only excuse anyone can make for Lloyd "Cowboy" Copas not being enshrined in the Country Music Hall of Fame is that the voters aren't doing their jobs by educating themselves regarding Copas' importance to the history of country music. Hopefully next year his name will be called.
And hopefully the Cincinnati Public Library will continue to present magical afternoons such as this one.