It is not as surprising to me as it is unjust to the man and the blues. Johnny Copeland could be one of the best yet least known blues guitarists to come from Texas.
He began his life on March 27, 1937, in Haynesville, Louisiana. His parents separated
when he was six months old and he moved with his mother to Magnolia, Arkansas. At the age of 12, Johnny’s father died. He did not have much contact with his father, but with his passing, Johnny was given his guitar. Within a year, the Copeland family was on the move again, relocating to the city that Johnny would consider his real home for life: Houston, Texas.
As a teenager Johnny was influenced by one of the super heavyweights of blues T-Bone Walker and many others. T-Bone Walker is one of my personal influences also.
He formed the “Dukes of Rhythm” in Houston, Texas, and made his recording debut in 1956, signing with Duke Records the following year. In his early years he played with such acts as Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Mama Thornton and Freddie King. Although his early records met with little commercial success, he became a popular touring act over the next two decades.
My introduction to Johnny Copeland was a real score. During the hurricanes in the summer of 2004 in Florida our home town took two separate direct hits in two weeks and was severely damaged. Although the power was out for over 10 days, we were fortunate to have a generator and lots of gasoline.
It would be hard to find goodness in a devastating situation such as a major hurricane. We did, our Direct T.V. was still bolted to the house and worked once we powered things up. I’ll forever be a Direct T.V. fan considering the folks with cable T.V. were out of service for up to 2 months.
That being said, my wife and I noticed something new. The P.P.V. channels offered one free concert to everyone per month. I will never know if it was an act of God, which would be the closest I have come to him/ her yet, or just luck. The concert of the month was Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble “Live At Montreux 1982 & 1985”.
Johnny Copeland, who was Stevie Ray’s guest appeared on stage with Stevie for several songs. He displayed his true abilities playing with Double Trouble on a couple of songs. In true to life, humble SRV fashion, the camera often was on Johnny Copeland and his soulful voice and beautiful guitar improvisation. Ray noticeably backed off and gave Johnny the stage at those times.
Johnny showed his capabilities in his unique fashion, particularly on “Tin Pan Alley”. Being showered by Stevie Ray and Double Trouble is always good. Johnny truly won me over with his beautiful voice. Lets not forget he is a great guitar player too.
Johnny produced and appeared on several albums, but never really got the credit or exposure he deserved. He died at 60 years old of heart disease. RIP. Two of his albums that are on the recommended list are Texas Twister, When the Rain Starts Fallin’ ” and “Catch Up with the Blues” and Jungle Swing.
Expose yourself to Johnny Copeland. You may find he is one of the missing blues artists you were waiting for.
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