Lloyd "Cowboy" Copas (1913-1963) was a superior hillbilly singer, equally adept at sentimental heartsongs and galloping novelty tunes, and a major figure on the national country scene until his shocking and unexpected death in 1963, riding in the same doomed airplane as Patsy Cline and Hawkshaw Hawkins. Copas' celebrity had two peaks: during World War Two he became the lead singer in Pee Wee King's western swing band, then broke out as a solo star with the smash hit, "Filipino Baby." His fortunes flagged in the 'Fifties, but in the early '60s he came back with the chart-topping "Alabam," which rejuvenated his career and led to a series of popular albums, right up until his tragic and untimely death (after which a torrent of posthumous releases flooded the market...) Here's a quick look at his work...
Cowboy Copas "Copasetic -- The Cream Of The King & Starday Recordings: 1944-1960" (Westside, 2001)
Great collection! Copas had an easygoing way with a song, as comfortable with boogie-tinged material as with straight ahead weepers... He had honkytonk inclinations, but never made too big a deal about it, and while he edged towards the sarcastic material other hard country heroes reveled in, Copas generally kept things pretty clean. At any rate, this is a swell set of his classic material, spanning his postwar years (when "Filipino Baby" and "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" put him on the map), to his later recordings, such as "Alabam," which topped the charts in 1960. It's all very listenable material; in fact I had this disc stuck in my stereo for a couple of weeks once, and didn't mind at all... The postscript, of course, is that Copas was one of the three country legends who died in a plane crash together in 1963, the other two being Hawkshaw Hawkins and the great Patsy Cline. For a good overview of his recorded legacy, this disc is pretty hard to beat.
Cowboy Copas "Tennessee Waltz -- 26 Original Mono Recordings: 1945-51" (ASV Living Era, 2002)
There's a lot of duplication between this disc and the Westside collection listed above, yet this focusses more sharply on his early years and is a stronger set of hillbilly boogie material. While the hits -- "Filipino Baby," "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," "Tennessee Waltz" -- are included, this also has some older gems such as the "Feudin' Boogie" (a duet with Grandpa Jones) and several gospel and romantic numbers that show him in a soulful mode. Either Copas collection is fine; this one is a strong companion to the commonly seen King albums listed below.
Cowboy Copas "Settin' Flat On Ready (Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight)" (Bear Family, 2008)
Like other albums in the Shake This Shack series, this disc concentrates on more upbeat, rollicking material, and it's all swell stuff. There are many of his best early tracks for the King label -- although it skips most of his big hits, including the original "Filipino Baby," which is sadly omitted -- along with some more obscure entries taken from his short stint on Dot Records. Fun stuff for fans of old-fashioned hillbilly music.
Cowboy Copas "Signed, Sealed And Delivered: A Proper Introduction To Cowboy Copas" (Proper, 2004)
Cowboy Copas "Any Old Time" (BACM, 2005)
Cowboy Copas "Volume Two: An Old Farm For Sale" (BACM, 2005)
Cowboy Copas "Tragic Tales Of Love And Life" (King, 1960)
A straight reissue of one of his later albums. Even this late in the game, nearly pushing 50, Copas remained a vigorous, humorous performer, and while he misses the beat on a couple of tunes, for the most part this is a pretty fine album. One of the album's highlights, "As Advertised," is a great throwback to the talking blues style of the hillbilly boogie era, and shows Copas at an energetic peak... Worth checking out!
Cowboy Copas "Mr. Country Music" (Starday, 1962)
Cowboy Copas "Opry Spotlight On Cowboy Copas" (King, 1962)
Hick Music Index