On this date, March 27, 1937 Texas blues guitarist and singer and father of Shemekia – Johnny Copeland was born. in Haynesville, Louisiana, about 15 miles south of Magnolia, Arkansas (formerly Texarkana) After his father died, his remaining family moved to Houston. As a teenager he played at two of the biggest blues venues in Houston – Shay’s Playhouse, where his band The Dukes of Rhythm (formed with Joe “Guitar” Hughes) and the El Dorado ballroom. His recording career started at Mercury Records in 1958 and he recorded and toured around the Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, area until he moved to New York City in 1974.
Copeland said that his music fell somewhere between the funky R&B of New Orleans and the swing and jump blues of Kansas City. After moving to NYC he toured the major cities along the east coast this led to his signing with Rounder Recorders where his national career really started. From AllMusic…
He recorded seven albums for Rounder Records, beginning in 1981 and including Copeland Special, Make My Home Where I Hang My Hat, Texas Twister, Bringing It All Back Home, When the Rain Starts a Fallin’, Ain’t Nothing But a Party (live, nominated for a Grammy), and Boom Boom; he also won a Grammy award in 1986 for his efforts on an Alligator album,Showdown! with Robert Cray and the late Albert Collins. Although Copeland had a booming, shouting voice and was a powerful guitarist and live performer, what most people don’t realize is just how clever a songwriter he was. His latter-day releases for the PolyGram/Verve/Gitanes label, including Flyin’ High (1992) and Catch Up with the Blues, provide ample evidence of this on “Life’s Rainbow (Nature Song)” (from the latter album) and “Circumstances” (from the former album).
The only Copeland album in my collection is Showdown!, which is one terrific album! In his later years he had health problems related to a congenital heart defect he had. From AllMusic:
After 20 months on the L-VAD — the longest anyone had lived on the device — he received a heart transplant on January 1, 1997 and for a few months, the heart worked fine and he continued to tour. However, the heart developed a defective valve, necessitating heart surgery in the summer. Copeland died of complications during heart surgery on July 3, 1997.