17 November 2004 The People's Defender
Memorial honors music legend
Marker remembers Lloyd “Cowboy” Copas
Adams County native, Lloyd Estel "Cowboy" Copas, was officially honored during the unveiling of the Copas historical marker on Nov. 14. A large gathering of fans and relatives assembled on the Adams County Courthouse lawn to see the new marker, and to visit with two of Copas' children.
"Cowboy Copas was one serious young man, who knew what he wanted to do with his life," remarked Stephen Kelley, president of the Adams County Historical Society. Kelley gave a brief synopsis of Copas' life.
Copas was born on Moon Hollow Road in Jefferson Township in 1913. His parents taught him to play the fiddle and guitar, and let him perform at age 10. Four years later, he left home and school to embark on his musical career.
According to Kelley, Copas became a giant in the country music business as a singer, musician and song writer. He practiced his trade for 17 years on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville until his untimely death in 1963.
Bob Semple, on behalf of Doug White, presented a resolution from the Ohio Senate, in honor of Copas, to Kathy Copas Hughes and Mike Copas, the two surviving children.
Following the unveiling of the marker, Kathy and Mike posed for pictures and visited with everyone.
A reception was held in the court house annex with the crystal clear voice of Cowboy Copas singing in the background.
"I started singing professionally with Daddy when I was 14," said Kathy, Copas' oldest child. "That was in '49 or '50. I worked with the road show for about six years. I stopped when I was expecting my first child. When I started my family, it was time to move on."
Kathy had performed with her father at the Grand Ole Opry. They recorded some of their songs for King Records. One song she particularly remembered recording was a Boudleau-Bryant song, "I Love You, My Darling, I Love You." Another song she recorded with Cowboy Copas was "Copy Cat," which made it to the country music charts.
In 1955, Kathy gave birth to her son, Larry. She was married to Randy Hughes, her father's manager. After Randy's death in 1963, Kathy married Marvin Hughes. Their son, Rick, is now 40 years old and has three children, Cori, Eric and Casey.
In time, Kathy received a teaching certificate and taught English and communications to high school juniors and seniors. She was also "chairman" of cheerleaders of the wrestling team, traveling with them to the meets.
"I'm retired," she said. "Having taught in an inner city school, I feel that I have fulfilled a purpose. The students had many problems to deal with."
Currently, Kathy, again a widow, keeps busy helping son, Larry, in his real estate business.
Mike Copas, Kathy's youngest brother, is 16 years younger. He was just 11 years old when his father died.
"Our brother, Gary, was only three years younger than Kathy," Mike said. "He passed away in '88. He had been a manager at the Ford glass plant."
Mike explained about the early years of the Copas family, "I was born in Nashville, but the others were born in Ohio."
Before earning a place on the Grand Ole Opry, Cowboy Copas was traveling to shows in places such as Cincinnati, Knoxville and Wheeling. In the summer, it was also important for him to follow the fair circuit.
"When he was traveling, she (his mother, Lucille Markins Copas) stayed in Peebles," Mike said. "It just so happened that Kathy and Gary were born when she was there. They were born in my grandparents' old farmhouse."
Cowboy Copas was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry by the time Mike was born in 1951. Mike always lived in Nashville. He went to Belmont College, at the end of 16th Avenue, known as "music row." While attending school, he worked for a year and a half at Record World Magazine, doing their charts. He earned a degree in business education.
For 25 years, Mike played drums at various studios as a house musician. He explained that sometimes artists would use the house bands, hired by the studio, on their recordings. Other times they would bring their own bands. He kept drums set up at each of the studios where he played.
"I got bored in the daytime, since that was only evening work," Mike continued, "So I started to substitute teach. After two years, the principal encouraged me to teach full time." He worked to get his teaching certificate. Later, he earned a master's degree.
Mike taught middle school for 17 years. He then went to work for the Tennessee State Department of Education. At first, he trained school administrators in technology. Then for several years, he worked with federal grants. He was recently asked to serve as the state's gifted consultant.
Mike's wife, Linda, also works as the state director of autism and behavior. They had met through mutual friends in 1988, and decided to marry in 2003.
In addition to his work in education, Mike manages Copas Publishing Company. The company handles the royalties from his father's songs, and gives clearance for the songs to be used. By the time Mike was told that the heirs were entitled to the royalties, 48 of the 108 songs his father had written, in full or in part, had already gone into public domain.
According to Mike, Cowboy Copas recorded three albums with house bands on the King record label. "Some of those musicians made it big in Nashville," he said. "They were excellent musicians."
"Hank Garland played guitar in his (Copas') first band," Mike spoke with admiration. "The music was just taken to another level when he was in the session."
Mike talked about his father being one of the best rhythm guitarists. "He would sit in on other artists' sessions just to play." He pointed out his dad's fancy work in a song playing at the reception.
Mike also spoke briefly of his brother-in-law, "Randy Hughes played in Dad's band in the 50's. He managed six or seven artists, including Dad and Patsy Cline."
Russell Markins, Kathy and Mike's 90 year-old uncle, came to the Copas marker ceremony. He is the surviving older brother of their mother, Lucille. He remembered well the circumstances surrounding his sister's marriage to Copas.
"They ran off one weekend, and got married on the Midwestern Hayride," he said, speaking of the radio program in Cincinnati on which Copas played. "Natchee (an entertainer and friend from May Hill) and his wife were there. They used her ring to get married."
The two newlyweds returned home on Monday. Lucille's father, Clyde Markins, was a teacher in the Steam Furnace one room school house.
"Dad was teaching when he was told about their marriage," Russell said. "He was so upset, he sent everyone home."
Apparently Markins' mother, Evelyn Bartlow Markins, knew the marriage was going to take place. She later told Russell that sometimes it doesn't work out for such young people to get married, but their marriage worked out just fine.
Russell said that he once borrowed five dollars from Copas to go north to cut corn. Several years later, Copas stopped to ask if he could have his five dollars back. "He was about broke when Kathy was two."
On another occasion, "Lloyd (Copas) wanted to buy a new car," Russell said. "I went in to the Chrysler dealer, and asked if he would give me $10 if I sold a car for him.
"Lloyd bought a new black Plymouth. I got $10. That was like a hundred dollars back then." Copas drove the car to California for a "musical deal."
On a sadder note, Russell reminisced about Copas' death, "He was out west. We heard on the radio when he was killed. Peter Grant was the newscaster. He said they were lost in a storm.
"Lloyd called Lucille when they were getting fuel. Then he didn't come home."
"We all went to Nashville for the funeral. It was the biggest procession, five miles long. I drove his car with his wife. It was a sad time."
According to Russell, "Lucille trained to be a nurse. She was a widow for 15 years. Then she met Bill Donlon and married. Lucille died in 1998."
Russell also said, "An important thing is that a lot of people don't realize that Kathy lost both her dad and her husband at the same time. Randy was driving the plane."
Two nieces of Copas worked to bring his historical marker to Adams County. Wanda Baldwin and Linda Elliot are children of Mildred Copas Rockwell. Linda came up with the idea at the prompting of the patrons at the Senior Nutrition Center.
The Ohio historical marker commemorating Lloyd "Cowboy" Copas is the 18th marker to be placed in Adams County by the Ohio Historical Society, according to Jane Rupp. A site manager for the society at Adena State Memorial, Rupp said, "On a per capita basis, Adams County has more markers than any other county in Ohio."
For more information on Cowboy Copas, please read "Lore, Legends & Landmarks of Old Adams" by Stephen Kelley in The People's Defender. His articles on Copas began on Oct. 13.