Monday, September 02, 2013

Cowboy Copas's Friend

The above poster at Barbecue Street Barbecue in Kennesaw reminded me of the time I visited the GRAND OLE OPRY over 50 years ago.

In February 1963, a group of us decided to go to Nashville, Tennessee, to the GRAND OLE OPRY.  I think there were four or five of.  We crammed into my pv544 Volvo.

We got a room at the grand hotel next to the  Ryman Auditorium (home of the Opry).   I say "grand" because it  had a plush name, like it was named  after a president  or dignitary, something like the John Hamilton Hotel.

Before the Opry we walked around Nashville and visited some famous record shops and a few bars and some other tourist traps.    We had dinner  at a Woolworths .  We sat in a booth at the big plate glass window.  Outside we watched a man in dirty raggedy clothes carrying a guitar wander by.  He stood outside, only a foot or two from us and watched us eat.  It looked like he tasted every bite we tasted.  We felt sorry for him.  We motioned him inside.  We didn't have to beg him, he came storming in.  We rearranged to another table and bought him a dinner also. 

As he ate he told us he had fallen on hard times.  He told us he grew up with Cowboy Copas and they were the best of friends.  He said Cowboy Copas told him if he was ever in Nashville he would let him play a few songs on stage at the Opry.

Cowboy Copas was the emcee of the Grand Ole' Opry at that time.  According to Google Cowboy Copas was born Lloyed Estel Copas.  I think changing  his first name to Cowboy was a wise career move.  Google also said he was born in Blue Creek , Ohio, and he got his first break in Cincinnati when he was 14 years old.  I suppose this guy we were dining with was also from Blue Creek, Ohio.

At the Opry we had cheap seats, nose-bleed seats, high up.  By the way, if I remember correctly, all the seats were church pews.  On stage was a big props of the backers of the Grand Ole Opry, like the flour and I think a breakfast cereal.

The Ryman Auditorium was originally named Union Gospel Tabernacle.  In 1892, it was built by Thomas Ryman, a riverboat captain and business man, for the Rev Sam Jones , a revivalist to preach in.  Sam Jones later  moved to Cartersville, Georgia, where he  radiated his popular causes world-wide and was very well known.  He owned two houses here in Marietta, that he purchased:  one for him which he never moved to and one for his daughter, which she and her husband did.

During the Opry that night we saw many household word  entertainers some on stage with Cowboy Copas introducing all of them.  I remember one was Patsy Cline.

One, that didn't make it to the state was our old buddy that we bought dinner for.  From our top seats we saw him making his way down the aisle with his guitar.  Before he made it to the stage several men surrounded him and dragged him away, with all the time he was hollering I forgot if Cowboy was playing or talking, but he never recognized his old friend struggling to get on stage, if he was  his old friend.

About a week later, March 5, 1963, Cowboy Copas and Patsy Cline, and others were killed a plane crash that was  piloted by Cowboy's son-in-law and Patsy Cline's manager.

I wonder if the person we dined with at Woolworth's went to the funeral?

Cowboy Copas

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

861I think it was around '56 or '57 when my brother and his family were stationed in Nashville (or close by) when we visited him and went to Grand Ole Opry. You're right about the church pews. We were seated fairly close, on the main floor. I don't remember any of the singers, because I was way too cool to be country (lol). What I remember was the reaction of a young woman sitting close behind us when the female singers came onstage wearing calico dresses with huge puffed sleeves, something like the square dance costumes of today. You'd have thought we were at a Paris fashion show to hear her gasp and comment.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Postino said...

Excellent post. Like Anonymous I was too cool to be country, but I really enjoy listening to the old school country music now.

I think your reminiscence of seeing the raggedy man, and then Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas a week before they died makes for a very vivid story.

10:21 AM  

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