In this post I would like to step away from the 60s Fuzz vibe for a moment and introduce you to Texas blues man Johnny Copeland. Born March 27, 1937 in Haynesville, Louisiana, Copeland and his family moved to Houston as a child where they called the Third Ward home. It was in this particular part of the Lone Star state where Johnny was introduced to Texas blues men Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and of course T-Bone Walker.
While in Houston, Copeland made the acquaintance of a local Houston musician Joe “Guitar” Hughes. This friendship would go on to become the basis of what would start Copeland’s recording career. The Dukes Of Rhythm became their first group together. Initially started as strictly a vocal group, the duo would quickly pick up instruments to keep up with the music that was coming from in and around Houston. The Dukes Of Rhythm became the house band for Houston’s leading blues club, Shady’s Playhouse, subsequently where Copeland first saw T. Bone Walker perform.
Johnny Copeland began to record as a solo artist in 1958 with a blues pianist named Teddy Reynolds. His first single garnered little attention, but was picked up on the major record label Mercury. After the failure of this first single Copeland began to record for a myriad of Texas labels including All Boy, Paradise, Wet Soul, Jet Stream, Brown Sugar, Boogaloo and Golden Eagle.
In 1963 Copeland would record his largest selling single “Down On Bended Knees/Just One More Time”. Down On Bended Knees was recorded at Gold Star Studios and has been on many blues compilations and is considered one of the molding pieces that helped shape the unmistakeable Texas blues sound.
I personally enjoy the much more R & B influenced flip side of this single called “Just One More Time.” Jannie Williams recorded a female answer to both sides of this single also for Golden Eagle the same year “I’ve Been True/Get Up Off Your Knees” was released. Both singles were written by Copeland and contain the exact same instrumentation with differing titles and of course the female lyrical retort. This might have been a ploy by Golden Eagle to open up this single to both male and female audiences. Jannie also recorded on the Back Beat label as Jeanette Williams, primarily recording soul tunes.
Charlie Booth was a Houston promoter and former T.V. repairman who helped Roy Head get his start by introducing him to Huey Meaux, who recorded Head’s biggest hit “Treat Her Right.” Booth owned the Golden Eagle label and also brought Head to Don Robey’s (Back Beat Records owner) attention. Booth got his start in the music industry as a recording artist with his single “Fishin’ Fits,” for the Laurie label in the early 60’s. Booth’s first hit on his Golden Eagle label was Copeland’s “Down On Bended Knee.” Booth recorded many other Golden Eagle singles in Gold Star Studios where he edited and produced all the material himself.
In 1964 Copeland recorded “Mama Told Me/Your Game Is Working,” which contains Copeland’s signature blues tone on “Mama Told Me.” Copeland then changes gears to a thick slow R & B sound on “Your Game is Working,” which in my opinion is when he is at his best. That sound can be attributed to Copeland’s ability to unleash the stormy rhythm & blues influences of T. Bone Walker.
Blues and R & B were not all Copeland was capable of. The versatility of Copeland is perfectly represented when up-beat soul meets hair raising slow ballad with his single “Danger Zone/Slow Walk You Down.” Danger Zone is a Percy Mayfield cover that can raise any one to their feet. Slow Walk You Down is a Heuy Meaux production and was written by Joe Hughes, Copeland’s original band mate.
This single is very rare and I have been unable to find an exact recording date, however I would have to guess that it was laid down in or around 1973 or 1974. Both sides of these Boogaloo Label release are underrated and deserve recognition, for they represent Copeland’s adaptability to the seventies while still holding strong to his roots as the ‘Texas Twister.’
LISTEN: Johnny Copeland – Just One More Time
LISTEN: Jannie Willams- I’ve Been True
LISTEN: Johnny Copeland – You’re Game Is Working
LISTEN: Johnny Copeland – Slow Walk You Down
LISTEN: Johnny Copeland – Danger Zone
LISTEN: Johnny Copeland – I’ll Be Around