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Saturday, May 14, 2011

Wrecked My Life "Like a Hurricane"

And before there was Shemekia Copeland there was big daddy Johnny Copeland!

Born in Haynesville, Louisiana, while Copeland was becoming interested in music, he also pursued boxing, mostly as an avocation, and it is from his days as a boxer that he got his nickname "Clyde." Also as a teenager influenced by T-Bone Walker he formed the "Dukes of Rhythm" in Houston, Texas, and made his recording debut in 1956, signing with Duke Records the following year. In his early years he played with such acts as Sonny Boy Williamson, Big Mama Thornton and Freddie King. Although his early records met with little commercial success, he became a popular touring act over the next two decades.

Johnny’s early recording career embraced blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll. He cut singles for Mercury, All Boy and Golden Eagle, among others. His first single was “Rock ‘n’ Roll Lily,” and he later cut regional successes like “Please Let Me Know” and “Down On Bending Knees.” For the most part, his singles featured Johnny as a vocalist more than as a guitar player.

Driven by disco to rethink his future, he moved to New York in 1979 and played extensively in the eastern cities. In 1981 he was signed by Rounder Records, releasing a string of critically acclaimed albums including Copeland Special (1981) and Bringing It All Back Home (1985), and touring widely. Copeland appeared at the 1983 Long Beach Blues Festival, and the 1988 San Francisco Blues Festival. He won a Grammy in 1987 for best traditional blues album for the album Showdown!, recorded with Robert Cray and Albert Collins.

Copeland also played at the 1985 Montreaux Jazz Festival as a special guest with Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble.

His later years were dogged by ill health due to a congential heart defect. He died, aged 60, in Harlem, New York, from complications during heart surgery for a heart transplanted six months earlier. Copeland was a resident of Teaneck, New Jersey.

His daughter Shemekia established a successful career as a singer. He was also survived by his wife, Ethel Lee Copeland, son Dawrence Clyde Copeland Sr., daughter Sharee Copeland all of Houston, TX and daughter Demetria L. Brown of Corpus Christi, TX.

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