March Feature: Johnny and Shemekia Copeland

Feb 25, 2013

Throughout March, Crossroads highlights music from both Johnny and Shemekia Copeland, along with our regular mix of classic recordings, new releases, birthday salutes and other blues and R&B favorites.

Johnny Copeland was born in Louisiana, raised in Texas, and said his music lived somewhere between the second line of the Crescent City and the jump style of Kansas City, with a touch of T-Bone Walker (an early and major influence on him) thrown in for good measure.

Though he was performing from the late 1950s (starting in the Dukes of Rhythm with good buddy, Joe "Guitar" Hughes) and recorded for a number of smaller and regional labels, it wasn't until the 1980s when Copeland began recording for Rounder (seven albums, including the Grammy nominated Ain't Nothing But A Party), then Alligator (taking home a Grammy with Albert Collins and Robert Cray for Showdown!), and finally in the '90s on Verve, that he came to be recognized as one of treasures of Texas blues.

Copeland suffered from heart disease and passed away in 1997 at the age of 60. Along with his recorded legacy, he also left behind a talented daughter. Shemekia Copeland began performing regularly with her father while still in her teens and took on a higher profile with his passing. 

Her first album, Turn Up the Heat!, came out in 1998 and she followed with five more, including the critically acclaimed 2012 release,  33 1/3. Inspired not only by the style of her father, but the powerful and soulful singing of artists like Koko Taylor and Etta James, and performing songs that increasingly offered a contemporary approach and pointed social commentary, Shemekia has become a regular Blues Music Awards nominee and winner and one of the most prominent female artists on the blues scene today.

Johnny Copeland with Stevie Ray Vaughan from their 1995 performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival --

Shemekia Copeland live with Robert Cray doing the classic, "I Pity the Fool" --