A honky tonk singer popular in the late '40s, Cowboy Copas made something of a comeback in the early '60s before he died in the air crash that also killed Patsy Cline and Hawkshaw Hawkins. Born Lloyd Estel Copas on July 15, 1913, he dropped out of school at the age of 14 and began playing fiddle in several string bands around his Ohio home. On a dare, Copas traveled to Cincinnati to enter a contest, and wound up performing on radio shows for Cincinnati's WLW and later WKRC. By 1940, Copas moved to WNOX-Knoxville with a band called the Gold Star Rangers.
Three years later, Cowboy Copas got his big break: He was tapped to replace Eddy Arnold as the vocalist for Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys on WSM-Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry. He signed with King Records in 1946, and his debut single, "Filipino Baby," hit number four on the country charts that August. Two years later, Copas was back in the Top Ten with "Signed, Sealed and Delivered" (number two), "Tennessee Waltz" (number three), and "Tennessee Moon" (number seven). He also continued to perform with Pee Wee King on the Opry, recording a hit version of "Tennessee Waltz."
After the Top 20 singles "Breeze" and "I'm Waltzing With Tears in My Eyes," Copas hit the Top Ten again in early 1949. "Candy Kisses" peaked at number five, "Hangman's Boogie" reached number 14, and "The Strange Little Girl" hit number five. His next single, 1952's "'Tis Sweet to Be Remembered," hit number eight, but it was his last chart entry for more than eight years. His King contract expired in 1955, and a brief time with the Dot label also failed.
During the late '50s, Copas bided his time on the Opry, and he finally signed to Starday in 1960. His first single for the label, "Alabam," became the biggest of his career when it captured country's pole position for three months during the last half of 1960. "Flat Top" hit the Top Ten in April 1961, and a remake of his early hit "Signed, Sealed and Delivered" also reached the Top Ten in September. A year and a half later, Copas was returning to Nashville from a benefit show in Kansas City when his private plane went down, killing him, Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and Copas' son-in-law, pilot Randy Hughes. Cowboy Copas' last single, "Goodbye Kisses," hit the Top 15 one month after his death. ~ John Bush