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The Copper Family

+ {Bob Copper} + {Bob and Ron Copper} + {Bob, Ron & Jim Copper}

Established in Rottingdean (near Brighton) in Sussex, England, Bob and his cousin Ron revived a book of songs retained by their father, Jim Copper. One could trace the singing family further back to when folklorist Kate Lee scribbled down songs (c.1898) of James “Brasser” Copper (1845-1924) and his brother Tom Copper, respective grand-dads to Bob and Ron. Although Jim died in 1954 (aged 71), the traditional foundations had been set in proverbial concrete when all three performed for the BBC and at the 1951 International Folk Festival at The Royal Albert Hall. From land farmer stock, the COPPER kinsmen Ron and Bob took jobs as a carpenter/landlord and soldier/policeman respectively.
Although subsequent recordings were rarely released, a compilation LP (TRADITIONAL SONGS FROM ROTTINGDEAN) surfaced in 1964 {*6}, comprising BBC archive songs from 1951 to 1957. Featuring trad-folk classics such as `Hard Times Of Old England’ and `The Honest Labourer’ (both sung by Ron), plus `The Lark In The Morning’, `Dame Durden’ and `Spencer The Rover’, STEELEYE SPAN acolytes just might’ve been subjected to numerous updated versions. The folk-rock renditions of the latter were probably the inspiration for The COPPER FAMILY to reunite once again, and a new generation of singers (Bob’s offspring, John and Jill) were installed as vocal accompaniment.
Recorded by Bill Leader, a four-LP boxed set, A SONG FOR EVERY SEASON (1971) {*7}, was delivered to an unaware public, not ready to listen to folk sources and nostalgic icons – it’s now worth around £250. With BOB COPPER taking a sabbatical to look after his ailing wife (she passed away in ‘84), the group was put on hold for a while. Bob did issue a solo LP for Topic in 1977, SWEET ROSE IN JUNE {*5}, although the subsequent death of Ron (on 7 January 1979) put paid to any thoughts of a reunion.
From then on, Bob, John, Jill and the whole remaining COPPER FAMILY continued to perform, while a series of COPPERSONGS sets from 1988 to 1998 kept the tradition living – so to speak. Sadly, Bob passed away in 2004, but the growing legacy of the COPPER FAMILY rose when the voices of the old brothers were utilised on The IMAGINED VILLAGE set in 2007.
© MC Strong 2010/GFD // rev-up MCS Aug2015

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