Johnny Copeland

P.W. Fenton pwfenton@GATE.NET
Thu Jul 3 20:59:59 EDT 1997

Damn that was the last thing I wanted to hear.  It was the last thing I
expected to hear.  He was such a survivor.  I had the good luck to open for
Mr. Copeland just a little more than one year ago.  I went back found what
I wrote then about the experience.  It's pretty appropriate now, as it is
how I will  always remember him.

All my love goes out to his lovely family.

It just so happens I am headlining at the very same venue this Sunday
evening.  I will dedicate the show to his memory.

Date:         Mon, 3 Jun 1996 05:20:26 -0500
From:         "P.W. Fenton" <pwfenton@GATE.NET>
Subject:      Last night in Tampa

As many of you know, I was booked to open for Johnny "Clyde" Copeland
last night, at Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa.  The evening went off
with out a hitch at this beautiful outdoor venue shaded by enormous
oak trees.  We were treated with unusually mild and dry weather.
Florida normally begins it's hot and muggy cycle around now, but this
was perfect.

Because Johnny doesn't spend a great deal of time on stage (due to his
heart condition), we did a rather long 75 minute opening set.  We
were very well received.  We've played opening sets before and
they can be frustrating because it seems like right about the time
you are really feeling warmed up you have to get off the stage.  Last
night we really hit the ground running and had that warmed up feeling
from the very first song.  It was a very satisfying experience.

There was about a half hour break in the action after our set, while
Johnny's band set up all their gear.  I changed into some dry clothes
and headed out into the crowd to find a cold beer.  I wound up
getting in line behind none other than Jimmy Thackery who was in the
audience to see the show.  Turns out we're neighbors.  He's been
living about 5 minutes from my house for about a year now and I
didn't even know it.

Johnny's band did a whole set on their own without Johnny.  The
surprise treat was his 17 year old daughter, Shenekia.  What a
voice.  Clear and strong, gospel drenched, liquid soul.  She did
about 4 or 5 Blues standards and the crowd loved her.

During that set I got to return to the backstage area and meet
Johnny.  When I walked in he was sitting in a chair next to his
wife, Sandra, strikingly handsome in a billowy all black suit.  I got
to talk to him for almost a half hour.  On behalf of Blues-l, I
extended everyone's good wishes for his successful recovery.  He was
well aware of the online Blues community, and asked me to thank all
the good people that have prayed for him, and done so much for him.
While we were talking a scene unfolded before my eyes that really
slammed home the reality of his situation.

As we spoke he began beeping.  Almost instantly his wife reached
into a large bag and pulled out a long 12 volt battery, similar to
the batteries in a pro camcorder.  Johnny opened his coat revealing
a shoulder holster under his left arm (a lot like Dirty Harry's)
disconnected a cable from the battery in the holster, swapped the
two batteries, and reconnected the cable.  His wife then produced
another battery and Johnny performed the same swap in a second
holster under his right arm.  All of this while not skipping a beat
in our conversation.  I joked with him about being the first bionic
Blues man.  His wife said he was indeed the "6 million dollar man".

Johnny has TWO artificial devices connected to him to assist his
ailing heart.  He has had them so long it has made the prospect of a
transplant a much more difficult situation.  It has increased the
level of antibodies in his blood making the impending transplant much
more dangerous.  He'll need a nearly perfect match in order to

Johnny played the final set to a wildly appreciative audience.  His
performance was a lot more laid back than one would expect of the
"Texas Twister", but it was solid, tasteful, and chock full of Texas
soul.  He closed with "Black Cat Bone" from the "Showdown" album and
then he was joined by his daughter for a closing number that had
many an eye moistened in the audience.

A damn near perfect day in my life

P.W. Fenton
Tampa, Florida

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