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The Copper Family

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The centuries-old musical traditions of England's Sussex County's pubs are preserved through the singing of Bob Copper (born in 1920) and the several incarnations of the Copper Family. More than 100 years after their musical treasure-chest was discovered by London-based folk music enthusiast Katie Lee, the family continued to resurrect well-seasoned material with additional generations of family members. Tracing their roots to 1563 in Rottingdean, a small Sussex County village four miles west of Brighton, the Copper Family has been collecting and singing songs for almost as long. They had already amassed a vast collection of tunes by the time they were visited by Lee in 1898. The event had a profound effect on the future of British folk music. Lee was so inspired by the songs she had collected from the Coppers that she formed the English Folk Song Society when she returned to London. The singers, including Copper's grandfather James, were made honorary members. The Copper Family's involvement with music goes back much further than the visit by Lee. Copper's great great grandfather, "Honest" John, was a singer, as were his sons Brasser and Tom. Brasser's grandsons, Copper, and his cousin Ron were recorded by the BBC in the 1950s. Their first broadcast, in August 1950, marked the first time unaccompanied singers had been heard on BBC Radio. They performed, with their fathers (and Brasser's sons), Jim and John, at London's Royal Albert Hall in 1952. Bob and Ron collaborated on a second album for the English Folk Dance & Song Society. Following Ron's death in 1979, Copper continued to perform and record with his son, John, and daughter, Jill. A four-CD box set of the Copper Family's recordings was released by Leader. Copper's memoirs, A Song for Every Season, was published in 1971. Thirty years later, he received a lifetime achievement award from BBC Radio 2. A group of Bob's grandchildren has also performed as the Young Coppers. ~ Craig Harris

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Rottingdean, Sussex, England

Years Active:

'50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s