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Bob & Ron Copper

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A series of BBC recordings of traditional British folk songs done through the '50s by cousins Bob and Ron Copper has evolved into something of a mother lode of material for this country's strummers, singers, fiddlers, and concertina massagers. Unlike the infamous open-pit mine in Butte, MT, this is Copper that increases in value as the generations go on. It is a pity that Ron Copper, who passed on in the early '70s, was not able to savor this growing fame, especially the gala presentation of a special folk-tradition award to the then-86-year-old Bob Copper in 2001. The cousins were basically the performers who made it possible for the Copper Family band to become one of the most respected and certainly longest-running ensembles in the British folk genre. This status developed from the aforementioned BBC recordings, at first issued only privately through the radio network but eventually culled into a variety of reissues, compilations, and tribute sets. Hailing from Rottingdean, Sussex, the family had already been singing together for some six generations by the time the British folk scene began to take off. Musicologist Kate Lee helped archive the family's music back in 1898, when the group's so-called music career consisted of singing in local pubs and family gatherings. Bob Copper's great-great grandfather, Honest John Copper, was something of a legendary singer, handing down the traditions to his sons, Brasser Copper and Tom Copper. The former man's sons, Jim and John Copper, also sang together, teaching many a ditty to Bob and Ron Copper, their respective sons. Producers and performers Seamus Ennis and Peter Kennedy were responsible for initiating the BBC series of recordings of the Copper cousins. A 1952 performance at Royal Albert Hall by the fathers and sons is considered particularly significant, in part helping to stimulate the establishment of a network of folk clubs throughout the country. Ron Copper's last recordings were done in 1963 and 1964, a set of duos with his cousin, naturally. ~ Eugene Chadbourne