Special to The Morning Star
Les Copeland needs little introduction.
A respected guitarist, he’s been a musical mainstay on the Vernon scene for more than two decades.
Not only has he promoted and accompanied countless gigs in town by some of the biggest blues names on the scene, he has toured North America and overseas with the late Delta blues legend David “Honeyboy” Edwards.
Copeland has headed his own bands, including the Les Copeland Blues Band and The Red Hot Ramblers, and is also a solo artist. He can be found every week performing with bassist Cameron Ward at Bourbon Street Bar and Grill in Vernon’s Prestige Hotel.
Q: What was it that made you decide to pursue a music career?
LC: “I hated school. I hated the idea of having to listen to a boss. I could not fathom living my one and only life serving others. But I always loved music. I was born in 1959 and thought the hippies were great. I loved the freedom of any musician who was naturally gifted and pursued it for themselves and not for the showbiz angle.”
Q: What has your music taught you about yourself?
LC: “I am very selfish and don’t compromise much. I was very young and naive when I started playing guitar. If I would master a difficult and beautiful classical guitar piece and play it for an informal family gathering with some guests, usually somebody would interrupt me and suggest I play a favourite song of the day for them. I was very intense about the music that I loved to play from the start. I was very sensitive and my feelings got hurt very easily regarding my music. I am the same way at present, although it has caused me problems on many an occasion.”
Q: Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
LC: “My mom, dad, sister, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. Primarily my mom and dad. My mother is a self-taught pianist who played in churches, legions, family gatherings and so forth. My mother plays all of the hymns with the lush harmonies and wicked stride piano in, I would say, a Fats Waller style. She has an excellent ear. My father also has an excellent ear for music as well as excellent taste, although (he) does not play an instrument.
My parents turned me on to people like Johnny Mathis, Nat King Cole, Andres Segovia, Carlos Montoya, and the list goes on. My mom and dad would drive me hundreds of miles sometimes to see these people perform. They were wonderful, and have always backed me up. They still do. Through my life they have always been my strongest support. So has my older sister, Cheryl. She turned me onto all kinds of very cool popular music like James Taylor, Carole King, Joe Cocker and so forth.
When I was six-years-old, my mom gave me a little pink transistor radio. We were inseparable. I heard Baby Love on that radio! That was about 1965!”
Q: If you could go back in time and give advice to your younger self, what would that advice be?
LC: I would not have any advice. I love my life. I could not enhance it. It is so good!
Q: Do you remember the first time you set foot in a recording studio? What was that experience like?
LC: “Exciting in the fact that it was a new experience. On the other hand, fairly drab. I prefer to play music live for people. Nowadays, I enjoy recording music for loved ones or with my musician pals or as a business project for Earwig Music out of Chicago for Michael Frank.”
Q: You’ve been able to tour in quite a few amazing places. Can you name some of the ones that have been highlights for you?
LC: “Norway, Toronto, Chicago, Wales, London (U.K.), Coventry, Norwich, Leeds, Sheffield, Velden (Austria), Kitchener (Ontario), Vancouver, and especially Venice (Italy). Oh yeah,Vernon, B.C.”
Q: How would you describe your music to others who haven’t heard it before?
LC: “I have no idea! I guess I would say I play guitar!”
Q: What was the experience of touring with the late blues music legend Honeyboy Edwards like for you?
LC: “It was a dream come true. Even though Honeyboy has been gone for a few years now, I still feel like I am living in a dream in respect to the years of friendship we had. He took me out of Vernon to the wildest places. I have been very fortunate. I miss that old bluesman every day, but it always makes me smile when my thoughts are on Honeyboy. I loved him. Honeyboy was my friend, working partner, my traveling companion, teacher and guru. He is also my beautiful daughter Lonnie’s godfather. I think my daughter, Harmony, should also be included as she loved him too. We adopted him.”
Q: Tell us a bit about your 2010 debut album Don’t Let The Devil In.
LC: “Recording Don’t Let The Devil In was a labour of love between myself, Michael Frank and Honeyboy. I will forever be in debt to Michael who produced this CD. I will always be so proud to have Honeyboy in the studio backing me on guitar. Michael played some sweet harmonica as well! There was nothing drab about that. Nobody or nothing can take that away from me. Other than my children, that was one of the greatest highlights in my life.
On Sept. 18, 2015, Michael released my second CD on Earwig Records. We recorded it here in Vernon at Greg Wenger’s studio. Greg is awesome. He is part of the family. His recording studio is on the corner of 27th Street and 43rd Avenue. Cathy Ann Wells sang beautiful harmony on one track and a young woman from New York named Sari sang beautiful harmonies on two tracks. Everything else is just me.
The CD is titled To Be In Your Company and is dedicated to David Honeyboy Edwards.”
Q: Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
LC: “Hopefully not in the boneyard!”
Ed note: Copeland is holding a release party for his new album, To Be In Your Company, Saturday, Nov. 14 at Lorenzo’s Café in Ashton Creek, east of Enderby. Call 250-838-6700 to reserve a seat.