Johnny Copeland has managed to harness the furious energy of modern hell-bent-for-leather blues guitar and fit it into the sophisticated tradition of his Texas roots. Copeland led the house band at Shady’s Playhouse in Houston in the early and mid-50s; there he came into contact with the music of such greats as Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, the young Johnny “Guitar” Watson, and the definitive modern Texas guitar stylist T-Bone Walker. Aside from a brief foray into soul music in the 1960s, he’s never forsaken his original inspiration, the blues. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Copeland fuses his profound musical feeling–characteristic of postwar Texas blues–with the high-intensity displays of virtuosity required of the mainstream 80s bluesman. His style is immediately recognizable: shimmering, sustained leads in well-crafted solos that reflect passionate commitment, deep blues sensibility, and flawless musicianship. And his voice is among the most powerful and expressive of any on the current scene. Tonight and Saturday, Wise Fools Pub, 2270 N. Lincoln; 929-1510.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/James Fraher.