Born 21 January 1938, Nashville, Arkansas
Pat Cupp had a short career as a rockabilly singer in 1956. His total output of the 1950s consisted of only eighteen cuts and no more than seven different songs. Small as this legacy may be, it contains genuine rockabilly of the highest order.
Cupp grew up in a musical family. In the 1940s his parents had a weekly radio programme called The Musical Cupps. They entertained all over the state of Arkansas and had a large regional following. Pat learned to play guitar and banjo from his father and got his first guitar when he was eleven. By 1953 the Cupp family was living in Texarkana, Arkansas, where Pat struck up a friendship with Carl 'Cheesie' Nelson, who introduced him to country music. When Elvis came on the scene, it became apparent that Cheesie could do an uncanny imitation of the young Presley. Cheesie wanted Pat to accompany him on guitar and the duo became quite popular in Texarkana. They were even asked to stand in for Elvis, when Presley and his band (Scotty and Bill) were having car trouble and arrived too late for their Texarkana gig. When Elvis arrived, he was amused by what he saw, thanked the boys for helping out and took over. After seeing Elvis perform, Pat decided that this was the kind of music he wanted to play.
At first he played without a band. He did several stage shows with Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins. Carl advised him to form his own backing band and Cupp assembled a group (as yet unnamed) that included his mother Ruth on piano. In January 1956 they cut three demos at the Onyx Recording Studio in Memphis. These were sent to Sam Phillips of Sun Records, but Cupp never got a reply. While performing at the Louisiana Hayride, Pat met Joe Bihari of Modern/RPM Records, who signed him in May 1956. On May 13, six titles were recorded at KWKH Studio in Shreveport, including recuts of the three songs from the January demos. Bihari selected "Do Me No Wrong" and "Baby Come Back" for single release (RPM 461). When Pat was asked how he would like his group to be credited on the label, he spontaneously said "The Flying Saucers", without any consultation of the others. On "Baby Come Back", Cupp mentions a few titles of Carl Perkins songs in the lyrics, including "Put Your Cat Clothes On". He must have heard it live, because the song was unreleased at the time.
The RPM single probably sold well enough, for Cupp was invited back for a second session in August 1956. However, this time Pat was asked to leave the Flying Saucers at home. Joe Bihari sent him to New Orleans to re-record "Long Gone Daddy" (one of the six tracks from the May session) with Cosimo Matassa's studio band (Lee Allen, Red Tyler, Earl Palmer and other black musicians). Though the result (RPM 473) was a thumping piece of New Orleans rock n roll, this was not the direction that Cupp wanted to go. He had a rockabilly band and could not reproduce the R&B sound on stage. He realized too late that he'd signed with the wrong label and found a way to escape from his two-year contract by enrolling into the US Air Force in March 1957, for four years, thus ending his brief flirtation with rock n roll.
After his return to civilian life, music was no more than a hobby for Pat Cupp. He had married his highschool sweetheart in 1958, raised a family and worked as a technical engineer for 35 years, until he was forced to retire due to a severe hearing loss.
Five tracks from the Shreveport session were released on a Crown LP in 1963 (the other tracks were by Ray Smith), including the rockabilly version of "Long Gone Daddy", now his best known song. In 1967 he issued one single on his own Chance label, "After All"/"New World".
In the 1970s Ronny Weiser released three Pat Cupp singles on his Rollin' Rock label. These included alternate versions and unissued recordings from the May 1956 session. They contributed to Cupp's popularity during the European rock- abilly revival, but Pat thought it was just a small fad and turned down offers from European promoters. In 1995, his curiosity finally won out and Pat performed at Hemsby in England. He and his wife were amazed by the crowd's reception. "I finally was a star." But alas, his hearing problems made further appearances impossible. However, a 10-track CD with new authentic rockabilly recordings (mostly self-written) came out in 2004 on the Wild Hare label. The energy was still there, but Cupp's singing was not always in tune. As a result of the CD, he was in demand again and hated to disappoint his fans. So Pat began to take some bookings again. In 2008 he gave his last concert concert at the Crazy Cats Club in Concarneau, France, backed by the French group the Sureshots. "It was a tough performance for me to do. I realized then that it was time to quit."
More info :
Discography : http://www.rocky-52.net/chanteursc/cupp_p.htm
CD : Long Gone Daddy - The Complete '50s Recordings (El Toro ETCD 1019). 18 tracks. Released in 2008.
Acknowledgements : Rob Finnis and the sources mentioned under "More info".
Dik, December 2014
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