Martha Copeland

Active: 1920s - 1930s.
‘An exclusive Columbia Records recording artist’ despite also recording for Victor and OKeh, Copeland was one of the legion of second-string female blues singers of the ‘classic’ period. She recorded 34 tracks between 1923 and 1928 and demonstrated a good ‘moaning’ style on occasions with considerable humour. Despite some promotion by Columbia Records who billed her as ‘everybody’s mama’ she never achieved the popularity of stablemates Bessie and Clara Smith.

Copeland's birth date is unknown, although Paul Oliver in his record sleeve notes to The Story of The Blues, Vol. 2, commented that she was in her forties when Victoria Spivey (born 1906) was in her teens. Copeland started her recording career with Okeh in 1923, and appeared in a vaudeville revue, Shuffle Along. Her output veered between blues standards; mirror images of current popular tracks ("Soul and Body," in response to Coleman Hawkins's, "Body and Soul"); and comedic numbers ("I Ain't Your Hen, Mr. Fly Rooster" and "When The Wind Make Connection With Your Dry Goods").

Her more notable accompanists at various recordings included Rube Bloom, Eddie Heywood, Lou Hooper, Cliff Jackson, James P. Johnson, and Louis Metcalf (all on piano), plus Bob Fuller (clarinet), and Bubber Miley (trumpet).

Her total recording output is available on Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 1 (1923-1927), and Complete Recorded Works, Vol. 2 (1927-1928) (Document). Various compilation albums also contain examples of Copeland's work.