Showcasing the Arts

YouTube video - Artist Award, Roger Wilford Cooper
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2017 Governor's Awards in the Arts:
Artist Award



Garrison, Ky.



Roger Cooper Roger Cooper

Lewis County native Roger Cooper is the living link to the northeast Kentucky fiddling tradition. His mastery of that style evokes the playing of luminaries like Buddy Thomas, Bob Prater, Morris Allen, Jimmy Wheeler and George Hawkins.

Cooper began his musical career at age 12 playing guitar behind Joe Stamper on Vanceburg’s WKKS radio station, and has brought his distinctive sound to a variety of stages. Whether it’s Saturday night at the Southern Ohio Opry in McDermott, Ohio or Lincoln Center, Cooper is comfortable honing his craft. He has also served as a musical ambassador for Kentucky, playing in front of an international crowd at the 2010 World Equestrian Games at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

In an article about Cooper in Fiddler magazine’s spring 2011 edition, L. Scott Miller wrote, “Although Roger’s hard-driving style and melodic variations were influenced by his mentors, his fiddling is distinctly Roger Cooper. To Roger, individual style is one of the ingredients that make old time fiddling a living tradition. ‘It’s fine to learn to play a tune just like Buddy Thomas or someone else, but as you become a better fiddler, your personality needs to come out. That’s your individual style. Otherwise, you’re just coppycattin’.’ ”

Miller was an apprentice under Cooper in 2009 when Cooper received a Kentucky Arts Council Folk and Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grant.

Cooper himself was a devout student of Lewis County native and legendary old-time fiddle player the late Buddy Thomas. In the liner notes to his 1996 album “Going Back to Old Kentucky,” Cooper wrote about a conversation he had with his mentor, who died in 1974. “Now, he liked bluegrass just fine, but wanted to play old-time more than he did bluegrass. He said to me, ‘Lord, son, there’ll always be all kinds of bluegrass fiddlers … But old-time fiddlers, there ain’t gonna be many of them at all some of these days. So fiddle is what you want to get after real hard, on them old-time tunes.’ And I’ve tried to keep my promise to him about that.”



Page last updated: January 19, 2018
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