Pat Cupp

Pat Cupp and Flying Saucers in 1956. Left to right are J.O. Livsey, drums; Pat Cupp, rhythm guitar and vocals; Ruth Cupps, piano; Pete Waller, bass; Johnny Gatlin, lead guitar.

Some may wonder why we devote so much space to Pat Cupp and so little to Elvis. The Elvis story is well told everywhere you look, but Pat is of our region and lived the dream. Unlike Elvis, his story goes on after a wonderful life. Some cups are to be sampled and not swallowed whole.

Pat’s life is an example of the former. He worked with giants and gained their respect. But for an ignorant producer Pat and his band might have ascended to the heights. But those who did are no longer with us while Pat and his beloved wife Gaye live on in comfortable retirement in Texarkana.

Pat was a member of the family band by age 5. In 1953 his family moved to Texarkana and he went to Arkansas High School. 

At that time he met Carl “Cheesie” Nelson and he learned about country music for the first time as they formed a band that was popular in the region. Cheesie also introduced him to rockabilly, the rock/blues/boogie/country fusion genre that was spreading in the south.Pat’s life is an example of the former. He worked with giants and gained their respect. But for an ignorant producer Pat and his band might have ascended to the heights. But those who did are no longer with us while Pat and his beloved wife Gaye live on in comfortable retirement in Texarkana.

Pat was a member of the family band by age 5. In 1953 his family moved to Texarkana and he went to Arkansas High School. At that time he met Carl “Cheesie” Nelson and he learned about country music for the first time as they formed a band that was popular in the region. Cheesie also introduced him to rockabilly, the rock/blues/boogie/country fusion genre that was spreading in the south.

Next thing you know, Elvis is on the bill at the AMA, and just south of town Scotty Moore wrecks the Cadillac. The producer talks Pat and Cheesie into keeping the audience happy while they wait. Apparently the audience isn’t a bit sorry. Elvis finally gets there and listens with interest.

Pat got face time with Elvis after the show and came away a converted rockabilly performer. Touring along with Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, he worked solo until Perkins as Cupp worked as a solo act. Perkins both admired his act and thought he’d sound better with a bit more depth…like Carl Perkins. So, off they went along with Johnny Cash’s bass player Marshall Grant and they sounded like they’d been together for years. However, both Marshall and already had gigs so that was it. Pat formed his own band, pictured to the right, and soon signed a recording contract with RPM records.

There first release on RPM was “Do Me No Wrong” and “Baby Come Back” and was a major hit in the region. The tour was a big success and it looked like they were on thier way. It didn’t work out that way. Ever hear of RPM records? No? Not surprising given the cluelessness of their producers who, under contract, ordered Pat to record “Long Gone Daddy” with an R&B backup not of his choosing. Pat was so frustrated he signed a 4 year enlistment with the Air Force to get away from RPM and those commitments.
Of course, by his 1961 discharge the world had changed. He settled down to experience a great life raising his family in Texarkana and continuing his music for his own enjoyment and that of the region.
He formed a local jazz group called “The Variables” in the late 60s. A 1988 accident severely damaged his hearing making music increasingly difficult. His final public peformance was not in the American that had forgotten him, but for adoring European Rockabilly lovers in Hernsby, England, October 1995. Pat is an honored and valued member of the RMHC Advisory Group.

“Long Gone Daddy” was a national hit.

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