June, 2007 - Emporia, KS - Chuck Cowan found himself with a fired audience on his hands at the "Brown Bag" concert. Toes tapped, hand clapped, and some of the younger members of the crowd even got up to dance at one point. And all throughout, his fans kept shouting out requests: "Play "Snowbird!'" Do "South of the Border!'" "'Satin Doll!'".
         I'm glad to do this Brown Bag concert," Cowan told the audience with a smile, his Hawaiian shirt almost as loud as the amplifiers set up in the Emporia Public Library. "And this year, they let me take the bag off my head."
         This was a homecoming for Cowan, who started playing guitar while he was growing up in Emporia and never really stopped. He's toured clubs across the country and in the Far East, cut albums and recorded music scores, and even accompanied performers such as Sammy Davis Jr. or the New Christy Ministries.
         But it's still easy for him to remain a little in awe of the folks he's played with or to tease himself about a musical career that's lasted far longer than he would have guessed.
         "I've tried to quit, but it's just like drugs," Cowan grinned. He once tried to hang it up for a more "normal" career in San Francisco, he said, only to run into an old drummer friend (Mike). The two began playing many gigs together that any other job became impossible.
         These days, Cowan, who is now legally blind, lives about 26 miles from Fort Scott, a home far enough out in the country that cell phone service isn't too reliable. His latest CD is: "At the Lovers' Lost and Found."
         And he still plays about anything. Well, maybe not anything: you're not going to hear punk rock or heavy metal slamming out of his guitar strings. But otherwise, his playlist is pretty eclectic, skipping from classical and folk and early rock classics like "La Bamba."
         His first big break came while he was a freshman at Emporia State University. He and his band, the Chessmen, were playing their first professional gig - a country club near Branson, MO - when an agent spotted them.
         "He came up and said. 'Do you guys want to go on the road?'" Chuck recalled, "I thought, "Oh good Lord, this guy must be deaf'".
         Cowan eventually toured the Midwest, the East Coast, the West Coast, Hawaii, even Southeast Asia and Japan. The Asian portion of the tour was fun but a little rough.
         I didn't know where I was half the time and I had jet lag all the time," he said in a 1985 interview. "In Japan we sometimes had six one-hour shows a day in different places. You have to always be moving to make any money at it."
         Well, Hollywood can help a little, too. For a while Cowan found himself playing on a number of movie scores such as "Hells Belles" and "Blood Sabbath."
         One of the more unusal turns in his career came when he was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. It proved to be a surprising event for Chuck and for the Hall. "I had never of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame," he said. "And they thought I was dead!"
         Far from it. He still gets around to Kansas City, Virginia Beach, Fort Collins, Colo., and even back to Emporia every so often, And he's far from forgotten on his home ground. Robert Scott - The Gazette, Emporia, KS

Chuck's Accomplishments

    Glenn Miller / Woody Herman / Les Baxter / Clyde McCoy /
    Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys / Phil Campos and the Forum / Chessmen

    Buddy Knox / Carl Mann / James Burton / Thumbs Carllile / Mundell Lowe /
    Sammy Davis Jr. / The Coasters / The Shirells / Don Ho /
    Keely Smith / New Christy Minstrels / Michael Parks

    Hells Belles with Les Baxter / Flareup with Raquel Welch /
    Blood Sabbath / wrote and scored sound track for SMACK

  • CLUBS:
    Copacabanna New York & Tokyo / Gold Nugget Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas /
    Treasure Chest Miami

  • Call 620-443-5319 to purchase Chuck's latest CD,
    At the Lovers' Lost and Found"

    Call 620-743-3023 to Book

    Posted March, 2008          ©Rockabilly Hall of Fame ®