John Coppock, Peshastin's star guitarist, returns from Hollywood for a homecoming concert on October 28, 1927.

  • By Peter Blecha
  • Posted 7/07/2009
  • Essay 9077

On Friday October 28, 1927, Coppock's Hawaiian Trio performs in Peshastin, Washington (located in Chelan County near Leavenworth), and the event marks the return of the town's famous steel guitarist. John Lee Coppock (1899-1959) -- whose father, Jesse, homesteaded in Peshastin in 1909 -- had fallen for Hawaiian music after seeing a Hawaiian band perform while passing through town as part of a touring Chautauqua troupe in 1917.

Coppock taught himself guitar, formed the "Coppock Quintette," and played around the Peshastin/Cashmere/Wenatchee area before heading off to Hollywood in 1923. Eventually joined by his singing brother, Paul (1902-1957), Coppock's Hawaiians made a bit of history in 1925 when they recorded for one of the earliest West Coast labels, Sunset Records. Years of radio shows, prominent gigs, and concert tours commenced and in 1927 "Coppock's Famous Radio and Recording Trio" toured up the coast and even made a triumphal appearance at the Peshastin School Auditorium.  

At that time the ensemble was composed of native Hawaiian ukulele ace Dave Mahuka, guitarist Charles Burns, and the Coppock brothers "and their Musical Handsaws." A local 1927 newspaper clipping (probably from the Wenatchee Daily World) reported that a Sunday event by the "Coppock Hawaiian Orchestra" (this time a "String Quartette") was held at the Community Congregational Church where they "gave 5 numbers" -- music that "is high class and entertaining." 

In 1929 Coppock married, in 1933 the couple bore a son, and by the following year he'd completed building his first electric steel guitar. Over the next years Coppock returned home for several visits, and then in 1944 he moved his family permanently to Peshastin where he taught music -- and made Coppock brand electric lap steel guitars for his pupils -- right up until his death in 1959.

Sources: Peter Blecha interview with Donovan L. Coppock (April 30, 2009) recordings in possession of author; "Hawaiian Music Concert," poster, October 28, 1927, Peter Blecha Collection; "Peshastin's String Quartette," Wenatchee Daily World (?), clipping, n.d., ca. 1927,; Genevieve Strand, "Curtain 'Going Up' For John Coppock -- Peshastin ... and 'Show Business,'" Wenatchee Daily World March 23, 1951, p.1.

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