Monday, June 18, 2007

Tribute to Laura of Cowboy Cultural Society

The matriarch of cowboy music on the radio and the internet dies Memorial Day, only two weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. Laura Ellen of KPIG radio in the Santa Cruz, California, area. Laura was the force behind Cowboy Cultural Society, an internet station of cowboy music. It's been my online favorite for about 5 years. Outside my realm of experience, she was a radio maverick at KPIG, refusing to go with the strict playlist rules of the FM-radio industry. The Santa Cruz Sentinal newspaper:
To understand Laura Ellen Hopper, you had to talk music with her.
Oh, she had other passions. She loved horses all her life and spent as much leisure time as she could manage in the saddle. She was an excellent cook and was especially devoted to wood-fired stoves. She proudly restored an old Airstream trailer. She was devoted to her husband, Frank, her daughter, Elsie, and a confederacy of close friends that encompassed miles and years. But any portrait of the woman mourned by so many this week up and down the California coast and across the country would have to begin and end with music. Hopper's friend Gail Korich had countless conversations with her about music, many times sitting on the floor of her office at KPIG [107.5 FM] in Watsonville over coffee. "There was nothing like the light in her eyes when she found something she really liked," said Korich, who works at the Santa Cruz-based Hawaiian-music recording label Dancing Cat. "She was always saying, 'Oh, you've got to hear this.' "
...
"Laura is to Americana what Bill Monroe was to bluegrass," said "Sleepy John" Sandidge, longtime host of KPIG's Sunday morning live show, "Please Stand By" "If she really knew what kind of influence she had, she would have been living in France with servants waiting on her. But money was never a motive for her" She gave her programmers great latitude in choosing their music. But many of them took their cues from Hopper because of her impeccable radio instincts. "She was the most talented programmer I've ever known," Amy Airheart said. "She was really good at the musical segue. I learned how to segue from one song to another, paying attention to the themes, from Laura" Bill Goldsmith now runs Radio Paradise, a pioneering Internet-only station inspired by his work at KPIG. He said that Hopper was guided by a stubborn adherence to an ideal. "To her, nothing was more important than the music and treating the music and her listeners with a certain amount of respect. And that's unheard of in the radio business today," Goldsmith said. "There was no such thing as Laura playing your music because she was your friend," said Gail Korich. "It had to live on its merits"

8 comments:

Newton C said...

It wasn't only in California Laura Ellen had fans. I'm from Brazil. I listened to Laura's Cowboy Cultural Society for some time last year and the year before. I really enjoyed her broadcast very much. She had a wonderful taste for songs and singers. Rest in peace, my good Internet friend. Miss you...

Anonymous said...

I discovered the Cowboy Cultural Society quite by accident. It was during my recovery from eye surgery that I found it as watching TV or reading was a no-no. I became obsessed with it - love the music and the poetry. It takes me to a place and time in which I want to be. I am still a devoted fan today. Laura, I wish I could have known you and thank you from the bottom of my heart.

lavachickie said...

While camping this weekend, our neighbors played what I can only describe as "cowboy music" and it was a wonderful addition to the stream, the trees, the campfires. I have gone in search of this "cowboy music" and am saddened to hear about this woman's passing, but glad to have found someone, apparently, rebroadcasting the streams.

Patrick McMillan said...

I wish she were still around. She was always ready to answer an email. She opened my eyes to a world of good music that just isn't prevalent on the commercial stations. There was a song about "the most wanted man" about a woman who fell for an outlaw, she used to play. I wish I could find the artist, album or even song title. Anyone? And does anyone know if the iTunes stream will be restored?

Donna Jefferson said...

Still missing Laura's Cowboy Cultural Society on Itunes...nothing comes close to it.

Ed said...

Still missing Laura and Cowboy Cultural Society..

Chris Wilhite said...

Still missing Laura and the Cowboy Cultural Society. I still haven't been able to find a playlist comparable to what she had curated.

HUB Schlueter said...

I enjoyed listening to Laura Ellen's CCS. I got introduced back when my internet access was still via a telephone modem. Anyway, a good friend was able to download a good few hours and he sent me a CD. Since then I was able to listen live and at the moment I'm running that downloaded CD.
RIP Laura Ellen Hopper