The Copasetics, a fraternity of friends mostly in the entertainment business, was formed in 1949, following the passing of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. With twenty-one founding members the clubs main goal was to perpetuate the legacy of the late Robinson. The Copasetics was a vital force in Harlem since its inception and contributed to many charitable and community activities. During the 1970’s and 1980’s the Copasetics went on the road, and became a major force in the popular revival of tap dance.
The club’s original twenty-one members included Cholly Atkins (The Rhythm Pals, Coles and Atkins, Motown Chreographer), Peg Leg Bates (Blackbirds of 1928, Ed Sullivan Show, owner of the Peg Leg Bates Country Club in the Catskills of New York), Paul Black (The Three Chocolateers), Roy Branker (pianist with The Three Peppers), Ernest “Brownie” Brown (Cook and Brown), Charles “Honi” Coles (The Miller Brothers, Coles and Atkins), Chink Collins (TOBA circuit, Joyce Beasley, the Dolly Sisters, The Cotton Club Boys), Charles “Cookie” Cook (Cook and Brown), Emory Evans (Gary and Evans), Francis Goldberg, Frank Goldberg, Milton Larkin (trumpeter and band leader), Pete Nugent (Pete, Peaches and Duke), Lutherr Preston (Slim and Sweets), Billy Strayhorn (composer & arranger, writing partner of Duke Ellington), John E. Thomas (The Three Rockets), James Walker (Chuck and Chuckles, Myers and Walker, The Three Chocolateers), Elmer Waters, and Eddie West (The Three Chocolateers). With the founding officers LeRoy Myers, (Pops and LeRoy, Sinclair and LeRoy, Myers and Walker) as President and Henry “Phace” Roberts (The Five Blazers and The Three Rockets) as Vice President.
Billy Strayhorn served as the president of the club from the early 1950’s until his death in 1967, at which time the club abolished the position of president in his honor.
Subsequent membership included: Billy Eckstine (vocalist, trumpeter, valve trombonist, and band leader), Lewis Brown (The Cotton Club Boys), Curley Hamner (Red and Curley), Timmie Rogers (comedian, song writer, If You Can’t Smile and Say Yes…), Charlie Shavers (trumpeter, Undecided), Bubba Gaines (The Three Dukes), Dizzy Gillespie (trumpeter and composer, Groovin’ High, A Night in Tunisia, Manteca), Buster Brown (The Three Speed Kings), Louie Simms Carpenter (The Four Flash Devils and Simms and Booie), Albert Gibson (The Three Chocolateers), James Cross (Stump and Stumpy), and Jimmy Wright (Broadway performer).
The club also allow for a number of honorary members including the likes of Willie Bryant (honorary mayor of Harlem following Bill “Bojangles” Robinson), Lionel Hampton (vibraphonist and band leader, Flying Home, Midnight Sun), Sammy Davis, Jr., The Nicholas Brothers, Chuck Green, Joe Williams, and Dick Gregory.
The club produced annual events including the Copasetics Dance and Copasetics Boat Ride which were two of the most popular tickets New York City.