c cooperClay Cooper

Clay Cooper already was familiar with the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, having hosted the induction event in recent years. The Carthage audience responded happily to the comedic and musical abilities that Clay brought to the Hall of Fame stage. For 2023, when a Hall of Fame board member suggested Clay be asked to return as emcee, almost immediately it was decided to invite  him as an inductee. Clay Cooper is a born and bred Texas Country entertainer.

Clayton Stephens Cooper was born on May 25, 1970, and he was raised in a musical family in the Collin County town of Wylie, about 20 miiles northeast of Dallas. His father played guitar and performed at local country music events. Clay's grandmother served as pianist of the Wylie Baptist Church, and she provided piano lessons to Wylie children.

Sadly, Clay's mother died of cancer when he was 12. The boy felt lost and aimless, but because of his innate love of music, he gravitated to the Wylie Opry. By the time he was 16, Clay became the oldest member of a youth band, the Texas Gold Minors.

"It was a smokin' little band," related Clay, "and we started playing South Fork Ranch and the State Fair of Texas and places around there. Then within three months, we got a call from Branson that they wanted to audition us. So we came to Branson for the Ozark Jubilee and we were hired."

Clay reflected on his good fortune. "I feel like God put music in me and by joining the Texas Gold Minors, I feel like God gave me a gift and put me on the right track."

Clay worked steadily in and around Branson, including the Country Review Show in Eureka Springs, the Down Home Country Show, the Buck Trent Show, and the Jim Owens Show. He spent nine years as lead vocalist for Country Tonoight. In 2003, Clay joined his friend, Paul Harris, as lead vocalist on Paul Harris Live.

Two years later, Clay and his wife, Tina, opened Clay Cooper's Country Express on Branson's "Strip." A cast of 25 puts on a colorful, high energy show which includes his wife and children, sons Colton and Caden and a daughter from an earlier marriage, Cassity Laine Cooper. Cooper's Country Express emphasizes traditional Country music and patriotic themes. Discounts are provided to service members and Clay cheerfully encourages audience members to carry concealed weapons to enhance security.

When Tommie Ritter Smith called Clay to inform him of his unanimous selection as a 2023 inductee, he modestly thought - despite  his enormous success as a Country performer - "Wow, am I worthy to be in the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame?"

Tommie reassured him, "Clay, you love Texas, you were born and raised in Texas, you have the Texas flag flying off your roof, everything in your theater is Texas themed, and you've been performing music in Branson for 37 years. If you think about it, you've performed in front of probably as many, if  not more than, some of these nationally know artists that have been doing it on the road. They just all come to you. We're tickled to have you."


OslinK.T. Oslin

"80's Ladies" vaulted singer-songwriter K.T. Oslin to stardom at the age of 45. The million-selling hit made K.T. the first female songwriter to win Song of the Year. The talented artist with the dazzling, infectious smile went on to collect four CMA Awards and three Grammys. In 1988 she was named Female Vocalist of the Year and in 2014, K.T. was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Kay Toinette Oslin was born on May 15, 1942 and was raised in Houston. As a young adult, K.T. sang folk music around Houston with trios, but her songwriting efforts sounded more like Country than Folk.

And since childhood her earliest dream had been to act. She took advertising roles on TV and sang jingles for commercials promoting soft drinks and cleaning products and even denture adhesives.

But in 1966 she starred opposite Rudy Vallee in an equity production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. That same year she joined the road company of Hello Dolly, starring Carol Channing. After arriving in New York City, she remained with the popular musical during a Broadway run which featured Betty Grable in the title role.

Settling in Manhattan, K.T. appeared in Promises, Promises and in a Lincoln Center revival of West Side Story. There were other roles in lesser known shows as well.

But she continued to write songs with a Country flavor. K.T. began to make trips to Nashville. She sang backup on recording sessions, and she continued to perform ad jingles. Some of her songs were covered by such stars as Dottie West, The Judds, Sissy Spacek, Dusty Springfield and Lorrie Morgan. Although K.T. had no record deal and no agent, she put together her first album and borrowed money to set up a concert.

Veteran producer Harold Shedd, who had worked with Reba McEntire and Alabama, liked K.T.'s sound, and he produced her debut album, 80's Ladies. The title song resonated with millions of women, and within a year she was touring as a star. On stage she regaled audiences with a breezy sense of humor and down home banter. K.T. had back-to-back No.One hits, "Do Ya" and "I'll Always Come Back," and the next year "Hold Me" reached the top of the charts. In 1990 she again reached No.One as a female vocalist with Alabama on the hit "Face to Face."

The personable actress performed delightful music videos, such as "Bride of Frankenstein," and in 1993 she released her Greatest Hits Album, Songs From an Aging Sex Bomb. She was a welcome guest with TV hosts Johnny Carson, Carol Burnett, Ralph Emery, Joan Rivers, and Oprah Winfrey.

K.T. headlined a TNN special USO Celebrity Tour. She was featured in a concert with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra in 1999. She released a disco single of the Rosemary Clooney hit, "Come On'a My House," and she appeared on Austin City Limits.

Her rigorous schedule, however, helped to cause a heart condition, resulting in coronary bypass surgery. After 2005 she cut back on personal appearances. A decade later she was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, and she retired to an assisted living facility where she passed away at the age of 78 on December 21, 2020.

One of her final appearances came in 2013, a celebration of the 20th aniversary of 80's Ladies during a sold-out show of Nashville's Franklin Theater.

"We should have music for all of us," proclaimed K.T. Oslin. "Music isn't just for a 20-year-old."

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