The Last Roundup

Since 1993, the Dalhart Imperials have played both kinds of music — country and Western — better than just about any of their peers. Tonight, however, they're playing their final show, and longtime frontman Les Cooper resists romanticizing the reasons behind the breakup. "I just decided to quit," he says.

Actually, there's more to the story than that. In January 2004, the band's bass player, Aaron Pope, died suddenly of heart problems. "He was just a kid, just 24," Cooper notes. After that, membership fluctuated wildly, with players departing at the most inopportune moments. According to Cooper, the Imperials recorded two CDs that weren't released because personnel shifts changed the group's sound so much. In the end, Cooper couldn't face the prospect of rebuilding again.

For the grand finale, Cooper and the current Dalhart lineup — pedal-steel expert Tim Whitlock, drummer Rodney Bowen, bassist Don Jerome, fiddler Jean Ballhorn and guitarist Dale Peak — will likely be joined by Imperials alumni. "I'm probably going to pull out some memorabilia, too — I saved practically everything — and do some CD liquidation," Cooper says. "We just reordered about three months ago. Unfortunate, but true."

This last phrase also applies to the Dalharts' split. Still, Cooper, who expects that he'll eventually return to music, emphasizes that "nobody's mad at anybody. We're all still friends. I just don't have the energy anymore."

The show starts at 9 p.m. at the Skylark Lounge, 140 South Broadway; tickets are $5. To learn more, call 303-722-7844 or visit
Sat., Sept. 1, 9 p.m.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts