JOHNNY COOPER (R.I.P.)

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First published September 2014

Johnny Cooper (A.K.A. 'The Maori Cowboy') passed away in his Lower Hutt home on 3rd September 2014 at the age of 86.

Click here to view the "New Zealand History" article about Johnny

Click here to view the "National Library of New Zealand" article about Johnny's "Give It A Go!"

Click here to view Paul Holmes 1990 TV feature about "The Maori Cowboy"

TRIBUTES

RIP Johnny.  I won the Johnny Cooper Talent Quest in Gisborne in 1959, then prize was a 45 record of the event and to tour with Johnny and $25-00 first prize, he helped me launch my career - I was 13 at the time.  I washed his car and he taught me the tricks of the trade: Thx Johnny Cooper - Bryan Swainson  
In 1955 I played with the backing band for Johnny’s “Rock Around The Clock” for H.M.V.  At the time, none of us knew that we were creating some local history.  Johnny came across as a fun person but seriously focused on his career.  I was very sorry to hear of his final years.  R.I.P.  - Bob Barcham
I met him once a long time ago – he was a real character and did an enormous amount for young Kiwi Talent.  The Band gets bigger and better! - Viv McCarthy
Sad to see the passing of a New Zealand Icon.  “One By One” of course made him a household name around the country.  I have forgotten the name of the lady who sang the song with him.  In 1959, in my first year of teaching in Kawerau, I remember seeing this rather portly gentleman walking up to my classroom and introducing himself as Johnny Cooper.  I was honoured to meet the man for the first time.  He had heard that I had a band called the Rebels playing at venues in Kawerau, Whakatane and Rotorua.  He wanted us to play over the Christmas period at the Captains Cabin in Ohope.  We did the gig, playing for one week, but had to fight for crowds as the Ohope Hall across the road, also had a band playing.  That band was “Red Hewitt and the Buccaneers” fresh from the hit “Robbing the Cradle”.  However John was a good and honest promoter.  I’m not even sure he made money out of the gig, but it was an enjoyable week.  Again sad to hear of his passing. - Buddy Wilson
I remember Johnny Cooper as the first real radio star in New Zealand as I began on my musical journey.  "One by One" was played constantly, and Johnny’s shows throughout NZ were legendary.  Another great New Zealand legend has passed.  RIP Johnny - Gray Bartlett
Johnny Cooper was a many faceted landmark kiwi musician.  Pioneer of rock 'n roll, composer of party standard "Look what you done my baby", talent promoter, leader of the Range Riders and great showman.  Late in his career, my partner Jill and I played a memorable tour with Johnny in the Rumahanga River band on bass and guitar, when Johnny had switched over to drums.  That offering from all of us was a bit musically rough but the spirit was there.  We were lucky to play with a legend.  Kia ora for the good times Johnny. - Don Franks
Johnny Cooper....maybe he took his initials to heart and felt obliged to make his mark.  Well he did just that for many musos including changing our name to The Supersonics and making us 'World famous in Wellington'.  Half of them are already there, Barry Walden, Jim McNaught and Bob Southee, I reckon they've been waiting for you to make a quartet to 'keep on rockin'.  We will never forget the Maori Cowboy.  Thanks Johnny and God speed. - Pat Southee
 Johnny had been living on his own in Lower Hutt for many years and had been a bit of a recluse in his later years.  In his younger days Johnny promoted his own talent shows trying to get young New Zealanders into the showbiz world and through his shows he made it happen for quite a few ( some made it some didn't ).  Many thanks should go to his neighbour Kerry for keeping an eye on Johnny and baking for him from time to time.  An original NZ Icon gone to Rock-N-Roll.  "One By One" they leave us. Rest In peace J.C. - Jim Pilcher
(email me your tribute to Johnny and I'll add it in - andy@nzmusos.co.nz)

 

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