22 Dec 2001

Johnny Cooper on Musical Chairs

Johnny Cooper album cover

Johnny Cooper “The Maori Cowboy” received the ultimate honour from Dame Silver Cartwright in 2001 when she presented him with the Queen’s Service Medal for his services to the community within the entertainment field.

Not bad for a Maori “fella” brought up on his father’s farm in Wairoa and given his first worn-out guitar at 16 years of age by his uncle.

Within a short period of time he had gone from entertaining the shearers on the farm to performing weekly on the NZBS. He even flew to Korea and Japan to entertain the kiwi troops.

"Look what you've done, what you've done my baby"

- well-known lyrics from popular party song 'The Lonely Blues' - the best-selling ‘78 in 1954 - by New Zealand's country and western and rock and roll pioneer Johnny Cooper.

Johnny was the first performer outside of America to record Bill Haley's 'Rock Around the Clock' (1955), thus introducing the new rock'n'roll dance craze to Aotearoa.

In 1957 Johnny wrote what is considered to be New Zealand's first (or possibly second) home-grown rock 'n' roll song: ‘Pie Cart Rock’n’Roll’ in honour of a Whanganui late-night kai providor.

That same year, along side his career with his band the Range Riders, Cooper started a 10-year stint as organiser and compere of talent quests from Palmerston North to Waikato. Give It A Go was a huge success and brought out talent like Johnny Devlin, Maria Dallas, Midge Marsden and John Rowles.

Find out more about Johnny Cooper on the AudioCulture website.

Listen to 72-year-old Johnny Cooper, Q.S.M., share some of his memories with Kelly Tikao in 2001, for the New Zealand Music profile series Musical Chairs.

Please note: the archival audio quality of this 2001 recording is not ideal.

Musical Chairs featuring Johnny Cooper was produced and presented by Kelly Tikao, with technical support from Jeremy Ansell for National Radio.

Music Details

Artist: Johnny Cooper and The Range Riders
Songs: The Convict and the Rose, Chew Tobacco Rag, Humming Bird, Poor Lonesome Cowboy, Golden Rocket Train
Album: Ridin Along With Johnny Cooper and The Range Riders
Label: Sonic Son-011

Artist: Johnny Cooper
Song: Pie Cart Rock ‘n’ Roll
Album: N/A
Label: HMV 45-HR.88

Artist: Johnny Cooper
Song: Manu Rere
Album: N/A
Label: HMV HR 49

Artist: Johnny Cooper
Song: Haere Mai
Album: N/A
Label: HMV HR 54

Artist: Johnny Cooper
Song: One by One 
Album: N/A
Label: HMV HR 61

Artist: Johnny Cooper
Song: Look What You’ve Done
Album: N/A
Label: HMV HR 61

Artist: Johnny Cooper
Song: Rock Around the Clock 
Album: N/A
Label: HMV HR 62

Artist: Johnny Cooper
Song: Blackberry Boogie
Album: N/A
Label: HMV HR 62

Artist: Johnny Cooper
Song: See You Later Aligator
Album: N/A
Label: HMV HR 69

Artist: Bari and the Breakaways
Song: Sea Cruise
Album: Lets Take a Sea Cruise with the Breakaways
Label: EMI 821 714

Artist: Temuera Morrison
Song: Lonely Blues (J Cooper) 
Album: Once Were Warriors
Label: VHS 1994 Communicado Limited Columbia Tristar 9317731370762

Artist: Tex Morton
Song: Texas In The Spring   1936-1938
Album: The Tex Morton Collection Vol 1
Label: EMI 814 202