June 12, 2008
By David Huff
Johnny Cooper - Country Fever 2008 - Jun. 12-15
Johnny Cooper is a 20-year old singer / songwriter / guitar phenomena from Wichita, Texas. Recording his first album at age 16, Cooper has been hailed as the next big thing in Red Dirt music. Critics say Red Dirt can best be likened to the indie genre of rock ‘n’ roll because there is no definitive sound that can be attributed to all the bands in the movement. Most Red Dirt artists would be classified by the music industry as Americana, folk, or alt-country, though the range of sounds in the Red Dirt spectrum goes beyond these genres. It has been described as a mix of folk, rock, country, bluegrass, blues, western swing and honky-tonk, with even a few Mexican influences thrown in for good measure.
In the past three years, Cooper has performed with such artists as Miranda Lambert, Deana Carter, LeeAnn Rimes, Trick Pony, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Pat Green, Gary Allan, Jack Ingram, Billy Ray Cyrus and a host of other regional acts. At present, Johnny continues to headline his own shows while performing at fairs, festivals, concert arenas and nightclubs throughout the Southwest.
Perhaps a more telling tale of Johnny Cooper’s remarkable talent lies in the fact his backing band are all in their late ‘40s and early ‘50s. On top of that, both of Johnny’s parents have taken an active role in managing and marketing their son’s career. From 1967 to 1978, the elder Cooper played keyboards and sang in a popular cover and show band called Rox Gardin out of Odessa, Texas. The group was managed by Herbert Graham, the principal owner of the Graham Brothers nightclubs.
Jimmy Cooper formed the band right out of high school and the group played nightclubs around the country. Besides their prowess playing cover tunes, Rox Garden was also a show band that performed humorous ’50s skits in costume. Despite their popularity and longevity, Cooper eventually came to realize his band was never going to become famous.
“I can tell you stories” remarked Cooper, “about playing in Aspen and Vail to a packed house, then going down the street to see an amazing band perform that couldn’t get anyone to see them. They called themselves The Eagles. We also had a guy that used to play banjo and tell jokes during breaks in our sets. His name was Steve Martin.
“Although I look back on those days fondly now, I did learn a valuable lesson I apply to my son’s career today. Johnny’s formula for success is to do the exact opposite of what I did when I was a musician. So far, it has really paid off.”