NZ’s first rock-n-roll pioneer Johnny Cooper, 86, dies in Lower Hutt

johnny cooper
Photo: Audio Culture

Obituary from John Dix
New Zealand’s first rock’n’roll recording artist, Johnny Cooper, has died in Lower Hutt, aged 86.

Born and raised near Wairoa, Hawkes Bay, Cooper began performing around Wellington in the late-40s, singing country & western and billed as ‘The Maori Cowboy’. Signed to HMV Records in 1952, he had a string of country music hits, including ‘The Convict & The Rose’ and ‘One by One’. In 1955 he recorded a version of ‘Rock Around The Clock’; two years later Cooper recorded his own composition ‘Pie Cart Rock’n’Roll’, NZ’s first recorded original song in the rock’n’roll genre.

In the late-1950s and 1960s Cooper concentrated on a career as entertainment promoter; his Give It A Go talent quest introduced several newcomers of note, including Johnny Devlin (‘NZ’s Elvis Presley’) and Midge Marsden.

Since retiring in the 1990s, Johnny Cooper has lived a reclusive life. Despite the early stages of alzheimer’s, he remained independent until the end, living alone in a Lower Hutt flat.

Audio Culture: Johnny Cooper Page

Content Sourced from
Original url



  1. Pat Southee, 4. September 2014, 22:04

    Johnny Cooper got us ‘Up and Running’ as a teenage rock band. He set us alight and the flame still burns 55 years on.
    Thank you Johnny and God speed.
    Pat Southee (Supersonics)

  2. brenda beilby, 6. September 2014, 15:52

    Very sad to learn of Johnny’s passing. my mum Shirley Carkeek sang with him for many years as well as being linked personally. Rest in Peace John. Brenda

  3. Max Whitehouse, 8. September 2014, 13:48

    So long Johnny old friend, I’ll miss the shows we did together I guess I’ll have to wait til we meet again at the big show in the sky.
    God rest mate
    Max & Renee Whitehouse

  4. Bryan Swainson, 8. September 2014, 14:44

    Very sad to hear about Johnny passing on. Johnny got me up and running also a singer and I enjoyed a long career after winning a Johnny Cooper talent quest in Gisborne in 1959 and then toured with him weekends as I was 13 at the time: Bryan Swainson RIP my old friend

    Can anyone tell me the funeral arrangements etc. I want to be there

  5. Justine Te Hiwi, 15. September 2014, 21:01

    I’ve been told that Johnny’s funeral notice was published in today’s Dominion Post, to be held on Thursday in Lower Hutt. Unsure if it’s a church or funeral directors but it’s on the corner of Cornwall Street and Knights Road. Hope that helps.


Write a comment: