It’s likely that many of those reading this will know Marty Cooper from songs he wrote in the 1960s: the Marathons’ ‘Peanut Butter’, Stevie Wonder’s ‘Hey Harmonica Man’ and Jack Nitzsche’s symphonic epic ‘The Lonely Surfer’, to name just three. They might also be familiar with ‘A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock’n’Roll’ or Donna Fargo’s country #1 ‘You Can’t Be A Beacon (If Your Light Don’t Shine)’, the records Marty made with Lee Hazlewood as a member of the folksy Shacklefords or the singles he produced on R&B vocalist Bobby Day. This first-time reissue of his 1970s albums provides a welcome opportunity to catch up with his subsequent career as a soft rock country-style singer-songwriter.
Marty’s first album, “A Minute Of Your Time”, was released on Andy Williams’ Barnaby label in 1972. “Ken Mansfield had done an album with Rick Cunha, my friend from the group Hearts & Flowers,” recalls Marty in the booklet. “Ken had just gotten his job at Barnaby. I showed him what I was doing and he gave me my opportunity to be a recording artist. He let me pick the songs and we produced the album together.” Musicians on the record include jazz guitarist Larry Carlton, steel-player Richard Bennett, drummer Johnny Guerin from Joni Mitchell’s band, John McKuen of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, fiddle-player Bobby Bruce and pianist Larry Muhoberac, who also provided the arrangements, with Kim Carnes and Brooks Hunnicut on background vocals.
1979’s “If You Were A Singer” was issued on EMI Germany and in other countries around the world, but not in theUSA, due to what Marty refers to as “misplaced political correctness”. The album was produced by Marty with help from Michael Lloyd, Al Capps and Larry Muhoberac and includes notable contributions from background vocalists Rhodes-Chalmers-Rhodes and Maxi Anderson.
“My main influence as a songwriter was border radio, the Mexican stations that came into the United States and played country music,” concludes Marty. “I spent many, many long hours alone in my room listening to those songs. I was fascinated that they could make you laugh, and the next one could make you cry. I was the only kid in school who listened to country music or certainly knew who Bob Wills was. I eagerly awaited every new release on every label. That’s where my impetus came from. I was impacted by those songs, like some people might be impacted by opera or a sentimental movie. They influenced me to try to play guitar and write songs. My first efforts were extraordinarily derivative, but I found my way. I couldn’t stop writing and I’m still writing.”
By Mick Patrick