Singing is like a natural high

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Raven Cooper  “Singing is like a natural high”

Raven Cooper grew up in Hot Springs, Arkansas and was a competitive freestyle and butterfly swimmer and diver in high school. She began listening to Janis Joplin at an early age, and it was a major music influence. Her grandmother bought her a classical guitar while on a trip to Mexico. At ten, Raven began learning classical guitar and also singing a few Janis Joplin tunes.

In the 1930s, Madam Maxine’s was a house of ill repute during the days when all the Chicago gangsters and bootleggers would go to Hot Springs to relax. Later, Maxine’s became a local bar with live music, and Raven began singing there when she was fifteen.

When Raven was seventeen, she left Hot Springs to seek fame and fortune. Along the way, she met Victor Brown in New England, and they lived in Maine for a few years. Victor promoted Raven’s music career. They bought a motor home and decided to tour warmer climates.

In 2000, they “toured” all the way to Key West. They parked their motor home behind the stage at Geiger Key Marina. Her first gig was at La Te Da. Later, Fritz Ziegler got her a gig at the Ocean Key House. One of the first Key West musicians she met, and hung out with, was drummer Skipper Kripitz.

She performed with Barry Cuda, Ken Fradley, Bubba Lownotes, and Richard Crooks in the band Honey Mouth. It took six years for Raven to break into a gig at the Schooner Wharf Bar. She has since become a regular, performing there for over 15 years, and loves working for owner Evalena Worthington.

Fellow Schooner Wharf performer, Michael McCloud would come to her shows often. He built a custom guitar for her in 2017. Raven named the guitar Lucille. It was tuned down to a C sharp and Michael taught her a few techniques to sing in a lower register and save her voice. Raven could sing in a different key and save her voice during performances. It made a world of difference in her performances. Like the rest of us, she misses Michael after his 2023 retirement. She learned McCloud’s song, “The Schooner Wharf Bar Dog”, and performs it often to help remember him.

Being accepted by fellow musicians assures that you can make it in Key West. Later after a stint in a Montana facility, managing some demons, Raven thought she had lost her place in the music rotation. She contacted a dear friend, Caffeine Carl Wagoner, who quickly responded, getting her a gig with him at Schooner Wharf. Raven credits Carl with helping her return to Key West.

Describing her love of music, Raven says, “Even when I don’t feel great, when I start singing, it’s like a natural high. You forget about your troubles, and you’re making other people happy. The audience is on vacation having fun and they forget about their troubles at home.”

Raven has five children. Her oldest son Cooper Siaulnski recorded a song with her when he was six years old. The song is one of twelve original Key West songs on the album, South of North, which was funded by the Tourist Development Council (TDC).  Today, Cooper is twenty-two, and a successful vocalist in New Orleans and is referred to as the Quarter Crooner.

She gets nervous singing in front of a couple of people or small crowd and yet finds it much easier performing in front of a large crowd. She can sense when her audience is “getting it” and says it’s a very personal give and take. She keeps a big notebook of all the songs she knows (over 650). It’s her second notebook — the first was lost after she left it on top of her car. If anyone has found it, please return it for a big reward.

Raven remembers being the only female performer when she started at Schooner Wharf. Today, she has been helping to promote many new women performers at Schooner Wharf. She loves Channing Lynn, Marjorie Lee, and the duo of Jesse Wagner and Jillian Todd.

When Raven first came to Key West, she would go to the Pier House and sit in for a song or two with Larry Smith during his Sunday Showcase. She had a recent gig at the Little Room Jazz Club scheduled so she asked Skipper to talk Larry into playing a jazz gig with her. The place was packed, the jazz was great, and everyone loved it, especially Skipper and Larry. I’m almost positive that they’ll do it again soon.

Jeff Salzmann, the Conch Republic’s Secretary of Peace, got Raven a private party gig at the Sugarloaf Key Airport. Everyone at the party went skydiving. They set up a large canopy with Raven, Skipper Kripitz, RB Tolar, and Bubba Lownotes performing. They got Raven to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. She said it was awesome. After her jump, she picked up her guitar and started performing — quite an entrance.

Raven Cooper performs at Schooner Wharf Bar on Mondays noon-5pm and Thursdays 7-11pm. Once each month, she performs with a full band. She will be performing during Conch Republic Days, singing the Battle Hymn of the Conch Republic (written by Admiral Finbar) and will be on a float in the parade on April 26.



  • Angel Eierie says:

    I first heard Raven sitting on a stool in a parking lot just off of Mallory Square, singing “Rum and Coca Cola” on her guitar, with a tip jar, selling her self recorded, home-burned CDs. I loved her voice immediately and I love that song. I asked her if she’d come into a studio a studio the next day to record a couple of songs I wrote , and
    she did. Of coarse the result was amazing ! That is the magic of synchronistic energies . That is the magic of Raven .

  • Jennie Grubb says:

    I live Raven Cooper and see her perform every time I’m in key west. She is superb!!much love to her❤️❤️

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