The weekend of St. Patrick's Day is pretty hectic if you're in the Jerry Cooper Band. First, there are the gigs: This past Saturday, the band started playing at 2 p.m. and didn't finish until 2 a.m. Second, if you're Jerry himself, you're dealing with an onslaught of media requests, thanks to your ex-girlfriend being the country's most famous alleged prostitute.
It was exactly four St. Patrick's Days ago that Jerry Cooper, now 41, met Ashley Alexandra Dupré (born Ashley Youmans), a.k.a. "Kristen," the high-priced escort that now-former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer allegedly paid for a sexual liaison. The scandal caused Spitzer to officially step down from his office on Monday (March 17).
It was a mutual friend that thought Jerry and Ashley might be a good match, so after a few St. Patrick's Day cocktails at a bar in North Carolina, the two were introduced.
"She's obviously, you know, not hard to look at," Cooper recalled, adding that as soon as they met, "Ashley just planted one on my lips."
For the next 12-18 months, the two were romantically involved and lived together on-and-off in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. And it didn't take long for the duo to realize that they shared another passion: music.
"You know, I heard her singing [Otis Redding's] 'Respect' in the shower, and it sort of caught me off guard," Cooper remembered. "She had this huge voice for such a little girl. And so I just kind of went in and said, 'Hey, come upstairs when you're done with this, and let's work on some songs.' "
Cooper said that while Dupré doesn't have a Mariah Carey-caliber range, he does believe she has talent. He began inviting her to his gigs, where she would perform songs like Blind Melon's "Change" and Meredith Brooks' "Bitch."
"She had a great response from the crowd," he recalled.
In fact, when he traveled to Austin, Texas, to record a few songs at a studio there, Ashley decided to fly in and try her own hand at recording a few tracks.
In an MTV News exclusive, you can hear two tracks from Dupré's first-ever professional recording session. "Hello, stranger, stranger," her first song, is a soulful ballad that shows a solid middle range. Interestingly, the lyric tells the tale of a meeting a man late at night: "Hello Stranger, stranger in the dark/ There is danger, danger in my heart," the song's lyrics read.
The track plays much differently than more recent songs of hers, including "What We Want," which, for a short time anyway, was played on New York's Z100.
"I think she's being mis-produced right now," says Cooper. "I don't think this hip-hop sort of beat thing that they have going on right now is the way she needs to go. She's got a real soulful, big blues voice to her." He added, "I think she has the potential to sound good."
While the duo eventually parted ways, Cooper says there are no hard feelings. He moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where he continues to gig with his eponymously named band. According to Cooper, Dupré, too, wanted to keep focusing on her musical career.
"She decided New York was probably the better place for her to pursue music," he says.
Cooper said they still occasionally talk, and when they do, the conversation always turns to music. Recently she told him she had given up drinking and partying in order to take better care of her voice. He said he last heard from her the Friday before her name became world-famous.
While he says he didn't know about Dupré's involvement with a prostitution ring, when asked if he was surprised, he replied, "Not really." A few months ago, he said he was snooping around Dupré's MySpace and remarked to his friend, "I have a feeling she's probably a high-priced call girl."
He said their time together was enjoyable, "but it definitely wasn't a thousand dollars an hour."
"From a moral standpoint, I'm a little disappointed she made that choice. I'm not by any means rattled or upset about it," Cooper said. "For her, depending on how things wash out, she's going to come out on top with what she wanted, which was fame and the opportunity to play music and have it be heard.
"I hope that she's smart enough to surround herself with people who are capable to help her do that."