One night after an unsuccessful gig at the Cheetah club in Venice, California, where the band emptied the entire room of patrons after playing just ten minutes, they were approached and enlisted by music manager Shep Gordon, who saw the band's negative impact that night as a force that could be turned in a more productive direction. Shep then arranged an audition for the band with composer and renowned record producer Frank Zappa, who was looking to sign bizarre music acts to his new record label, Straight Records. For the audition Zappa told them to come to his house "at 7 o'clock." The band mistakenly assumed he meant 7 o'clock in the morning. Being woken up by a band willing to play that particular brand of psychedelic rock at seven in the morning impressed Zappa enough for him to sign them to a three-album deal. Another Zappa-signed act, the all-female GTOs, who liked to "dress the Cooper boys up like full size Barbie dolls", played a major role in developing the band's early onstage look.
Cooper's first album, Pretties for You (released in 1969), was eclectic and featured an experimental presentation of their songs in a psychedelic context. The musical connection with Zappa was apparent. The elements of the band's fundamental sound are present, surrounded by unusual studio overdubs and effects. Although Pretties for You touched the US charts for one week at No. 193, it was ultimately a critical and commercial failure.