DECEMBER 15TH, 2012 | JOHNNY'S 9-YEAR ANNIVERSARY
Photographs: Johnny in Silly Wizard, "Hermanus Old Harbour, South Africa" by Jenn Warren
WGBH Remembers Silly Wizard
A CELTIC SOJOURN
Host Brian O'Donovan highlights an old recording made of this seminal band by WGBH engineers in one of their final concerts in the Boston area. Recorded at the Somerville Theatre in 1986, this features the late Johnny Cunningham with brothers Phil and Andy Stewart in rare form.
(Johnny and Phil do their own set about 140 minutes in)
Photograph of Silly Wizard
Brooks Williams "Johnny's Farewell"
Brooks Williams recorded "Johnny's Farewell" in Ellen Hamby's Atlanta home on August 5, 2009. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IFB4iA_9b4A
The song (BMI Work #9509451; Red Guitar Blue Music (CAE/IPI #222917482)) was written by Brooks L. Williams (BMI, CAE/IPI #223038801.)
At the Minden Opera House, Brooks also performed "Johnny's Farewell" on Valentine's Day, 2009. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpeXFSdK6Vg
Trisha McCormick's Tribute to Johnny Cunningham, Lincoln Center OurLand Festival
Trisha McCormick accompanied by John Walsh sings 'The Ballad of St. Anne's Reel.' The song was written by singer-songwriter David Mallet, and this performance took place at the OurLand Festival, Lincoln Center, 2012.
Photograph of Johnny and Trisha at the Essex Hotel, New York City ~ HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Fellow Musician John McGann's Passing
by Earle Hitchner... Whether as lead or accompaniest, John was a brilliant string player, encompassing mandolin (1985 Mandolin Champion), guitar, dobro, and electric bass, as well as a superb arranger, composer, producer, and transcriber... John performed and/or recorded with the Wayfaring Strangers, Rust Farm, Beacon Hillbillies, John Whelan, and the Celtic Fiddle Festival, among others... John McGann was one of a kind. His genorsity and thoughtfulness matched his extraordinary musical skills... As I write this, I'm listening to my favorite tune by John, the magisterial "Canyon Moonrise," from his solo album UPSLIDE, for which I had the priveledge of writing the biographical essay. (This magnificent melody also appears on the inaugural CELTIC FIDDLE FESTIVAL album.)
Photograph of John McGann and Joe Derrane at Skirball
e. e. cummings, "In Memory of Bill Poten and Johnny Cunningham" by Sarah Poten
by Lisa Smith, 11th Street Bar
2012 Caricature of Johnny Based on 1982 Wood's Hole Folk Music Society article, by Anna Freeman (13 yrs)
Photograph by Paula L
CHRIS: Today I'm asked..."tell me a name of a fiddler that I have to hear...." "Johnny Cunningham"....thanks she says. Out comes some amazing fiddling, just a few feet away. "Is it amazing and damn near impossible, while at the same time being delightfully musical?" I responded. She chuckled. "Then that's Johnny!"
Years after the loss of such a beautiful person, Johnny Cunningham is fixed in time for many of us who enjoyed his live shows, recordings and the times that were created around him. It is important that his name lives on and more people hear his spirit.
MIKE M: I have been a fan of Nightnoise for some time, and for past few years been trying to learn more of each artist.
My daughter currently plays violin and is studying music in Louisiana, and I used to pay Nightnoise and she really enjoyed listenig to the violin of Johnny. I remember taking my daughter to the Renaissance Fair in Dallas, TX and she really enjoyed the Celtic music played there. And when I told her I had some at home, we went straight home and listened to Nightnoise.
I just learned of Johnny's passing today (10/19/2012) and I wish I would have tried harder to find out more of the band members.
I now have some of Johnny's other CDs and I can just imagine him smiling and enjoying life as he played.
God bless you and please keep his memory alive. I know I will try.
RIP Larry Reynolds, 2012
Follow up on 2010 post: Robert Burns Widow, Jean Armour's Letter Discovered
Johnny's friend and colleague, Nancy Groce, tells the story of discovering Jean Armour's letter to Robert Burns. Its discovery and passage back to Scotland is chronicled in The Scottish Literary Review. Download here
Special Thanks to Johnny's Webmistresses
DALRIADA: Thank you, dear person, whoever you are, who keeps Johnny's website up and running. I come here every so often just to connect with the man and his friends, again and again. I cry rivers of tears when I read the new articles and see new photos. Thank you so much for this. Sending love & peace & best wishes for the new year. Slainte mhath.
DEcember 15th, 2011 | Johnny's 8-year anniversary
Johnny Reads D.H. Lawrence on National Public Radio
Charlie McCormick: I heard Johnny on the radio this morning as I was driving.....Hopefully WFUV will include it in their show archives later. He was reading this poem by DH Lawrence "God is Born".
The history of the cosmos
is the history of the struggle of becoming.
When the dim flux of unformed life
struggled, convulsed back and forth upon itself,
and broke at last into light and dark
came into existence as light,
came into existence as cold shadow
then every atom of the cosmos trembled with delight.
Behold, God is born!
He is bright light!
He is pitch dark and cold!
And in the great struggle of intangible chaos
when, at a certain point, a drop of water
began to drip downwards
and a breath of vapour began to wreathe up
Lo again the shudder of bliss through all the atoms!
Oh, God is born!
Behold, He is born wet!
Look, He hath movement upward! He spirals!
And so, in the great aeons of accomplishment and debacle
from time to time the wild crying of every electron:
Lo! God is born!
When sapphires cooled out of molten chaos:
See, God is born! He is blue, he is deep blue,
he is forever blue!
When gold lay shining threading the cooled-off rock:
God is born! God is born! bright yellow and ductile
He is born.
When the little eggy amoeba emerged out of foam and nowhere
then all the electrons held their breath:
Ach! Ach! Now indeed God is born! He twinkles within.
When from a world of mosses and of ferns
at last the narcissus lifted a tuft of five-point stars
and dangled them in the atmosphere,
then every molecule of creation jumped and clapped its hands:
God is born! God is born perfumed and dangling and with a little cup!
Throughout the aeons, as the lizard swirls his tail finer than water,
as the peacock turns to the sun, and could not be more splendid,
as the leopard smites the small calf with a spangled paw, perfect.
the universe trembles: God is born! God is here!
And when at last man stood on two legs and wondered,
then there was a hush of suspense at the core of every electron:
Behold, now very God is born!
God Himself is born!
And so we see, God is not
until he is born.
And also we see
there is no end to the birth of God.
Remembering with the Raindogs
my brother johnny. to know him was to love him. the greatest times of my life was when i was with you. two many stories to tell slan mo chara till we drink a dram again then roll on the floor in laughter. jimmy reilly, belfast
Johnny Cunningham Loved the Poetry of Blake and Burns
By Earle Hitchner (printed with permission)
"Literally and musically, I tend to swim more in the runnels than the mainstream. As poet Philip Larkin once admitted, "I feel very much the need to be on the periphery of things." ...
A founding member of Silly Wizard, Johnny Cunningham (1957-2003) appears on all the band’s best albums, including the best of their best, So Many Partings in 1979. Track 5, “Donald McGillavry / O’Neill’s Cavalry March,” still gives me a head-to-toe thrill, especially the second tune powered by the Cunningham brothers, Johnny on fiddle and Phil on piano accordion.
This December 15 will mark the eighth anniversary of Johnny Cunningham’s death. A heart attack claimed him at age 46 in New York City. But I still take solace in an inscription he had on the back of his fiddle. The words appeared near the image of a tree, ostensibly the one from which the wood for his fiddle was taken: “In life I was mute, but in death I sing.”
The music and personality of Johnny Cunningham still sing in me. I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. Shortly after his death, I wrote two articles about him for the Irish Echonewspaper. Here, I’ve tweaked or truncated the article conveying my reminiscences about him and tucked in a few others.
I know what you’re thinking: Why not wait until December 15 to post this blog entry? My answer is: Johnny, who marched to a different bodhran beater, would not have minded, so why should I? Besides, I was rereading some verse by William Blake and Robert Burns yesterday, and it restirred memories of Johnny, who loved the work of both. I guess you could say this blog entry represents Johnny on the spot.
Click here to read my substantially revamped Irish Echo piece..." http://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/the_best_american_poetry/2011/11/johnny-cunningham-loved-the-poetry-of-blake-and-burns-by-earle-hitchner-guest-blogger-during-oct-23-.html
Johnny's Tune, by Bill Morrisey
Born to the traveling life that is what we do
We use the whiskey and the wit
And the luck to pull us through
You look up to the gray sky
And tell yourself it's blue
You look for the famiiiar
When you have to face the new
And these days
The sun don't rise
As much as it goes down
Things look a little different
Now that Johnny has left town...
Requiem for Bill Morrisey, friend and colleague of Johnny's
By Barry Crimmins
... Bill's tongue was in cheek when he wrote his Letter from Heaven but I believe in his immortality. You see, Bill lived in and documented an age but he played to the ages, the destination for which he was truly bound. If I know Bill, his arrival was hunble, unassuming. "Me? Live forever? Really?"
"Yeah you, Bill Morrisey. Right through there. You're friend Johnny Cunningham is expecting you."
So he gently pushed open the door marker "reserved for those who made a permanent and positive impact" and carefully walked in to size up his new circumstances. Five minutes later he'd won over everyone. Next, the greatest writers and artists of all-time demanded a few numbers from the new guy. And with Johnny on the fiddle, Bill astonished them. And there, once and for all, he found true love, and it is perpetual, and you'd be wise to mention his name to the bartender.
Read the full article here
Peter and Wendy
By Rohana Elias-Reyes, for nytheatre.com on May 8, 2011
Mabou Mines’ Peter and Wendy, now running at the New Victory, is a wonderful production to bring children to, but it is not a piece of children’s theater per se and you should definitely heed the recommendation that it is best for those eight and older. Its immensely beautiful theatricality is shot through with moments of deep sorrow for the loss of youth. You and your kids will recognize the basic story—the Darling children Wendy, Michael, and John fly off to have adventures in Neverland with Peter Pan, leaving their grieving parents and nursemaid, a dog named Nana, behind. However, here the focus is primarily on Wendy’s relationship with Peter and not on the amazing events that take place in Neverland. In this staging, based on J.M. Barrie’s novel Peter and Wendy, rather than his play Peter Pan of a few years earlier, the feeling is of childhood remembered from the distance of adulthood, rather than an experience of exuberant youthful adventures. The late Scottish composer Johnny Cunningham’s Celtic score (a nod to Barrie’s heritage), beautifully performed by live musicians and singers, adds to the feeling of nostalgic longing and loss.
Click here to read more...
Johnny Mooning. my wife Jill and I went to see the Celtic Fiddle Fest in Madison Wis. years ago. We sat at the far edge of the balcony, where our line of sight was down across the stage (the long way)...we could see backstage too. At one point, whilst Kevin Burke was doing his solo set, we saw Johnny and a friend backstage. Johnny had on one of those long duster coats. As we watched in amazement we saw Johnny remove that duster, turn around and drop his drawers...mooning Kevin and us. We broke up laughing and pointing while Burke struggled to keep his composure. Then the friend standing next to Johnny pointed up to the balcony and apparently told him we could see his "moon". Very funny and very unforgetable. I miss you Johnny. ~ J McNally
Hi Johnny! Nice music you did while in "Silly Wizard" band. Thank you for this! ~ Greetings from Republic of Moldova.
Your music lives in our hearts. Johnny you were one of the best. ~ Lots of love from Barcelona
Aye. Just missing you Johnny.I'm happy to still have the music. See you a very very long time from now. ~ Eamon
We still love and miss Johnny. Winter and Christmas greetings and hugs to his family and loved ones! ~ Ty
Dafey's Locker, New Bedford, MA. Johnny and Ellie play seagulls. We love you Johnny. ~ Ellie
DECEMBER 15TH, 2010 | JOHNNY'S 7-YEAR ANNIVERSARY
Painter Len Leone Brings Light to Johnny
I’ll always remember how the mood of the room would change when Johnny entered. He didn’t have to do or say anything but it all shifted to up beat and festive. His distinctive Scottish accent would ring out and bring a smile to all in attendance. AHHH… JOHNNY’S HERE.
It seems it was only a few days ago we were hoisting a few pints and conjuring up a new project. When dealing with a sudden, tragic loss such as this I tend to embrace it, as I was not willing to let him go so easily.
Trisha was kind enough to provide me with photographs as reference for the project soooo… I would meet with Johnny in my studio every night for several months just as we had done at 11th Street. This went a long way in alleviating the grief. Working on these paintings and drawings helped me to cope there by continuing our visits and extending our camaraderie.
The paintings are safely tucked away, just as Johnny is and will remain, fondly, in all of our hearts.
Robert Burns Widow, Jean Armour's Letter Discovered
Johnny's friend and colleague, Nancy Groce, recently found a rare letter written by Jean Armour, Robert Burns wife, in a second hand shop in New York City. Nancy remarks on this serendipitous find, "The letter was looking for me because it knew I'd take it home." It's discovery and passage back to Scotland is chronicled in The Scottish Literary Review.
Nancy's 2010 book release is Lox, Stocks, and Backstage Broadway: Iconic Trades of New York City
Johnny and Phil Cunningham Reunite at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Johnny's good friend Nancy Groce was instrumental at getting the two brothers to perform together at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Click here to view on youtube.
In Memory: T Bone Wolk (1951-2010)
A friend of Johnny's and Bass guitarist for Hall & Oates. Daryl Hall says, "T Bone was one of the most sensitive and good human beings that I have ever known."
Nick Lowe, Darly Hall and T Bone Wolk 'I live on the Battlefield"
In Memory: Andrew Grene (1965-2010)
Andrew and his twin brother Gregory were both fans and friends of Johnny's. Johnny produced Dreaming in Hells' Kitchen for Gregory's band The Prodigals in 2001.
Andrew, a national of Ireland and the United States, was working for the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Haiti when the earthquake hit this year. Gregory describes his brother, "He believed passionately in the Haitian people. He believed in giving every person in the world a fair shot and he gave his life for that."
Foreign Minister of Ireland, Micheal Martin, says, 'Andrew is a part of a long and honorable Irish tradition of public service with the United Nations. His family and indeed Ireland, can be very proud of his work.
There is a foundation in his honor; AndrewGrene.org which will use donations to assist the education and support of the Haitian people.
Memories of Johnny
I wish I could have personally thanked and congratulated Johnny for his song "Mona Lisa Lost Her Smile" sung by David Allan Coe. I find this to be the most profound and intelligent set of lyrics I have ever read and heard - pure genius! I can not help but cry when I read or hear those words. Thank you Johnny! I wish I could have met you. I have been inspired to listen to your other tunes. Sincerely, Gerry McDaniel.
Johnny my Mucker: I first met Johnny in Limerks Pub in downtown Boston 1985-86. My mate Liam Tiernan introduced me to him. I was in awe because I knew his work and talent was of the highest standard. When we got talking, I knew I had found a new friend and a smashing spud!! His humour was out of this world. All we did was laugh. We played sessions inLlimericks for awhile, spending long nights playing music we loved and laughing. I always believed Johnny was a rock and roll fiddler, so one day we were at the tall ships in Charlestown, MA. I introduced him to some rocker friends of mine (The Red Rockers), Jimmy Reilly from Belfast, who at one time drummed with Stiff Little Fingers, Daren and Tye from New Orleans. Jimmy asked me who was the cool rocker dude in the snake skin boots that I was drinking whiskey with. I told him that he was the best, most progressive fiddle player I had ever heard. Within minutes Jimmy was biting Johnny's ear off to form The Raindogs. Not long after this, I was involved in a serious car crash in Vermont. I was lucky to survive and had to move back to Ireland to start the long recovery. I didn't know of Johnny's passing and was quite shocked to find out through the Internet. All I can say is that he was one of a kind, unique and brilliant human being. I thank God that I had the chance to get to know him and enjoy his company. God bless you, Johnny, until we meet again. Sean Sands - Belfast
My One Time Meeting with Johnny: Back in 87-92 I waited tables in a Scottish Pub in Columbus Ohio, when Johnny came in and sat at one of my tables. He and I just hit it off and he ended up just hanging out talking most of the night. I drove him back to where he was staying and he invited me to come check out the band he was in, The Raindogs, the next night. I went and was hooked on their music. Couldnt stop listening to it. I bought copies of both albums for many many friends. Fast forward to today I was sitting with my son (4 years old) watching music on Youtube when he said what music do you like Daddy, I said well let me show you and I looked up the Raindogs and was happy to find some old footage of them. I googled them and found out that Johnny had died in 2003. I only met him that one time but he left an impression on me, in more ways than one. He was a nice guy, funny and talented. He also changed how I listened to music and the types of music I liked! My heart goes out to his friends and family who really knew him. After watching some videos and explaing to my son that he had died, my son said, "Daddy, I am sorry I can't meet your friend, but I can listen to his music...can we watch it again!"
You Were a Massive Influence: I was a teenager when I first attended a Silly Wizard performance at SDSU in San Diego, California... must have been about 1981. That day changed my life, more than anyone could have known. I was already performing music and would soon explore music production. Watching Johnny and SW at that show (and then every other show I could attend) and meeting them all at a friend's house where the band was put up, inspired me to weave similar musical passages and moods into my own work. I may not have become as successful a musician had Johnny's passion not opened my heart that little bit more. I recall one show where Johnny and Phil were performing one of their legendary duets... as Phil was half way through a lengthy tin whistle solo, he paused to breathe, feigning that he has not taken a breath until then. That was a good minute or two into his solo. Everyone laughed. As Johnny then commenced his solo "response", he then also paused and feigned a breath a minute or so in, as if his solo thus far was also done in one breath. It was so ridiculous and hysterical!!! I will never forget it... never forget you, Johnny. Hope to hear you again in that Land O' the Leal someday! With love from that long-haired teenager sitting on the floor in front of the first row, Matthew Lien.
Remembering Johnny yesterday on the anniversary of his leaving this life and going on to the next one. He has and always be the dominant influence on my music, setting the bar for beauty and ferociousness. Miss him and yet feel him around often when the music hits that certain "note".
I remember so vividly the first time I saw Johnny Cunningham's "Soul of Christmas" on PBS. What a beautiful presentation! My family and I still have the video and CD. Thank you, Johnny.
I'd love to play the fiddle like he did, and I keep trying. With love, Wim VH - Belgium.
Johnny I think of you often and the good times we would have at Flann O'Brien's on a Monday. I would be behind the bar and it would be as though I wasn't even working ...you would have me laughing so hard. Then Kevin Armitage would come in...then the Rush brothers. Thank you for the joy you still bring to me when I think of those days. I take great comfort in knowing that our dear friend Kevin in his passing will be holding court with you again...may you both rest in peace ...play great music and share in the spirits...love you, Colleen
Silly Wizard. The very best folkgroup ever!!!!! Thank you, Sven Hopfner.
Mabou Mines Performs Peter & Wendy at The New Victory Theater
Peter and Wendy returns to The New Victory Theater from May 6-22, 2011
Read more about Peter and Wendy
Click here for The New Victory Theater
DECEMBER 15TH, 2009 | JOHNNY'S 6-YEAR ANNIVERSARY
Professional Photographer Nakki Goranin Remembers Johnny
"Meeting John for the first time was the same as a reunion with an old dear friend. Johnny was one of those rare creatures that you experienced immediate intimacy with. He was and is a very dear friend. When Johnny saw these photos, which I took in 1986, he was living outside of Boston. His reaction to the prints was one that every photographer dreams of. He told me that I had captured the way he felt inside and photographed him the way he saw himself. For me and others, he is still very much here."
Note: The Raindogs band photo was taken later on, when the band played in Burlington, Vermont.
Nakki is the author of AMERICAN PHOTOBOOTH, www.Norton.com 2008. She has also just completed a book for Norton on Tintypes, and is included in a traveling show American Masterpieces with the National Endowment of the Arts. Nakki still works with film and chemistry, and her work and reviews of her work have appeared in the New Yorker, Smithsonian, Geo, Focus, Black and White, People Magazine, the New York Times, and the Toronto Star. Her self-portraits are part of the International Center for Photography (ICP) permanent collection. Nakki lives in Burlington, Vermont and is working on her next photo book, as well as a book of self-portraits.
All Photos © Nakki Goranin 2009, www.nakkigoranin.com
Peter and Wendy by Mabou Mines performed in Edinburgh, Scotland for the first time in 2009
The Guardian: Peter and Wendy
The Scotsman: Theatre Review Peter and Wendy
The Scotsman: Johnny Cunningham's Music for Lee Breuer's New Take on Peter Pan Was the Start of a Tragic Celtic Love Story
Lee Breuer, Director of Peter and Wendy
“Johnny was a huge influence on this show. He brought a tough, dry Scottish sensibility to Peter and Wendy and he had such a gentle sense of humour, a sweetness. I even got to write a song with him – the final song, 2 is the Beginning of the End, which was an enormous privilege,” says Breuer. As Breuer pauses to gather his emotions, Lorwin interjects: “Look, Johnny was, indeed, still is, the beating heart of Peter and Wendy. I too got to write a song with him – the Wendy House Song.”
Whenever he listens to Cunningham’s music, Breuer says, he weeps: “His music tells you what to feel and how to feel. We had all these plans to work on other things together ... We were devastated by Johnny’s death, so bringing it to Scotland is very emotive for us – it’s his memorial, a tribute in the memory of a remarkable man who died much too soon. It was Johnny’s dream for this show to be performed in Scotland. It’s just too bad he won’t be with us – but I guess he will be through the magic of his music.”
Memories of Johnny
What can I say about Johnny Cunningham? I first met Johnny in Boston when I auditioned as a keyboard player for “The Raindogs”. Jim Riley, formally of Stiff Little Fingers got me the audition. Johnny and I hit it off right away, and within minutes I realized that he was a musical genius. I got the gig and had three rehearsals – the first show was at Boston Garden. We were then in New York to do some gigs with Bob Dylan when the band got the news that their record company was dropping them.
I soon got a call from Johnny asking me to play piano on an album he was producing, in Boston for Robbie O’Connell. I spent a week recording and stayed at Johnny’s house. Johnny was a brilliant producer. He had a great ear and knew exactly what the record should sound like. I returned to New York and not long after that Johnny called me again.
He asked me to work with him on a theatre project in New York as his assistant. The project was ‘Peter And Wendy’ a work in progress, performed with live musicians, a narrator and puppets. I was very interested in the piece as I had composed music for a few plays at the Irish Arts Centre. Johnny arrived in New York and was living at the infamous Chelsea hotel. We were rehearsing at St. Ann’s Church in Brooklyn. The first day at St Ann’s it was just Johnny and I in a little room with my keyboard and his fiddle. He had the score already in his head. It just flowed out of his fiddle, so perfectly.
Every evening we would drive back to Manhattan and meet up with everyone involved with the show. There is a Spanish restaurant at the Chelsea that Johnny loved. We would arrive there with 10 to 15 people every night, drink sangria and eat tapas. One morning I was picking him up and went up to his room. I sat on his bed and a mouse ran across the floor. I screamed and shouted “Johnny, there’s a rat in your room!”. He started to laugh said, “Brian, that’s my wee mate.” “John, I will meet you in the lobby,” I said. The next few nights at the restaurant I noticed Johnny was asking the waiter for the bread to take home. I asked him what’s with all the bread Johnny. He whispered, “ It’s for my wee friend.” I will never forget that night. We had so many laughs with Karen Kandel and the whole gang from the show.
I have so many fun memories of Johnny, especially hearing him perform. He looked so at home when he was on stage, very natural. I always said to him that he was the wizard in silly.
Never will forget you, Johnny,
July 2009 - ‘Soul Cake’ was part of a five day reading workshop by New York Stage & Film, held at the POWERHOUSE Theater on the Vassar campus. The cast included: Peter Gerety, Chris McCann, Jay Patterson, Michel Lewis and Brian Dykstra. Other writers involved: John Patrick Shanley, Beth Henley, Regina Taylor, Andrew Dolan.
Dec. 2008 - ‘Soul Cake’ is given a partial read at the 11th Street Bar as part of a memorial service for Johnny Cunningham, who’s music and life inspired the play.
ROB HAYES, AMHERST, MA:
In the early 80's I was in my early 20's and saw Johnny at the Iron Horse in Northampton, Massachusetts. He was playing that very cool fiddle of his with the head carved in the scroll. I had recently become obsessed with fiddle playing myself, and at the end of the concert I struck up a conversation with him. "Ah, do you play?" he asked me, and without a moments hesitation thrust his fiddle toward me. I felt like the fiddle was still glowing with his energy when I tried it. What a treat. I'd swear my playing got a tiny bit better just on that wave of inspiration alone.
Though he's been gone more than 5 years already, I think of him, that cool moment, and his music often. Way too soon to go.
I was saddened to hear of this great loss. When I first got my driver's license in high school, I was excited to see that Nightnoise was performing in a little place in Sandpoint, Idaho (about 2 1/2 hours away). I dragged my best friend whom mainly listened to the typical rock and roll angst music of our youth, but he and myself were held captive by Johnny's playing. I got to talk to Johnny outside about a piece he wrote (my favorite at the time) and he had such a great sense of humor. In his accent he said "I wrote that in Madrid one morning. The sun was coming up, but I was going down."
A Tribute to a Friend
From Jerry Holland's website: Jerry Holland, Cape Breton fiddler and composer extraordinaire, passed away peacefully on Thursday, July 16, 2009 at the Northside General Hospital, in North Sydney, Nova Scotia. He was 54. From a very young age Jerry established his name as a world-class Celtic musician – and eventually his compositions found their way into the repertoire of players of all traditions. Jerry was also widely thought of as a generous and continuous inspiration to his vast network of students and friends – at home and all around the world.
Jerry wrote a beautiful melody for his son, LONESOME EYES. It was posted, June 8, 2007 on YouTube Jerry Holland Update Part 2.
Jerry Holland and Johnny Cunningham. Photo by Jack Rowell
DECEMBER 15TH, 2008 | JOHNNY'S 5-YEAR ANNIVERSARY
Johnny's handwritten note of favorite quote
11th Street Bar Reading of a Play written by Dan Moran
"Johnny Cunningham was a friend of mine for far too brief a time. I've written a play that features Johnny, his music, and his friends. Johnny joined our circle at the 11th St. Bar for only the last year of his life. The play takes place on the day he died and in a place he loved. This is not a docudrama of Johnny's last hours. Instead it is a celebration of Johnny's spirit, his music, and the good times we had."
Lead in to the story:
"The date is December 15th, 2003.
The place is the 11th St. Bar, located in Manhattan's Lower East Side.
Two years have passed since the Twin Towers came a'tumblin' down.
The good feelings of community immediately following that terrible tragedy have cooled.
Developers are eating up every squat of vacant lot in the neighborhood.
Including the rat infested 11th Street Bar that many a local calls home.
The owner is selling and somebody's buying, but who?"
The play will be read at the 11th Street Bar on December 15th, 2008 @ 6pm
In memory of Johnny's Fifth Anniversary.
It is free to the public and we hope to keep it informal.
Johnny would have wanted it that way.
P.S. from Dan
"In my life I have been fortunate in friends and family.
I have loved and been loved by some truly extraordinary people.
Johnny Cunningham was one of those extraordinary people.
Not because of who he was, but because of who he wasn't.
Johnny wasn't a braggart, or a phony, a name dropper,
an egoist, or a self-serving bastard.
And yet he had every right to be.
His talent was enormous."
The Sligo Indians: Tony DeMarco's first solo album after playing for 30 years
New York's Irish Fiddler for the 11th Street Sunday Sessions
"I knew Johnny since we were both about twenty years old. The first time we met, he was out on the street in front of Kenny's Castaways on Bleecker playing fiddle. We both had that long hair, hippie look and we were both fit as a fiddle. That was over 30 years ago.
We made friends and it lasted all those many years.
I played a number of Sessions in town and whenever Johnny was in the city he come by and play a few tunes with me. During his last year with us, Johnny broke his wrist and part of his wrist rehab was showing up at Sessions I was running at that time; Swifts, Paddy Reillys, 11th Street. I would always give him my fiddle, and he'd start by a playing a tune or two, slowly nursing himself back to fiddling.
Eventually he'd be holding onto my fiddle for a half hour - hour, playing like there was no tomorrow.
Johnny was larger than life. In his music and his persona. He lit up the room, he lit up the bar, he lit up the sessions whenever he came by. He loved to be around the music. And the People."
NEW ALBUM BY KEVIN BURKE
Kevin includes on his latest album the instrumental, 'For Johnny' composed by Phil Cunningham
JOHNNY AND LA MUSGAnA ON YOUTUBE
La Musgaña - Manuel Luna - Johnny Cunnungham
La Musgaña y Johnny Cunningham
DECEMBER 15TH, 2007 | JOHNNY'S 4-YEAR ANNIVERSARY HONORED BY BARRY CRIMMINS
The Isle of Sky
More Jagged Path
I can't believe Johnny Cunningham's been gone for four years. At times
it seems like he got up and excused himself just a moment ago and presently
he'll burst back in with some amazing story about what he ran into while
he was away. At other times it seems like it's been forever since the
saintly sinner walked among us. Either way, alas.
Johnny was an infectiously incorrigible slave to his art. True to his
virtuoso soul, he was always working and playing. It seems impossible
that someone could get that much of each into a mere 46 years. Johnny
did it by burning the candle at both ends with a fire that sparked his
great music and sparkled in his eyes.
When we met, I'd known of the great Johnny Cunningham for years. I'd
caught Raindogs gigging around Boston and had seen Johnny perform with
other acts, as well. I was an unabashed fan. I was pleased and charmed
to learn that Johnny had seen me perform here and there. As was his way,
he lavished generous praise upon me concerning my work as a political
satirist. I resisted the compliments, allowing that Johnny had a world-class
sense of humor but he could also do something. Musically speaking, I was
tone deaf. Johnny said, "Aye, Barry but ya don't understand, that's
what recommends ya! There's no fear ya'll ever know any better!"
We had a good laugh and if I recall correctly, several beers. Before
the second round, we were friends. Before the evening ended we were good
friends. I had joined a club with several thousand members. The good friends
of Johnny Cunningham.
After that we regularly ran into each other on Monday afternoons in Harvard
Square. We looked at Monday as our weekend. In those days we were both
performing at least five or six nights a week, with plenty of travel mixed
in. Motivated by a strong sense of justice and powerful thirsts, we felt
we had a right to at least one day off. Still, during 'normal' business
hours on Mondays there were loose ends to tie up concerning scheduling,
travel, upcoming projects and so on. So it would be late afternoon or
early evening before our unplanned but nonetheless frequent get-togethers
We didn't talk much about show business, except to speak of our mutual
friends in the racket. Friends were never forgotten when Johnny was around.
Mostly we interacted with the other patrons, trying to get them to behave
as if Saturday fell on Monday for them, too. As the evening wore on, we'd
move from tavern to tavern, often with a growing entourage of revelers
who had no idea their pied piper was actually a legendary Scottish fiddler,
who was also a composer and producer and friend and mentor to a Who's
Who of music.
night Johnny and I decided we were going to get a regular patron of one
joint to loosen up a bit. Our target was a classic trust-fund tragedy
who came in and slowly sipped martinis while doing the Times crossword
puzzle. We never had gotten more than a grunt out of the fellow. Johnny
said, "Just to look at him is to know that privilege has kept from
him the opportunities you and I have met along the more jagged path life's
Within a half an hour Johnny had the scion of a bitch dancing! Johnny
wasn't dancing. I wasn't dancing but the sourpuss was. He wasn't dancing
well, mind you, but he was dancing just the same and having a great time.
Before the night was over, Johnny was wearing the rich man's tie as a
headband and our new friend was lunging for the tab. A certain fiddler
had explained to the Brahmin that money isn't properly appreciated until
Johnny Cunningham left me with something to remember him by -- my own
name. He asked me my heritage and I said I was Irish-American. He replied,"
It's pitiful that ya don't even know where you're from."
Then he explained to me that the 'Crimmins' family in Ireland was first
a Scottish clan known as the 'MacCrimmons'. He told me about my people,
something my own people had never done. According to Johnny, my ancestors
were the maniacs who led the charge into battle, playing bagpipes until
the enemy was engaged, at which point they became a vicious hand-to-hand
assault force. He said, "That's right, Bar, your lads walked point
with bagpipes. And off the battlefield, no one messed with them. To this
day, any MacCrimmon is given a wide berth in Scotland."
I expressed some skepticism but Johnny would have none of it. "You
think ya haven't even a wee bit of that blood in your veins? For fook's
sake, have you thought about what it is ya do for a living? Ya tell Americans
they aren't God's gift to the world and you've done it for years and ya
aren't dead yet! Just wait -- one of these days I'll Introduce you to
friends from Scotland and when I tell them your name, you watch them step
back and make way."
Months later Johnny and I were working a benefit somewhere and he had
a gaggle of Scot musicians accompanying him. I poked my head into his
dressing room to say hello. "Oh, you're here, Bar! Brilliant! I want
to introduce you to some lads from back home."And then he winked
at me and grinned wildly and said, "Boys, I want ya ta meet my friend,
As if on cue they all jumped backwards. Between chortles Johnny said,
"Ya needn't worry, he's gentle unless ya cross him."
I know he set the whole thing up -- at least I'm pretty sure. And I never
checked out the 'MacCrimmons walking point with bagpipes' deal because
if Johnny took the time to contrive that tale, I wasn't about to let facts
stand in its way. What I know for sure is that Johnny Cunningham wanted
me to have what he had and that was a deep and abiding connection with
the world and many people. Even if I hadn't a wee dram of Scottish blood
in me veins, Johnny not only welcomed me to his clan but he brought me
into it in a place of honor. He did it with wit, generosity and humor.
He did it with flair and a melodic grace. He did it as if he knew he would
leave too many of us, too soon, with nothing but lovely memories of a
-- Barry Crimmins, http://www.barrycrimmins.com
THE NEEDIEST FAMILY FUND OF NEW BEDFORD
Bedford, Johnny's home for many years
Sponsored by the local Standard Times newspaper, the Neediest
Family Fund of New Bedford helps townspeople during this holiday season.
A Christmas donation was made "with love and memory of Johnny Cunningham"
by Holly, Arielle, and Ron.
To learn more about the Neediest Family Fund of New Bedford, visit
JOHNNY CUNNINGHAM LIVE ON YOUTUBE.COM!
Tradition : Phil & Johnny Cunningham
The Cunningham Brothers on Box and Fiddle. Two of Scotland's finest musicians
of recent times. Strathspey and Reels
Tradition: Phil & Johnny Cunningham 2
The Cunningham Brothers again. Phil on mandolin, whistle and accordion with
Johnny showing his talent on the fiddle.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 31st, 2007 | MABOU MINES 'SONG OF NEW YORK' OPENING NIGHT
Read today's NEW
YORK TIMES feature article about Mabou Mines' unique traveling performance
'SONG FOR NEW YORK: What Women Do While Men Sit Knitting'
Friends, New Yorkers and Fellow Artists:
We at Mabou Mines are excited to invite you to see our most joyful and
unusual production to date. SONG FOR NEW YORK: What Women Do While Men
Sit Knitting is a musical celebration of the city that will be performed
FREE to public audiences on the waterfront of Gantry Plaza State Park
in Long Island City, Queens.
Friday, August 31st
Tuesday, September 4th
Thursday, September 6th
Friday, September 7th
Sunday, September 9th
Rain date: Wednesday, September 5th
Seating for the performance and access to the audience photo booth will
begin at 6:45 pm each night. All performances begin at 8:00 pm. We hope
to see you at Gantry Plaza State Park.
Sincerely, MABOU MINES
GANTRY PLAZA STATE PARK is located at 474 48th Avenue, Long Island City,
Queens (718-786-6385). Easy public transportation is available.
Subway: 7 train to Vernon Blvd/Jackson Ave. Walk west 2 blocks to Gantry
State Park OR G train to 21st St/Jackson Ave. Walk west 3 blocks.
Bus: B61 or Q103 to Vernon Blvd/Jackson Ave. LIRR: station at Borden
Ave and 2nd St. Long Island City.
Water Taxi: The NY Water Taxi runs from Manhattan to Borden Ave in Long
Island City. Visit www.nywatertaxi.com
for schedule and fares.
(Why I Blame Johnny for) MY CAREER AS A DRAMATURGE
by Nancy Groce
It was fall 2003 and I had just finished working on the massive “Scotland
at the Smithsonian” program for the 2003 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
In addition to being an old friend, Johnny had be invaluable as one of
the key advisors that helped us shape and present a very successful ten-day
celebration of Scottish culture on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
I had escaped for a vacation in northern California and was enjoying a
lovely lunch at a local winery when the phone rang. It was Johnny asking
if I would be the “dramaturge” for an upcoming Mabou Mines
production called “Song for New York.” The show was in its
earliest stages, but he excitedly told me, he was going to write the music.
And it would involve poets, actors, musicians, a chorus of knitters, and
Although I’m primarily a folklorist and ethnomusicologist, Johnny
knew that I also had a long-standing interest in New York City history
and culture and that I had been totally impressed and charmed by “Peter
and Wendy.” My initial reaction was to be flattered but to decline.
“I have no theater experience,” I told him, “I’m
really busy, I don’t have the foggiest idea what a dramaturge does,
and I barely know how to spell it.” “Well, think about it,”
And so I did. And after dismissing the idea entirely, I started to think
it might actually be great fun to work with Johnny on a project as well
as with a distinguished theater company like Mabou Mines. The next day,
I rang him back. “OK,” I said, “I’ll do it if
you can explain what a dramaturge actually does and walk me through everything
else.” He swore he would.
About a month later in early December, he came through Washington on tour
and after his Kennedy Center gig we went out for dinner to discuss dramaturging.
Unfortunately, we wound up spending the rest of the evening drinking and
gossiping about all and sundry. We never did get around to the theater
piece, but we agreed we would have a serious discussion when we both got
back to New York at Christmas time. Unfortunately, fate intervened.
After Johnny’s death I admitted to Ruth Maleczech and her Mabou
Mines colleagues that I had no idea what a dramaturge does and offered
to step aside. They were incredibly generous and supportive and wouldn’t
hear of it. When my friend Lisa Gutkin was brought on as the composer,
there was another reason for me to stay. So while I’m still not
sure I know what I’m doing, it has been a rewarding and fascinating
journey and I feel fortunate to have been involved in an exciting creative
project with such exceptionally talented artists. Nevertheless, I still
HELPING JERRY HOLLAND
A good friend of Johnny's, and fellow musician - Jerry Holland, a renowned
fiddler of Cape Breton style, has recently been diagnosed with cancer
and is asking for your prayers. His friends and loved ones have set up
a website for more information and for ways to help him in this time of
Jack Rowell, a professional photographer and friend, took these photos
of the two Fiddlers. Visit Jack's website
to see more of his work. Thanks to all for your support, and best wishes,
PETER & WENDY PERFORMS IN WASHINGTON DC
musical composed by Johnny Cunningham plays through the month of June
at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. For information, visit www.arenastage.org
Peter & Wendy is the winner of two Obie Awards. This unforgettable
production, by world-renowned experimental theater company Mabou Mines,
encourages "viewers to make an imaginative leap and fly into fantasy"
Song for New York: What Women Do While Men Sit Knitting
A Mabou Mines work-in-progress will be holding a reading on June 4, 2007,
at 8pm, at the Bam Cafe in Brooklyn. The reading is free, but first come
first serve due to limited seating. This reading is dedicated to Johnny.
The performance dates are:
August 31 - Governor's Island
September 2 - Staten Island
September 5 - Bronx, NY
September 7 - Queens
September 9 - Bay Ridge, Brooklyn
For the latest updates on the performance dates and locations, visit
the Mabou Mines website.
MABOU MINES IN PRINT
The cover story for American Theater Magazine, April 2007 features Mabou
Mines' founders Lee Breuer and Ruth Maleczech. Congratulations!
CASEY NEILL'S NEW ALBUM: BROOKLYN BRIDGE
put out records with famed folk label Appleseed Recordings and Amy Ray's
(of the Indigo Girls) Daemon Records. Toured the world several times.
And befriended some of his biggest musical influences - Jello Biafra,
Pete Seeger, and Steve Earle. But, for Portland, Oregon-by-way-of-New
York singer-songwriter Casey Neill, his greatest accomplishment is "Brooklyn
Bridge". "Brooklyn Bridge" is his new album, an album that
took six years to see the light of day and features friends from The Decemberists,
as well as Erin McKeown, John Wesley Harding, and Eric "Roscoe"
Ambel (from Steve Earle and The Dukes). Produced by legendary Scottish
fiddler Johnny Cunningham, the catalyst for the record and the reason
Neill was convinced to once again approach songs with electric guitar
in mind, "Brooklyn Bridge" showcases the more rock side of Neill,
including appearances by members of The Decemberists (Jennie Conlee is
a member of Casey Neill's band when she's not on tour with The Decemberists;
Chris Funk also played on the record and has been a longtime Casey Neill
supporter), among many other friends. It all started in 1995 when Neill
self-released his first album, "Riffraff." Delving into the
folk world with a rich, raspy voice and world-traveled stories to indulge
the audience, "Riffraff" quickly garnered good press and an
audience. Landing Neill a deal with Appleseed Recordings. He followed
"Riffraff" up with his self-titled, Appleseed debut. Then came
1999's "Skree", also on Appleseed, produced by Cunningham. It
was in the studio that Neill and Cunningham formed a friendship and an
unbreakable bond, keeping in touch regularly, discussing each other's
music and life.
In 2001 Neill released "Portland West", a live record on Appleseed.
Following "Portland West", Cunningham convinced Neill to play
electric and make a record that encompassed all his influences - from
The Pogues, The Clash, and New Model Army to Ted Leo, PJ Harvey, Lungfish,
The Gits, Fugazi, and legends Nick Cave and Bruce Springsteen, in addition
to his folk and Celtic ones. It was the beginning of "Brooklyn Bridge",
a record that, when completed, would move from indie-rock to Celtic, from
pop-rock to Americana, and with an earnest, punk mindset that few singer-songwriters
can touch - and mean it - when weaving through various genres not only
on the same album, but sometimes on the same song.
But, the "Brooklyn Bridge" road would be a long, exhausting,
but ultimately rewarding one for Neill. The exhausting and most devastating,
and reason for the delay in completing the record, was the untimely death
of Neill's friend and producer, Johnny Cunningham, who died of a heart
attack on December 15, 2003. "We had 12 finished songs in 2003 and
we had begun to shop it. I had moved to back Brooklyn from Portland, Oregon.
Johnny and I put a band together in the city to perform the material.
We played a residency at the Living Room in October of that year,"
recalls Neill, discussing the completion of "Brooklyn Bridge"
before Cunningham's death. "Johnny passed away suddenly that December
and it was devastating. Two nights before he died, we sat in our local
pub, the 11th Street Bar, and he gave me a talking to about life and music
and his faith in this record. It was almost like he knew he was on his
way out. I recorded a few more songs and edited the project since, always
trying to imagine what his calls would be."
While shopping "Brooklyn Bridge", Neill decided to release
"Live on 11th Street" as a homage to Cunningham, named for their
watering hole of choice in New York's Lower East Side, and the last live
show Cunningham would ever play. Still shopping "Brooklyn Bridge",
Amy Ray came along and asked to release a record for Neill, cumulating
in 2005's "Memory Against Forgetting" (Daemon/AK Press), which
was a collection of demos, b-sides, and outtakes. With two live albums
and a compilation under his belt, and "Brooklyn Bridge" waiting
to be released, Neill decided to go into the studio and cut two more tracks,
the rocking "We Are The City" and the melodic, hook-laden "The
Holy Land" with his friends Conlee and Funk from The Decemberists.
Adding these two songs to "Brooklyn Bridge", Neill thought about
Cunningham and what he would think. He finally felt "Brooklyn Bridge"
was complete. "My family lived at the South Street Seaport since
the late 80s, in the shadow of the bridge. The scenes in The Holy Land
took place right there, too. There are a lot of songs about New York and
my time there. The bridge is such an iconic image of the city it just
seemed to be the centerpiece. For all the New York songs, this project
was shaped and influenced by Portland and its thriving music scene. It
is also a town defined by its bridges," explains Neill on the title
of the album and why he felt it was so fitting for the album and the journey
the album took.
Fed up with shopping the album to big labels (at one point he was on
the verge of signing with one), Neill passed a copy on to In Music We
Trust Records, a Portland-based label that had released records for his
friends, and the two instantly struck up a deal. "When I first started
talking to In Music We Trust and they agreed to do this record, it just
felt right to be working with a Northwest indie label, and one that had
been successful with artists I know and admire. Why didn't this happen
years ago?" Neill will say without hesitation. Finally, six years
after the record began, it had a home and was going to get released. From
the title track, which opens the album, "a love song for a girl and
for the city", as Neill puts it, to the rocking "We Are The
City" ("another New York City anthem inspired by the underground
community on the Lower East Side in the 90s"). Through the Celtic-infused
folk-rock of "The Holy Land", a song that takes place in 19th
century New York and tells the story of a John and a prostitute dancing
in Water Street outside of Kit Burns' Sportsman's Hall, a notorious venue
where rat fights took place, Neill has a knack for storytelling and engaging
his audience, all while giving them something to emerge themselves into
and forget their worries for awhile. "Next door to Sportsman's Hall
was a brothel run by John Allen where hymns were sung in the main room.
Both Burns and Allen were hated by the moral and religious establishment
of the day," explains Neill about the song. One song Neill likes
to talk about is "Watch For Me", a bleak break-up song, but
one where the melody doesn't get lost or forgotten in the bleakness. Something
that worried Johnny so, "Johnny instructed me to party 'til dawn
the night before the sessions so I'd sound like hell, like Mark Lanegan,
because we were concerned it was going to be too pretty".
2003, Self-Portrait by Johnny Cunningham, after attending the Coney Island
Neill also wrote "King Neptune" after Cunningham's passing
and added it to the album. "I wrote the song for Johnny and recorded
it with his brother Phil playing piano and accordion. I wrote it for a
tribute show we did for him at Town Hall in New York," Neill explains.
"The summer before he died he went to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade
dressed as King Neptune." It was a long road to see "Brooklyn
Bridge" through, but one that helped shape and give the record its
sound. Neill is happy to finally pay homage to Cunningham once again,
putting out the record he believed in so much to the world and allowing
them to hear it. With "Brooklyn Bridge" soon to be released,
Neill and his band are gearing up to tour in support of the record and
will tour both in the summer and the fall.
To purchase "Brooklyn Bridge," click
Watercolor by Lenny on 11th, © '05-'06
"Fire Island" Watercolor by Johnny Cunningham, 2003
IN MEMORY OF FRIENDS
Micheal O'Domhnaill: October 7, 1951 - July 8, 2006
Good friend and Partner in crime, Relativity and
GORDON DUNCAN, SCOTTISH MASTER ON THE BAGPIPES
Lament for James, Earl of Glencairn, by poet Robert Burns
'I am a bending aged tree, That long has stood the wind
and rain; But now has come a cruel blast, And my last
hold of earth is gane; Nae leaf o'mine shall greet the spring,
Nae simmer sun exalt my bloom; But I maun lie before
the storm, And ithers plant them in my room.'
SONGS FOR NEW YORK, MABOU MINES
Mabou Mines' Songs for New York production is in the works,
to be performed in 2007. For more information, visit www.maboumines.org.
Johnny delivered this toast for the 30th Anniversary celebration
of Mabou Mines, in 2001:
Here's to Creativity,
and to Sacrifice. Here's to support and forward thinking. Here's to truth
in the midst of falseness, and exploration in the face of the obvious.
Here's to belief and trust in the process. Here's to strength under duress.
Here's to those that give. Here's to those who use the gift. Here's to
all who benefit from it, and here's to Mabou Mines. Happy 30th and many
more. ~ JC
DOUGIE MACLEAN, ALBUM RELEASE
Dougie's new album Inside the Thunder, includes the second song
on the record "Song for Johnny," written in memory of a friend.
This verse in the song tells of their friendship, and highlights the
It seems we never learned to play it slow; We just danced inside
BILL MORRISSEY, ALBUM RELEASE
Bill's new album I Ain't Walking includes the song "Johnny's
Tune", featuring Cormoc McCarthy on harmonica and Bill Morrissey
on guitar and vocals.
wrote about Johnny on his way into the studio to record this album, October
I'm going back into the studio in a day or two to work on my eleventh
record and it just doesn't seem right for Johnny not to be there. There's
just a big hole in my heart. I'm recording with Billy Conway, Kent Allyn,
Cormac McCarthy and a few others, all of whom were good friends with Johnny
here in New England. His presence is always there with us and his name
comes up quite often. And Johnny stories abound as you can well imagine.
I first recorded with Johnny fifteen years ago and we somehow managed
to slog our way through Europe and the US several times. If ever I had
a musical soulmate, it was Johnny. When we were both living in Boston,
I'd write a new song, thinking it was self-contained and didn't really
need any back-up, call him up, he'd come over and by the second verse
he had a fiddle line that became so integral to the song it just seemed
ridiculous to play it alone.
I could go on and on.... I miss him so much - his playing, his company,
his wit, his perspective.
Love to all of you."
"In the early '80s, along with producer Darleen Wilson and the late
Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham, Morrissey designed a template for
recording lyric-driven modern folk music that was so widely imitated better-known
songwriters often got the credit for inventing it. One simple instrumental
statement is used, but so intelligently the results feel much more fat
and embellishing than they really are. Cunningham's repeating fiddle lines
on "Inside" and "Handsome Molly" are each so carefully
considered they feel not only like organic pieces of the melody, but of
the lyric." ~ Scott Alarik, February 2004
THE KLESZMATICS' WONDER WHEEL IS GRAMMY NOMINATED
The Klezmatics' new album Wonder Wheel, released on July 25th,
recently received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary World Music
Album for 2006.
Lisa Gutkin, fiddler player, shared some words about
her new album and the song dedicated to Johnny called "Gonna Get
Through This World" (lyrics by Woody Guthrie 1945, music by Lisa
"I wrote the song just right around the time of Johnny's death.
We performed it the week after at the 92nd Street YMCA. I feel that the
song helped me and a lot of other people get through Johnny's death."
Visit The Klezmatics' website: www.klezmatics.com
CELTIC CROSSINGS, WMUA 91.1 fm, AMHERST, MA
December 8th, the radio show Celtic Crossings out of Amherst, Massachusetts,
remembering the life of Johnny Cunningham. Sharing the vast influence
that Johnny had on music and so many musicians, WMUA celebrates his life
and remembers all of our passed loved ones who we pray are listening to
Johnny in that place they share.
Please visit www.wmua.org for more information
about Celtic Crossings.
BOOK RELEASE AND EXHIBIT: STEPHANIE LEDKIN, PHOTOGRAPHER
Stephanie Ledkin's new book From Every Stage: Images in America's
Roots Music, was released and exhibited on September 9 at the Country
Music Hall of Fame and Museum. The From Every Stage exhibit,
like the book, takes music fans on an insider's tour of life on the boards,
backstage and beyond the footlights. Images featured include bluegrass
legends John Hartford and Roy Huskey Jr, as well as Johnny Cunningham,
Snuffy Jenkins, Roy Acuff, and Doc Watson, among others.
THE DANCING DOGS
The new album, Patience, is dedicated to the memory of good
friend Johnny Cunningham and their friends Lucien & Dorothy Beauregard.
Tom Short, Joseph Rapoza, Matt Ryckebusch, Jim Robitaille, Jimi Beauregard,
and John Nieman, recorded the new album in Providence, RI, in 2002.
The Dancing Dogs website: http://www.whalingcitysound.com/
TOM SHORT'S "JOHNNY STORIES"
"This guy plays violin."
That was how I was introduced to Johnny Cunningham. My band Pumpkin
Head Ted was playing in a little dive in New Bedford, MA, and
Johnny was at the bar. Of course, everyone is treated with suspicion in
New Bedford...if you are any good, why are you here? I asked if Johnny
would sit in with the band, he borrowed a violin and blew us all away!
Over the next few years, Johnny became a good friend. He was a prolific
reader to say the least, and he devoured books like he played the violin
- very fast. I was delighted if I could lay some great book on him that
he hadn't heard of, but that didn't happen much. We would also share drinks,
cigarettes, and conversations.
Pumpkin Head Ted had some great nights playing with
Johnny, but the Apple Peach Festival, an outdoor harvest celebration in
Acushnet, MA, was the best. On stage, we were about to start the third
tune when the power went out. The pie baking ovens had blown the main
breaker! We decided to play acoustically, and Johnny said, "Let's
get down off the stage so they can hear us." We jumped down into
the audience, got into a circle, and had a great jam right among the folks.
Johnny played and recorded with The Dancing Dogs, the
first time was at an outdoor benefit concert in Fairhaven, MA. He also
helped the production of our second CD "Cynanthropy," and played
a great solo on a tune of mine called "Truth in Exile." He felt
that a tune by our trumpet player, Joe Rapoza, needed another rhythm part,
so he layed down a track on a martini glass - it was perfect!
New Bedford misses Johnny Cunningham very much. We think about him and
speak of him often, and are so thankful he came into our lives. I miss
his humor and breadth of knowledge more than anything.
Kristina has a new album released, titled In the Earth's Fading Light.
The song "Like a Thief" was written in memory of Johnny Cunningham.
Visit her website: http://www.kristinastykos.com/
Verse from "Like a Thief" And like a chill expecting love;
You could always make one shed a tear; You'd catch the
hardest heart like a thistle down; Then spread your wings and
"Well, it's about Johnny. I couldn't let his death go by without
at least trying to get the last word." ~ Kristina
July 3, 2005, 8pm
The 2005 Summerfest Celtic Extravaganza took place at the Custom House
Square Stage in New Bedford, MA. John Whelan, Hanneke Cassel, the Jennifer
Roland Band, Kevin Burke, Genticorum, Jeremy Kittel, Gina LeFaux, and
Lisa Moscatiello took the stage.
THE CELTIC FIDDLE FESTIVAL
The Celtic Fiddle Festival's new album "Play On..."
includes the song "Leaving Brittany", composed by Johnny
Cunningham. Johnny wrote a passage in loving tribute to his friends Danny
Kyle and George Jackson, which the Celtic Fiddle Festival included in
their new album.
Play on, Johnny
© Henry Diltz
Solas performed at Satalla (37 West 26th Street NYC) on March 16th, 2005.
After two standing ovations, Seamus Egan and Winnie Horan played their
encore performance for Johnny: two tunes from their first album, the classic
Their latest CD "Waiting for an Echo" is dedicated
to our friend and producer Johnny Cunningham whose spirit will live on
In addition to producing both of Solas' albums, Johnny worked with Seamus
on the musical "Dancing on Dangerous Ground".