American Theatre Magazine named Johnny Cunningham "one of the world's all-time great Scottish fiddlers."
Johnny has been playing fiddle since the age of six, and is known for his lightning-fast reels and hauntingly beautiful Scottish airs. He delighted audiences worldwide with his wry humor and stories.
Born in Portobello, Scotland in 1957, at the young age of thirteen Johnny was a founding member of Silly Wizard, the group that spearheaded the Scot side of the Celtic revival in the 70’s and 80’s. He formed the Celtic "supergroup" Relativity, with his brother Phil Cunningham, and siblings Micheal O' Domhnaill and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill of The Bothy Band.
Johnny not only enjoyed a succcessful career as a solo performer but was greatly in demand as an award-winning record producer. Among other ventures, he toured with contemporary singer-songwriter and author, Bill Morrissey, and crossed over into the world of rock 'n roll, appearing with Hall & Oates.
His own alternative band, Raindogs, made two successful CD's for Atlantic/Atco Records, touring with artists such as Bob Dylan, Don Henley, and Warren Zevon. Collaborations included projects with Cherish the Ladies and Solas, leading to four CDs and three "National American Independent Music Awards," (N.A.I.R.D. for Best Album).
After completing a four-year stint with the international Windham Hill/BMG act Nightnoise, Johnny began working with acclaimed New York-based theater company, Mabou Mines, on the theatrical production, "Peter & Wendy." He composed the music and lyrics for this adaptation of J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan," the winner of two OBIE Awards. The soundtrack album from this innovative production was released nationally in 1997.
Johnny devoted the summer of 1997 to a collaboration with Thomas Moore, best selling author of "Care Of The Soul." The result was a double CD set, "The Soul Of Christmas" released by Tommy Boy/Upaya, which, through the heart of Celtic culture and Thomas Moore's writings, explores a spiritual interpretation of traditional Christmas music and thought. A live concert version of this celebration was filmed for a PBS television special, which aired throughout the 1997 holiday season.
In fall 1997, Johnny toured throughout Scotland, Ireland, England, and Wales with The Celtic Fiddle Festival. Joined by fellow fiddlers Kevin Burke(Ireland) and Christian LeMaitre (Brittany), this tour was recorded and produced by Johnny for the Green Linnet label, and released in February 1998. The Celtic Fiddle Festival has since toured bi-annually, and recently played at the Peter Norton Symphony Space in New York, hosted by the World Music Institute, in October 2006.
A collaboration with Seamus Egan (Solas), Jeanne Butler Colin Dunn (Riverdance) and Harvey Goldsmith/Radio CIty Music Hall Enterprises, led to Johnny writing the text and lyrics for the show, "Dancing on Dangerous Ground." Johnny has since worked with producer and director, Renee McCormick, on a documentary feature about women who decide not to be mothers. Titled, "A Life Outside Convention," Johnny drew from both Jazz and American influences for its evocative soundtrack.
From 2000-2003, Johnny played with Susan McKeown and Aidan Brennan for the A Winter Talisman tour, and produced the album "A Winter Talisman" in 2001.
Even apart from work, Johnny lived a rich and busy life surrounded by friends. A skilled storyteller and comic, he shared his heart with strangers and loved ones. He resonates so powerfully that even those who did not know him felt inclined to wait in line for a hug after a concert. All too suddenly, Johnny passed away on December 15, 2003. He died at home in Trisha's arms.