Johnny Cunningham passed away on the evening of December 15th, 2003. He died at home from a heart attack, embraced in Trisha's arms.




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"The fastest way to learn of life’s fragility and brevity is the death of a friend. Johnny was my friend, a marvelous musician, and someone who represented the antithesis of indifference, selfishness, and boorishness, traits far too common in today’s world. Johnny loved people, and they loved him back. His stay was short but strong. We were lucky to have him for the time we did. He left this world a better place than when he arrived, giving us good times, great music, and vivid, lasting memories. And in memory he will continue to live: fiddling, laughing, and telling stories."  ~ Earle and Nancy Hitchner.

Johnny in Alaska

Johnny in Alaska


"Snowman" watercolor by Renee Maloof McCormick

"Snow Pome" written by Johnny for Winter Talisman Album

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Renee Maloof McCormick created the above lyrical watercolor, inspired by this poem, Snow Pome, which Johnny wrote for The Winter Talisman Album. Renee was a great benefactor supporting Johnny's website over the years. We dearly thank her and wish her godspeed in her journey into the afterlife. 10/21/18 R.I.P.

Casey Neill Remembers Johnny at the 2018 Faerieworlds Festival

Casey Neill, Kevin Burke and Johnny Connolly

Casey Neill, Kevin Burke and Johnny Connolly

"The last weekend in August was the 2018 Faerieworlds Festival held annually in North Plains, Oregon. Johnny Cunningham was involved in the music in the early days of the festival and he was beloved by the organizers and visionaries who started it. There was a very special tribute set of his music performed by an all-star cast in 2004 including members of the Peter & Wendy cast. 

This year, I performed a set with fiddler Kevin Burke and Solas accordionist Johnny Connolly. Given all of our collective history with our dear departed friend (few longer than Kevin's!), his spirit was very much with us. Faerieworlds is a mythic, fantasy and faerie themed event combining a wide range of music and artistic expression. It's like walking through a Brian Froud book! The programming ranges from various Nordic, Celtic, and neo-folk bands with even some gothic and steampunk elements.

We performed in the early afternoon in a light Summer shower which did not deter the dancers. The music was a few of my original songs including the one I wrote for Johnny - "King Neptune". The instrumentals were from Kevin and Johnny Connolly's repertoire - jigs, reels, and a Parisian waltz. We closed the set with a version of Mingulay Boat Song with some harmony vocals by Faerieworlds organizer Kelly Miller-Lopez. All and all, a great day of music and memories!"

Spoken Memories of Johnny Cunningham, with Kevin Burke


Kevin Burke produced this lovely live album, An Evening with Kevin Burke, in which he tells stories and shares tunes from his days with Johnny - called “Spoken Memories of Johnny Cunningham.”

Blarney Star Bar on Murray Street Where Johnny Performed

Casey and Johnny at Blarney Star, NYC

Casey and Johnny at Blarney Star, NYC


Johnny on Board the Gazela Ship When it Visited New Bedford, MA


Interview and footage of tall wooden ship Gazela Primero, built in Portugal in 1901

Silly Wizard Fiddler Johnny Cunningham to Have a Street Named after Him

See the full story    here    on the Hands Up For Trad website

See the full story here on the Hands Up For Trad website

The City of Edinburgh Council have provisionally given the name Cunningham Square to a square in Portobello, Edinburgh, as part of the Baileyfield South development:

Cunningham Square: Named after Johnny Cunningham, born in Portobello in 1957, was a folk musician widely considered responsible for spreading interest in traditional Celtic music around Europe and America as a member of the band Silly Wizard (amongst others).


Field of Lilies, by Lee Bone Smith in Memory of JC

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Johnny's Dear Friend, Barry Crimmins Passed Away in February 2018

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Barry Crimmins, comedian who transformed childhood trauma into advocacy, dies at 64. Read Barry’s obituary in the Washington Post

"Call me Lucky" starring Barry, who has been described as mix between “Noam Chomsky and Bluto"

Barry Crimmins Remembers Bill Morrissey and Johnny Cunningham on his Blog: Requiem Friday, November 18, 2011

“NOTE: I had several requests for a copy of the remarks I made at the 11/17/11 Bill Morrissey tribute concert. What a night! And here ya go:

Bill Morrissey and I were friends before we ever shared a stage together. Every time we did a show, it was something we drummed up, always with the help of Ellen Karas, so we could introduce ourselves to one another's audiences -- but mostly so we had an excuse to hang out together. There was nothing better than hanging with Bill.

When we met, we were both Boston-based acts making our first serious forays onto the national scene, We had a lot in common. We crossed paths all over the country. We shared information…” Read Barry’s full blog post

Remembering Bill Morrissey and Johnny

Tupelo Honey (Van Morrison) performed by Bill Morrissey, Johnny Cunningham, Top Topham live in Cesena, Italy, April 8, 1993.

Johnny's Tune by Bill Morrissey, from Come Running ℗ 2007

Bill and Johnny as guests with fine European hospitality

Bill and Johnny as guests with fine European hospitality


"The pipes, the pipes are calling" August 1, 1993, Charlotte Observer Article on Swannanoa Gathering

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Swannanoa Gathering Photo Collage by Arlin Geyer:    The Swannanoa Gathering Collage over the years includes Johnny Cunningham, who was an instructor at the Gathering. Check out 2019 schedule for fiddle workshops:   . Photo of Johnny in collage by    Nakki Goranin

Swannanoa Gathering Photo Collage by Arlin Geyer: The Swannanoa Gathering Collage over the years includes Johnny Cunningham, who was an instructor at the Gathering. Check out 2019 schedule for fiddle workshops: Photo of Johnny in collage by Nakki Goranin

R.I.P. Brendan O'Reilly 1959-2018, Founder of the 11th Street Bar


Brendan made the 11th Street Bar into a landmark in NYC's East Village. He had class, wit and unspoken of generosity, including hosting the dinner after Johnny's wake in December 2003. Thank you, Brendan, for giving so much to so many... your kindness remains with us.

Leslie Mendelson from the 11th Street Bar Shares Her Beautiful Song, Happy New Year, Released December 13, 2018

Johnny’s favorite watering hole, the 11th Street Bar, is host (and home) to many musicians, and also has the joy of Leslie Mendelson hosting their annual Christmas party. Listen to her newly released song, Happy New Year.


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The Dark of Winter (Reflections on a Scottish Christmas), by Johnny Cunningham

The dark of winter wraps around us tight.
The lamps are fired, and flickering light
beats time to the fiddle as notes float softly down, like the years' first snow.
While outside the window a blast of late December wind
whistles harmony to the drone of the pipes.
We push the old year back against the wall
so we can dance a jig for Christmas and welcome in the new.

Maeve Gilchrist recited Johnny's poem at the Zeiterion Theater on December 15th, 2016.

New Bedford's Zeiterion Theater: Seamus Egan Music Director, A Christmas Celtic Sojourn

New Bedford's Zeiterion Theater will again present A Christmas Celtic Sojourn on December 19 2017, with music director and friend of Johnny's Seamus Egan.

Last year's show was held on December 15th, the anniversary date of Johnny's passing. The show opened with the poem written by Johnny Cunningham and spoken by Maeve Gilchrist. A beautiful tribute, at a beautiful theater, around the corner from where Johnny lived.

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"Brian O’Donovan’s A Celtic Sojourn has entertained and enlightened radio audiences since 1986. Now celebrating a decade and a half of holiday performances, the Christmas-time live version of the show draws on Celtic, Pagan, and Christian traditions to celebrate the music of the season. A Christmas Celtic Sojourn reflects the compelling and diverse offerings of the weekly national radio program plus the excitement of a live show featuring the Celtic world’s best performers. The 2017 iteration of the show promises once again to be one of the chestnuts of the region’s Christmas offerings.

About the Show's Music: Solas Music Director Seamus Egan of Solas and Assistant Music Director Maeve Gilchrist from Edinburgh lead a phenomenal fiddle section of Liz Knowles, Jenna Moynihan and 15-year old phenom Haley Richardson. In the rhythm section, percussionist Ben Wittman rejoins the cast after a three-year hiatus and Chico Huff returns on bass. Virtuosic Uilleann piper Joey Abarta makes his debut with A Christmas Celtic Sojourn, along with fellow first-timer and celebrated guitarist Owen Marshall. The show is delighted to welcome back the extraordinary cellist Natalie Haas to complete the Christmas Celtic ensemble."

For more information email

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Solas  'goodbye-for-awhile' Concert at City Winery, February 2017

Seamus Egan from Solas, had a ripping 'goodbye-for-awhile tour' which included a performance at NYC's City Winery where family, friends and fans packed the house.

Johnny had an influential impact on the early years of Solas as a Producer of their two albums: Solas in 1996, and Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers in 1997.

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Happy Holidays from all of us at

Season's greetings and festive wishes from Johnny's archive to fans and friends around the world - a new website!

While it looks suspiciously similar to Johnny's original website, trust us that behind the scenes it is running quicker, works with a new content management system, is mobile responsive, and will stand the test of time and software updates :)


Duncan Chisholm Plays Johnny's Classic "Night In That Land"

Duncan Chisholm playing Night in this Land by Johnny Cunningham, with images of Caithness, Orkney, Inverness and Aberdeenshire.


Artist Len Leone Brings Johnny to the Salmagundi Club, August 2017

Len Leone had one of his paintings of Johnny selected for the Salmagundi Club's Annual Non-Juried Members' Summer Exhibition in August 2017. Congratulations Len!

Leonard Leone was a former art instructor at Marymount Manhattan College of Continuing Education, and is now a Life Member of The Art Students League and an Artist Fellow of The American Society of Aviation Artists.

Paintings of Johnny are for now available for purchase. See more of Len's paintings of Johnny, or contact

Artist Renee Maloof McCormick Remembers Johnny

Renee, now 92, has been a long time supporter of Johnny's website and preserving his collection. Many thanks to her continued support and affection for Johnny. She drew these black and white sketches the last time she saw Johnny perform in NYC.

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From the book by Caron Cicero McCormick, on Renee Maloof McCormick's paintings.

From the book by Caron Cicero McCormick, on Renee Maloof McCormick's paintings.


Mabou Mines opens after renovation with Lee Breuer's Glass Guignol: The Brother and Sister Play

This fall Mabou Mines defied the odds. In October, the venerable theatre company returned to its longtime home base, a space, now renovated and expanded, in the East Village of Manhattan's cultural hub, 122 Community Center (122CC). Lee Breuer, now 80 years old, still continues to create with his new play conceived along with his muse Maude Mitchell. The play is a fantastical mix of Beckett, Fellini and the Marx Brothers, with a tour de fore performance by both Greg Mehrten (Brother) and Maude Mitchell, (Sister).

"In conversation, Breuer effortlessly reveals himself as a philosopher, a man of thought with the uncanny ability to announce incisive edicts on the nature of art, theatre, and aesthetics with the candor of any old off-the-cuff remark: 'I’m rather convinced of the sociobiological take on theatre,' Breuer casually noted during our phone call. 'I see culture as mimetically Darwinian; it perpetuates itself in images and proliferates throughout history. Quantum truth is nothing unless it is observed and measured. It is a scientific process, and culture essentially becomes an evolutionary force.'”

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Johnny spent many years working with the members of Mabou Mines on the production of Peter and Wendy. He had this to say about the importance of culture, "The Celts were always travelling, but wherever they travel, they take what's important: music, poetry, dancing, storytelling and humour. Those are the most portable of cultural items."

Seamen’s Bethel, Mariners’ Home Restoration Officially Complete, by Steve Urbon & Southeast Today

"The New Bedford Port Society made some history Friday as it officially opened the like-new Seamen’s Bethel and Mariners’ Home on Johnny Cake Hill. It has taken about $3 million and a few years, but the 1832 Bethel has been brought back from the brink of destruction thanks to heroic preservation and fundraising efforts.

The Bethel and Mariners’ Home “are part of the core history of this city,” Montigny said. “These two buildings needed to be saved.” Walker observed that were it not for whaling, Herman Melville would be without a story to tell in “Moby-Dick.” The Bethel and Mariners’ Home are open during the Whaling Museum’s regular hours. Admission is free with the Whaling Museum admission. Admission without the museum’s ticket has been free, but a small donation is welcomed. The Bethel being a church, it cannot sell tickets but can accept donations."

View of the New Bedford Harbor from Johnny's Apartment Terrace

Johnny, a longtime lover of the maritime, would often find relaxation in watching the continuous activity of the New Bedford Harbor, one of the treasures on the East Coast.

Special Memory from Johnny's Friend, hh

Dec 15, 2017

Hope all are well. Missing my friend Johnny today. Aye……….and of course he would’a been 60 this year. It’s been a very long time since he left us. And I’ll be thinking of him when I’m playin’ a set later tonight. As I tend to do sometimes when playing anyway. Miss ye.

Slainte Johnny. hh

Frank Murray at Ramport Studio in London in Nov. 1976, © Erica Echenberg/Redferns

Frank Murray at Ramport Studio in London in Nov. 1976, © Erica Echenberg/Redferns

Farewell to Friend of Johnny's and Manager for The Pogues, Frank Murray

"Live and enjoy the present. Now is where it's at." - Frank

"The Pogues manager Frank Murray passed away on December 22, 2016, of a suspected heart attack. He was 66. 

Murray began working with the legendary Celtic punk band in the mid-1980s after seeing them play at the Hope & Anchor in London at the urging of late guitarist Phil Chevron, who joined the band soon after. He had previously been the tour manager for Thin Lizzy, Elton John and The Specials."

Read Frank's full obituary on Billboard

Sarah Poten, Dana Gerson and Kenny O'Conner attended Frank's memorial service in Dublin, and shared these images.

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Keep Fighting the Madness and Make Your Own Path

"Create your own Universe..." and other words of wisdom from a young YouTube artist, Maximus Thor. We end our 2017 memorial news with this funny video and poignant message that Johnny would have loved :)


...Johnny... This year we imagine you looking down on us, your heart bursting with compassion and the hope that we can come together to spread love and light during this challenging time in history. As with every year that passes, we take this time to celebrate the creativity and song you continue to share with us all!


The Celtic Fiddle Festival Plays 'Johnny's Set' in Glasgow 2016

Celtic Fiddle Festival is a band comprised of well-known fiddlers including Kevin Burke (Ireland), Christian Lemaitre (Brittany), Charlie McKerron (Scotland) and Nicolas Quemener (Brittany). Christian and Kevin were friends of Johnny's, and in January 2016, they played the Celtic Connections concert in Glasgow.

In their YouTube video, the Celtic Fiddle Festival perform 'Johnny's Set', which includes 'Leaving Brittany' and 'The Pernod Waltz'.

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Johnny Cunningham performs at Parody Hall, Kansas City

We recently came across a treasure trove of YouTube videos paying homage to Johnny's many live performances around the world.

This one of Johnny performing at Parody Hall in Kansas City, Kansas, is particularly wonderful and was posted on 12 June 2016. Take a peek... Parody Hall in Kansas City, "Johnny delighting an American audience with his hilarious stories and fast fiddle tunes..."

Silly Wizard's Andy Stewart Passes Away

Andy Stewart, long time collaborator of Johnny's in Silly Wizard, passed away on 27 December 2015, just after we posted our 2015 commemoration for Johnny's anniversary. Andy colorfully described the essence of Johnny in just a few words, but those words cut to the core. Watch Andy perform 'Land O' the Leal' and talk about Johnny

Casey Neill also remembers Andy's deep connection to Johnny, and another of Andy's homages to Johnny: "After the funeral reception in Edinburgh was ending, we had to clear the hotel event room. Everyone was on their way out when Andy Stewart stopped and began to sing. We all stood spellbound as he sang 'Banks of the Lee' a cappella, a song that Silly Wizard often performed. Andy's keening voice captured the sadness of the day and the beauty of Johnny's life in music with his friends and family around."

Read these moving tributes paid to "Silly Wizard Folk Legend" Andy Stewart, from Scotland's Sunday Herald and The Scotsman.


Johnny Cunningham on Fiddle with The Dancing Dogs

Posted on 9 July 2016, this is a great clip of Johnny recorded with the alternative rock band, The Dancing Dogs. The song is called 'Truth in Exile' by The Dancing Dogs, on their album Cynanthropy.

Listen the 'Truth in Exile' here


University of Edinburgh Archives Johnny Cunningham's Tunes

Click on this link courtesy of the University of Edinburgh > Discography to hear eight of Johnny's tunes online!


A Bit of History: the New Bedford Folk Festival's Celtic Extravaganza

Johnny Cunningham was the first host for the New Bedford Folk Festival's Celtic Extravaganza, which he hosted through the summer of 2003.

New Bedford Folk Festival brings together over 70 renowned and emerging performers and 90 plus juried arts and crafts vendors in New Bedford’s authentic historic district in July. In 2015, the 20th year of the New Bedford Folk Festival was celebrated.

If you are interested in joining the 2017 New Bedford Folk Festival, mark 8-9 July 2017 in your calendar and check on their website and Facebook page.

Standing stones in Scotland, © Paula Lazaroff

Standing stones in Scotland, © Paula Lazaroff

Johnny Kicks off the Thistle and Shamrock Radio Set in May 2016

On 26 May 2016, Johnny's tune started the set on Thistle and Shamrock Radio, featuring "Hebridean tweed workers’ songs, rowing songs, hiking songs, mouth music – their lyrics take a back seat to their integral rhythms that lighten the work." Take a look at the inspiring set below!

Program 1722: Song Beat (May 26, 2016) Week 21
Celtic Society’s Quickstep/42nd Highlander’s Farewell… by John Cunningham from Fair Warning (Green Linnet)
Sunny… by The Poozies from Changed Days, Same Roots (Compass)
Alasdair Mhic Cholla Ghasda… by Capercaillie from Sidewaulk (Green Linnet)
Miss Campbell of Sheeness/Balindore/Irish Jig… by Capercaillie from Sidewaulk (Green Linnet)
Don’t Forget Your Shovel… by Christy Moore from The Time Has Come (Green Linnet)
Tunnel Tigers… by Sean Keane from Turn a Phrase (Kells)
Mouth Music/ Eddie Curran’s Favourite… by Dolores Keane & John Faulkner from Broken Hearted I’ll Wander (Mulligan)
The Lady’s Dance… by Daimh from The Pirates of Puirt (Goat Island Music)
ID Excerpt: Sitting in the Stern of a Boat… by Alasdair Fraser from Return to Kintail (Culburnie)
Iomramh Eadar Il‘a‘s Uist/The Source of Spey… by Ossian from St. Kilda Wedding (Iona)
Charlie, Oh, Charlie… by Ossian from Borders (Iona)
Arran Boat Song… by Darol Anger with Alasdair Fraser from Diary of a Fiddler (Compass)
Pull Down Below… by Forebitters from Ships May Come…And Ships May Go (Forebitters)
The Waulking of the Fauld… by Ferintosh from Ferintosh (
Puirt… by Catherine-Ann MacPhee from Suil Air Ais (Greentrax)
Long Distance Runner… by The Easy Club from Chance or Design (R2 Records)


In Memorium, Environmental Sculptor Ron Rudnicki

"To the illuminated man or woman, a clod of dirt, a stone and gold are the same"... Bhagavad Gita

Environmental Sculptor Ron Rudnicki, age 60, sadly passed away in late October 2016. Ron was a fan and dear friend of Johnny's, who helped bring his ashes back to Scotland back in 2004. Read Ron's obituary on SouthCoastToday

Ron's sculptures pay homage to architectural ruins, natural stonescapes, meditation, and the elements. Read more on the GardenForeplay website, and see Ron's work in person at the DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln, MA and Jack Lenor Larsen's Longhouse Reserve in East Hampton, NY.

Picturing Johnny in One of the World's Most Beautiful Places

A recent BuzzFeed article features the "25 Places in Scotland You Won't Believe Are Real", and we immediately thought of Johnny at the Isle of Skye, dancing along the ridges of the Strathaird Peninsula (home of the ruins of the Iron Age hill fort Dun Ringill) and dipping his toes in the interconnected pools and waterfalls of The Fairy Pools at Glen Brittle.

Sincere thanks to the photographers who generously shared their images as Creative Commons, so that we can share them with you here!


It is hard to imagine that Johnny passed away 12 years ago already... So much has happened in the world since 2003, but we have peace knowing that Johnny is with us every step of the way. Thank you to everyone who continues to hold Johnny and his loved ones in your hearts, and who celebrates his life and music the world over.


Hundreds Gather to Witness Historic Induction Ceremony of the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame

By RUDY CHEEKS, Alahverdian News

"On Sunday, April 26, 2015, the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame (RIMHOF) held its 4th annual induction ceremony and concert at The Met at Hope Artiste Village in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Earlier in the week, there was a ceremony at Bovi’s Tavern in East Providence for the jazz inductees, consisting of Duke Belaire, Bob Petteruti and George Masso. Both events were sold out shows.

The main induction ceremony and unveiling of the new exhibits at the Hall (conveniently located next to the Met in the main hallway of Hope Artiste Village) was a joyous and eclectic affair featuring performances by a trio of garage bands from the 1960’s – all of whom had records on the charts back then – Brenda Bennett, veteran rhythm section players Marty Ballou and Marty Richards, and local legend Mark Cutler and two of his bands, The Schemers and The Raindogs." * We know Johnny was there in spirit!

The Incomparable Mark Cutler

Then came Mark Cutler and his early bands: The Schemers and The Raindogs. Before beginning his set, Mark, in a reverential style, hung a jacket owned by the late fiddle master Johnny Cunningham on a microphone stand on the stage. Johnny was a member of The Raindogs (as well as the legendary Celtic group, Silly Wizard). Also there were former Raindogs, Jimmy Reilly (Stiff Little Fingers, Red Rockers) and Darren Hill (Red Rockers).

The Schemers, perhaps Rhode Island’s most beloved rock band, still play occasional concerts and have a new record out called The Last Beach. The Schemers and The Raindogs were inducted by Paco Zimmer and Bill Flanagan.

Bill Flanagan Introduces the Crew

Bill Flanagan, 2014 inductee into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame, and former VP at MTV, introduces Johnny, Jimmy Reilly, and Darren Hill at marker 8:10 of the ceremony.

Congratulations to Mark, Emerson, Darren, Jimmy and Johnny!


The Blue School

This past year, the violin class at the Blue School in downtown New York, NY, had the opportunity to learn 'The Darling Waltz,' composed by Johnny Cunningham. The Blue School is an innovative school that was created by The Blue Man Group.

It's a Raindogs Kind of Year

Remembering Lost Souls

By Jimmy Guterman, ROLLING STONE (February 22, 1990), 3.5 Stars

"Lost Souls is an auspicious debut record from five seasoned players who dig for new nuances in the most established rock & roll forms. The Raindogs, led by songwriter and guitarist Mark Cutler, are a dream of a bar band, able to execute fierce three-chord rockers as well as strong, thoughtful tunes at more deliberate tempos.

The Raindogs' songs are built around Cutler's earnest tales of people in emotional and moral conflict, but the band's secret weapon is fiddler Johnny Cunningham - the member who sets the Raindogs apart from a hundred other good roots-obsessed groups. The Raindogs integrate fiddle into their arrangements with an easy assurance. This extra dimension, with its nods to both the Louisiana bayou and Celtic music, adds firepower to the band's sound and lifts straightforward midtempo rockers like "May Your Heart Keep Beating" and the overtly traditional "Under the Rainbow" to higher ground. For his part, Cunningham always subordinates his lead lines to the songs, and the Raindogs' ensemble playing brings warmth to the edgy pop of "This Is the Place" (with its wryly ambivalent key line, "This is the place I like to call home") as well as to the craft garage blues of "I Believe."

Although the Raindogs open up their sound in a variety of ways, the tough ideas behind the songs aren't at all diffuse. What makes Lost Souls so invigorating is that it reminds you how a good record can explore musical byways and still be firmly grounded in hard, riveting, mainstream rock & roll."


Johnny read Dickens on the radio, along with Robert Anderson and other members, on Christmas Eve years ago... and now his memory lives on in holiday music around the world! Read below to see how he features in Canada, the US and Spain, in 2015...


Chamber Concert of Advent, Solstice & Christmas Songs Blend in Manitou Woods, Canada

By Marta Hepler Drahos, Traverse City Record Eagle

MAPLE CITY - Logs crackled in the fireplace and lamplight glowed warmly as members of the chamber ensemble Manitou Winds rehearsed in the living room of their founder.

All that was needed to complete the feeling of winter were fat snowflakes drifting outside the picture window.

It’s an atmosphere the ensemble hopes to recreate Saturday at its "Winter Songs & Carols" concert at Grace Episcopal Church in Traverse City. The program blends songs of Advent, winter solstice and Christmas to set an introspective and reflective tone for the holiday season.

“I wanted to explore the season outside Christmas, but including Christmas — all the moods of winter,” said founder and creative director Jason McKinney, who plays oboe, piano and harp. “There’s a surprising amount of Canadian music, which wasn’t planned, and a lot of Celtic music, which wasn’t intended.”

Favorites include Loreena McKennitt’s “Snow, Sarah McLachlan’s “Wintersong” and Johnny Cunningham’s “King Holly, King Oak.” McKinney’s own “Three Celtic Carols” — composed using folk songs from Brittany, Ireland and Galicia — round out the group.

Also on the program: traditional Christmas carols including “In the Bleak Midwinter,” singer-songwriter Tori Amos’ “Winter” and former Vermont Benedictine monk Gregory Norbet’s “Winter’s Coming Home.”

It’s the first Christmas concert for the chamber ensemble, which formed in 2014. Other members include Sam Clark, piccolo and flutes; Anne Bara, clarinets; Laura Hood, horn and guitar; and Christina Duperron, bassoon.

All are active area musicians who felt something was missing until they got together.

“Chamber music is everybody’s secret (desire),” said Hood, a music teacher at the Leelanau School who frequently performs with area orchestras and bands. “You can hear yourself, you can hear others. It’s a musical conversation. It’s not a conductor telling you what to do.”


Wyoming Valley Art League Hold ‘A Christmas Carol’ Reading Set to Johnny's Music in the U.S.

By Gene Axton, Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — When Wyoming Valley Art League members Robert Anderson and Rose M. Wright lived in Massachusetts, Anderson organized Christmas Eve readings of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” that aired live on the radio station at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

“We did these readings for seven years,” Anderson said. “I thought it was a great idea because ‘A Christmas Carol’ is done by many different groups during the season but we were doing the complete text of it. We weren’t doing an adaptation or an abridgment or anything like that, we were just reading the entire text.”

Anderson felt this would’ve worked great as a benefit, but the event never grew past a holiday gesture from the seven or eight friends who volunteered a sizable chunk of their Christmas Eve night to read for the listening community of U Mass Dartmouth. After spending a large amount of time in West Wyoming with Wright’s mother, the two moved to the area (of which Wright is a native) in 2010. When Anderson and Wright organized their first WVAL event in October 2014, it served as a benefit for Ruth’s Place, the Wilkes-Barre homeless women’s shelter. This inspired him to revisit the “A Christmas Carol” benefit idea.

“It was my version of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest,’ in which I used Beatles music,” Anderson said. “It was the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth year and the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ discovery of America, so we combined these two into a play and we did it here as a benefit.”

Anderson’s Christmas Eve productions of “A Christmas Carol” sometimes featured musical accompaniment from late Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham. Theremin player Jason Smeltzer will accompany Nov. 29’s performance, which Anderson said will evoke a fitting atmosphere for Scrooge’s ghostly encounters.

Anderson started Sunday at the Circle series as a celebration of the arts, but the November iteration of the event is also a celebration of the holidays and the Wilkes-Barre community. When Anderson and Wright moved to the Wyoming Valley, they brought their Christmas tradition with them, and they’re using it to assist their new community in helping others.

Los dos últimos programas de Tráfico de tarareos en Diariofolk, (in Madrid, Spain)

Una interesante entrevista al grupo Vigüela, con motivo de la publicación de su último disco Temperamento y música tradicional de origen céltico son los protagonistas de las dos últimas ediciones del prestigioso programa de Radio Círculo, presentado y dirigido por Fernando Martínez.

El pasao viernes 21 de Noviembre, en el Espacio Ronda de Madrid, el grupo de Carpio de Tajo presentó su último disco, titulado Temperamento, un trabajo en el que recopilan algunos de los estilos más característicos de la música tradicional de esta comarca de la Mancha. Fandangos, seguidillas, jotas y sones componen su repertorio.

Después de treinta años de trabajo, abordan la investigación de la música de raíz desde otra perspectiva, basándose en los acentos musicales que encierran las melodías más que en el ritmo, la métrica y el compás. Temperamento es un disco realizado con mucho rigor pero a la vez con mucha emoción.

Listen: Vigüela, música muy tradicional de la Mancha

Dos familias que mantienen viva la tradición musical en Irlanda y en Escocia

Por un lado, Triona y Mícheál O’Dhomhnaill, irlandeses, y por otra Phil y Johnny Cunningham, escoceses, perpetúan la música tradicional de sus respectivos países, fundidos en varios proyectos. Desde Skara Brae, la primera referencia discográfica de los primeros, hasta Nightnoise. Una selección que incluye discos de Silly Wizard, The Bothy Band, Relativity y Nightnoise. También la propia Triona en un disco en solitario.

Listen: Hermanos escoceses, hermanos irlandeses


Ever An Inspiration. Johnny is ever an inspiration to musicians and laypeople with a musical bone... here is a song for your 12th anniversary, Johnny: La valse d' Amelie by Yann Tiersen. - Jenn

A Brighter School Life. My time at Portobello High school was made much brighter by hearing Johnny and Phil Cunningham play at the music competitions and school concerts. Thank you for many hours of light. - Lilly

Souveniers. Je red écouvre Johnny en cherchant sur Facebook, aprés avoir retrouvé un vieux disque vinyl de Silly Wizard. J'ai connu le groupe é Limoges (en France) entre 1973 et 1975... Je suis triste que Johnny soit parti, avec son violon... Qu'est devenu Bob Thomas? - Thanks, Nicole

For Johnny. The intent of love continues... - Zouhbie


Remembering Johnny this 11th year of the anniversary of his passing, and celebrating his life and music with all of you.

The Last Ship

Sting's exceptional musical, The Last Ship, has the honor of having three musicians in the orchestra who were all dear friends of Johnny: Christopher Layer on pipes, flutes, whistles; Mick McAuley on melodeon and Lisa Gutkin on fiddle.

The show is spectacular! If you are wondering if you should go, go now.


Sting joins the cast for a short run, and then Jimmy Nail will return to his role as Jackie White. Both men are incredible singers. Jimmy, an unknown in America and a star in Europe, carries a shipyard resonance in his voice, a hard-earned warmth and steel barrow strength.

Hear him sing his own composition, Show Me Heaven.

Sting, risking it all, bares such heartache in his lyrics and melodies that I couldn't help but think of Johnny's score for Broadway's 'Peter and Wendy,' once described as having "music that could make a grown man cry."

Bursting with soul and talent, both shows deserve the words, 'Heart-wrenchingly beautiful!'

Congratulations to Chris, Mick and Lisa. That's a helluva a ship to be out on!

'Remembering Johnny' by Mick McAuley

I got to know Johnny after I joined SOLAS, for whom he had produced the first couple of albums. I then had the pleasure of working with him on a Susan McKeown album called Bushes and Briars and then on the beautiful project called “Peter and Wendy”. The beauty of Johnny’s music speaks for itself and there is, therefore, no need for me to attest to it. But it was on downtime (usually about 4.30pm by Johnny's watch!!) during the assembly of a dance show called Dancing on Dangerous Ground that I really got to know him on a one-to-one basis. I’ll always remember our many conversations over various poet-worn counter tops of Dublin with great fondness. I learned a lot from him. As a person, I found him to be so generous of spirit, so encouraging and for a man who could talk for Scotland, he was a great listener. He could hear through the babble and listen for the essence of a thing. In music, this made him a great player and producer. In his writings, this made him genuinely unique. In life, it made him a great friend to have. I think of him often these days, now that I’m spending time on Broadway, because I would chance to say that nowhere was Johnny artistically happier than in and around the world of theater. He was made for it. And as amazing, wonderful and exciting a place as New York City is, it’s just not quite the same without him.

Musicians hang with Johnny during the Faeireworlds Festival hosted by Brian Froud.

Musicians hang with Johnny during the Faeireworlds Festival hosted by Brian Froud.

'The Realm of Froud' tribute for Johnny featuring 'Peter & Wendy' score

Friends of Johnny, Brian and Wendy Froud, made a truly beautiful memorial using the score Johnny wrote for Broadway's 'Peter and Wendy,' which also features Brian's beautiful art work.

'Captain Morgan'

New Bedford welcomed back the ship, Captain Morgan, after a 100 year hiatus. It was originally built by the New Bedford workers and now docks at Mystic Seaport. The summer of 2014 marked it's first return in 100 years to the home where it was built.

This is a fantastic website where the documentary, 'Big Ocean', written by Kevin Kertscher, describes the whaling town of New Bedford. Johnny lived on Water Street in New Bedford, where he had a magnificent view of the working harbor. The first video is the Captain Morgan sailing from the New Bedford harbor, a view Johnny would have seen from his balcony on Water Street. At the 12" and 49" marks, see Water Street where Johnny lived.


The Last Wooden Whaleship in the World

The Charles W. Morgan is the last of an American whaling fleet that numbered more than 2,700 vessels. Built and launched in 1841, the Morgan is now America’s oldest commercial ship still afloat – only the USS Constitution is older.

The Morgan was launched on July 21, 1841 from the yard of Jethro and Zachariah Hillman in New Bedford, Massachusetts. She typically sailed with a crew of about 35, representing sailors from around the world. The whaleship measures 106 feet, 11 inches length on deck with her beam measuring 27 feet, 9 inches. Her main truck is 110 feet above the deck; fully-rigged, and she carries 7,134 square feet of sail. The huge try-pots used for converting blubber into whale oil are forward; below are the cramped quarters in which her officers and men lived.

Over an 80-year whaling career, the Morgan embarked on 37 voyages with most lasting three years or more. Built for durability, not speed, she roamed every corner of the globe in her pursuit of whales. She is known as a “lucky ship,” having successfully navigated crushing Arctic ice, hostile natives, countless storms, Cape Horn roundings and, after she finished her whaling career, even the Hurricane of 1938.

After her whaling days ended in 1921, the Morgan was preserved by Whaling Enshrined, Inc. and exhibited at Colonel Edward H.R. Green’s estate at Round Hill in South Dartmouth, Massachusetts, until 1941. In November of that year, theMorgan came to Mystic Seaport where she has since dominated the waterfront at Chubb’s Wharf.

The whaleship was designated a National Historic Landmark by order of the Secretary of the Interior in 1966, and she is also a recipient of the coveted World Ship Trust Award. Since her arrival at Mystic Seaport more than 20 million visitors have walked her decks. Where once she hunted and processed whales for profit, her purpose now is to tell an important part of our nation’s maritime heritage and the lessons that history has for current generations.

Mountain Folk Vault Interview

Take a listen to this unedited, uncut radio interview with Johnny from 1983. An archival Tribute to Johnny.

"Recorded in November, 1983, this interview features the great Scots-Celt fiddler Johnny Cunningham. Warning: This is an uncut, unedited studio recording and there are just a wee few curse words. Johnny Cunningham was in the studio with concert promoter Nina Mollica and show host "East Side" Dave Kline for the purpose of promoting a concert on 11/16/83, recording a commercial and creating a few short interview segments. The original version of the Mountain Folk radio, TV & Internet show with producer / host "East Side" Dave Kline went on the air during the summer of 1980 as "East Side Dave's Bluegrass Festival," which later evolved to the Mountain Folk Show and has been promoting bluegrass, folk, mountain and outdoor-themed acoustic music ever since. The show was one of the very first radio shows to be podcast around the world on the Internet out of Penn State University. This series of Mountain Folk Vault Interviews goes back in time to the vault of archives from the many guests who were interviewed on the show. The interviews are offered here as a contribution by the show and producer to the archive of information regarding the artists and music that the show was created to promote."

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MEMORIES: Thoughts for Johnny in 2014

So there I was, standing outside of Symphony Space awaiting the start of the very first Celtic Fiddle Festival in New York. I was minding my own business when a cab stopped in front of the venue and a bearlike but very happy individual proceeded to exit from the back of the cab. After he had thanked the driver a number of times, he seemed like he needed the love fest to continue... I was in his line of site so he made straight for me in a slightly hunched manner. How are you? Smiles and more smiles. The bear hugs continued... I knew who he was-the king of the Scottish fiddle, the man who after all made "Fair Warning" and played with Silly Wizard. Gobsmacked I was, I was here to see him but it seemed he was here to see us. 'Twas always that way from future fiddle festivals to the 11th Street Bar. Johnny, we hardly knew ye... ~ Felex

Night in this land. I sure love this music. I'm sure Johnny is playing this song in heaven. ~ Jim S.

Casey's 10th Year (2013) Anniversary Tribute. For those of you who missed Casey Neill's heartwarming tribute to Johnny last year:

Thoughts on Johnny Cunningham, December 15, 2013 at 11:46am

Ten years ago this Sunday, Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham passed away in New York City from a heart attack at the age of 46. A decade later, his friendship and music continue to have a profound impact on my life. He was a giant soul - the kind of man who could walk into a bar full of strangers and in ten minutes everyone would be talking to him and laughing hysterically. He was a presence, usually clad in some combination of leather jacket, motorcycle boots, and scarf with long red hair, greying beard, and tattoos. I am no spiritualist but he had one foot in this world and one foot, or maybe just his big toe, somewhere else. And wow could he play the fiddle.


It's hard to believe that it's been ten years since Johnny Cunningham passed away in New York, NY. We want to thank all of you - Johnny's friends, family and fans who have honored and celebrated his life with your stories, memories and music. Here's to Johnny...

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BBC Radio Scotland Honors Johnny Cunningham and Silly Wizard, 12 December 2013

BBC Radio Scotland's "Travelling Folk" honored Johnny on Thursday with this beautiful tribute hour. Click here to listen


Kathleen Biggins from the WFUV radio show, A Thousand Welcomes, dedicates 'Auld Lang Syne' from The Winter Talisman to Johnny

'Johnny was a wonderful Scottish fiddler and founder of Silly Wizard. Johnny was all round fun guy to be around. In this song, Auld Lang Syne, two different versions are melded together. This one is going out to Johnny, in his memory 10 years tomorrow." ~ Kathleen Biggins


The Wilson Family, Performing with Sting on his latest album "The Last Ship": 22 December 2013

The Wilson Family and many other musicians from the North East of England (Kathryn Tickell, Peter Tickell, Julian Sutton), with actor and singer Jimmy Nail, join Sting on his latest album and Broadway play "The Last Ship." The songs are influenced by local music traditions - from pub-like folk tunes to a wall of sound from the full band. After the show at the Public Theater in New York, Chris Wilson went to Swifts and shared this memory of Johnny: "Johnny Cunningham was a great character and I feel privileged to have met this extraordinary human being, who at such an early age managed the best electric folk group that I can recall over my years of being involved in folk music. The Silly Wizard concert with Johnny, in the Coatham Bowl, Redham, when he was about 17 years old was the best concert I ever saw in my life. Johnny was electric. Incidently, we are still in touch with Gordon Jones (ex-Silly Wizard) who is currently issuing The Wilson Family album onto CD."

Check out The Wilson Family's performance with Sting on BBC, 22 December 2013, here.


Congratulations to Séamus Connolly, Awarded a NEA National Heritage Fellowship

We would like to take a moment to congratulate the talented Irish fiddler, Séamus Connolly, for being awarded the USA's highest honor in the folk and traditional arts, a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) National Heritage Fellowship in 2013.

Click here to read about Séamus on the NEA website. And don't miss this wonderful film about him on, "The Music Makers: Séamus Connolly and Friends" by Jim Higgins and Joan Ross.

Congratulations to Casey Neill, of the Casey Neill Band, on his Marriage

Friend of Johnny's and the 11th Street Bar community, Casey Neill of the Casey Neill Band, was married to beautiful Tracy in Hawaii, on 4 February 2013. In other good news from the Casey Neill Band, they've just released their latest album on 12 November, which includes a song called Sainted Streets about New York City's Lower East Side. It features a number of characters loosely based on people the neighborhood has lost - one of them, Johnny ... ("Here comes Davey with his scarf rapped 'round his throat / smoking and laughing in that famous black peacoat").

Thanks Casey, and we wish you and Tracy a lifetime of happiness and love!


Exciting News for the New Bedford Whaling Musuem

A new building for the Educational Center and Research Library at the New Bedford Whaling Museum is being constructed on Water Street where Johnny use to live. Learn more about the Museum and this great project


A New Bedford Treasure

A New Bedford treasure, Johnny's 1981 album "Thoughts from Another World", given to the Band Dancing Dogs.


Rest In Peace Ruth Maleczech, Co-Founder of Mabou Mines

Johnny and Ruth were great artists and dear friends. She had only loving words to share of him. May the light be with them both. Click here to read words honoring Ruth by Gerald Thomas, on his blog. Her obituary on states, "Ruth Maleczech, who co-founded the influential and sui generis experimental theatre troupe Mabou Mines and helped shepherd it through four decades of productions, becoming arguably its most visible member, died in her sleep Sept. 30 at her home. She was 74. As co-creator of Mabou Mines, Ms. Maleczech directed and/or appeared in many of the company's productions. A regular presence in the downtown theatre scene in the 1970s and 1980s, she became something of an earth mother figure not only to her own outfit, but to the New York avant garde theatre community in general—a role only buttressed by her warm, matronly aura."

Ruth was a supportive friend to Johnny during his collaboration with Lee Breuer and Liza Lorwin during the creation of "Peter and Wendy", a magical performance rich with puppets and music.


Rest In Peace Chris Maguire, Dear Friend of Johnny's and of the 11th Street Bar, New York

It's been a difficult year. A dear friend of Johnny's and of the entire 11th Street Bar family, Chris Maguire, passed away after a tragic accident. Chris and Johnny go way back, and we know they are up there together jamming and watching over all of us. Click here to listen to Chris performing "These Boots are Made for Walking" at the 11th Street Bar in New York's East Village, with Maria Arenlind.

In this photo, Chris plays guitar with friend Danny Barnum. Here, Danny shares his touching memories of both Chris and Johnny. Click to read the full story...

"First off I would like to thank Trisha McCormick for establishing this forum for those of us who seek to pay tribute to two unique and individual men. And so tonight I have been asked to share two anecdotal occurrences as happened to me shared alongside my brother, my friend – Chris Maguire. And so, to him personally before I begin, I just want to say – buddy, thank you for the honor of being my friend. You will be sorely missed. My name is Danny Barnum. To those of you that knew Chris Maguire and Johnny Cunningham, respectively, hopefully what I am about to share will touch your heart in some way and give you the Lord’s peace as we go through this difficult time together. These two stories establish a connection, an everlasting connection, I believe, between me, my friend Chris, and a man who I never had the privlege of meeting in his life, but who I feel like I know - Johnny. Chris Maguire is still with us. No man as good as he was can ever truly be gone. Johnny Cunningham will never truly be gone. I would just like to say, if you are looking for guidance as to what to do, I can tell you this: Chris Maguire would have said never retreat; never back down. Live life to the fullest. To finally wrap up my statement, I will tell you this: I love Chris Maguire, and if there is a heaven that we all are promised, we know we will see Chris again in that eternal bright white city because deep down I know that Chris and Johnny are getting together and arranging music. Gentlemen, I will see you there some day." ~ Danny Barnum

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Rest In Peace Ray Kelly, Lead Singer of the Mickey Finns

"The Irish American rock and roll community was gutted to its core this week [17 January 2013] with the news of the sudden death of Ray Kelly, 46, former singer and guitarist on some of the best Prodigals albums and lead singer of the Mickey Finns. Kelly, a carpenter in the construction industry, was injured while at work and passed away suddenly. Read more about Ray and his life on the Irish Central, here. I saw Ray in the Fall of 2012 at the infamous 11th Street Sunday Session. We were gathered outside the front door having a good crac, Ray standing on a rock engraving in honor of Johnny, telling us all about his time working with Johnny, producer of Dreaming in Hell's Kitchen; by The Prodigals. Ray, in his childlike heartfelt wonder, exclaimed that working with Johnny on that album was the most influential musical moment of his career and how much he loved and missed the man. That was the last time I saw Ray, and a most memorable moment at that... ~ Trisha

Click here to watch Ray perform "Leaving": Ray Kelly of the Mickey Finns sings Leaving at a seisun in the hotel lobby after the Fox Valley Irish Fest in West Dundee, IL.


Support for The Andrew Grene Foundation

Gregory Grene established the Andrew Grene Foundation for his twin brother, who lost his life while working for the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti during the tragic earthquake on January 12, 2010. Click here to watch an update on the foundation three years later - January 2013. Hear Matt Damon and Clint Eastwood, along with Gregory Grene, speak about Andrew's service. Andrew was both a friend and devoted fan of Johnny's. Please be a fan of Andrew's fund. Visit for more information and donation links. Donations go toward the education of Haiti's children and Microfinance for small businesses in Haiti. Best Wishes to Gregory on the outstanding success of the first school in Andrew's honor: Andrew Grene High School!


Johnny met this lovely lady in New Mexico when he toured with The Winter Talisman, and accepted her invitation to join her Native American family in their Tipi sweat lodge.

Johnny met this lovely lady in New Mexico when he toured with The Winter Talisman, and accepted her invitation to join her Native American family in their Tipi sweat lodge.

AMY G: We are celebrating Johnny today, and here is a photo of Johnny's summer vacation view 2003; Fire Island. Much love to you!

AMY G: We are celebrating Johnny today, and here is a photo of Johnny's summer vacation view 2003; Fire Island. Much love to you!

JENN: For you, Johnny, on the 10th anniversary of your passing... A magnificent Cape Town sunset peeks out from behind a mountain of clouds - with a lamppost saying hello!  Thank you for your spirit, heart and music. Inspired by you over the years, I learnt to play your moving ballad,  "Night in that Land" . You've inspired many over the years and across the world!

JENN: For you, Johnny, on the 10th anniversary of your passing... A magnificent Cape Town sunset peeks out from behind a mountain of clouds - with a lamppost saying hello!

Thank you for your spirit, heart and music. Inspired by you over the years, I learnt to play your moving ballad, "Night in that Land". You've inspired many over the years and across the world!

I greatly admire Johnny, from when I discovered I was always fascinated by his music and his personality ... a BRILLIANT musician and a great man. I'm a fiddler too and I always listen Johnny's stuff - from Silly Wizard to Winter Talisman - and I always try to look like him. I always keep it in mind as a reference... He was not a fiddler like everyone else, he was an artist, a musical genius, he had his own style and a voice that no one else ever will. I feel deeply connected to Johnny's music - his fiddle and Johnny as a man. He is one of my great musical heroes and idols. From Rome, condolences. RIP Johnny, you will be forever immortal, thank you. All best to your family and friends, from the biggest Italian Johnny fan. ~ Gianluca

It is Johnny's 10th years anniversary soon. It must be still very hard for his family and friends to miss him! I only knew Johnny from a live performance long time ago and I still listen to his magnificent music. Every now and then I play a videotape of the last performance of Silly Wizard. The music touches me, even more now I have grown older. The beautiful sound of the fiddle played by Johnny strikes me every time. Although I am not a fiddle player he has inspired me in my humble career as a musician. I play the guitar and banjo in a Celtic Band (Skibbereen) in the Netherlands. I am sure that Johnny is missed by thousands of people. Not only the ones that knew him personally. To me, he will always be the excellent musician with a great sense of humour. He was and still is undoubtedly a very special person to me. "A lot of people cross your path but only a few touch your heart!" ~ Twan Masala. Kerkrade, The Netherlands.



WGBH Remembers Silly Wizard


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)

Brooks plays the Minden Opera House on 14 Feb 2009

Brooks Williams recorded "Johnny's Farewell" in Ellen Hamby's Atlanta home on August 5, 2009.

Brooks Williams "Johnny's Farewell"

At the Minden Opera House, Brooks performed "Johnny's Farewell" on Valentine's Day, 2009.

Brooks Williams recorded "Johnny's Farewell" in Ellen Hamby's Atlanta home on August 5, 2009. The song (BMI Work #9509451; Red Guitar Blue Music (CAE/IPI #222917482)), was written by Brooks L. Williams (BMI, CAE/IPI #223038801) © Ellen Hamby (ellen's eyes).


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 John McGann and Joe Derrane at Skirball

Photograph of John McGann and Joe Derrane at Skirball

Fellow Musician John McGann's Passing

by Earle Hitchner... Whether as lead or accompanist, 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 generosity 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 privilege of writing the biographical essay. (This magnificent melody also appears on the inaugural CELTIC FIDDLE FESTIVAL album.)

e. e. cummings, "In Memory of Bill Poten and Johnny Cunningham" by Sarah Poten

Caricature of Johnny Based on 1982 Wood's Hole Folk Music Society article, by Anna Freeman (13 yrs)

Photograph by Paula L

Photograph by Paula L


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. ~ Chris

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. ~ Mike M.

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. 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. ~ Dalriada


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Johnny Reads D.H. Lawrence on National Public Radio

Charlie McCormick: I heard Johnny on WFUV radio this morning as I was driving, 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.

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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

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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..."

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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...

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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 humble, 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 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...

Dafey's Locker, New Bedford, MA.  Johnny and Ellie play seagulls. We love you Johnny. ~ Ellie

Dafey's Locker, New Bedford, MA. Johnny and Ellie play seagulls. We love you Johnny. ~ Ellie


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 unforgettable. 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

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