Artist Profiles: Johnny Cunningham

Johnny Cunningham

Johnny Cunningham was born in Portobello, Scotland on August 27 1957. He played fiddle since the age of seven and was known for his lightning-fast reels and hauntingly beautiful Scottish airs. He also delighted audiences worldwide with his wry humor and stories.

Johnny Cunningham was a founding member of Silly Wizard, the group that spearheaded the Scottish side of the Celtic revival in the 1970s and 1980s. He toured with his brother Phil Cunningham both as a duo and with the Celtic supergroup Relativity that also featured Micheal O’Domhnaill and Triona Ni Dhomhnaill of The Bothy Band.

Johnny not only enjoyed a successful career as a solo performer but was also greatly in demand as an award-winning record producer. Among other ventures he toured with blues-guitarist Bonnie Raitt, contemporary singer-songwriter and author Bill Morrissey and crossed over into the world of rock, appearing with Hall & Oates. His own alternative band Raindogs made two successful CDs for Atlantic/Atco Records Lost Souls (1990) and Border Drive-In Theatre (1991) and toured with artists such as Bob Dylan, Don Henley and Warren Zevon.

After completing a four-year stint with the successful Celtic music act Nightnoise, Johnny worked with acclaimed New York-based theater company Mabou Mines on their production “Peter and Wendy.”

Johnny composed the music and lyrics for this new version of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, which enjoyed several sold out runs including the Spoleto Arts Festival in Charleston S.C. in June 1996; The Public Theater New York City in September of 1996; and The New Victory Theater on 42nd Street New York City in February 1997. The response of audience and critics alike has been overwhelmingly positive. Thesoundtrack album from the innovative production Peter and Wendy, winner of two OBIE awards was released in a special hardcover package by world music label Alula Records.

Johnny also recorded and produced “La Musgaña Live” on tour in the band’s native Spain for Ediciones Resistencia. In addition he collaborated with Thomas Moore, best selling author of “Care Of The Soul”. The result is a double CD set “The Soul Of Christmas” which through the heart of Celtic culture and Thomas Moore’s readings explores ways to spiritually re-interpret traditional Christmas music and thought.

In his final years Johnny Cunningham toured as part of the Celtic Fiddle Festival and with Irish singer Susan McKeown. He died on the evening of December 15th, 2003.

Discography:

Silly Wizard with Silly Wizard (1976)
Caledonia’s Hardy Sons with Silly Wizard (1978)
So Many Partings with Silly Wizard (1979)
Against the Storm with Phil Cunningham (Shanachie 198)
Thoughts From Another World (Shanachie 1981)
Fair Warning (Green Linnet 1983)
Live In America, with Silly Wizard (1985)
Golden Golden, with Silly Wizard (1985)
A Glint Of Silver, with Silly Wizard (1986)
Relativity, with Relativity (1986)
Gathering Pace, with Relativity (1987)
Live Wizardry (1988)
Lost Souls, with The Raindogs (1990)
Border Drive-In Theatre, with The Raindogs (1991)
Shadow of Time, with Nightnoise (1993)
Celtic Fiddle Festival, with Celtic Fiddle Festival (1993)
To Warm the Winter’s Night, with Aine Minogue (1995)
White Horse Sessions, with Nightnoise (1997)
Peter and Wendy (Alula Records 1998)
Celtic Fiddle Festival: Encore, with Celtic Fiddle Festival (1998)
Rendezvous, with Celtic Fiddle Festival (2001)
A Winter Talisman, with Susan McKeown (Sheila-na-Gig Music/Caledonian Musicworks 2001)
Live on 11th Street, with Casey Neill Band (2003)
Sweet Liberty, with Susan McKeown (2004)

Author: Angel Romero

Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.

Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

fourteen − six =