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Johnny Cunningham


From the Artist's site, 2005.
PLUS 'The Cunningham Cocktail

Johnny Cunningham (1957 - 2003)

Just back from the road with Irish singer Susan McKeown on the third edition of the Winter Talisman Tour, Johnny Cunningham continued his work as "one of the world's all-time great Scottish fiddlers." (American theatre Magazine).

Johnny has been playing fiddle since the age of seven and is known for his lightning-fast reels and hauntingly beautiful Scottish airs. He also delighted audiences worldwide with his wry humor and stories.

Born in Portobello, Scotland in 1957, he was a founding member of Silly Wizard, the group that spearheaded the Scots side of the Celtic revival in the 70’s and 80’s. He has toured with his brother, Phil Cunningham, both as a duo and with the Celtic "supergroup" Relativity, which also featured 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 has 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, and toured with artists such as Bob Dylan, Don Henley, and Warren Zevon. Collaborations also include projects with Cherish the Ladies, and Solas,...and lead to four CD's 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 started working with acclaimed New York-based theater company, Mabou Mines, on their theatrical production, "Peter & Wendy". He composed the music and lyrics for this adaptation of J.M. Barrie's "Peter Pan", which has already enjoyed numerous sold out engagements.

The response by audience and critics alike has been overwhelmingly positive. Already the winner of two OBIE Awards, "Peter & Wendy" moved to Berkeley, CA in 1999 for a run at the renown Berkeley Repertory Theater and later to the Dublin Theatre Festival. 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 is 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 Le maitre (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 is heading out again in January 2004. For details check the tour schedule.

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, director, Renee McCormick, on a documentary feature about women who decide not to be Mothers. Titled, "A Life Outside Convention," Johnny draws from both Jazz and American influences for it's evocative soundtrack.

All too suddenly, Johnny passed away on December 15 2003. He died at home in Trisha's arms.

The Cunningham Cocktail

We enjoyed the page giving the history of ‘The Cunningham’, a new cocktail celebrating the life and style of the famous fiddler.
Created by Marco Dionysos, one time of Portland, Oregon but now resident at The Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco, Marco claimed that the last drink to pass the lips of Johnny was a tincture of Benedictine so he incorporated that into the new cocktail.

Wanna drink a toast to the man? Here’s the way to go:
1.5 ounces Scotch Whisky
0.5 ounces Lemon Juice (fresh is good)
0.5 ounces Orange Juice
0.25 ounces Benedictine
0.25 ounces Chambord or Cherry Liqueur

Mix together in a cocktail shaker and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a brandied or maraschino cherry.
You can multiply the contents proportionately to suit your own personal taste.

You can listen to short samples from some of the tracks from this artist using the player below.




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