A Fiddler's Fiddler
Johnny Cunningham was the greatest of my generation; I'm 43. My dad "overplayed" French-Canadian fiddle music when I was a little girl; guess the SOUND of the fiddle stayed in my head..till I was older, played the guitar;loved Celtic music & saw Johnny @ the Somerville theatre. What a presence & an AMAZING fiddler. I will always get the chills listening to his haunting airs. Saw him across the street that night @ JD's - no courage to say 'Hi". Trisha, I am so very sorry for the loss of your love, and it seems ?weird to say, but, "Johnny WILL ALWAYS BE WITH YOU". I truly believe that, but a loss of a true love is sooo very hard. I am sorry. Johnny will be missed.

Denise Jaillet, Waltham, MA

My lasting memory of him was a gig in The Golden Lion Stirling. Phil hadn't seen him in a while and they chatted about his trip, the family, the weather, drink...you name it...all while playing at 100 miles per hour and flawlessly! A brilliant night and a brilliant musician...the world will be a sadder place without him...my deepest sympathies to his family.

E. Gavas

I only met Johnny once in a NYC hotel in April 2002. I was with the ScottishPower pipe band and we had Phil on tow to do our concert with us. I met Johnny while buying a drink in the hotel bar and ended up enjoying a long converstion with him. i was shocked to read that he had passed away. He was friendy, cheery and was keen to enjoy the company of the band. Even after my brief encounter with him I knew he was a really decent and sincere guy. It was a pleasure to have met him.

Donald McFady

Johnny sare missed
all my love Phil so so sorry mate , no more tea trolleys

John Ramsay

This lovely man has blessed us all with his friendship and his beautiful music. My heart goes out to his family and friends. With much love, Bob McQuillen

To what your life left to us. Your music, your feelings and emotions... Your love.

I will love when I play again your notes.

Be fine.

Morning in Madrid
Nunca olvidaré la noche del concierto en Madrid de Nightnoise. Fue en 1994. Yo había gastado el poco dinero que me quedaba en una entrada y ahí los vi aparecer. Eran algo más que músicos. Eran la música propiamente dicha. Johnny estaba allí jugueteando con su sonrisa permanente. La forma de tocar el violín atravesaba el alma. Esa noche supe que ellos serían siempre mis amigos. Luego me enteré que esa misma noche, Johnny no había ido al hotel y que paseando por Madrid se le ocurrió la composición de "Morning in Madrid". Al día siguiente era mi cumpleaños, así que recibí un excelente regalo, casi sin saberlo. Bueno, Johnny, nunca te olvidaré. La taberna Elisa ya no será la misma sin ti. Javier.

what a loss to the world and to music! i feel blessed to have seen the winter concert in boulder colorado in december, and will always remember the lovliness and energy of the music and the musicians. may johnny be remembered whenever musicians come together to play, and may his music and life live on in the rest of us.

in peace,
elena klaver, niwot colorado

Very Very saddened to hear of Johnnys passing, have many great memories of when I first moved to Edinburgh in 1980, the hospitality of all the Silly Wizard boys, and the sessions in St.Vincents, and the festival club. As well as being a brilliant musician, Johnny was always a gentleman, and I am honoured to have had tunes with him, deepest sympathy to Phil, and all the family,

Gary Peterson

I met Johnny while presenting one of the last Silly Wizard concerts in 1988 in Philadelphia and then again in London in the late-90’s while Johnny continued to trail blaze with the Celtic Fiddle Festival. Both times landmark experiences in my personal and professional life. The world has lost a truly great artist and keeper of tradition. As I reacquaint myself with the memories, both personal and recorded, of truly remarkable music, stories and good cheer, the empty feeling of loss seems to fill again. My deepest heartfelt condolences to Trisha, Phil, and all the Cunningham family.

Tom McCabe, London

His flair, music, and wit will always be with me. I send my condolences and deep affection to those who were really close to him (and he to them). I can only hope the fact that so many share the pain of his loss, might make your sorrow more bearable.

John Karr

It has taken me a while to write this, and I will never be able to put into words how I feel about Johnny's passing. All I have to say is that there will never be a day when I don't think about him, and that there was more music in the pinky on his left hand than there is in my entirety. We are all so fortunate to have known him. I will leave it at that. Peace to J and to us all.


I loved knowing you and playing with you.Why'd ya have to go so soon? Thanks, my friend.


Brief flight in Sedona
Trish, I met you and Johnny at the faery festival in May 03.I have such fond memories not only having the pleasure of performing with Johnny - a magical moment for an aerialist, but also of sitting with you both back at the hotel and just listening to stories. My heart goes out to you. Robyn x

My deepest sympathy goes out to to Johnnie's family and loved ones at this most difficult time. His musicianship, charm and wit will be dearly missed. What we have now are Johnnie's lasting memories and that will continue to enrich us all.

Phil Smillie

My condolences to Phil and other family and friends of this awesome musician whom I first heard and met in Atlanta in the early 80's with Silly Wizard. I never missed a performance in Atlanta! I know they are dancing and laughing in Heaven even as we cry here at the loss of you

- Darcy Douglas, currently of Anchorage, Alaska, usually of Atlanta, Georgia


What a wondrous muse inspired him, and not a bad comedian muse either.

I'm saddened to hear about Johnny Cunningham's untimely passing. You have my heartfelt condolences and prayers.

Chris Cunningham
Marietta, Georgia

Johnny and I were friends in Edinburgh before he left for the States. Despite having lost touch for many many years, Johnny has never really left my memory. I especially remember the day we went to see 'The Rescuers' when it first came out, aroung 1979, armed with a bottle of champagne and booking a box seat, in true Johnny fashion. Johnny got quite tearful as he thought the wee girl reminded him off his sister. I only wish I had had one more chance to say hello and goodbye

... Mandy MacLean

My wife Lisa and I have had the honor and pleasure of meeting Johnny 8-10 years ago when we were invited to spend the night at his home in Mass. He spoke excitedly of buying a home in New Bedford where gardens could be planted and birds could be listened to. His generosity and exhuberance for life touched us deeper than we even realized for when we heard of his crossing over it was as if we had spent all our lives with this Man who was suddenly taken away! We feel that when one makes the transition from this life rather than going away they go everywhere... so when we breath we breath them and when we see the beauty of a flower we see their beauty and when the moon lights our way in the dark it is their light guiding us.............

We wish Peace to All,
Hawk Lisa Henries

Saddened and shocked by the loss of a great Scottish musician who has brought joy to the heart of people the whole world over.

- Rick Johnson, Lancaster

The passionate pirate
I'm in shock. I was just looking to see when Johnny would be playing in Minneapolis again. I had NO idea. I'm crying as I type this. I saw him in Tulsa, Oklahoma 10 years ago and will never forget it. I was blown away by the passion he contained in his playing. It went right through my soul. I was so hoping to see him play again.

Tonight,I'm going to see Bonnie Rideout,scottish fiddler, play in Redwing Minnesota. Maybe Johnny will be on stage as well.

God bless him and his family and friends.

To all Johnny's friend and family
I'd like to share my memory of Johnny from a few years ago. Around 1990 I produced a WUMB members concert with Johnny and I still remember his wonderful fiddling ! It was around this time of year (January or February) and he told me about playing a New Year's Eve Concert on the BBC in Scotland. There was fantastic line-up with all the finest traditional/folk musicians from Scotland playing live on the tube just as the New Year came in.
In their undoubted wisdom the BBC producers kept the champagne and whisky locked up until the show was over but after that the party at the studio got going and was still in full swing at 6AM when they were all turned out. The entire group headed back to their hotel, got the manager to open up the bar at 7AM and the party continued unabated !
Although I am also of Scottish decent, I had never known why Scotland had 2 holidays for New Years but after talking with Johnny, I knew that we both came from a country that really knows how to party! Wherever Johnny may be now, I hope he is having a wonderful time at some great party playing with all the other musicians. My thoughts and sympathies with all of you who were close to Johnny and must now carry on without him.
Isabel Freeman Boston

au revoir Johnny pas adieu
Having been to a festival in the North of Scotland in 1978, it's there I discovered "Silly Wizard" and since I often listen to their music;I'm very sad to hear Johnny has left us but if there's a heaven I'm sure his music is filling the hearts above. Thank you Johnny for you music.

Nicole Couteau

Loved the playing, especially the slow airs, played like no-one else. I'm glad and grateful to have heard as much of your music as I have done.

Jon Scaife Sheffield, England

John, you brought a bright life into the hearts of many. My wife and I will never forget your joyful tale about your Granny teaching you to swim.
You will be missed. Thank you for bringing your music to the world.
Salt and Faye Philla, Acushnet,Ma.

Blessed prayer of thanks
Dear Friends,
I really only recently discovered Johnny's music, regrettably thruogh a sort of side door by hearing the song Starlight Lullaby I think it is called sung by Susan Mckeown. What a beautiful composition and the two seemed to fit together very well. My wife and I and some friends were honored to see them perform what was one of their last shows at th Irom Horse Coffehouse in Northampton, MA. I just heard today about his passing and would like to send along my most deepest heartfelt condolences.
Peace and Love
William Tobin-Greenleaf

My sincerest condolences to the Cunningham family. I first met John and his family in Edinburgh in 1969. I was 16 and he was 12. He was always smiling. And laughing. The whole room lit up when he started telling his stories. In the final few months before I came back to the states in 1972, he was starting to blossom as a fiddle player and his brother Philip was learning the accordian. Little did I know I was in the presence of such greatness to come.

Steve Grigg, Salt Lake City

Slan Johnny!
Last night I dug out a videoe which featured Nightnoise and watched Johnny telling myself I would never have the pleasure of sharing his company again.

I recall meeting him in the Central Hotel during the Celtic Connections festival, I had just popped into the hotel bar for a stiffener before going to see James Taylor in concert, I had scored a ticket earlier and they were very scarce. I met Johnny and we started drinking 80 Shilling and crème de menthe. It seems he always did this ritual before going home to see his mother, needless to say I didn't get to see JT and we had a ball. Time spent in that man's company was always a pleasure and always fun.

Johnny Cunningham was a man who lived and loved life and enriched other people's lives with his music and personality.
Thanks, Johnny for the music and the memories.
Condolences to his family and all he loved.

Long may you reign.
Alan O'Leary

The connected universe
I send my deepest condolences. I was on my way to Florence Italy and noticed his 'obit' in the paper and just about fell over - Johnny 10 years pior had been a great inspiration and friend to me, a singer/songwriter on tour in Italy - opening for Bill Morrissey - Johnny was a friend to me and made me laugh. He got me out of a 'foot in mouth' story and I never forgot him. I was just talking about him, telling someone about meeting this 'great Scottish fiddle player' in Italy only a couple days before I read that he had passed on. Johnny devoured life and looked at it with such humour and passion. What a great soul and I consider myself lucky to have known him. I'll be in New York in January for writing and performing, if I can do anything, please let me know. All my best and much peace,

Kris Wilkinson

(Thank you Johnny for being around when I needed a friend! I am very sad to see you go!!!!)

I am one of Johnny's Australian cousins and whilst living in London for several years had the privilege of attending two of Johnny's concerts at the Blackheath Concert Halls. I also had the privilege of meeting him on both occasions. How special he made me feel and how wonderful his music was. I wish I had had the opportunity to get to know him better. His music and sense of humour (very Cunningham) were amazing gifts. His Australian family is feeling this loss too and we send love to Tricia, Phil, Laura, Aunty Mary and all the family. We will be with you all in spirit on the 10th.
Debbie White (Cunningham)

Thank you Johnny for the music and the humor that you have brought to us. The earth is a sadder place today, but they are surely dancing in heaven.

Dan Dennehy

To have known Johnny was to have loved him. It was impossible to know Johnny without being entertained and charmed by him, and to love him for the unique and wonderful human being that he was.

His humour, his music and his passion for life endeared him to everyone who ever met him.

Johnny was the finest friend and fellow musician one could hope to have. We will miss him forever.

Our deepest sympathy goes out to Johnny's mother Mary, his brother Phil and his sister Laura and to all his friends and loved ones.

Suaimhneas siorai da anam

Triona Ni Dhomhnaill, Brian Dunning, Micheal O' Domhnaill of Nightnoise

Portobello High School Music competition
I was at Porty High school at the same time as Phil and Johnny. Fantastic musicians. Remember how brilliant they were at the music competitions. Johnny was a great talent.
Sorry to hear the tragic news.

Andrew Crummy We were truly saddened to learn of Johnny's passing. It was always such a pleasure to hear him play.

Tony & Jeannette (former owners of Rhythm Alley, Chapel Hill, NC, USA )

The Wizard of Portobello
About the only thing I can think of expressing at a time like this that truly commemorates the spirit and impact of a fellow musician who gave so much beauty to the world is to offer more music. Here's a tune in Johnny's honor. Anybody's welcome to play it and carry on the legacy.

L.E. McCullough
Woodbridge, New Jersey

T:The Wizard of Portobello (Johnny Cunningham's Fancy)
C:L.E. McCullough ©2003
FG|:A~D3 F~A3|G~B3 AFED|~B3B {c}~B2de|~f3e ed(3Bcd|
A~D3 F~A3|G~B3 AFAB|d~B3 FBdf|1 eA(3cBA d2FG:|2 eA(3cBA d2de|
|:~f3e edBA|(3fgafd ed(3Bcd|~e3f eAce|gAfA egfe|
~f3e edBA|FBdf gfed|eAce gfed|1 eA(3cBA d2de :|2 eA(3cBA d2FG|

To my friend Johnny
For all the fun times we spent in "An Siopa Eireannach" ...my store, when you often helped me out.
Then after when we got together for drinks.... and laughs we shared, especially about times growing up.
Other than Christmas cards, since you moved to New Bedford, and maybe going to one of your concerts, we lost touch.
I am so deeply saddened........... Johnny,my friend,
Oiche Mhaith agus Codlagh Samh......Goodnight and sleep softly.
Frances Connolly.

The joyous memories Johnny has given me will forever be treasured. His presence on stage was always a warming delight, and his playing- passionate like fire. He has improved the world with his beauty on many levels.

It is with sadness that we learned of johnny's passing.
We shall remember his life by the music that he gave to us all.

Don & Lydia Jeffrey (McDonald/McGregor)
Monrovia, California

None & Plenty
Speechless at the news --------------- I was priveledged to spend an hour chatting in my Bar to Johnny before his gig at Stamford Arts Centre in the UK a few years back. We had a laugh and I felt I'd known him forever, chatting about his Broadway project and the weather.Two years later he played here again and we continued where we left off as if time had stood still.
Sadly time has shot off to the wild blue yonder for him now. He treated everyone as his mate and had such an amazing personality. He wasn't bad on the Fiddle either!

Sadly but rejoicing in the music,

Love from Andy, the Sassenach, to a Plastic Mac (He'll understand that!!)

I was very sad to see the tragic news.
Me and my wife just saw his and phil's performnce in NY in November, chatted a little and he invited us for a pub.
I really liked their music and even attended Silly wizard cocnert in NY in 1985.

Avi Bivas

a wonderfully funny man, great company, a dream to listen to ...... couldn't believe that it could happen when I heard the news............so sorry,
Anne O'Donnell

To the best of the best:


J. Bethancourt

Thank you Mr Cunningham
Bird in the Air

On the open stage of a desert amphitheatre My small company of players has been waiting all day… in fact they have been waiting most of the week, for an opportunity to rehearse... …this is their last chance.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We had been invited to bring some characters to the Sedona, Arizona Faerieworlds Festival. To which our good friends Brian, Wendy and Toby Froud, are guests of honour. So, to go with the silly, 8ft high ‘Trollops’ who dispense faery blessings with gay abandon and the very impressive equally tall satyrs, I wanted to produce a moment of beauty that would reflect a sense of Brian’s art. I came up with the idea of an aerialist performing within a ball of light.

The ball, which was to begin as an open flower structure would be suspended before a huge screen on which was played our film ‘Dance of Light’.
Our beautiful aerialist would ascend her tissue rope and as the petals of the flower closed about her, she would transport the gathered thousands in faery delight. The mirror film that made up each flower petal would reflect in seeming dancing patterns the lights played upon it.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

We arrive at the fashionable, hot spring town of Sedona, with plenty of time to spare, complete with flower pieces, beautiful aerialist, and large amounts of sticky tape and string to join the bits together.

We walk on stage at the Sedona amphitheatre…
The technical specifications I had used were of what was proposed for the finished theatre not of what actually existed… There was no lighting grid to suspend my flower from and there were no sides to protect us from the elements. “Don’t worry man”, they said, “This is the desert, who needs sides?” But I noticed that there was a rather ugly, semi permanent plastic carport erected centre stage.
There were no workshop facilities in which to assemble the flower and there are no riggers to attach the high wire for our aerialist to rehearse. “Tomorrow”, we are told.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It is the day before the event, the full technical rehearsal… Several ‘Tomorrows’ have gone by… The joys of Sedona remain unexplored and our hotel room stinks of glue… The local organiser keeps saying, as if the mantra will make it stop, that they never have winds this bad and rain is without precedent.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

It is 10pm and the technical crew have just pulled the plug on the lighting and sound systems, even the portable CD player has been locked away. Apparently, they were not ‘properly’ informed that there was yet one more piece to rehearse and now they are making a point.

But then a little magic:
Johnny Cunningham, the world-renowned folk musician says that he will accompany our piece.
He walks on stage and no-one is going to tell him to leave. He sits cross-legged on a wooden box and his bow caresses the fiddles strings, sending up a plaintive call, didgeridoos from the Australian folk rock band ‘Brother’ join him. Robyn our aerialist glides on-stage and is seemingly enchanted upwards on her tissue. The hard-assed crew, who have seen it all before stop, beer cans held halfway to parched lips. Around the amphitheatre all those still setting up stalls and preparing for tomorrows early start pause. The only sound is the music; the only movement is the dance.
For 8 minutes out of time, we are spellbound. A precious bird has taken to the air and is held there by an ancient song.

At the end she descends and gives Johnny a kiss on the cheek and the spell is broken.

Now, the crew will do all that they possibly can to help and I know that tomorrow will be fine…. …though never quite as good as tonight.

Thank you Mr Cunningham
From William Todd-Jones

a tragic loss but a beautiful life. . .
Though I saw Johnny dozens of times in concert, I never had the chance to meet him personally. I now regret not having the chance to tell him how much his life and music inspired me.

As a rather confused and depressed 15 year old, I first heard the music of Silly Wizard. I'd never heard anything like it before, and in some magical way it opened my life to a love of Celtic music that remains to this day. I picked up the fiddle, and recall wearing away vinyl copies of his albums, desperately trying to learn from the beauty of his playing.

Whether it was Silly Wizard, Relativity, Nightnoise, the Raindogs or any number of his marvelous works, I will always cherish that sweet sound. Johnny did not only have technical skill, he had true soul in his playing. I have never heard, and don't believe I ever will hear again, the passion of his music.

I offer my thoughts, love and prayers for him and his family. I am not a man easily moved to tears, but I must admit to such at the news of his passing. May he be remembered for his passion, his fire and his devotion.

He died far too young, but perhaps, in our pain, we might remember that the measure of a life is not in its quantity, but in its quality.

May God bless him, just as God blessed us all with his life.

All my best to his family and loved ones.

Sean M. Connolly

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.

With deepest sympathy,
Earle and Nancy Hitchner

I was shocked and then saddened to hear of Johnny's passing. My deepest sympathy goes out to his family and to his close friends. I've added his name to the prayer list at our church so that folks will pray for his soul and for the consolation of his family.

I never had the pleasure of actually meeting Johnny but like many others I had the pleasure of seeing him play in a live concert a few times along with the rest of Sily Wizard. My voice and my clapping can be heard on the Live in America and Golden Golden records. That concert at Sanders Theater in Cambridge, MA was my favorite show of all time. I believe that it was on that tour that Johnny started playing with the group again. The band played a few numbers without him and then he was brought out and the place just went wild.

Johnny was the greatest fiddle player I ever heard. He will be missed but he leaves a great legacy of some of the greatest fiddle music ever.

Jim Higgins

Johnny was a true gentleman; you couldn't meet a nicer or funnier man. He'd always add a daft element to any gathering--an illuminated personality, loved by everyone he knew or even half knew.

Jane Kelton

I met Johnny in the late 70`s when the Wizard played the old St Andrews Folk Club. Our paths crossed often in those days, and it was always a pleasure to meet him.I remember him for his sense of humour,his talent, and his wisdom.
It`s not fair that a talent like Johnny`s should have been taken from us so early,but life is not fair.
We will remember him by playing his music.
Sandy Colquhoun

Thanks for your music, for your fellings when played the fiddle,
we´ll be missing you..
from Madrid,
Mo shóraidh slán leat!!




so many memories of Silly Wizard ~ when I and my then husband John ran Highway Records and Silly Wizard ran riot in our house! More than anything the magic of their music I miss. Johnny was all talent, he and Phil had such total empathy with one another. Johnny's music was sheer wizardy, it was beautiful, the world will be the worst for his loss. My thoughts go to all of you, to Phil and all his family and to Trishia whom i never knew.

Sue Zollman

Jose Alberto
Mis condolencias a su familia y a la musica celta y de raiz en general por tan triste perdida. Deseo que en el lugar que se encuentre, sea mas grande el auditorio y su musica llege mas lejos. Adios from León(Spain)

Our sympathy to Phil, Johnny's family and friends. He was always someone to look forward to - seeing, hearing, chatting to, drinking with...

From all at Stamford Arts Centre, Lincolnshire,UK

Orbituary in Irish Massachussetts
We put a story about Johnny's time in Boston area on our "Irish Massachusetts" web site,which you can view here

A version of this article will also appear in the January issue of Boston Irish Reporter.

Condolences and kind regards,

Michael P. Quinlin
Boston Irish Tourism Association

death be not proud though some have called thee
mighty and dreadful for thou art not so
for those whom thou thinskst thou dost overthrow
die not poor death nor yet canst thou kill me
from rest and sleep which but thy pictures be
much pleasure then from thee much more must flow
and soonest our best men with thee do go
rest of their bones and soul's delivery
thou art slave to fate chance kings and desperate men,
and dost with poison war and sickness dwell
and poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
and better than thy stroke why swellst thou then
one short sleep past, we wake eternally
and death shall be no more death thou shalt die

-- john donne, 1633

stand fast trisha

-- susan and maurice, 2003

I am stunned at the news although our paths had not crossed in 27 years. I have always remembered his generosity, his quiet "presence" then! (:-) and the soaring majesty of the music.
Free Spirit - fly high!

My thoughts are with those who grieve.

I was at a "Celtic Christmas" concert in Tokyo when I heard the news of Johnny's passing; Sharon Shannon said it on stage before dedicating the next tune that she played to him. Shocked doesn't even begin to describe how I felt that night. Those Silly Wizard recordings are what got me started playing traditional music and I still remember Johnny's great version of Lexy MacAskill on that live record, with Phil droning on the accordion in the background...unbelieveable! Please send my condolences to Trisha, Phil et al. If I was shocked, I can't even begin to imagine how they must all feel. A great man whos music will be sorely missed.

Dan Baseley

Johnny, I'll never forget the time after your solo gig at Ramblin' Conrads Guitar Shop back about 1982, we all went out for a night of screwdrivers and local folk music. When we got back to the shop, you got out of our car and walked on your hands back into the building!! You always remembered me when ever we met, and I'll never forget you.

Mike Munden
Norfolk, Va.

None of us in New Bedford can believe it. I can't walk into Candleworks without expecting to see him holding court. Johnny was truly larger than life.

Our hearts are with Trisha and Phil and the rest of Johnny's loved ones.

Forever in our hearts, Johnny... with your wit, with your laughter, and most especially with your music.

You're passing into legend now, Johnny... and I'm sure you're laughing to think how many toasts will be drunk to you in the years to come =)

My sister and I only heard the news today; we couldn't believe it. We feel so sad! I must have heard Johnny play 20 times, probably more, in the last 20 years.

I realized, hearing WGBH playing one tune after another, that sometimes, at those concerts, were among the most fun I ever had, anywhere, any time. I certainly never laughed harder. Thanks to Johnny and Phil.

Phil, we're thinking of you. We're so terribly sorry.

-Sarah Brannen
Sudbury, Massachusetts

thinking of you
Tonight in Chicago, with our concert hall full of people for Nollaig, a wonderful celtic holiday show with bohola, there is an air of sadness from the news of Johnny's unexpected passing. The Old Town School will long celebrate the music and the musical spirit he shared with our community. We'll miss him.

Sarah Dandelles
Old Town School of Folk Music

I remember the first time I heard you. You were playing "Over the Rainbow" so sweetly on your fiddle. And I"m so glad I got to see you at the Kennedy Center this month. Little did I know what meaning your "Auld Lang Syne" would have. We will miss you but your music will live on forever.

I met Johnny for the first time about a year and a half ago. I don't think I've met many with such a deep quality of kindness. He was genuinely a nice person in a way I've seldom encountered.
My favorite quote from him was "There are people living on the street who are happier than most of the people in this world." ...or something to that effect. I liked his advice for soloing too..."go into it strong, then do anything you want in the middle, and go out strong. He said no one is paying attention in the middle...and laughed. (I think he said it was a lesson he learned from Johnny Copeland). I was looking forward to more of Johnnys wisdom and wit but I think he gave me his best right up front. As on this earth, they'll be happy to have him wherever he goes.

I had the great good fortune to meet Johnny several times over the past 20-odd years and was always knocked out by his brilliant talent, not only for music, but for friendship, for laughter, for mischief, for fun, for life. My deepest sympathies and condolences to Johnny's loved ones. He was one of the all-time greats, and he will be sorely missed. We all loved him.

Godspeed you, Johnny -- from your friends in Houston,

Julia Olivarez (and Greg Harbar, Kelly Lancaster, Mary Ann Willis, Barry Roberts, Vladimir Kotsiorouba, Richard Saldivar, Terrence Karn and the late Dave Peters)
The Gypsies
Houston, Texas

They often say that the best people are taken away from us early. Johnny's fiddle playing was magical, and a big influence of some of our local musicians here in Geneva.
So sorry, Trish. I wish you lots of courage at this difficult time.

Christina O'Shaughnessy

For those of us at the 11th St. bar we have lost our Falstaff. The merry prankster who kept us all entertained, laughing in our souls deep into the night. Love you Trish.


That bright star? That's him.I'm sure .
I've been reading all of your beautiful tributes and trying to come to grips with the idea that Johnny Cunningham is not on this planet with us now. My friend Colleen Low has spoken very eloquently for Kansas City. We have been blessed to know Johnny and the other Wizards for many years thanks to Gerald Trimble making his recordings here and MVFS booking almost every band that had Johnny in it. I'd like to thank the Cunningham family for sharing this amazing man with us and send my hope that you find solace in all of our words.My love to you, Gwen Ervin

Thanks Johnny
I was playing solo for nearly nobody on the Riverwalk in San Antonio when Johnny came in and told me he’d heard there was a fiddler there. I got my fiddle and played him a couple of Cajun and Texas tunes. When he found out I was tuned a half-step low he was intrigued. He played some reels for me, then he asked me to get my guitar and sing “Yesterday.” He accompanied me for hours on my low-tuned fiddle, for the challenge, I guess. He was so much fun, so generous and so talented that he inspired me to get serious about my Cajun heritage and get the kind of structure of learning he got coming up. He never knew it, but he did me a huge favor I’ll never forget. David Greely, fiddler for Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys

Nuestras mas sinceras condolencias por la perdida de este gran violinista, aunque su musica seguira entre nosotros, te queremos johnny.


Raising a parting glass
I feel so sad that Johnny has left us, but I am grateful that he died in Tricia's arms. I send heartfelt condolences to Tricia and Johnny's family.

I did not know Johnny personally, only his music making. His fiddling has awed and inspired me for years, and it always will. I am glad that he left us many recordings but I certainly will miss his live performances. He was really "live."

Some part of Johnny lives on in the hearts of those of us who have loved his fiddling.


To Johnny Cunningham, Scotland’s Fiddler

Live, I heard you but once
when you played and played and played.

This fall, at the New World Festival in Randolph,
your hand had been injured, you said, not long before,
and you were told then that you might not get the use of it again;
and so you played and played and played.

Later, in the darkness outside Chandler Hall, we spoke
stranger to stranger,
and you told me that you’d been afraid to stop,
that the knowledge of your hand had come back while on that stage
and you had no way of knowing if it would come back a second time like that
and so you played and played and played.

I hope you did not stop between that time and this.
I hope you played and played and played.
I’d have you die playing, die with the fiddle in your hands
doing what you loved best.

I knew Johnny through mates like Kenny Hadden, Dougie MacLean, Phil Cunningham and Dick Glasgow in Aberdeen in 1976-77 and enjoyed playing music with him and generally having the crack all over Scotland at various festivals as we did in those days. Condolences to his family from me in Nairobi.

Sean White

Johnny, You're not forgot, when a beginner, you taught me a lot. The tickly phrase, the double stop. Fred

several years ago, i had the pleasure of adding vocals to several tracks of an album by casey neill. johnny was producing, and generally just being a tremendous presence in the control room. i had never sung on anyone else's record before, and i think he could tell i was terrified. but to his credit, he never said a word, just guided me through and helped me to find just the right parts for me and for the tracks. here's to a lovely and generous man, we'll miss you.

erin mckeown.

Magic Music Man The fairies have quit dancing under my rose bushes..Viola, their queen, has gone to the misty mountains of home to greet your spirit. The blue-eyed cat and the black cat with long white whiskers sit in my lap and we mourn our loss. Blessed be and safe home loved one


Simply the most brilliant Scottish Fiddler of our time . . . The world will be diminished by his absence. regards,
Elyse Moore
Stowe, Vermont

somewhere over the rainbow
Johnny, I hope you'rE where the skys are blue! 2 very sad fans who had the honour of seeing you at the blackstone theatre ! SLAINT'E

Johnny's and Susan's concert on December l2 in New Bedford was wonderful and will long be remembered by me. Summerfest will not be the same without him.

Peter Porter

Dear Trish,
We are all heartbroken up here in New Bedford.
I had many wonderful moments with johnny.
we will all miss him.
Please offer my prayers to his family.
And to You!
Wherever He Is I know he's making music and making people laugh.

George Fonseca

The Winter Tailsman tour became my new Xmas tradition. I loved the joy and the sorrow of the music...really captured the truth of Winter.

I'm SOOO sorry I missed my chance to see him during their DC gig this year. I thought for sure....next year.

I'll treasure the CD and memories of the Winter Tailsman tour.

i am broken hearted to hear of johnny's passing, i knew him from the time i played with him for a few gigs with the raindogs.I then got a call from him and he asked me to assist him with a piece of music he was doing in new york, it was the first compositions for peter and wendy and johnny was staying at the chelsea hotel and we were going out to st anns in brooklyn where the work in progess was being rehearsed. Johnny had the whole score already in his head and we got a little room at the theatre to work on it.we then went into a studio in manhattan and recorded the music with other musicians.johnny loved the hotel and the first time i went up to his room I saw a mouse running about the room, i said to him there is a mouse running about this room, and he said I know Brian he is my friend.I said to him how do you sleep knowing that it possibly could be a rat living in your room. well every night we would go to dinner at the spanish tavern downstairs in the chelsea and johnn! y would make the waiter rap up the leftovers,and he would leave out food for his little friend. that was the type of guy johnny was. every time i met him he always seemed happy to see me and i was always glad to see him, he was a real star, i will miss knowing that he is around. I am lucky to have known him.johnny will always be the man.

Brian oneill

I met John in South carolina when he was there during the Spolito Festival and enjoyed very much his Peter and Wedy. I saw him in Boston as part of the fiddle festival. A great light has gone out of the music world

Me enteré de la muerte de Johnny por casualidad (y eso que no creo en ella). Tuve la inmensa suerte, y uno de los mayores privilegios del mundo, a saber: ver el último concierto de NightNoise en España, en Granada.
El concierto fue auténticamante maravilloso. Pero lo que vino después nos pilló por sorpresa a un grupo de fervientes admiradores de NightNoise. Johnny, saltándose "las normas", nos pidió que le sacáramos de allí inmediatamente. Estuvimos en dos pubs tomando copas y hablando un poco de todo. No lo olvidaré nunca. Decía que lo peor de una gira era la rutina viaje-hotel-concierto-hotel-viaje, que a él le encantaba relacionarse y hablar con la gente, conocer sitios nuevos, gente nueva, compartir ideas, sentimientos y distintos pareceres.
Nos hicimos una foto todos juntos. El privilegio de ver a NightNoise, y el regalo que nos hizo Johnny fue memorable. Ojalá, repito, ojalá existieran más personas como Johnny.
La tristeza me acompaña todos los días, pero su música me acompañará toda mi vida.
Con amor, gracias Johnny.
Daniel Dïaz. Granada. España

Doesn't seem to matter that I hadn't seen Johnny for around 30 years - still one of those people who was important to my musical soul. I met him a few times around Liverpool and once in Exeter - just a magical fiddler and a lovely man.

Peter Michael Rowan

25 years of hellos ...no good-bys
We have all lost the dearest friend and what should have been many more years of heart souling music....

Nakki Goranin

So sorry to hear of Johnny's untimely death. He will be sorely missed by all who loved his music and his humour. Sincerest sympathy to family and friends.

Matt Cranitch
Cork, Ireland

Brand New Angel
I'm reminded of a song Greg Brown sung on Prairie Home Companion some years ago on the passing of another fiddler. The song was "Brand New Angel." If I'm any judge of brand new angels, I'm sure Johnny's got 'em laughing up there.

Glenn Wrightson

Thank you, Johnny, for being you.
God rest your wild and beautiful soul.

I feel a great sorrow at the unexpected death of Johnny, and I think it will take a lot of time to forget him.
At least, we can inherit his best legacy:his wonderful music,which will allow us to keep him in our hearts and minds.
I hope these words may comfort Trisha, Phil, and the rest of family and friends. REST IN PEACE, JOHNNY.

Johnny was surely one of the best of the modern Scottish fiddlers, as well as being a very funny, genuine and always entertaining person. We will miss him and remember him fondly.
All our best to his family.

Gary and Una Evans

Very sad to hear about johnnys untimely death. Having had a bit of a reminisce with Phil last year at Bridgenorth festival about the times we coincided in the '70's and '80's, I was in the Boston area only a couple of months ago staying with Helene and Alan. I narrowly missed johnny who was away for a few days. I greatly regret not being able to catch up with him. He was a great fiddle player and a man with a wicked sense of humour. I have many memories of doing gigs with Silly Wizard and cherish them. RIP Johnny. Phil Beer. (Show of Hands, Downes and Beer, Albion Band etc)

I had just seen Johnny for the first time in Portland Maine two weeks ago December 11th,with Susan McKeown and Aiden Brennen. They all were brilliant. They signed a CD for me to my Mom, who lost her husband, my Father, three weeks ago. Aye, 'tis true, Winter's taking those to die, in whom we had most left to see.

I am deeply sadened at the loss of such a fine musician and kindred spirit.

Part of me is hoping this is a manifestation of his amazing sense of humor, and that he'll be 'round again to have a laugh, and of course to give many more.

But since my gut does tell me different, and the world has lost such beauty, I offer only this anonymous poem, and my deepest regard for a fallen brother. May we celebrate his life, his music and his eternal presence in our hearts.

Och hon for somebody!
Och hey for somebody!
I wad do - what wad I not,
For the sake o' somebody?

My heart is sair, I daurna tell
My heart is sair for somebody;
I wad walk a winter's night,
For a sight o' somebody.

If somebody were come again,
Then somebody maun cross the main,
And ilka ane will get his ain,
And I will see my somebody.

What need I kame my tresses bright,
Or why should coal or candle-light
E'er shine in my bower day or night,
Since gane is my dear somebody?

Oh! I hae grutten mony a day
For ane that's banished far away;
I canna sing, and maunna say
How sair I grieve for somebody.

See you 'round Johnny Cunningham.

-John Mackenzie Rogers

Johnny, nunca tuve la oportunidad de verle actuar, pero si a su hermano Phil cuando vino a Murcia (España). lo descubrí cuando Ramón Tracet (RNE 3) puso un concierto directo de su hermano en EEUU y el salío al escenario tocando sin que su hermano supiese que iba a venir, se te ponen los pelos de punta...

Te queremos, y dale recuerdos a Eva Cassidy...

I was listening to Encore when on a lark I decided to look up Johnny's website and saw the tragic news. What a blow! I never had the luck to meet then man, but I can imagine the terrible loss this must be to his friends and family. My deepest condolences. All I can do is listen to "The Dark Island" again and cry. The blessing is the tremendous legacy of music and love he left behind. Travel safe, Johnny. Sara G

Johnny had a rare combination of talent, humor, and a sweetness not too often found in an individual. It is that sweetness of spirit and personality that blankets me with fond memories amidst the sadness we all feel at his untimely passing. That, and his mesmerizingly beautiful speaking, and reciting voice.

We'll miss you Johnny, tho' we're all the better for having spent even the briefest of time in your presence.

My heart goes out to Johnny's family and many friends, to Trisha whom I have never met, and to Susan & Aidan, who shared with Johnny this last tour.

All the best,

Cloud Moss

Rosining up the memories
It was in late August, and Edinburgh was buzzing with Festival Fringe goers. Cathal McConnell dragged me to an after hours actor’s club. The place was smokey and packed. Sitting on the edge of the stage were two young brothers playing like mad. “It’s the Cunningham brothers, Phil and Johnny,” Cathal murmured in my ear. They were celebrating Johnny’s 21st birthday, and we were all invited by default. That was my first encounter with Johnny Cunningham. We kept in touch over the years, and in the mid 80’s I hired Johnny for a dance music camp in Port Townsend, Washington. The week’s end featured a fancy dress ball, and Johnny and I, along with fiddler, Dale Russ hit up the local thrift store for appropriate attire. Checking out the used suit rack, we decided to go as a trio of gangsters all toting fiddle cases. With hair greased back, Johnny was perfect decked out in his choice, a yellow and green plaid double-breasted $12 suit. We stopped for a bite to eat before the party and! a young local girl, maybe about 12 years old, heard Johnny talking, and in her precocious way asked where he was from. “Scotland,” he replied, to which she replied, “So your Scottlish then,” And looking his plaid suit up and down, she added, “a Scottlish nerd!” It’s the kind of story Johnny liked. I’m honored to say I knew him at all. Frank Ferrel, Boston

When Johnny played he made my heart sing.My thoughts are with his family at this time.I'm so pleased to have known him. Lesley (Scotland)

Godspeed Johnny, you were the wind beneath the wings of traditional Scottish music.

Rege Malady
The Celtic Trader

Catching Johnny and Silly Wizard in concerts in Atlanta and Athens, GA, are such fond memories from years ago... so inspiring, and energizing... I'll remember Johnny's wry tales and quick rejoinders and the lift in his music. Fare the well, old soul...
Andy Furlow

We have been lucky to have heard Johnny play in Silly Wizard, and other bands. But the concert that stands out in our memories is one solo concert he played at a little pub in Santa Monica in the mid 80's where we sat at the bar, a foot away and could talk to Johnny between tunes.
We have memories of many live concerts and yesterday listened on the web to the performance at the John F. Kennedy Center last July. The pleasure of hearing him play is now mingled with tears.
Our condolences to his family and all those who loved him.
Leda & Steve Shapiro
Los Angeles

I believe this sweet man, a king, will live on in every soul that he touched with his incredible music, irrepressible wit and puckish spirit. I love you Johnny and I'll never forget you. You gave us your all and I'll miss you heeps. You were there for me when I lost my Kathleen and I'm eternally grateful for your kindness.

Tom Hanway
Longford, Ireland

Many years ago, Silly Wizard played a concert for Old Songs, near Albany, NY, at the old place, a deconsecrated church with great acoustics and puritan pews. Vaughn and I took our young sons, Pete and Nathaniel (then probably aged 8 and 10 years). The boys loved the concert, and charged up front to meet the band afterward. Whether it was Phil or Johnny I don't now remember,but one of the Cunningham brothers pulled out a Scottish coin. Realizing he had only one, he called to his brother,who - with barely a word said - pulled out and tossed another across the stage apron...one for each of the Ward brothers.

It was such a right, generous and spontaneous thing to do, we never forgot it. And I've wondered - as it happened so fast and so easily - if someone had done as much for John and Phil, if they were passing something on.

That and a love of the power of music.

Godspeed then, John. And our condolences to you all. - George Ward

Waht a shock to hear of Johnny's passing. Although we hadn't met for years I fondly remember hoisting a few in the early nineties with JOhnny, joking and grinning about all th eold times in Britain.
He will be sadly missed by all of us in the music community in both Old and New England.
Tony Raine
Cape Cod Melody Tent/The Channel

back in the Silly Wizard days there was the magic of Johnny and Phil playing off each other as if it was from one heart - Johnny playing the "goes-under" and Phil the "goes-over" as they quoted their mother--now one piece of that heart is stilled, but those of us fortunate enough to have heard that magic will always be able to celebrate the music that was this remarkable artist--play for the stars now Johnny
Jules Schneider

I was listening to WWUH Celtic Airs out of the University of Hartford and they were playing a recording from the final Silly Wizard tour. It was recorded on April 4th 1988 at the Canton High School by the late Bill Domler. The music and the humor the band showed was just amazing. If there is talk of doing a commemorative album or box set I hope this recording would be considered. It shows the true spirit of the music!
Jim Murray

we first saw silly wizard at the phila folk festival in schwenksville, and became instant s.w. fans. "oursong" was my kindly sweetheart. it was with great sadness that we read the obit yesterday. There will never be another like him. He will live in ours hearts forever

On behalf of the Smithsonian Institution Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, I've been asked to convey our deepest condolences to Phil, Trisha, Johnny's family, and his many friends on this untimely loss.

Johnny's performances at the 2003 Smithsonian Folklife Festival were brilliant and among the highest points of the event. We were honored that both he and Phil took time from their busy schedules to participate. Johnny's advice and support as a member of the Advisory Committee that helped us plan the Festival was invaluable and greatly appreciated by all of us. His death has left a large hole in the cultural fabric on both sides of the Atlantic.

On a personal note, as one of his many friends, I will miss him greatly.

Nancy Groce
CFCH, Smithsonian

I first heard the band Silly Wizard when they were in Pennsylvania at the Main Point. They were in town for the Philadelphia Folk Festival, and I had just returned from a visit to Scotland. My boyfriend, turned husband, now turned ex husband took me to see them, and we stayed for two shows. During our marriage we became Silly Wizard groupies and got tickets to see them whenever they were in the Philadelphia area. We always admired the talent, the stage presence and the humor of all the guys in the group. I was pregnant with my second daughter in 1985, and we told the guys during intermission that we were thinking of naming her Bridget after their rendition of Bridget O'Malley, which I loved. We never did. We named her Jessie Marie, but many a night I rocked her to sleep singing Bridget O'Malley to her! Later, after they disbanded, we were delighted to see Johnny playing at the Keswick Theater in Glenside with the group NightNoise. Johnny, as ever was gracious and pleasant and talked with us during the intermission. He seemed glad we remembered him from Silly Wizard. He was gracious and pleasant as always. The amazing thing about Johnny, and all the guys in Silly Wizard is that they showed their appreciation for their fans, and were always accessible for conversation during intermissions. The world will be a sadder place without his talent and humor. I am sure the angels in heaven are making him play encore after encore. Johnny, I will be raising a cup in your name. God bless you all and thank you for allowing me this opportunity to tell you how I will remember his remarkable talent.

Margie Watters
Montgomeryville, PA

Scottish music centers me, brings me back to what I believe my roots to be. Johnny's music strengthened that personalization, and I am so sorry that he has moved on. He will be missed greatly.

Saw Johnny for the first time when he joined Kevin Burke on stage at the Blarney Star in NYC not so long ago. Had been listening to his music for many years. Then, this past summer happened to be in Vermont to hear him at the Unitarian Church in Montpelier.
That was a performance my wife and I have talked about to friends over and over again since. His playing was, of course, brilliant but his manner was so sweet, so endearing. There was a charm about him and there were the lovely stories of his grandmother and Portobello.
We just bought tickets last week for the Celtic Fiddle Festival performance in February in MA. We were so looking forward to seeing and hearing Johnny once more. Shortly before the concert in Montpelier he was sipping wine with some young people at the bar nearby. I wanted to approach him and tell him how much we enjoy his music but felt awkward and intrusive.
So the moment passed and now so has the man.
Can't tell you how sad I feel to know he is gone. Sincere condolences to his family and loved ones. He seemed a man who enriched the lives around him.
Johnny, in the new place, hope the wine is to your liking and you know how much you and your music are cherished.
Frank De Ligio - NY

My mind and heart refuse to take in the news that Johnny is among us no more. Although I didn't know him and never saw him play live, his music touched me at every level. No fiddler can come close to taking his place in my heart. My greatest disappointment was that he was not nearly as audible and prominent in Silly Wizard's music as his talent should have ensured that he would be. That can never be remedied, but had it been otherwise, Silly Wizard would have been twice the band it was, which is saying something indeed.

Deeply saddened,

Erica Mackenzie

My teacher my friend
Thank you to everyone who contributed a remembrance to this web site. I was one of John's fiddle students in the early 1980's, when he was married to Karen and lived in Pennsylvania. The two of us and our spouses became good friends. As the years went on, our lives changed and I moved to Vermont. We didn't see each often after that, but when we did, the reconnection was instant and the feeling of genuine caring and friendship was deep and enduring. We would spend hours talking (long, long philosophical hours), laughing and catching up over wine.

One night, after a concert at the Iron Horse, we spent the entire night talking at the bar in the Hotel Northampton. A man who had been at the concert followed along and complained about not having any money for the trip home. John reached into his pocket and gave the man everything he had earned that night. That's the kind of human being John was.

This month, December 2003, I had hoped to see him at his concert here in Vermont. I had looked forward to seeing his face light up with suprise and pleasure, and to spending time to learn news of his life and his love. I cannot imagine a world without John Cunningham, without his wit, his impishness, his sparkling intelligence, his generous heart. Sleep sweetly, dear friend. I will hold the memory of you close to heart until we meet again. Eve Bailey

I can't believe you're gone forever...
..because you did something very special also for us in Italy...
No words are enough to describe how sad I feel...

All my sympathy to Trisha and your brother Phil.

A humble and shy "thank you, Johnny", from one of Silly Wizard's many italian fans...

Arianna (Ari) Fioretti
Hirio Eventi,
Turin, Italy

I was at the same school as both Phil and John...Portobello High in Edinburgh. I was in the year below John but how well I remember the school's annual (and all important!!!???) MUSIC COMPETITION!!!!!...and how, each year the Cunningham brothers won it!!! I recall Phil, simply pulling up a chair sitting down and playing the accordian as if there were no tomorrow!!!! (every other student fumbled with music etc but not these two !!!!)I also recall Silly Wizard playing in the school hall ....or did they get "cried off " at the last min !!???(long time ago !!) Years on...I was living in Frome in Somerset and I saw a venue advertised...The Celtic Fiddlers with John Cunningham ! I bought a ticket and went along ! Before it all began the "unsociable" smokers of the world stood outside and there amongst them was John ! Despite it being nearly 30 years he still looked the same!! I spoke to him and told him I'd been at the same school in Edinburgh !!! He was quite shocked I think to meet someone from his schooldays so far from home!!! When he went on stage he paid me a great compliment ..and dedicated a tune to me...telling the audience that he'd met someone from his hometown ...and that if ever HE wanted to remember Portobello...he'd switch his shower on to COLD....and stand under it...fully clothed ...with a fish supper !!!!ONLY PORTOBELLO PEOPLE WILL UNDERSAND WHY I FOUND THAT EXTREMELY FUNNY !!!! The whole evening was FAB ...he was SO funny and I spoke to him before I left ...asking him if it might not be an idea to write a tune/song about Portobello ! He said he'd think about it ! ....I wonder if he ever did? My love to all his family.

I send my deepest condolences. Johnny brought light into many lives. I will always be grateful to him for his loyalty to his step-children, Brady and Travis Lea, my niece and nephew. Sing with the angels, Johnny! Best,

Jane Lea

Many of us in Limoges (France) are very sad today. The tours I organized for many years in this area for you and Silly Wizard are among my best memories. I find it difficult to believe that you have left us. Your music is so much alive in our hearts!

Jean Pierre

One of my fondest musical memories is of an evening in a tiny venue in Worcester, Massachusetts. I had gone to a show featuring Phil Cunningham. In the middle of a tune his jaw dropped and he stopped playing because his brother - Johnny - had just come in the back door. Johnny strode up to the stage with flourish, the two embraced warmly, and then they treated us to a magical evening of tunes. The world has lost a great soul and a brilliant musician. My sincerest condolences.

Mike Gooley

Such a wonderful man, wonderful musician; Johnny and Susan usually would play for us just this time of year, a warm and magical night. Johnny was funny and quick and irreverent onstage and off. His ability to conceive something and bring it undistorted to listeners, while having a great, good time playing--well, awesome. The calibre of celestial music just increased incrementally. This "business" of music is really quite personal, you know, when you come right down to it; and personally, I'll miss his bright light.

-Margie Rosenkranz (The Eighth Step, Albany, NY)

the magical music is gone. We'll miss ya, Johnny.

Meg Andersson

Occasionally, Trisha liked to pretend that she was a tad put out with Johnny's habits, his way of being... "Occh," she'd say, "what can you do?" But it was just the way of a woman's fierce and protective true love for her man. Whenever Johnny walked into a room, Trisha would light up, and a mischievous smile would come upon her lips. And Johnny was on top of the world when Trisha was nearby. His glance would follow her long, dark hair around a room; he would sparkle when she wore a lovely dress. In joining with Johnny, Trisha began to radiate a quiet joy, and used the word "shite" quite a lot. The Scottish lad loved the Irish-Lebanese garl, and she loved him back. They each had found a safe place in a hard-edged world, with a like-minded creative soul. Johnny's mind could light sparks in her own; his love kept her warm, and his beauteous fiddling made her tap her toes. If you are looking for Johnny, look towards Trisha... for he exists in her heart.


"...the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart."
- Pablo Neruda

Play with the angels Johnny!
Johnny is and forever will be an inspiration to me. He is without a doubt my favorite Scottish Fiddler. I loved listening to him play and I could tell that he was completely light hearted about his music. It was all about having the best possible time ever. The only thing I liked better than his music was his stage presence.

I thank God that Johnny found his calling and shared it with us. I hope to see Johnny again in the sessions that only can happen in Heaven. Nothing but Fiddler's Green for you Johnny. Nothing but Fiddler's Green.

Johnny, we will miss you. My condolences to his family and friends. We have lost a great fiddler and raconteur. Yet another light now is "slockit".

So sorry to hear the sad news, our prayers are with you all.

Ray and Joyce Caldwell
Houston, Texas

Dear Trisha,

I'm so sorry to hear about Johnny's passing. The way I knew him, he struck me as an immensely warm-hearted, generous man with the most wonderfully dry sense of humour. The mere thought of him still makes me smile. I will keep the memory of him in my heart as a source of warmth and joy.

It pains me to no end to see you left behind so suddenly. From working with you on this website I could get a glimpse of how deeply you care about him and how much Johnny must mean to you.

You are a wonderful person Trisha and I send you my warmest thoughts in these dark times.

From the bottom of my heart and in deep sorrow,


Oh Johnny, I'll miss you. I'm so glad I got to see you recently. As we shook hands goodbye, you kissed mine, it was so warmhearted. I give thanks for my time with you.


So saddened to hear of the death of Johnny. Our sympathies go out to your family and friends.


I was very sorry to hear of Johnny's passing. He was a brilliant fiddler who has brought untold joy to so many through his music--thankfully he will continue doing that through his many recordings. He was also a wonderful person, and his passing is a huge loss.

Marc & Deidre

Johnny, what an inspiration you've been to the people here in New Bedford, and to me. We'll miss you very much.

Jonathan Danforth

A life well lived
I saw Johnny perform last Wednesday at the Iron Horse. As always, he had us all laughing at his dark Scot's humor, and wiping tears as he fiddled Robbie Burns' Auld Lang Syne. He ended the show with an ironic Scottish holiday greeting - "We're born in pain, live in fear and die alone, Happy Christmas." Glad to know he was in the arms of someone he loved when he died. Glad to know he lived his entire life with a little boy's inquisitiveness and wonder as his operating principle. He brought a lot of joy into my life with his amazing music. I know I'm not alone. I'll miss him, true, but he's left us the great gift of his music.

Ed McKeon
Folk Music Director
Hartford, CT

Love You Forever
Dear Johnny,

Thank you for being in our lives. We will treasure the moments always.

We send our heartfelt love and support to your family, especially your Mum whom we had the great pleasure of sharing a fun evening with in New York.

Greater support and love to Phil, who loved you so very much. To see the two of you together, whether playing music or just hanging out, was always the best, most stimulating entertainment.

We will miss you so terribly.

Can't write more now because my arms have gone numb.

Amy and Robert
Cayo Costa, Florida

To Trisha and all of Johnny's family my heart is breaking at the loss of my birthday buddy. Seeing him come back after the wrist surgery and playing the blasting gig that he did here in New York this summer and sharing birthday wishes as we both spent the day with our great friend Edward Cosla, are times I'll remember fondly. I know that the music in heaven is now 10 times sweeter with that beautiful soul joining in the orchestra. You'll always be in my heart!


Alice Farrell

It is with great sadness that I pass on the information that Johnny Cunningham has passed away. He died last evening, December 15, 2003 at 8 PM. He will be waked in NYC on Thursday. There will also be a memorial service in New Bedford, MA, his home for the past 8 years, after the first of the year.

Please email me privately for information about the wake and services.


Music through Time Concerts
Artistic Director/New Bedford Summerfest
Barrel of Music Productions

Too soon, too soon. Not fair. We have lost many of our dears this year, but losing Johnny seems to have touched me most. It's been years since I saw him, or heard him play apart from records. But knowing he was out there, and anticipating seeing him playing again, somewhere, sometime, seems to have been in my heart all this time. Goodbye Johnny, you make a great hole in the universe with your passing.

A Beauteous Flame
All day yesterday I kept remembering his beautiful work 'Peter & Wendy' -- in particular, "Light That Beauteous Flame." I kept wishing that somehow, just as we did in the audience during that song, if we just sang along hard enough and wished and believed enough, we could bring him back as well. I know we can't do that, but his music and all our wonderful memories of him will be alive forever.

The world feels a darker place today for the loss of such an incredible musician; and his irrepresible humor and personality will be both sadly missed and lovingly remembered.

Dear Rover Family,

I am so very sorry to deliver to you the worst news, news which will hurt you deeply.

Our dear, dear Johnny Cunningham has left us.

He has left us with hearts filled with music, and joy, and tragedy, and hilarious stories, and memories of wonderful days and evenings we spent with him at concerts or at home listening to radio broadcasts or recordings. These things we will always have and treasure, and lucky are we that this truly great musician and special man gifted us with his talents.

His tunes. His songs. His stories. His smiles. His heartfelt thoughts, which he sometimes shared with us right here.

Johnny died suddenly last night in the arms of his beloved Trisha, who loved him the way Johnny deserved to be loved. He suffered a massive heart attack, and Trisha tried with all her strength to help him live. The paramedics were unable to revive him. He passed quickly, without much pain.

Johnny will be cremated, and his ashes scattered around all of his favorite places in the home of his heart, Scotland. There is talk of a memorial concert sometime in the Spring, a suitable send-off for a musician who left so many other musicians awestruck.

Yesterday, Johnny went with Aidan and Susan to finish up the recording of a new folk album for Susan. She needed his touch on the final tune. As Johnny warmed up in front of the microphone the recording engineer turned to Susan and remarked: "He really is head and shoulders above the rest, isn't he." Susan said Johnny's playing of the tune was as beautiful and sensitive as ever, and this will surely be a special recording to hear, much appreciated by all of us who love him.

After the recording was finished Johnny, Susan and Aiden toasted eachother with a wee dram of B&B down at Johnny's favorite watering hole, the 11th Street Bar in New York's East Village. One drink remains in that bottle, which has now been placed up on the top shelf of the bar, corked until Johnny's return.

The remarkable Trisha had planned to surprise Johnny at Christmas with a new website of his own. Though it is far from finished, she was able to show it to him just a couple of days ago, and he loved it. The webmistress, Julia, has now got it up and running, and if you wish you may go there and send your thoughts, feelings, recollections or wishes on the E-Mail page.


I am so sorry, I wish I could phone each of you who loved Johnny and tell you this terrible news personally. I know each of you will keep Johnny in your hearts, and keep his memory alive always. Please send your best thoughts and wishes to those who were closest to our dear friend, and raise a toast to Johnny as often as possible-- he would love that, you know.

Love and comfort to all of us,
Amy Gallagher

..wishing I could just hear "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" now


What an incredible shock. John was absolutely one of the most talented fiddlers/artists I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Always warm-hearted and having time to chat with friends, he is indeed someone I am proud to have known. My condolences to Trisha, all his family and his world-wide circle of friends.

Stephanie P. Ledgin
Music Journalist-Photographer
Event & Publicity Specialist

I will never forget Johnny launching into Somewhere Over the Rainbow, at Friar Tuck's in NY, as the entire audience joined in. When he first came out on stage, he observed the Robin Hood motif, exclaiming "This decor is me!" Later that night, he began singing a Frank Sinatra song. When I first heard him years ago, he mentioned his life ambition was to own a Wendy's in Revere. I had the pleasure of meeting him at O'Leary's in Boston one night, as he ate all my French Fries (which I had offered him). Besides being "a wicked funny bastid", he was an incredibly musical person. I will miss him. What a shock.

John Schulman

Goodbye Johnny
I am very upset to hear the news - I hadn't seen Johnny for a while but messages were constantly relayed to both of us via our mutual friends. The world is a poorer place without Johnny and my memories of our short times together are filled with laughter. Condolences to all Johnny's close friends. Goodbye Johnny and thanks for all the music and laughter! Niamh Parsons

siempre seguirá tocando
Soy un español enamorado de la música de Nightnoise y de Jonny y solo queria decir que siempre seguirá tocando para todos.Para mi al menos quedaran reflejadas toda mi vida canciones como Night in that land, Morning in Madrid ó A diferent shore.Gracias por todo Jonny y descasa en paz.

Oh Johnny, and Trisha who I never knew,

Sad am I that you are gone. For you and for me. So much music and so much yet to come. So much warmth, humour-- and that twinkle. So many faces illuminated by your magic sounds and antic soul.

Near 25 years of memories of your visits to The Iron Horse beginning with our first Wizard dates. And thankfully, one last time Dec 10. Who knew it was the last? And lucky lucky me that I made room in that evening to hear yet some more of your songs and stories.

But no sadness, no robbery of brillaint future even touches the bright legacy of inspired sounds, mirth and kindness that will ever be you. Play on.


Jordi (Herold, Iron Horse Music Hall)

Goodbye Johnny, we love you!
Johnny- it was an honour to know you and work with you- you will always be an inspiration with your humour and creativity, truly a force that will live on- your life made an impact on so many and so many love you. Despite your busy life, you were always human and real. My condolences to your loved ones and family, and to all the music fans on their great loss.

Love Andy of Mad Pudding

I am so sad to hear about Jonny's very untimely death. I could never hear enough of his wonderful fiddle playing and incredible sense of humor. He will be greatly missed!!!!

Abby Newton

Just heard about Johnny's passing away, such a young man. Wit, poignant musicianship, irrepressible flights of wild fiddling, the mesh with Phil, and again, the wit & stories.

My main personal memory was a moment at the last Celtic Festival at the Hatch Shell, Labor Day weekend, 1994. I had invited him to perform at the Hatch Shell several times. He wasn't too keen on the venue--but. when we held a fundraiser show for the Festival at the Harp Pub, where you could relax and have a drink, he was up for it. Take this as you will, but I felt sympathetic for him and for his musical heart as he sat at a table there with a few friends and told me the reason he was enjoying himself so much was because of the quality and variety of top Boston-area Irish, Cape Breton and Scottish musicians who were playing that night, some of whom he had never heard before--he felt happy not only to hear it all, but also happy that the audience was there to hear good music, of which he was a part, and were not groupies looking to be near him. I'm sure he appreciated his fans, but his musical soul was touched by being a part of quality music and not just a star.

As much as he went with the showmanship, his heart was obvious in the slow airs as well as in his musicianship on other tunes. I enjoyed the Scottish precision he bowed into his Scottish tunes, because it added a needed flavor in the popular Celtic music. This is a sad loss.

--Ed Pearlman

i didn`t know johnny, i had just seen and heard him in philadelphia. i was really touched by him and his music. my condolences to his family and friends.

chuck gallun

Goodbye Johnny
He was one of the most talented men I'd ever seen. I got to have a Guinness with him back in '93, when he played The Folkway in Peterborough. He dedicated my request, "Altan Boat" to me during that concert. It was a moment I'll never forget.

Music has lost a genius, and a funny, wonderful man.

Trisha, my thoughts are with you. Take care.

Jennifer Dury
Vancouver, Canada

Johnny, we hardly knew ye!

I and my family are greatly saddened by your sudden departure. Your sense of humor and mostly your warm greetings each infrequent time we would cross paths will be sorely missed. Your music, however, will always live on. We are very grateful that you have left us with such a vivid legacy of music, both from you and from those you influenced. You were always encouraging to my son Brendan, and may never have known how much that encouragement inspired him as a fiddler. There will always be a star shining for you, and we will always hear its song.

To quote back your closing from a past message to us, "All good wishes and thanks for the great music."

-- Rich Block --

Very saddened to hear this news. Johnny was a great influence on my playing and I have enjoyed listening to his recordings for as long as I can remember. My condolences to his family and friends.

We were friends at a time in life when things didn't seem to matter too much Although I didn't see you of late I'll always remember you Johnnie. Tears fill my eyes as I write this

Rest in peace

Derek Kennedy

I'm still in shock
How can a man with such enormous talent be gone? Whose fiddle brought such astounding music be silent?

My thoughts and prayers are with your family and loved ones. You'll truly be missed

Kathleen Biggins
"A Thousand Welcomes"

I only met Johnny and Trish twice , both times in Vermont through my sweetie Nikki Matheson. He was without a doubt the most talented fiddler I have ever heard and extremely funny and kind. He did not act like he was above anyone due to his musical fame, just a very friendly down to earth man. I will miss his music and humor. Condolences to you Trish in your time of pain. A very sad day.

Bill Walker

The Silliest Wizard
You have touched us all with your fiddle, your stories, your laughter. You will be missed and remembered forever by those of us left behind.

thanks for helping get me through some rough times with your music. You will be remembered and missed.

fiddling humor
His extraordinary gift of mixing outrageous humor with fabulous fiddling will be missed forever. The New Bedford Summerfest will never be the same. Fiddle On Johnny !!

Eternal Gratitude
We will miss you, Johnny Cunningham. Your laugh, your smile, your twinkle, your stories, your spirit, and your amazing talents with that fiddle of yours. I will be eternally grateful for the beautiful work Johnny did on my recordings--he signed on to the first proejct without us even having met! His sessions were nothing short of magical. The tracks with Johnny's fiddle are still my favorites, and working with him on "The Soul of Christmas" was a highlight for me in my career as an artist. I am so grateful to Johnny for embracing and encouraging my work and for always, always being 150% committed to whatever project was in front of him.

Johnny had the unique ability to make anyone, from any walk of life, feel immediately comfortable and safe. What a gift it was to be in the pleasure of his company.

For those of you who were closest to Johnny, my condolences on your loss. We are so lucky to have his music with us still. Here's to you Johnny. No one can say you didn't love life or live it to the fullest!

Robin Spielberg

A sad day for New Bedfordites who got to know Johnny and enjoyed his company so much. We are going to miss you Johnny.

Johnny loved to surf my website, http://johnpinto.com/

John Pinto
New Bedford, Ma..

My condolences to the family and friends of grand fiddle player that is going to be missed for every one.

Such sad news. But what joy it was to be in the Outpost in Albuquerque for Johnny's show just a few weeks ago. His warm smile and laughter stay with us. Deepest sympathies.

Bill Nevins

Sorry and sad to hear about Johnny's untimely death. God rest him and loads of love from Jose and Carmen in Dublin who used to enjoy his tours with Nightnoise in Spain.

We hadn't known each other a long time, but he was the kind of guy who got close to people fast. I'm sure New Bedford was the better for having shared his laughter and his stories. He was a Fiend I won't forget. What a sweet Guy. He'll be sorely missed

Tiny Tavares

The last time I saw/spoke with John was 11/01, the Talisman tour. He was wearing a black leather jacket with red cowboy boots. (How cool is that?)

What a talented, sweet, gentle and funny man, and what a loss. In April of this year, God took my dog because He needed a rare and special red & white beagle in heaven. I think He took John because He needed a fiddler who played like an angel.

There is going to be one fabulous concert in his memory, is there not? To John: Requiescat in pace, and thank you. To Phil and other friends and family: Your sadness is shared all over the world because John touched so many lives. vah

"It's fast and so we play it in the key of A because A is the fastest of all the keys." John Cunningham 4/1/88

I'm very sorry to hear about Johnny's passing. He was an incredible musician and altough I never met him, I heard he was a wonderful man. My sincere condolences and my thoughts are with you.

-Mike Fox

Happiness and Cheer
Buy God a Guinness for us, Johnny. I'm very glad that we saw you and Susan perform just a few weeks ago here in Albuquerque.

Happiness for a life lived to the fullest and cheers for your new road trip...


Slan agat, Johnny
never forgotten and useful piece of information. During the interval, standing next to him in the Gent’s, Johnny offered the following cautionary words, “Please don’t piss on my shoes - it looks very bad on stage!!” Users of the pearly urinals beware!! Slan agat, Johnny. FM

As a long time fan I was shocked and saddened to hear of Johnny's death. My condolences to his family. I'm off to put on Silly Wizard and mourn his passing. Slainte, Michael Cunliffe, Hamilton, Ontario

Loss of an old friend
I first met Johnny in the early `70's. Silly Wizard was doing a tour of small folk clubs in the Liverpool area. I got to know the band and the band spent many hours in the music store where I worked. Some years later I ended up working with Silly Wizard's Bob Thomas and followed Johnny's progress and ultimate move to the USA. I hooked up with Johnny in Berkeley, California a few years ago. He was touring with Susan McKeown.

I have many fun and happy memories of Johnny. I will miss him as a friend, as will everyone else who knew him. His music will live on.

I wish to send my deepest condolences to Johnny's family.

Tim Caldecott

I never met Johnny, but I feel as though I have, through working with his brother Phil. Phil frequently told stories of their lives on the road together and the deep affection was very evident. We are heartbroken for Phil and the family.

Alison Black

Loss of our brother
Trisha Wish we could ease the pain you and all of us are feeling. Johnny was like our brother and he will be greatly missed. So Johnny until we meet again.

Love always
Butch & Linda

A Great Loss
Everyone here at Folk Radio WUMB will greatly miss Johnny. He was a true friend of the station, and was always there when called upon. We'll miss that smile in his eyes and that wonderful sense of humor. On Friday at noon, WUMB Folk Radio will air a concert Johnny did for our members with John McGann, you can listen in at wumb.org good bye Johnny

Brian Quinn
Program Director
WUMB Radio

Soar Johnny!
A brief candle; both ends burning
An endless mile; a bus wheel turning
A friend to share the lonesome times
A handshake and a sip of wine
So say it loud and let it ring
We are all a part of everything
The future, present and the past
Fly on proud bird
You're free at last.

....Charlie Daniels

Oh, we are sad
We just got to see Johnny here in Albuquerque on the Winter Talisman tour, and had such a great evening, hearing him sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" and of course, "Auld Lang Syne," which makes me cry now. Love to all who knew him, he was one of a kind.

Jan Wright

I'm completely in shock, as well. I moved up to Vancouver, Canada, this year, so I sort of lost touch with this group. I had been in it previously.

Johnny had emailed me a couple of times...always a wonderful man. I was lucky enough to have seen him at The Folkway in Peterborough, New Hampshire---twice, as a matter of fact.

This is a great loss.

And now, because I've been digging out my music to play, I'm realizing that I don't have "Against The Storm" on CD. Is it even available? That's my favorite Cunningham record to date, although I agree with you, George---the Relativity music is gorgeous.

Thanks for listening. This is a very sad day.


from the Boston Globe
How would you say "I just peed my pants" in Gaelic?

"Mún m' briste" (Moon muh Brish-tey)

le grá
WBill (nursing Johnny related hangover)

I am deeply sorry to hear of Johnny's death. He was my favorite fiddle player, starting with the time I heard him playing, oddly enough, an old time tune at a session at the Augusta Heritage Festival a bit over 10 years ago. That was the same festival at which one friend braided another friend's hair in a four-strand braid. I'd never seen a braid done with more than three strands before that, and was impatient to try it. I was at the dance at Augusta, realizing that I had nothing on which to practice - no yarn, no ribbon, no string, no shoe laces, no thread, nothing - and that I would need to practice it soon lest I forget it. Just at that moment Johnny stumbled out of the dance, grabbed an onlooker and stuffed the man into his place in the dance, came over and sat down next to me. I looked at him, looked away. Looked at his hair, looked away. Fidgeted. After a moment, I turned to him and said, "Excuse me, but would you mind having your hair braided?" Without a word, he turned his back to me and flipped his hair back for me to braid. That was the first time I attempted a braid with more than three strands. See where that led me - www.dreamweaverbraiding.com. I'd always meant to write ! and thank him, but I never did. God bless.

Yup it was Auld Lang Syne that had me with my head down on the wheel yesterday, after I'd pulled into the garage, sobbing. The violin section at the end.

I was going through me emails from Johnny and I found one that was in response to something he'd sent us-- must be archived in the Rovers-- in which he was thinking about the death of George Harrison and that it's true, the cool die young.


(He wrote that he was goofy so he'd live a long life. Somebody thought otherwise...)

On Wed, 17 Dec 2003 18:15:11 -0000, dauyong@huntington.org wrote :
> --- In the-rovers@yahoogroups.com, RoverPam@a... wrote:
> > In a message dated 12/17/2003 11:03:56 AM Eastern Standard Time, > howie@p... writes:
> >
> > > (you may want to get a tissue handy):
> >
> >
> > Thanks, Howie... your message came just when Johnny & Susan's
> rendition of Auld Lang Syne started up... now I may have to close my
> door..
> >
> > Pam
> Gawd Pam, I don't think I can ever listen to that again... I just
> remember you, me and Glo sobbing in the 2nd row at the Prism last
> year, and Johnny choking up with Susan trying help him finish the
> words.
> Shit, sometimes moments are a little too prophetic.
> Dorothy trying to sob quietly...

Thank You, Johnny Cunningham
Such a great loss. I'm so grateful for all the pleasure and joy I've received from Johnny Cunningham's music, and from his wonderful and wacky humor. Today, I'm especially reminded of Johnny Cunningham's extraordinarily sublime fiddling in "The Land O' the Leal", and of some words from the song:

"There's nae sorrow there, John,
There's neither cauld nor care, John,
The day is aye fair
In the land o' the leal.

..But sorrow's sel' wears past, John,
And joy's a-comin fast, John,
The joy that's aye to last
In the land o' the leal.

I hope it is so.

I pray for comfort for Johnny Cunningham's family and friends.

Thank you.

Kate Jackson, Connecticut

I have no words, let me borrow some
And there's a hand, my trusty fere!
And gie's a hand o' thine!
And we'll tak a right gude-willie waught,
For auld lang syne.

It seems a long time ago since the Philadelphia days when Johnny would breeze in, hop up and join Terra Nova on stage and mesmerize everyone in the room, including us onstage. What a fiddle player. In those days of the Fair Warning recordings we shared some drinks and a lot of laughs. Hadn't seen Johnny for over ten years but kept up with him through fellow musicians. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones. God Bless

Harry O'Donoghue.
Savannah, Georgia.

Johnny you'll be missed by everyone whose life you touched. I'll never forget the good times in the Carvel among many other hostelries.


Tricia, Friends and Family,

It was with shock and great sadness that I learned about Johnny's sudden passing. Please accept my sincere condolences and regrets for not being able to attend tomorrows viewing. My last memory of Johnny was at a concert where we would have been just as happy to have been entertained with the hilarity of his stories. When he finally did begin to play, I felt the same awe that one has when a sports personality who you've come to know through tv interviews and such displays the rare grace of athleticism that has put them at the top of their field. Johnny was a rare talent and extraordinarily warm soul. I wish I'd seen him more.


A very sad loss
One of the highlights of my musical life was hearing Johnny and Phil play duets one night long ago at the old Towne Crier Cafe. The musicianship, precision, spontaneity - and the pure joy of making the music - was truly unforgettable.

I always enjoyed running into Johnny and looked forward to seeing him again one day. He will be sorely missed, but his music will live on. Our thoughts go out to all his friends and loved ones.

Happy Traum

I was so sorry to hear of his death. I think I went to every concert in New York and loved his humor as much as the mucic. If it is at all possible I would like to know if there will be some king of memorial service.


We were so lucky to spend with him a whole week of great music, better feelings and lots of chat when he came to Madrid, Spain, to produced our CD in 1997. After some hours of hard work in studio he used to say: "La Musgana broke me again", but now is La Musgaña´s heart who is broken.

We had the chance of meeting such an amazing person and we won´t ever forget every minute we passed with him.
Johnny, rest in peace!

La Musgana - Spain

So many tears today
In November I re-connected with Johnny at the Sebastopol Community Center after too many years. He played so sweetly and entertained the audience so brilliantly that it felt like a Sunday afternoon session in Boston's Brendan Behan Pub.

We were very close friends and neighbors in Boston in the 90's, but managed to lose contact, as we do in our lives with those we love. Anyway...my partner Jeff and I had a grand chat with him and Aidan over too many B&B's after the show in the most private pub in town. He just wanted to tell us all about his new love Trisha, how she healed his arm and his soul and gave him new life. I was so excited to hear that her good friend Madeline was living here in Sebastopol and that he planned to make time "off tour" to come hang out with us on the farm and enjoy the good life in the Sonoma County wine country.

My role in Boston was often the designated driver for this local Scottish treasure. We lived two blocks apart and he would sing the entire way home. The most amazing tune I can recall hearing him play was in the Littlest Bar in Boston. We strolled in looking for a quiet pint before he was due to play a show downtown and the barman asked if he had a song. He slowly and graciously launched into the most haunting, ethereal version of Danny Boy that was ever played on this earth. No vocals were needed to leave the place without a dry eye.

Thank you Trisha for giving him so much to live for and for returning him back to us so well and happy. I have yet to meet you but have no doubt of Johnny's worship and adoration and am sure he will be watching you from his favorite bar stool in the sky.

My most heartfelt thanks to Johnny for always being himself, the silliest wizard. I'll be looking for you up there in the stars tonight. You'll be the one shining the brightest...

Peace and Love,

Phyllis J. Beaty

p.s. Thanks to the webmistress and Trisha for this site, so many lovely photos, especially the one on the home page.

It's so sad Johnny passed away. He was one of my favorite musicians.


In Memory
I was still filled with the joy of Friday's night concert when I heard the news. My heart is saddened....my life enriched by his soulful music.

A candle lit for him and his.

But, oh, won't those angels laugh!

Nancy Reardon
New Bedford Whaling Museum

In sympathy
I will miss sharing drinks and comparing tattoos with Johnny much.


Ar dheis De go raibh an ainm-Johnny Cunningham


Casey Neill Johnny Cunningham in memoriam
Hi everyone- Im writing with sad news that Johnny Cunningham passed away Tuesday evening. He was a musical genius and the finest Scottish fiddler in the world. He was my friend, mentor, bandmate, and record producer (Skree and another we hope to have out this year). He believed in my songs and music and worked hard to make them (and me) the best they could be. It was an honor to have this kind of support from a hero and as a close friend as we get to have in this world. He was a larger than life man whos love of his friends and family was amazing. His tremendous life in music is documented in recordings with his brother Phil in the bands Silly Wizard & Relativity, as well as the Raindogs, Nightnoise, Susan McKeown, Celtic Fiddle Festival, and theater work. He died peacefully at home in New York City. Condolences and memories can be sent on his website www.johnnycunningham.com

I loved him dearly and owe him everything.

Casey Neill

He will be missed ...
We have often enjoyed Johnny's wit and talants and we were particularily delighted to see him in New Bedford on Dec 12th. He looked wonderful and played wonderfully and really seemed to be having a wonderful time. The world is now a little less bright He will be missed.

Ronald Townshend

from Spain
Thank you very much for all the special and touching moments that your music give to my life. I had never met you but, for me your music is a part of the few things that makes life good to live.

In Memory Of A Great Musician
I want to send my condolences to Johnny's family and friends, I was shocked by the news. To know him was to love him, I was lucky to have known him. I wish I could write more,but right now the words feel iadequate. Not many of us had the way with words that Johnny had, fewer still could play the fiddle like him.

Martin Hayes

Bye, Johnny
To say that Johnny was one of the most remarkable musicians I ever met is, of course, an understatement. He was a tremendous influence on and inspiration to me and everyone in the Celtic, nay, the entire folk world. For him to be snatched away at such a young age is a tragedy of the highest order. He will be very, very much missed.

Paul Lehrman
Mix Magazine
creator, "The Celtic Macintosh"

Waking the dead ...
One of the best 'Irish' fiddlers I've ever met. Like some of the old school, an edge to his music, humour and story telling that cut through the crap, a heart that was open and took in any that came within its warmth. A light always welcome to drive away the shades.

It's been awhile old friend, not by choice but by chance. You electrified the floor for the dancing, and when we were told to shut up, we took mattresses off of all the beds and pushed them against the windows and went on anyway, until the sun joined the music again to light the next day. Then, on our way out, you hitching a ride, we kept the VW van door open playing helicopter, "good morning Vietnam", and tore and slid around the place eating up grass and slinging water balloons at all the people we liked, and some we didn't as we distanced ourselves from that shared moment.

The next time we met you were down, very down, and things seemed dark. I am glad to hear you found love again and it was mutual and warm and there to the end and beyond. If it is as they've told us, and we're all bound for hell, at least there will be laughter, music and dance and we can share the stories we never got around to, and those that have accumulated since, and share some tunes... You've been missed but have always been there firmly placed in memory and heart, with much affection. I hope I picked up a little of that grit for the few times we rubbed shoulders.


Fare ye well, Johnny
I am deeply saddened at the passing of Johnny Cunningham, one of Scotland's musical giants. The power and the passion of Johnny's fiddling and, yes, his good-natured humour, were nowhere more evident than in what I consider to be his masterwork, "Peter & Wendy."

This morning, unaware of Johnny's untimely death yesterday, I had the privilege of presenting "Peter & Wendy," in its entirety, for the seventh holiday season in a row. I have great difficulty making all the voices of the narrative distinguishable. But Johnny was impressed that I would even attempt it! So, following the example of another great Scot, Robert the Bruce, I shall persevere until, perhaps, one day I succeed.

One does not recall encounters with Johnny Cunningham without remembering the uproarious laughter. I recall his pride in acquiring a black Cadillac that he referred to, with relish, as his 'Pimpmobile.' I also recall attempting to tell a joke to brother Phil and having to call upon Johnny to explain the joke.

My most sincere condolences go to Johnny's near and dear and to the legions of his friends and admirers. Johnny filled our hearts with his humanity as much as with his music and he leaves a diminished planet behind. I read elsewhere that he left a diminished fifth in the 11th Street Bar. So, one might harbour a suspicion that somewhere a party is going on and Johnny is in the midst of it.

Play on, Johnny.

joe cavanagh
Storrs, CT

Missing John
What a wonderful man. It's hard to believe he's gone. He will be sorely missed.

Garrett & Sergio

A happy memory
I'll make this brief. On Dec. 7, 2000, my friend Bob Ford and I had a gig at the Dublin Pub in Dayton, Ohio, the night before Johnny was to play at the Victoria Theatre. He walked in the pub while we were taking our first break. I recognized him and yelled out to him, and he came over to our table, and without thinking a whole lot about it, I asked him if he'd like to play with us, and before I realized it he and I were in my car heading to his hotel a few blocks away to get his fiddle. He played with us for around an hour, and insisted that we do what we'd normally do, and he'd "just play along". You can well imagine what that sounded like.

The thing I remember the most about Johnny and that night was how humble and nice he was, and how he seemed to be having a lot of fun just playing with us and sharing his gift with us and all the other people who were lucky enough to be there. I'm sad that I'll never get to run into him and remind him of that night, but there is a song called "The Night We Got to Play With Johnny Cunningham" that tells the tale. Thank you, Johnny.

Love, Christopher Noon

I'm shocked and saddened to hear of Johnny Cunningham's death. Only two weeks before, he and Susan McKeown performed at our concert series and he seemed about as alive as anyone could be: witty, genial, and one of the best fiddlers I've ever heard. He will be sorely missed.

Daniel Flaumenhaft
Crossroads Music, Philadelphia

I just heard of Johnny's death and am sending my condolences to his family and friends. He was one of the best!! From his early days with Silly Wizard to more recently, the Celtic Fiddle Festival (encore is to this day one of my top ten favorite cds). Listening to Johnny's Big Set on that cd leaves me in awe of his amazing talent! His playing is an inspiration to anyone with aspirations of taking their talent to the highest level. He will truly be missed by many. Our prayers are with you all!

God Bless,

jeff greer

We were so fortunate to see Johnny in concert twice this year in Washington,DC and Philly. We'll remember forever his artistry and wit!

Roberta and Chuck

He lived in laughter and wine.
And he could make music.
He was Scotland’s prodigy and a rare find;
Very Celtic and simply tragic.

He had a perfect ear,
And it was perfectly clear
The musicians he played with
Were there to hear as well as
To be lifted to where he was.

We drank together,
Did crosswords together.
He was usually faster.

To be good you have to be
Close to the source, be it music,
Language or the stories that tell us
What we are.

When a musician dies
Birds know and they tell the wind
And a death lingers in the atmosphere.

a poem by Jules Ryckebusch
written on 12/17/03
30 Arnold Place
New Bedford, MA 02740
(508) 993-9316

Deepest condolences - Johnny will be sorely missed and fondly remembered. Twenty years seems like yesterday, trick-or-treating with Johnny, juggler Fred Garbo and our 3-year old daughter, when we passed out a few tricks and tunes for the neighbors' treats.

- Rick & Joan Epping

Johnny, we will miss you dearly. The world has lost a great man. We will keep you in our hearts always.
Sleep well and God bless.
The Wolfstone boys

One of my fondest memories is sharing a few drinks with him after a show he played with his brother at a club called Graffiti in Pittsburgh many years ago. We'll miss you Johnny.


Goodbye Johnny, Dear
I feel very sad to you death. I'm sorry to my english,I'm spanish. Until forever Johnny, I love your music.
Kisses, from my heart.

I am in shock! What a loss to the world music community. I treasure the few evenings we joined with him after concerts. His sense of humor was so joyful, his music a treasure....I will miss him.


I am stunned by johnny's passing and feel a hole in my heart that is deep and wide. i loved the man beyond words....

rest in eternal peace, my friend, my mentor, my inspiration

chris maguire

>I am just stunned.

That describes me as well. Just two nights ago I was thinking about the bit from the live video where Johnny and Phil are talking about 'A' being the 'fastest of all keys'. And how Johnny would be performing the only known Scottish erotic dance, the 'Dance of the Seven Army Blankets.'

Just damn...

johnny, i met you but once when you were in the waiting room at lenox hill hospital..my son chris was having a second operation on his neck..it impressed me that you waited to hear the results and left when you knew his family was there also..god rewards those who visit the sick..god bless you

The airwaves are quieter tonight ...
I am stunned. Johnny's music has been so much a part of my radio show and my life. I still remember when the Celtic Fiddle Festival came to South Bend...oh, what a wonderful night!

Thank heavens for the recordings, and we'll see you someday on Fiddler's Green.

Harriet Engle
Celtic Traditions
WSND-FM 88.9
Notre Dame, IN

Sad, very sad to hear that Johnny's gone. I'm thinking today of a skinny yellow-haired laddie at Inverness Folk Festival 30 odd years ago who, when asked why he played the fiddle so fast replied, "because I can." Indeed he could. Over the years we'd bump into each other in various places, always a great laugh, there was one time in England with a juggler......

I've got a piece of paper in my wallet from last December with Johnny's address and phone number scribbled on it. We were going to get together, have a crack about old times, play some tunes. One of these days, I thought.

I'll miss you, gadge, the world's a colder place now.

Allan Carr

Today is a day when the world lost an inspiration. I was proud to have known Johnny. I will miss him dearly. What a guy.If you were fortunate enough to meet him you will never forget him.

My thoughts are with you all.

Jason Specter

I'm sitting here, at a loss for words, my keyboard filling with the saddest of tears.


I am just so totally stunned, as are we all.

There may be a time I can remember with laughter the amazing talent and personality of our dear Johnny, but right now all I have are tears. Thank you, Amy, for breaking the terrible news in such a loving way....it helped to hear it like that....


The dark of winter
I have just heard of Johnny's death from my editor at Dirty Linen magazine. He was a lovely man--I'll always remember his hair and his ink, his brogue and silly humor, and especially the wonderful music he made for Peter and Wendy and A Winter Talisman, two works featuring Susan McKeown. I missed their D.C.-area concert this year, and missing it is the core of my sorrow right now, a selfish grief--"It is Margaret you mourn for," as Hopkins penned. I believe that ultimately his blithe spirit and distinctive musical legacy will bring more enduring joy than any sadness we feel now. And I hope Saint Peter laughs at bad jokes!

--Pamela Murray Winters

Good Bye Friend
Johnny once or twice in a year would come to the bank in New Bedford, Mass. where I worked. The day I waited on him, I made a friend. He, with the Scottish accent immediately became a novelty to me with my Pilgrim accent. He spoke of his music and quickly I spoke of Sean Connery and he told me his dad went to school with Sr. Sean and they called him Snortery Connery. Johnny was a unique, kind, good man. I am retired now but will always remember him with a smile. The world has lost a rare individual. My since sympathies. Sue M. O.

The Silent Fiddle
He blazed across the heavens like a meteor
Whilst we earth-bound mortals gazed in wonder.
His flight on the swift wings of an ancient tune
Now bears his soul to the great hall of his forebears.
Majestic is the legacy of this man of mischievous might
Fierce his renown - a champion never bested.
I knew him when he was but a child
And watched that child become a man
Yet in that man a child remain.
To play, to play, always to play. A bow seldom still.
Those who loved him are legion, enjoined for now in one distress
Reaching across the globe, lover to lover, friend to friend.
Time is now for the fiddle to lie silent
The raised glass and merry jibe will come soon enough.
Many tongues shall sing the lament - the song of passing
The flowers of the forest are a' weed away.
And we shall tell stories of how he lived, laughed and loved
And he shall live on, forever the impish youth in the warmth of our imaginings.
Those who seed the earth with such splendor can never die.
It's always springtime somewhere.
Take your ease, Johnny - have one on me.
Lessened we are for you passing, but ennobled we remain
Able to smile and say, "You were my friend."

le grá Seanín


Laughing, crying it's all the same
I was most privileged to watch Johnny perform in the intimate setting of the Wilde Auditorium on two occasions. I laughed and I cried with Johnny when he performed. And now I do both agin' in his memory.

May his quick wit be remembered, his bawdy humor be cherished and his name be blessed.

Steve Theaker
Folk Music Show Host
WWUH 91.3FM & wwuh.org
West Hartford, CT

Johnny, oh how we'll miss you
I don't want to believe that this is true. I last saw Johnny in Washington in June. He got snarled up in the DC traffic and I had to keep burbling till he arrived. He bounded into the tent, clambered onto the stage, gave me one of his bear hugs and then turned in one of these masterly sets, brilliant playing, helluva funny. How awful that it was that great,warm heart tyhat let him down in the end.

Trisha, and all the family, our hearts and thoughts are with you. love, Sheena

I miss ya, amigo
Luckily you can't erase the memories I have of Johnny(nor the negatives of the photos I have of him throughout the years). The funniest and genuinely sweetest man, with a talent of PEOPLE as well as music. I had a wee dram of whisky in your honor.

Slan abhaille.
Heather& Malcolm Wellington

Well you left without saying goodbye so I guess that means we will meet again somewhere, sometime. Look forward to that. We will miss your playing and humour and wish that we had been able to sort out just one more Celtic Fiddle Festival tour for you over here! All the best Chris @Adastra

A part of me gone
Every time I lose a friend a part of me is with them. When I have lost all the best there is only one way, but to follow.

Shocked and saddened to hear of Johnny's passing. Condolences to all of his family.

Dave Francis
former Director, Edinburgh Folk Festival

To Trisha, Phil,and the Cunningham Family.

Johnny's talent, spirit, and humor will be greatly missed. His departure leaves a large space in the world, not easily filled. His music and spirit remain to keep us company.

Fondly, The Leistners, Ken, Kathy, Sol, and Bari.

Too young
Johnny will be missed so much! We had so much fun.

We miss you already, Johnny
I am numb from the news, as I'm sure we all are, so I can only say for now, Johnny, I hope you are in a peaceful place, but the world is much much poorer and sadder for your passing.


Warm soul, trail of broken hearts
"Light oh light that beauteous flame
In warm embrace to forge a name
So those who doubt must doubt in vain
And we who trust shall grace attain
Oh light, light that beauteous flame"
-J. Cunningham

Johnny's gone too soon for our liking
Thank you for sharing your music with us Johnny Cunningham. Johnny's spirit and passion has inspired so many. To the fiddlers of Gaoth Dobhair and The Rosses of Co. Donegal, Ireland; Johnny will always be highly regarded and fondly remembered. Our sincerest condolences to his family and friends.

Maya Frost

I am stunned to learn of Johnny Cunningham's death. He had such a robust appetite for life and a tireless enjoyment of other people. I have fond memories of time spent with him from Memphis to St. Louis to Glasgow. His wit was almost as prodigious as his talent! He will be missed by many and remembered often. So let it be acclaimed of him, "Well said. Well played. Well lived." Here's to Johnny and the next great adventure. -rlc (Robert Campbell, Mid-South Celtic Arts Alliance)

I only met Johnny briefly, the last time in September, which was also the first time I saw him perform live. He was a wonderful spirit, full of life, and I am glad to have had the privilege of meeting him and basking in the light he gave off. He will be missed.

-- Graham (Madeline's fiancee)

Johnny, your music with Silly Wizard was a great influence on me when I started playing the fiddle. I learnt The Mug of Brown Ale from your playing on the CD about 12 yrs ago. I have never met you or seen you in concert but still your music was part of making me so keen on traditional Irish/Scottish music. Thanks, Johnny and you live on with the people who loved your music and who learnt from your playing. My thoughts are with the people who were left behind and who loved him.


I just learned of Johnny's passing and am stunned by this really sad news.I met Johnny back in 1980 or so when Silly Wizard first came to tour the U.S. and interviewed the band on my WFMU radio program. We became good friends and I was able to team him with Gabriel Yacoub whom I used to manage and we did some great gigs and had superb times together. I'm also good friends with his forme wife, Karin Lea who just informed me of this terrible news.

I shall honour Johnny's passing tomorrow evening on my CKUT-FM Montreal radio program by broadcasting the original interview I did with the band which was the first time we met.

I extend my deepest sympathies to his mate, his family, his friends and the members of the band.

I am very sorry indeed...


Dan Behrman
Program Manager
The Montreal International Jazz Festival
Les FrancoFolies de Montréal
Immigrant Music, Inc.

I remember when he would go out with his fiddle in Liverpool to the Crack Pub with just 50 pence in his pocket come home pissed in a taxi and still have the 50 p in his pocket. Only Johnny could have done this as he played played all night for all to enjoy!!!!!!!! No one who has met Johnny will ever forget him.

Sue Thomas

I didn't know Johnny well, but he always impressed me with his "joie de vivre". I worked with him when he produced Fred Small's "Everything Possible" CD and he did a brilliant job!! I'll always remember coming into the studio on my birthday and having Johnny serenade me with "Happy Birthday" on his fiddle!!

The death of Johnny Cunningham is a big sad new for me and all the people from Spain who love his music.

We will miss him and his great fiddle playing. I saw him twice playing with Nightnoise in Seville, he was all the time joking with the people,I still rember him taking photos from the audience,he was a man with a great sense of humour.It was fantastic for me to listen to his fiddle playing.Thanks to him for all that music he brought us, he will remain in it. My heartfelt condolences.

Esther Amores.



Ah, what stunning and sad news. Johnny, you were an inspiration to all of us through your consummate musicianship. We're going to miss you.

Our sincerest condolences go out to Trish and to Phil and to all family and close friends.

The music lives on!

Greg Artzner & Terry Leonino of "Magpie"

What a tragic almost unbelievable loss and what a sad day for all of us who knew and loved him. He gave the world an immeasurable amount of joy and fun, passion and heart. And such wonderful music too. He was one of a kind.

Mick Moloney

I'm just a fan of Johnny's. My wife Peggy and I had the pleasure of spending some time with him when he toured here in Dallas in the 80s. I appreciated his ability to make us smile and pack more music and entertainment in one human form than seemed possible. He will be missed. Our thoughts and prayers go to his family.

Ken Fleming

My sympathy and thoughts for Johnny's family and friends. I wish I could have known him a little. He warmed every room/stage with his Light.


> I am just stunned.
> -- Rich --
Rich said it best. Stunned, and crying.
>br> I will miss Johnny and his music dearly.


Night Eagle

We met one single time almost exactly one year ago. It was December 8, 2002 at the Night Eagle Cafe in Norwich, NY. I was with Adam, a friend who you had known for many years. It was a very snowy night, much like Sunday December 14, 2003 the next time that I planned on meeting you. However, Mother Nature stopped Sunday's performance from happening and now I see that she wasn't the only hand in that decision.

Head now to a greener pasture, Johnny.


I, too, must give Johnny credit for my introduction to Celtic folk music. I had been playing with the Highlanders for a couple of years when The Old-Time Fiddlers group in Iowa City sponsored a concert featuring some Scottish fiddler and a "local" boy, Gerald Trimble, on cittern. That was in the early '80s. The fiddler was Johnny. I listened to that concert, enthralled with the music and the storytelling, and I was hooked. Then, to make a great evening even better, I was invited to the party afterwards where we had a jam session going until the wee hours of the morning. I bought the album "Against the Storm" that night a played it over and over for the next month. I swear I had memorized every scratch and pop on that piece of vinyl. I met Johnny one other time, at the Kansas City Highland Games a couple of years later. I made sure everyone in the band had a chance to hear the wonderful music that came from that tent.

Words can't express the feelings I'm sure everyone has at this time, but I do appreciate WBill's email. That comes as close to expressing Johnny's influence on us as a group as any I can imagine.

While the chances of my being able to attend any kind of memorial service/concert are remote, I do hope some of the East Coast Rovers will represent us. Let me know if anyone plans on flowers or anything, I'd like to contribute.

Great Musician he was!
I feel very sad about this bad news. Me and a friend, Marc Bilodeau, from Québec, CANADA, was loving so much his fairplay fiddling and want to have a think for this great fiddler.

Go in peace.
François Gerardin, Québec, CANADA

What a loss! Unlike many of you I never met Johnny, but his words on a message he left here inspired me to go to Swannanoa fiddle classes the last two years. I don't know if I have the words right but he said something like, "The most beautiful fiddle music he ever heard came from people who just really *wanted* to play." When I pick up my fiddle now and play something--even badly--I think of his words and I'm encouraged. I imagine he gave that encouragement to thousands of fiddle players. The music world is poorer today.


Condolences from all of the celtic music fans as well as the staff and folk music volunteers at public radio KTOO-FM in Juneau Alaska

Susan Fitzgerald and Jeff Brown
Program Directors

There is nothing to say but Johnny will leave a huge void in the world of Celtic music.....he will be sorely missed.

What a wonderful Man
I am so sorry to hear this news
William Ramoutar
Irish Ways Radio Programme

I'm a friend of Aidan Brennan. He's told me many a story of his days on the road with Johnny and I wanted to add my voice to the many who must already have expressed their sadness at his passing. Ni bheid a leitheid aris.

Joe Mc Kiernan.

It was wonderful that Johnny and Phil had an opportunity to perform together before this tragedy. It was a great show of talent and synergy with lots of revelry. We are challenged now to carry on the tunes that have been done so well by Johnny.


Aloha from Jimmy Majorowski
Aloha means hello and goodbye...Goodbye Johnny, the world will be quieter and have less laughter now that you are gone. Thanks for taking a shining to some dumb Polish kid from Southie and encouraging me and my three chord masterpieces. The world already misses you!! Aloha

I will always remember you as the already brilliant (and cute!) young fiddler I met about 30 years ago when you first joined Silly Wizard. Seeing you and spending time with you thru the years was always a joy, the memories will never die. But a part of my history is gone now, and I, and Brian, will miss you terribly. My most heartfelt condolences to your Mum, and Laura, and Phil, and to Trisha. Thank you for your artistry, your inspiration, and for being the one and only you ...

Miki and Brian

A sorrow ...
It is a sad day for all students of Scottish traditional music.

Bob Rogers

I had the pleasure of meeting Johnny in Denver last year. He was so friendly and such an inspiration as a fiddler myself. I am in disbelief. He was so funny and witty. He will be missed very much. God bless you Johnny. I will never forget you.

All the Best
Debbie Little
Denver, Colorado

A long goodbye
I think it’s safe to say that everyone has one or more heroes in their life, some one you look up to, admire, and aspire to imitate. And one of the most devastating events that can happen to you is when one of those heroes passes away.

When I was a kid, I woke up one morning to find that Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran passed away in a plane crash. Several years later, I was devastated when John Lennon was assassinated in New York.

A couple of weeks ago, I came to listen to a trio of Celtic musicians right here at the Cayuga Vault in Santa Cruz California – Susan McKeown, Aidan Brennan, and Johnny Cunningham – put on their annual winter tour filled with songs of winter. On Tuesday, I learned that Johnny Cunningham had passed away, stolen by a massive heart attack.

Johnny and his brother Phil, were giants in the Celtic music revival. Their band, Silly Wizard, was the 200-pound gorilla of Scottish music. Johnny’s fiddle playing could turn out exquisitely beautiful airs and heart-stoppingly exhilarating jigs, reels, and strathspeys. His collaborations with Kevin Burke and Christian LeMaitre in the form of the Celtic Fiddle Festival united all the best elements of the worldwide celtic music tradition. His adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan was a triumphant melding of classic literature and traditional music forms. On stage, Johnny was a giant, his flowing locks echoing the smoothness of his playing, and his camaraderie with the audience a tribute to the warmth and welcoming of his artform.

I was lucky enough to have Johnny perform at a concert at my house along with Susan and Aidan a few months ago. I really believe that wherever a musician plays, they leave a small slice of cosmic awareness of their presence behind them, and I know that the walls of my house soaked up some of Johnny’s presence that night.

I’ll never forget Johnny Cunningham.

Molly's Revenge

We have so enjoyed Mr. Cunningham's music and performances over the years. Our deepest condolences to his family and friends...he will be missed.

Jacki and Steve Wolf
Keizer, Oregon

I began my morning yesterday waking up from a nightmare. Took my daughter to school, came home, checked my email and a friend had written me the sad, shocking news that Johnny had passed away. I cried and couldn't stop as I wrote this friend back.

My heart goes out to you -- especially at this time of year. He was funny and good, and his fiddling was like none other. I always used "Peter and Wendy" to show kids how the real Peter Pan music was.

I still can't believe it. God must be having one hell of a bash up there. That's the only good reason I can think of for him taking Johnny so soon.

Love to you all...

Susan Howard

Although it has been so many years since we last met the memories of your times in the UK with Silly wizard at our own Folk Clubs and others will never fade. It was a privelidge to have had the opportunity to hear such a fine musician from the very beginnings. You will be sadly missed by us all.

Ian Chesterman

Thank you, Johnny, for having been such a fabulous musician and a totally friendly and lovable and funny guy. You will be sorely missed.

with love,

The Daftie

A note for Trish. Bits and Pieces...
Johnny told me about you with a gleam in his eye!Wehave known each other since our teen age years. I am glad we reconnected as friends and musicians over the years.I may have been the only one to convince Jhonny to perform for a few children's shows with me. He says they were the only ones he had ever done. After a brief panic and a mortified look on his face he did quite well. It just took a few smiles and he realised that the children were actually quite friendly! Of course he modified a few jokes to fit the age of our audience. After that we were on a short tour with regular adult audiences.That one fun day with the children encouraged him to choose the one purple shirt to wear for the show.We were back to black after our shopping trip for necessary clothes .I was delighted to help Celtic Events on November 29th for the concert featuring Susan, Aiden and Johnny. He we quite pleased to be in front of an audience again after his long wrist recovery.It was quite fun to ! watch Johnny act as a stand in baby sitter for Susan.He has been quite an inspiration and a good friend to my daughter Harriet who is now ten!(a budding fiddler)We had a very recent brief conversation via phone regarding his excitement about the new music project he was working on. He wanted to make all of the deadlines on time. This last time it was a short chat about musical ideas.He really made a fe "come backs" in his life time. I am glad to have participated in a few of them- and to have so many musical friends!He was a support to me at times with my cancer that seemed to knock me out that part of the crazy musical world we all love-Perhaps he was about to become the next reincarted Robert Burns and maybe Stanley Halloway all rolled into one with the Cunningham and Robertsone family magical sense!Some don't sit too still at peace for more than a moment at a time. But what a time they have! What a lot they get done in the day!Ab'll do it later! Just gie me peace till !

I've ha ma tea (or Whiskey)Peace after a walk wi ma love!.....(and a w ee tickle)okay?Years ago we once decided that some how things always come out in the wash- after all the worry....."Going my way" (J.C. says)Well after some tears I said to Harriet-what a ride he has had- Like she said in a poem of her own he is a silly magical fiddling wizzard friend!The reason I did not say was just yet is that it takes awhile to think of someone in the past tense- another day !Cheers to Mary, Laura, Phil, Trish,Brian Robertson and Johnny's many grand friends! To those who can understand sometimes the music we were born with is a curse and a great blessing. Johnny understood. From a fellow composer who has to wake uo too early after gigs the last several years to get Harriet off to school- Teri Rasmusson.

I have felt an immense sadness since hearing of Johnny's passing. In the brief time that we spent with him and worked with him he was always a beautiful human being, sharing both his music and his wonderful sense of humour. His light always shone brightly, and I know that it will continue to do so. I can only imagine how those closest to him must feel at this time. It is to you all that I send my deepest condolences.

We love you, Johnny.

Allan Dionne of Mad Pudding

I was privileged to have Johnny as my cousin, there is lots of us and we all had a wonderful happy childhood within the Cunningham clan. We are still a close bonded family and the news has shattered all of us. it is wonderful to read these lovely messages and to know that people all over the world will miss him as much as we will. I have my own private memories to cherish, and for those of you who knew Johnny you will not be surprised to know that most of them are unprintable !GOD BLESS J xx

Carol Craig

So sorry to hear of Johnnys passing the world is a poorer place.

Tommy Hayes

of a man whose notes filled the air ...in Italy too. Thank you, Luca.

A great fiddler and great inspiration. We will miss him! -- m.mcconeghy

Mi más sinceras condolencias a todos y todas por la muerte de John. A mi siempre me quedará su obra y los recuerdos. ¡Que grandes ratos de disfrute he pasado escuchandole en directo!. Y la vida sigue...

Fernando (Madrid-España)

My daughter's grief and enchantment
I last saw Johnny at the Prism in Charlottesville a little over a week ago. With me were my daughter McKensey (age 8), my wife Stephanie, my brother John, and his wife Nancy. Last year was McKensey's first meeting with him, and after he autographed her violin and they played it together, she left charmed and intrigued. When she'd show the many autographs on her fiddle to others, she'd usually be careful to point out where Johnny had written "Keep on Fiddlin'!" Last week, she brought a new violin, and he again signed it for her. We were taking pictures, and when she was aiming the camera at him, he began clowning and smirking at her - the picture was a wild blur of a smile that we all love!

When I told her last night that Johnny had passed, she was immediately in tears, and she sobbed and sniffled for at least an hour. She went straight to the internet and sent a message. We were all shocked, terrily saddened, but her tears were most moving.

'ere's to ya, Silly Wizard! Ya brought magic to our lives, and especially bewitcht a fledgling fiddler!

Rees Chapman

Happily, my abiding memory of Johny was at the Smithsonian Folklife festival in DC last summer. I was priviledged to be involved with the event and with some of the roster of Scottish musicians. Johny's set with Brian McNeill, Chris Stout and Alastair Fraser will always remain fresh in my mind. All of Scotland's musicians would join with me in mourning Johny's loss and it was an honour to know and to hear him.


Rest in peace, Johnny
My deepest condolences to Phil, John's family and friends. Last week I was driving my car and listening an old cassette: "Against the Storm", fiddle and accordion by the Cunningham Brothers... and now such a sad news. I never met Johnny but it was good to know he was playing (and joking) somewhere. I promoted, many years ago, some gigs with Silly Wizard here in Bologna, Italy, and I met his brother Phil. Very very sad for him, too...

Giuliano Mazzocchi

As with everyone else the news of Johnny's death came as a great shock - he was just far too young to leave us. I first knew Johnny and his brother Phil in the early days of Silly Wizard, through booking the Band into the Edinburgh Police Folk Club ("Fuzzfolk")and when I later worked with the Band at Edinburgh Folk Festival. I last met Johnny in Boston a few years ago at one of the North American Folk Alliance Conferences, where we sat at the bar, swopped drams (of course!) and reminisced about those 'good old days' in Edinburgh. Johnny was a wonderful character as everyone who met him knows and a hugely talented musician. I am honoured to have known and worked with him - he will be sadly missed. I extend my deepest sympathies to all his family.

Ian Green - Greentrax Recordings, Scotland.

Passing of a Great
Just a message to send my deepest sympathy to Mr. Cunningham's family. I continue to enjoy his music in the band"Silly Wizard". It is truly sorrowful when a piece of history, a wealth of talent is lost. Lost it will never be though, as long as his music can dance from ear to ear , Johnny's music will live on in all that he has touched. We'll miss you Johnny.

Barry Delaney

Life, indeed, is what Johnny Cunningham shared in his music. I had the pleasure of hearing him live on several occasions, and each filled me with that whole spirit that only such good music imparts. His gift touched me, moved me, and now his passing leaves me sad. And grateful for having had the good fortune of knowing his music. Know others share your sadness, and hope that makes it a little lighter. All the best...Mary Beth, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

Really sorry to hear he is gone. Fabulous music, fabulous friends, fabulous legacy. He will surely inspire even greater than he gave in his life.

I had the pleasure of being in a session with Johnny a few years ago in Philadelphia. His talent and energy were an inspiration. He will be missed.

-Mike Eitelman

Johnny the big yin
I was so very shocked and saddened to hear the news of Johnny's untimely death. A few years ago I had the honour of working and hanging out with him when he graciously agreed to produce my band's C.D. (Big Bad Bollocks - Night On The Tiles) It was such a thrill to have Johnny with us as we bashed out our tunes with Captain Johnny at the helm steering us through the shoals and keeping us in laughs and stories. What a great bloke and a lovely man he was. My condolences to all of his family and close friends. I think I know how they must be missing him. John.

I loved your music
We where lucky to hear your music, Johnny you are great, wherever you are now.

José Antonio

No te olivaremos
Your fiddle will always play in our hearts

Raul Sanz Garcia

Los genios nunca mueren
Gracias por todo amigo, bebete un "Tio Pepe" a nuestra salud ahi arriba...

Tu musica sigue viva en algun lugar de España...


A genious never dies

Thanks for all my fiend, drink a "tio pepe" and cheers in the heaven...

Your music lives somewhere in Spain...

In my 12 years at Green Linnet I was blessed with having known Johnny both personally & musically. He was a joy to be with - I don't think I ever stopped laughing. He was an inspiration musically. I will miss him always. My heartfelt condolences to his wife and family and all of those who adored him. My prayers are with you....


Cornish Fairwell
One in a million. I only got into the Wizard in 1996, after the bands end, but the duel between Johnny and Phil is a constant reminder of how much I have to learn. Dhe oll ni karas ha gwellas nevra moy.


sad to hear johnny has passed away
I've never seen Johnny live, however, I, as a celtic music fan who lives in a far away land, in Istanbul, Turkey, I used to listen to his music on CDs.. I'll miss him..

Levent Varlik

Goodbye Johnny
This is a very sad day. It's a long time ago since we saw you with Nightnoise in Zaragoza, Spain. Jonny will be always alive with his music. Our sympathies go out to your family and friends.

Josef and Laura, La Rioja, Spain

It's so hard to add to all of the beautiful and eloquently written comments that have already been shared about Johnny. The chapter of my life entitled "Enter John Cunningham" began nearly 25 years ago. While I haven't had the pleasure of interacting with him lately, my memories of the joy, laughter, passion, and most importantly the music that were Johnny, are so vivid that it seems like they happened only yesterday.

It was the vibrancy that resonated from John that made him seem much larger than life and gave the impression that he would be around forever. Unfortu-nately, like the rest of us, he was human after all and so has left us.

If there is any comfort that I can hope for his loved ones and friends around the world, it is in the tremendous legacy of joy, whimsy, and laughter that he has left us all as recounted by the memories and comments being shared on this website. Not to mention the wealth of music that he has left us that we will continue to share.

Thank you, Johnny for all that you have given us.

Colleen Low

Memories of a Newport Concert
With deep sadness I reflect on his passing.

Memories of a truly magical concert in a stone church and just a young man and his fiddle filling the room and all of us with magical music.

You will be missed.
Debbie Drury

A true loss for music.

I just wanted to share my story and share my small part in continuing the legacy of his gift.

Though I've met Mr. Cunningham several times, I don't count myself as one of his friends, but maybe one of his disciples.

I'm a Highland piper and no matter what strathspey or what tempo I'm playing, in my head I am hearing/feeling Johnny play A.A. Cameron's at quite a slow speed.

I'll never forget a chance to sit next to him through an all-night session several years ago. On towards dawn, I said to him, "I just love the way you play A.A. Cameron's...there's so much Strathspey in it."

He turns to me with bleery, late-night session eyes and says to me "I like to play my strathspeys slow," and proceeds to play it, pointing and expressing the music at a level that few can even conceptualize.

I have taught many children that tune and have played them recordings of Mr. Cunningham playing it, encouraging them to internalize the beauty of his music and revere it.

A true loss of one of the greatest of all time. Of course, a more imporatan loss for a special family countless friends. My praryers are for them.

John H.

Soar. Rise on bright wings of music and love into the firmament we sense above.

Illuminate the heavens with your light. Join good souls who have gone before.

Hover in the bouyant air of laughter ringing out for all to hear.
You touched us.
Touched us with a heart so rare and lifted us from the cold hard ground
where troubles lurk and cares abound.

Now cast aside your earthly bonds and leave us, diminished by our costly loss
but comforted within the eternal heart of memory
by the warmth of your humanity.

Too Soon.
Too soon the silence of your strings stirs us to hear what can be no more.

Comes sorrow at the closing of the door.

Johnny we always love ya
your soul mate, your precious Johnny
"everyone.s love". He, himself, his soul reached out and gavae all he touched a piece of his fun lovin' self.
We are thankful to you for bringing Johnny inot our lives and giving you such joy and happiness. His talent was
was great and growing greater. There is no way we take away your pain, your sorrow, your loss. Our compassion and love for you and Johnny is felt deeply. We are so glad that you had this very special time in your life. Not many people experience the relationship you had, the humour, the fun, the creativity. Doing the website for Johnny was so insightful and so well done, It all has a meaning. Why, what when, wwe do not know
Johnny me boy we love ya'
your spirit stays with us, our love abides. Trish, we have such respect for you, your wonderful spirit, talents, beauty, special special gifts. Our love for you and Johnny lives on and on and on. Mom and Dad

Hi there...I will always remember the big heart that Johnny had...deep inside,he was a really sweet guy...a truly gifted musician and performer...he lived life to it's fullest,brought many smiles and tears to friends and audiences around the world....the Scots lost one of the best promoters of their Heritage,and a pioneer of "new" Traditions.....I really loved playing music with him.....Warmest Regards, Zan McLeod

I look at the cancelled tour dates for 2004 and the music that could've been - should've been - and I think of the concerts in the past that I missed, and all I have left is cold CDs - glints of silver, if you will. Listening now to The Humors of Tulla medley from Live Wizardry; into what realm has that incredible energy gone? Must stop now...Andy Stewart's voice too easily brings tears. Fare thee well, Mr. Cunningham.

Hey Johnny,
Why'd you have to leave so soon?
I'll be missing you man.
See ye'after,

How the angels must be laughing at your stories...

You were such a wonderful gift in our lives! Little did we know when we embraced Friday evening it would be the last warm hug and kiss from a very special friend. "CHA CHING" The ABUNDANCE is now yours!

Pam and Rick

Our deepest condolences to Johnny's family. He was a part of our musical "family" as well; and will be missed by all of us here in New York. Would that we all live life to the fullest in the way he did.

Love and blessings,

Anne and Ray Wrublewski

So many amazing memories of fun and music through our years of friendship. One night on a drive home after a gig, we decided to become the Bulgarian Women's Choir- the four of us singing random notes in harmony...many Easters and New Years parties...Some of the finest moments of my musical life were playing duo with Johnny on slow airs like "Mist Covered Mountains of Home". A terrible loss for us down here, but hopefully Johnny is having a tropical drink with Elvis as we speak!

You will not be forgotten
I had the pleasure of working with Johhny several years ago with a band I was in Cliffs of Dooneen. He played on our first album and floored all of us in the studio not only with his musical genius, but also his incredible charisma and wit. As life goes we lost touch, but I will never forgot him and the way he touched everyone he met.

Flynn a.k.a Martin Crotty

Hello Trisha & Co,

I am the son on Brian Robertson of Edinburgh, Scotland. Brian is a cousin of John and Phil's. My father never knew them too well until maybe 10 years ago when Johnny was playing in Colorado. Johnny tracked down my dad and they were able to reconnect. The minute I first met John and Phil I could tell they were related to my Dad. My Dad is much shorter and bald, but they have the same features from their mothers' sides (Hendersons I think). My dad had no siblings and his parents died early so for him to reconnect with John and Phil has been such a blessing for my father and for the rest of my family who have no living relatives in Scotland now except Phil.

Johnny inspired me to learn to fiddle - and now it has been 2 years. I listen to his music often and hope some day to be able to play some of his tunes. He will always be an inspiration for me in my learning to play the fiddle.

I am so sorry for your loss and I know that a bright shining star has faded in all of our lives.

If you speak to Phil please send him the Robertson's condolences. I wish that we could make in to NYC for the celebration of his life, but I only found out about it today. But please know that we are their in spirit.

With our most sincere condolences,

Stuart Robertson

My deepest sympathies to Trish and Phil, and all of Johnny's family and closest associates and friends. A great spirit has passed over, but I am so grateful for having met Johnny and enjoyed his music and friendship. Such a brilliant mind and such a fierce and loving soul! I will miss him so much, as will all who were ever touched by his beautiful music, and his loving kindness and generosity. Love

Always, Peg

Thanks Johnny
We were always amazed that Johnny was interested in producing one of our songs. We, two musicians from NH, with no big name, no big label. But that was Johnny. He did what he believed in. We'll be singing that song for you in NH at the time of your wake, and always. Your spirit in music will live on.

Pati & Ken Cloutier
"Ivy Le VINE & chum"
Bennington, NH

Heartfelt sorrow on hearing such tragic news. deepest condolences to those who like me loved the man and his music but unlike me lived and knew his presence in life.

Mark Kildare

Johnny Cunningham, a true gem ... RIP
So very very sad to hear of the death of Johnny. He was a kind and lovely person.

Trisha, my thoughts and prayers are with you at this time...I endured the same heartache with the loss of my husband just a few short years ago. God Bless you at this time, and God Bless Johnny.

Longford, Ireland

Thank you Johnny
I read the news today, oh, boy...

I will be always listening your fiddle... we met some years ago in the backstage of one of the last Nightnoise concerts and I will remember that evening forever.

Thanks for all, Johnny, thanks for all.

Best regards wherever yor are.

Ruben, from Spain.


Juan F Molla

Desde España, mi más sincero pésame para todos los amantes de la música celta.

Se ha ido uno de los grandes. Todavía me acuerdo cuando visitó mi ciudad local Jerez de la Frontera, y trató a todo aquel que se le acercó con una humildad plena.

Descansa en paz, Master

En nuestros corazones, Johnny sigue vivo
Todos los que amamos su musica seguiremos sintiendo su presencia cerca de nosotros.


Auld Lang Syne
This season of '03 will turn to '04 with the world singing playing strumming humming and reciting Robbie Burns as usual. Glasses will be raised and bubbles will kiss noses on every continent in homes and pubs and sparkling banquet halls and meek and humble habitations from here to there and on every bubble and every note that floats up up up into the eternal, there will be our dear lovely Johnny dancing singing and playing with us, giving us a hearty hug, and a tiny tear will drop on each one of us who loved him.
God bless you Johnny.
Shelley P.

Condolences from Spain.
There´s a song in Spain that sais:
Algo se muere en alma, cuando un amigo se va
And in my soul there´s something dying now, but your music as a good friend will always confort us.
My condolences for Johnny´s family.
Hasta siempre AMIGO.
Antonio from Girona,Spain.

Dear Johnny
I was so saddened by the news of your leaving us at such a young age. I will always remember those 'good old days' around Edinburgh and the folk clubs down south around Kent, Sussex and London with Silly Wizard. Happy days and very fond memories. Rest in peace now and may all your family and Trisha find comfort in their memories of happier times.

Sue Duff
ex editor of KASEbook

Dearest Johnny
We all seem to be saying the same thing: stunned, unable to really take it in. I saw Johnny for the first time in eons at a local concert--earlier this year, I think--We reconnected instantly, and several of us went out to the Quarry House (a fine eating establishment and purveyor of fine liquors--) to drink a bunch of beer. On the way, we passed a "corset shop". Johnny asked "Where are we?" "Takoma Park, MD," I replied. "Takoma Park, Takoma Park," Johnny muttered, "The Corset Capital of the World..."Of course, this immediately became one of our favorite sayings--even my 17 yr. old daughter says it, every time we pass the "Dor-ne Corset Shop." (How many towns can make this claim?) I loved Johnny for his sweetness, his humor, his mania, his great heart, and his music. The many, many good times from the "early days" when Johnny and I were both in our 20's remain with me as vivid and brilliant as 25 years ago. I shall always think if him sitting around my mother's k! itchen table drinking--tequila?--as Johnny, Ray Fisher and I got progressively drunker and discussed "deep thoughts" of the sort one has only when drinking tequila. My dear mother almost swallowed her tongue, laughing. Johnny, I don't know what to say--much love to all who knew you. We'll miss you forever. So many tears.
Love, Riki Schneyer (and "A" really IS the fastest of keys)

We will remember
I first met Johnny and his brother Phil in Edinburgh in 1977 at a sort of Gaelic festival for poets,etc. They played some tunes, we drank some wine after getting the bottle open with a screwdriver... The next year Silly Wizard came to the Philadelphia Folk Festival. Johnny and Phil spent a day or two with my family. My then 90 year old Granny beame very fond of them both in numerous subsequent visits with them and with the band. There were many happy times -- always raucous and over the top - Phil and Johnny and we shared over the years, including Johnny and Karin's wedding in Sotland. Johnny was a huge talent, and an individual of great appetites, wit and charm. He wil be missed professionally by the music world, and personally by all of us who knew him. We held him with great affection, and he will live on in our joyful stories.Our love to Phil.

Prudence Churchill

Dear Johnny
Maverick trad fliddler, with lightening fingers (never mind that one doesn’t move at all after the motorcycle crash, though it started to again after the broken wrist…) and that beauteous lyric mode…

Loving friend, generous, raucous, hilarious (never mind you’d heard the jokes before, repeatedly, and they were of themselves just never that, well, you know….), with a clandestinely elegant and subtle, compassionate core, cherished as our very own by however many hundreds of us.

A brimming, burning, chaos of life, with a briefcase of legal pads cataloging an idea a minute in that tidy spidery writing. Some fabulously worked out and completely viable project he’d have told you about, and a year later you asked where that was at, but something else had gotten done instead, but soon, and so you asked again, but…

A receipt he submitted during the 02 run at New Vic, deeply organized mind you, stapled ticket, dates, etc.: "Dear Liza, My name is Johnny Cunningham and I wrote the music and some of the lyrics for the show Pedro and Bendy. I took a train from Providence Rhode Island. It cost $160. However! $58 was an upgrade for my own luxurious needs. So a sawbuck will suffice ($100). The extra two dollars is on me. Much love, J.C." Don’t worry, he had me at “my name is Johnny Cunningham,” not to mention that when I had gone to work with him in New Bedford, arriving by train in Providence, there, unexpectedly, stood a chauffeur with my name on his cardboard sign. Sent by Johnny, he said, leading me to a stretch limo with a nicely stocked bar, and we of course spent the snow slow drive to New Bedford, entertaining each other with Johnny stories.

Johnny m’ dear, I believe you knew just who you were, and how much we all loved you, and what a light you shone. Thanks for the time you spent with me. Who knows when I’d have seen you next, but I miss you already.

Love, Liza

I will always treasure the weeks I spent touring Italy with Johnny and Bill Morrissey a few year ago. He was the best.

Fred Koller

To Johnny
Gods always take earlier their chosen.
Your name will remain written in the waves of music.
So long.

pésame desde Zaragoza(España)
Nuestro más sentido pésame por el fallecimiento de Johnny y nuestro agradecimiento por su música.
ánimo a toda su familia y amigos.

Dos admiradores de Zaragoza (España)

Adiós Jonnhy
La música solo muere cuando deja de sonar. No te olvidaremos.

Scotland at the Smithsonian
I was in the audience at the Celebration of the Scottish Fiddle which Johnny perform at. He was great! He was having a grand time, it was hot and before you knew it he and the other fiddler were going barefoot with their pants up to their knees. Johnny made it a geat evening of fiddle music and fond memories for me. I'm sure the angels will enjoy his music as mush as we have!

A brilliant ray of light has passed!
Sleep well, Johnny.

Brendan O' Regan

Johnny's Untimely Death
I mourn the passing of Johnny Cunningham. He was a wonderful talent. May a merciful God receive him into heaven and place him among the front ranks of countless musicians so that he can continue to play for the enjoyment of all!

Rev. Fr. Timothy Robinson
St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, Temecula, California

Johnny we barely knew ye
I only met him once but I knew him well from his music...it's a window to the soul and Johnny's was gentle and deep..a likeable bloke with a special gift..it's sad to have him turn off his music so soon...but his memory will live on with the music...and the Scots would sing the old lament..."

And there's a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand of thine,
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught
For auld lang syne."
Which roughly translates to ' a hand from a trusty friend, who gives his hand in return, and then they have a good drink and toast old long ago.'

Farewell Johnny, the pipes are calling you home....

simon meredith

We never did get you to Lewes, but we still play your tunes. You'll be much missed, but the music lives on.
Blessed be,

My Friend
He was my friend. He bought my daughter Michael her first drink in a bar. And her second. And her third. They were playing Sheryl Crow's All I Want To Do (Is have some fun) on the jukebox over and over. As the night wore on, Johnny came all over avuncular and warned Michael about men like him. "I'm a bad man. I'm a very bad man." "No you're not.", she says. "You're just a mischievous little devil." He was my friend. I'm going to miss him for a very long time.

Good-bye Johnny
I will miss this wonderful guy, gone much too soon. It was a privilege to know and have a drink(s) with him.
Aaron Elstein
Crain's New York Business

Just saying how much I will miss this great musician.


A big loss to all ...
Very sorry to hear the news on travelling folk BBC Scotland tonight ...... Johnny was ... talented .. and of course you know funny ... I saw him many times ...in Scotland . Brittany and Ireland ... during his work with .. Silly Wizzard , Relativity . and Nightnoise ..... he produced many great performances ... compositions ... and .....humor ..... he is well respected and will always be someone special ......... thoughts to his brother Phil and all close to him ... family and friends .......... I will think of him and his time and music ... and humour ..... the story of the Scottish homesick " pie in shower" was .... true of his observations of life and ... fun ..... God bless him ..... regards .. from a Glasgow ... fan ........ Lez Sang

All of us up here in Montreal were shocked and saddened by the news of Johnny,s passing. Johnny you'll be sorely missed but you're memory will long be with us and we'll think of you and raise our glesses each time we hear your voice on Night Visions.

Love from Patricia Kirk Dave Simone Bob Ed Heather

He'll be missed ...
I had the pleasure of seeing Johnny at the Station Inn here in Nashville a few years ago. His solo fiddle set was the highlight of a wonderful evening. His work in Silly Wizard remains among my favorite music. Farewell, Johnny and Godspeed.

Randal Smith alias Smitty the Kid

John lived with the Muses. He was their favoured brilliant child. His genius, music, wit, generosity, and impish spirit will be sorely missed as we continue our lives without him. As Tommy observed, the world is a poorer place indeed.

C-J Stevens

A light has gone out
I'm so very sad to hear of Johnny Cunningham's death. My husband and I went to so many of his gigs in Boston that I feel I knew him -- though we never met. I think of him occasionally and it's always a broad smile that I see. I'll carry that smile with me always, as so many will.

My thoughts are with Trisha and his family.


Your music will endure
It is almost 27 years to the day since I met Johnny for the one and only time, in of all places,a washroom at Queen Margaret College in Edinburgh. Johnny and I chatted for a while doing things that guys do in a washroom and as we left we talked a while about what he loved best, music . The boys were doing a concert there and they did it with all the passion that only could bring to a concert. I have collect much of the Silly Wizard albums and still play them on long trips, it is great music to drive by. Johnny we will miss you and your talking fiddle.Heaven will be entertained for sure. Respectfully, Jim Murray St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada,

An unforgettable man and musician
My wife and I share the same sense of profound shock at the news of Johnny's passing. She has a framed, treasured photo of herself taken with Johnny at the last of Wendy Newton's memorable Green Linnet Irish music festivals in the Catskills in the mid-1990s. You haven't lived until you've settled down at 2:30 a.m. with a pint to watch watch Johnny onstage, leather coatjacket sleeves pushed up to his elbows to display those brilliantly colored, wonderful Celtic tattoos on his forearms (the Book of Kells come to life), stops and starts as he regaled the audience with his quick wit, and then not a dry eye in the house as he played a melancholy Scottish fiddle tune. We had the good fortune in later years to see him perform at the Celtic Fiddle Festival on the campus of Purdue University. Eagerly anticipating Johnny's stirring fiddle playing and wonderfully sharp wit, we arrived at the hall early and had an absolutely unforgettable opportunity to share a drink and a few smokes wi! th him in a local pub before his performance. He didn't remember us from the last Green Linnet festival at Friar Tuck's in the Catskills, but nonetheless he welcomed us warmly and invited us to share a drink with him. We'll certainly miss his deep humanity, his unique humor, and his marvelous fiddle playing.

Not forgotten ...
I've never met you Johnny, but I am friends with Phil, and after spending time with him, I know how much he loved you.
I wish I could have met you - you must have been a wonderful person.

All my love to Phil and family at this very difficult time. Johnny may be gone, but I know he won't be forgotten.

Harriet Bartlett xxxx

Remembering Johnny
I just posted a message (12/18) in which I mentioned that my wife and I had shared a drink with Johnny when he played with the Celtic Fiddle Festival in West Lafayette, Indiana, in the late 1990s. However, I neglected to include our names -- please add them to my earlier post. Thank you.

Chuck Stewart and Nancy Sixsmith Indianapolis, Indiana

love, respect, truth
The world will be not the same without you.

And it's no, nay, never,
No nay never no more,
Will he play the wild rover
No never no more

Johnny we will miss you.

Fran Tuite

My thoughts and wishes are with you, those friends of Johnny I've never met.The tunes will be sweet where ever Johnny is fiddling now. I had the wonderful honor of providing sound for Johnny, Susan and Aidan in Sebastopol. Several times over the last years, including just a couple of weeks back. Johnny's "take cares" and wellwishes after the show ring softly in my heart and surely always will. May the warmth he spread here come back to his dearest ones and family. with peace
and in sorrow michael bendinelli sebastopol, calif

I am so sorry to hear this dreadful news. There are many fans of Silly Wizard, Relativity and Johnny's other bands in Australia and they have spread his music far and wide here. What a sad loss to the music world. He will be greatly missed. My condolences to Johnny's family and friends.

Cathy Rytmeister
Sydney, Australia

mi alma esta triste,JOHNNY nos ha dejado demasiado pronto.GRACIAS POR LO QUE NOS DISTE GRACIAS POR TU MUSICA

Sadly missed
Deeply saddened to hear of your untimelly death. Loved your music and your love of music. First met you in Glenelg in the late seventies and infact you played with the band at my 21st birthday BBQ at glenelg after rushing up from Glasgow after recording 'Take the High Road' as the theme to the new scottish soap Opera.

Best wishes to Trisha, and phil and the rest of the family, Like your soul, your music will live forever.

God Bless


Remembering a special cousin
Remembering all the times when we were kids,and all the nonesense we got up to.Remembering all the fantastic family getogethers with Johnny and Phil playing just for us their family.What a privelege!Johnny you lived life to the full and your family will sadly miss you,but you have left a great legacy behind with your music and comic talent.

Thinking of you and Trish and your mum and the rest of the family.

Laurie Smith

Great musicians are a rare jewel ...
I was deeply saddened of the news of this loss. I only new Mr. Cunningham thru his music. But the joy and inspiration that came thru that musical link made me feel as if he were my friend. My ancestors came to this country from Scotland almost 200 years ago, and discovering "Silly Wizard" and later solo and collaborated efforts gave me a wonderous connection to my own past. As I am an accordian player in a rather unusual-period bluegrass band, those inspirations have also given me high standards to try and attain. I can only imagine the great music that must have come from Johnny and Phil sitting and playing alone together while learning and perfecting their talent. ["oh yeah? Try to play this, then."] My sincerest condolences to his family and friends who shall truly miss him personally. The rest of us will still have his music.
Benjamin Beale
"The Barking Spider Band"

In memory
I just heard the sad news from my mandolin player coming over to practice tonight. As a fiddler and just an awsome person Johnny has been a very inspirational figure to me. I always looked forward to chatting with him whenever his group came to town. Sadly I was supposed to see him on 12/14/03 at the Night Eagle but the show was cancelled due to the snow. I'll miss you and your music!

-Bernd Neumann
Howes Cave, NY

Fare thee well
There is a bit of a saying that the scamp of a girl who introduced me to Celtic music some years back told me one time, she described a man as 'walking as if he had fiddle tunes in his feet'. I reckon the stars will be shining with a bit of a fiddle tune twinkle now and then. Sherry

Thank you, Johnny
JOHNNY, WE HARDLY KNEW YE had so many wonderful friends, and wish we could join the ones who are in NY right now..... In April, 1997, you captured us in the wee hours at a bar in Madrid, persuading us to follow you and La Musgaña to Barakaldo (Bilbao) for the final night of their 10th anniversary tour. Ever since then, you greeted us with such warmth and energy when you come to DC, this “bourgeois town.” We apologise for not joining you for a dram after the Millenium Stage concert on December 3, but we’ll try to make up for it. Love from (Bill and) Marian

I saw Johnny and the boys of Silly Wizard back in the 1980's at the Iron Horse in Northampton, Massachusetts and it was a magical evening. I remember Andy Stewart saying that Phil and Johnny played so fast that only dogs could hear them and I was bowled over by his virtuosity. The Celtic music scene around the world has lost one of its giants.

My condolences to his family and friends.

Thomas Dowdy

My deepest sympathies to Johnny's Family. I have been a fan for many years. The music he made was some of the finest I have ever heard. The world will be a poorer and lonesome place from now on. Godspeed, Johnny.

John "Hoot" Gibson

My sincere condolences on the death of Johnny Cunningham. He will be severely missed by those who appreciated him and his music the most.

Celtic Fiddle Connection is my very favorite Celtic album. You will be sorely missed.

P. Lindsey

Living in New Bedford, I became well acquainted with the musical gifts and the impish wit of Johnny Cunningham. He taught us how to take ourselves less seriously and shared his unique perspective of the world through the magic of his fiddle. I for one am broken-hearted to realize that Johnny’s fiddle has been silenced and that he will no longer be hosting the Celtic Extravaganza at Summerfest or stopping by to play a tune or two with the likes of Kevin Burke during the Music through Time Concert series. When Johnny sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at the Whaling Museum on the 12th, none of us suspected that he would soon be moving into the great beyond. I imagine he is over the rainbow now having a toast with the angels (teaching them how to drink, perhaps?). Safe home, old friend.


Oh Johnny, we hardly knew ya
You are in my thoughts and prayers.

JC's website
Beautiful job on Johnny's website. I am glad he reviewed it before his untimely death. I hope it will be kept up for all of those who did not meet or know Johnny will be able to get to "know" Johnny through the beautiful website. He was one special man and I miss him already. He played at our local sessions when he lived in Brookline and played on gigs with my husband.

Thank you.

Karin A. Joyce
Boston, MA

Profound loss
This world has lostone of the brightest shining lights.Ihave no words worthy to express the loss I,m feeling.Isuppose it is a comfort to know he'll be welcomed in the next world where excellent musicians are always appreciated.Love and condolencs to family and friends .Thank you,Johnny. Cindy OdomKUSP FM ,Santa Cruz,Calif.

You'll be missed
I was just a little girl when Silly Wizard stayed at our house for the first time and I immediately fell in love with my Scottish "big brothers," especially the boisterous and fun-loving Cunninghams. And I also fell in love with their music - particularly Johnny's fantastic fiddling. He was a wonderful musician and he will surely be missed by many. My condolences to Phil, Laura and the rest of his family.

Jeny Quine

Goodbye Johnny
Many years ago, my wife and son and I bought tickets to some weird Celtic thing in Denver Colorado. A guy named Cunningham was gonna play the fiddle. Although we had an inkling of what good Celtic music was, that night turned the three of us into absolute lovers of the genre. We've seen him several times since and have always been entranced by his playing, his sense of humor, and his humanity. We're gonna miss you Johnny!

Don and Jane Hall
Yreka, CA

A couple of years ago, on one of Johnny's whirls through Portland, OR, a late night found me in a session at a pub when Johnny cjoined us- and although I'm not the most experienced Celtic player around, he was so kind and encouraging that I soon felt quite at home, although I had previosely been feeling decidedly shy. I will miss his warmth and tremendous spirit greatly.
Trish O'Neil

I was so very saddened to hear of Johnny's passing. My heart goes out to all of his loved ones. His incredible talent and warm personality will be greatly missed, but he will always live on in our hearts. Amy

Memories of precious time spent together over the years fill my head throughout the day and into the night. Memories that I hold close. I know you are in a better place now, Johnny dear. Rest in peace, love.
~sami melillo

I was deeply saddened to learn of Johnny's passing! I just saw him two weeks ago in Philadelphia and he was his usual humourous self! I also had the good fortune to see him in D.C. in June playing with Alasdair Fraser. His sensitive fiddle playing will be sorely missed. He had an ability to make his violin sound like velvet and bring tears to my eyes. My thoughts are with his family, Trisha and Phil.


May you sit tonight at the right hand of God.


I miss Johnny
I have a delightful memory of Johnny playing with Relativity in Richmond, over a decade ago, when he was teasing his brother Phil so mercilessly onstage that he got upset, and it was decided that the whole band needed a group hug. Well, the group hug extended farther for Johnny than the rest of the band, when with an emotional cry he launched offstage and fell into the arms of the entire front row.

After that marvelous concert ended, I waited outside the door of the hall, and was treated to the sight of Johnny, so full of joy in life that he vaulted through the door in a leap, a large grinning bearded bouncing thing. He caught sight of me and called out "what'll ya be wantin' now, another encore?" in mock disbelief. All I had to say was "I was in the third row" and he understood immediately, galloped over and gave me a bear hug, saying "awww, there's nothin' like missin out onna group hug!"

The world's lost a big talent and a huge heart.


I read with sadness the Telegraph Obit. for Johnny and immediately picked up my fiddle and started playing. Johnny had once borrowed my fiddle in a bar in Portland and with a box player(can't remember who) held an impromptu gig. I remember being amazed because he was whipping through tunes, playing polished sets while delivering a delightful banter to the rapt patrons. Larger than life. We'll miss it all.

Just harmony. "Its the harmony that gets to me" Johnny said. He had tears that night singing Auld Lang Syne. Johnny was a very sentimental guy. And I love him for it. He will certainly be one of the forces in our lives forever.

When we come at the end of time,
To Peter sitting in state,
He will smile on the three old spirits,
But call me first through the gate;

For the good are always the merry,
Save by an evil chance,
And the merry love the fiddle
And the merry love to dance:
(from Yeats)

Brian, Linday, Aoife, Ciaran, Aidan and Fionnuala.

Sadness and emptiness accompany the unwelcome news of Johnny's departure: his gifts of bringing warmth and happiness, music and hysterics to all who came into contact with him truly rank him among the most wonderful people it was ever my privilege to know. This planet needs more Johnnys, not one less.

Kieran O'Hare

What a sweetie, such a loss. I remember twirling in the aisles at the Eisteddfod when he first played in the Southcoast, damn the streets of New Bedford will seem different without him! A kind heart, taken so young. We all ache for this loss. His sweet words echo, when we lost Barbra Carns last year. The music must be great on their stage.

See you, dear friend
Musicians are the friends of humankind. Johnny was a best friend. >From a distance place called Buenos Aires (Argentine), I wish send my most deeply >feelings and all my love and gratitude to Johnny. Thank you so, so much for all your music, man. May God embrace your sweet soul. In your music you'll live forever. Slainte!
And thanks again.
Néstor Barron

One for the fiddler
Aye, a life well-spent and surrounded by those who love you; One cannot ask for more except for more time. To follow one's passion and bring joy and vibrance to others through music is a gift. We mourn the passing of a fiddler extradinaire today. Rest well Johnny.


It was always a cherished dream of mine that one day I'd get to see Johnny and Phil play in Australia. Now that will never be...

Our thoughts and love to Trisha and those who knew him well, from all of us who loved that wild roving and irrepressible music!

Chris Maltby
Sydney, Australia

To Johnny's family and Tricia:
We are shocked and very sad about your loss. As is evident by all the wonderful stories, and comments about Johnny many will miss him. I know this must feel like a deep pain, but your inner strength will help you through this time, as well as leaning on all of us.
the Tuite's & LaCons

Fare thee well, Johnny
I'll tell you in italian,'cause of my bad english. Forgive me for this. L'ho saputo da pochi minuti: si è spenta una bella luce ed è venuto a mancare un amico di quelli che ti tengono compagnia nei momenti tristi come in quelli allegri. Continuerò a portarti con me, Johnny, "wherever I may go". So long.

Back to top
Obituary in The Daily Telegraph
I thought some of you might be interested to read the obituary which I wrote for today's edition (with great and much-appreciated assistance from Phil)
Colin Randall.


Johnny Cunningham
(Filed: 19/12/2003)

Johnny Cunningham, who has died aged 46, was a gifted, inventive and highly influential Scottish fiddler and composer whose taste for experiment led him on successful adventures into other areas of the arts.

Cunningham began his professional career as a member of Silly Wizard, an implausibly youthful Edinburgh band that went on to establish a formidable reputation, touring throughout Britain, in continental Europe and in America. Over the next 17 years, the group recorded nine albums, Cunningham appearing on all but one of them, and influenced countless aspiring musicians.

Although associated with his accordion-playing younger brother, Phil, who also played in Silly Wizard, Cunningham spent nearly half his life in America, involving himself in a number of diverse but rewarding collaborations.

Much as Cunningham was inspired by traditional music, to the point of writing melodies that could sound hundreds of years old, his temperament was unsuited to confinement in a cultural ghetto. There were experiments with jazz-tinged, ambient music (in a group called Nightnoise) as well as forays into American country and (with his Boston-based band Raindogs) hard rock.

He also produced, with considerable flair, records for other artists, notably the all-female Irish-American band Cherish the Ladies, and worked in the theatre, composing music for Peter and Wendy, an adaptation of J M Barrie's fairytale staged on Broadway.

Until the day before his death, in New York on Monday evening, he had been touring with the Irish singer Susan McKeown, presenting A Winter's Talisman, their annual collection of music and poetry.

He had also recently completed a screenplay, Seeds of Crime, an ecological thriller, with his American girlfriend Trisha McCormick, with whom he shared homes in Manhattan and New Bedford, Massachusetts.

John James Cunningham, the eldest of three children, was born at Portobello, a declining resort on the east of Edinburgh, on August 27 1957. His father, John, was a fireman; his mother, Mary, played the organ at church.

At six, he began to learn to play the violin and quickly demonstrated the natural gift for music that was to compensate for his unremarkable progress as a scholar. Phil began accordion lessons at about the same time; both also played the harmonica and were recruited for an Edinburgh children's revue that presented shows in old people's homes and miners' welfare halls.

While still at school, Cunningham formed a band called Home Brew. At 15, he decided that the classroom held no further attraction for him and joined Silly Wizard. The journalist Alastair Clark recalls presenting a performance by the band for the BBC in Edinburgh and being unable to mention the fiddler's name on air because he was playing truant.

After one abortive attempt to produce a record (it was recorded in two days but never released) and a successful legal action to stop a bootleg album, they were given their first contract. The debut record was called simply Silly Wizard; it was followed by others with more imaginative titles, including Caledonia's Hardy Sons, So Many Partings and Wild and Beautiful.

Detractors occasionally sought to dismiss Cunningham as a "speed merchant", and it is true that he was capable of playing tunes at lightning pace. However, he was also a technician with impressive range. "With Johnny it was control and excitement at the same time," said John McCusker, another accomplished Scottish fiddler who regarded Cunningham as his inspiration. "He could play 30 tunes at 100 mph, then produce the most heart-breakingly beautiful slow air."

If folk music is still seen by a large proportion of the English public as something of a joke, it is in Scotland part of a living tradition. Few Scottish eyebrows were raised when Cunningham's original music was chosen as the signature tune for The Beechgrove Garden, BBC Scotland's gardening programme.

During the 1980s, Cunningham reached what many will remember as the peak of his performing career, as a member of Relativity, an outstanding quartet that brought together the two Scottish brothers and an Irish brother-and-sister pairing, Micheal O'Domhnaill and Triona Ni Domhnaill, from the Bothy Band.

In recent years, he teamed up with the Irish and Breton musicians Kevin Burke and Christian Le Maitre for performances under the banner of "Celtic Fiddle Festival". Yet he undoubtedly derived as much pleasure for himself from touring or recording with such artists as Bob Dylan, Hall and Oates and Bonnie Raitt.

Cunningham's boundless musical qualities were matched by a talent for bringing smiles to the faces of people he encountered. Musicians checking into familiar hotels in American towns through which he had recently passed often found that he had left drinks behind the bar for them.

On stage, he was a seasoned raconteur and ad lib humorist. Once, in America, he played a set which included a piece of music called Come Ye By Atholl. Afterwards he was asked by a woman in the audience for the story behind the tune, which she had misheard as Come Eat My Apple. Cunningham responded instantly with a detailed but wholly fictitious account of the Battle of Culloden, explaining that Scottish warriors had a tradition of exchanging fruit with the enemy.

Knowing nothing of such battlefield ways, the wicked English had merely taken advantage of the Scots' lowered guard and moved smartly, as apples were proffered, to win the day. "That is why, to this day, the Scots will eat no fruit or vegetables," Cunningham concluded gravely.

For Cunningham's Christmas present, his girlfriend had set up a website in his honour (www.johnnycunningham.com), which she has decided shall now be his memorial. Among many messages of sympathy already posted on the site is one from an admirer who attended the Winter's Talisman tour when it reached Northampton, Massachusetts, last week.

"As always," the writer says, "he had us all laughing at his dark Scots humour, and wiping tears as he fiddled Robbie Burns's Auld Lang Syne. He ended the show with an ironic Scottish holiday greeting, 'We're born in pain, live in fear and die alone. Happy Christmas'."

Cunningham, who is believed to have suffered a heart attack, died in Trisha McCormick's arms. When he initially complained of feeling unwell and then lost consciousness, she had telephoned his brother, twice the victim of heart attacks in his thirties, for advice. She called again 45 minutes later with news of his "peaceful and painless" death.

Cunningham never married, but was regarded by Trisha McCormick and her family as the stepfather of her son and daughter from a previous marriage.

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I love Scottish music, I love Silly Wizard; my private sport team is named Silly Wizard. Nothing will be the same now.
I have no word to say now I am too sad.

Tears in the eyes
Tears in the Eyes but Thnaks in the Heart at having been lucky enough to have heard Johnny in person (more than once!!).
Blessings of comofort, hope and peace to you at this time of great sadness and mourning.

Duncan Saunders

A very long time ago Johnny lived in a flat beneath mine in Ritchie Place, Edinburgh. The memories come flooding back, the discovery that a motorcycle helmet and visor did a great job of containing a smoking session, Phil being made up by Johnny's pal Suzi as a punk to be interviewed at the local paper, the smuggling into a recording session of flagons of wine to keep the lads going during the recording of some music that they really didnt want to do.

So much talent - such a waste for him to go now but what a character, and what a legacy.

David L

Your music will be with me forever. Salvador (Seville)

Goodbye, Johnny. Some of the best times of my life were in your company. See you later.

Your pal,

Mame Hadden

I can't believe that he has gone. I grew up with the music of Silly Wizard and was totally amazed at his truly wonderful talent. To see Johnny and Phil play together was an experience not to be missed. He made it look so easy, he seemed so relaxed when playing.

I guess God has taken another musician for his band.

God Bless, Johnny.

I first heard Johnny's music after buying the album with his fiddle on the cover. I promply became a huge fan and his music inspired me to learn as much celtic music as I could. I started with all the tunes on the album.

When I found out the he was going to perform in Richmond, VA with the group Relativity, I made sure I was in the front row. I had the pleasure of meeting him that evening and going out with he and his brother after the concert. I also had the pleasure of playing the fiddle from the album cover that evening.

I will always consider Johnny as one of the major influences in my musical career and will mourn the dimming of his light while being thankful for the great privilege of having spent some time with him and hearing him perform in my hometown.

I used to love to see Johnny playing with Celtic Fiddle Festival, among others, and the day we got married my husband and I went to one of their concerts. We consider them "our wedding band." We'll miss Johnny so much...

Karen in Illinois

2 gifts...music and laughter How incredible to give his audiences and friends these 2 gifts. My favorite line has always been the introduction to "Dark Island" on the Celtic Fiddle Fest CD, which goes "We don't normally do requests...unless we're asked." I loved the fact that he didn't take himself too seriously on the stage, even though he'd earned the right to do so with his extraordinary musicianship. It's sad to know we won't seed him at the Old Town School this spring.

Bob in Chicago

On the road beyond the horizon, the land o' the leal.Thanks ma pal xxx

ali donaldson

Farewell and thank you
Johnny was the greatest inspiration to my two children, both fiddlers. When they couldn't get into a Celtic Fiddle Festival performance at the Bedford Hotel, Sidmounth Festival, UK, they stood on the window-sill outside holding onto the gutter above in order to hear him. When I thanked him for inspiring them, he said, 'Well, I'm sorry to hear I've ruined your children.'When they weren't allowed into a late-night concert at the Waterman's Centre in London, he gave them a copy of the 'Peter and Wendy' CD which they played daily for weeks, fiddling along with it. My daughter, then ten, learned The Darling Waltz and started playing it in local English tunes sessions, from where it has escaped into the wild.

Every note he played was charged with meaning and grace; all his brilliance was in the service of the music. No-one could compare with him for music, good humour and magic.

Blessed be,

Valmai Goodyear
Lewes Arms Folk Club, Lewes, East Sussex, UK
Lewes Favourites Tune Book

I have know Johnny for only about 6 years but must say we really clicked and he was a wonderful source for mirth and inspiration to celebrate my inner child! Myself and a couple of good friends had a wonderful visit with Johnny last Saturday evening, and talked about many things of mutual interest. He was really looking forward to his planned recording with his beloved brother Phil. He also offered me some simple and amusing advice about enjoying this hectic life. These last hours together will serve as an inspiration for the rest of my life.

Bob Gaesser

SO many tears
There will never be another like him. He was a kind man. A man of boundless spirit and a gentleman of great humour. Above all - it was the music with which he touched us. I will long treasure my memories of our chats on that subject and always hear the music in my heart. There will never be another Johnny Cunningham. Beannachd leibh!

Dudley-Brian Smith
Smithfield Fair

Johnny was one of the most creative people I ever knew. He was also one of the warmest, funniest, and intelligent people I ever was fortunate in knowing. But most importantly, I remember Johnny as being a good person. I remember him as being so completely perceptive and innocently naive at the same time. Though I hadn't seen him for years, I've never forgotten him. He was taken too early from us. How I would have loved to, in retrospect, just called to say hello, and good-bye. He will be missed.

My heart goes out to you, Phil. I can't even begin to understand how this must hurt.

Steve Katz

Thank you Johnny, for the music. I can't believe that you've gone so soon but at least we have a wealth of your music that, whilst it's not the same as having you, is still a blessing in itself.
Thank you Trish for caring for Johnny and giving him someone to love and care for and for being with him at the end.
Condolences to Trish, Phil and all others who loved him.
Fiddle on, Johnny.

Ron Griffiths - Perth Australia

Trisha, I am ever so sorry to read the obituary in one of our daily newspapers. Johnny was always one of my favourite artists and it is so sad to see him pass away at such a young age. My thoughts are with you.

John Heydon (Herga Folk Club, Haddenham Ceilidhs, National Folk Music Festival)

How ironic (and so how very like a Scot!) that someone who so embraced life and had a heart as big as the sky should die of a heart attack. You left too soon and will be sorely missed. Keep laughing and fiddling, wherever you are, Johnny C!

Carol Hansen

I was so sorry to learn this morning of Johnny's death. I have enjoyed hearing Johnny with Susan McKeown each Christmas season. In addition, Johnny was a regular at the SummerFest in Massachusetts, and his performance was always delightful. Johnny has brought me a great deal of musical pleasure, whether it was with Nightnoise, Celtic Fiddle Festival, Peter and Wendy, or in live performances. He had a wonderful, evocative touch with the fiddle, and he will be greatly missed. My sincerest condolences to his family and many friends.
Vicki Siska
Fort Collins, CO

You will be missed. Your music was so unique and brought such a new sound. The Raindogs were a great band.

Paraphrasing the old chanty:

Wrap me up in me old leather jacket,
No more on the stage I'll be seen,
Tell me old bandmates,
I'm out of the van, mates!
But I'll see you some day on Fiddler's Green.

We'll miss ye, lad.

Merry meet, merry part, merry meet again

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright.
I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun more.
I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive.
I wish you enough pain so that the smallest joys in life appear much bigger.
I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.
I wish you enough loss to appreciate all that you possess.
I wish enough 'Hellos' to get you through the final 'Good-bye'.
Chi mi thu a dh'aithghearr, Johnny.....
-Kathy Bates, WEFT-FM, Champaign, IL

Excuse my english, I'm best in french.
Nous sommes très peinés d'apprendre le décès de Johnny. Nous suivions sa musique et ses disques depuis plus de 20 ans, après avoir écouté plusieurs fois Silly Wizard dans leurs tournées en France.
Nous envoyons toutes nos amitiés à sa famille et ses amis.

Luc et Sophie
Germisay (52) - France

I first saw Johnny Cunningham in person at McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica, California, in 1988 on Silly Wizard's farewell tour. It remains the best concern I've ever seen. I thereafter saw him in Pasadena with Susan McKeown and Aidan Brennan and at the Celtic Fiddle Festival. That was the "socks" tour -- I had never actually met Johnny before, but bringing socks seemed the thing to do, so I did, and he accepted them with great good humor (as he did the socks from all his other backstage sock-bearing visitors). His music and his craic were both wonderful -- the world seemed a much better place for containing both and I felt genuine happiness whenever I encountered either. I know so many others felt the same. If a man's worth can be measured in the joy he gave to others, whether he knew them well, a bit or not at all, Johnny Cunningham is one of the greats.


Dear Trisha
I just wanted to send you all my love after just hearing about Johnny's death this last week.
I only met him those few times he came over to Dublin during rehearsals for Dancing on Dangerous Ground, and his energy and vitality breezed around all of us like a fresh and calming wind. His poetry and lyrics are one of the few remaining relics from that time - and I am glad that we have them....

My thoughts are with you, Phil and all the family and those close to him.....

With love

Colin Dunne.

Thank You Johnny
I’ve dealt with the loss of friends and family members, but never have I felt the uncontrollable pain brought on with the loss of Johnny. How could this man I’ve known only a few short years devastate me with his passing? Who was he? Who is he? What has this wizard done to my soul when I wasn’t watching? I cry and cry every time I have a moment alone, and I feel the pain of all the people who loved him, and I cry some more. The enormity of this pain is a mystery, because I do not believe in death. I reject that foolish belief. How could anyone know Johnny and believe in death?

Everybody who met Johnny loved him. We know he was talented, intelligent, and generous, but what powers does he possess that can reach so deep into the souls of people? It is something more than a word can describe, but I know its reality well because my pain is deep, and real, and unrelenting. And I feel so lucky to have this pain; I am so lucky to feel my heart ache. If I could, I would live everyday and relish this pain because it makes my spirit feel so alive.

So the source of all this pain?…growth spurts…it hurts to grow quickly…that is the only answer. Johnny’s passing has caused a major growth spurt. My spirit is growing, my heart is growing, my intelligence, my love, everything is growing quickly, and like a baby, I cry because it hurts. That is what the wizard is doing now after planting his mystical seeds as he walked the earth. His Spirit is making me grow, making me love and believe and know the beauty of life in depths and heights never before imagined.

Johnny has given us life; filled our spirits with his. Accept the pain, accept the challenge, and grow as a person and a spirit. Let the seeds of the wizard blossom, they were gifts he gave us all; and he will help us.

When I saw Johnny in the hospital with Trisha, she asked me if I wanted to say a few words to him. Choking back the tears, all I could keep saying was Thank You, Thank You so Much. Forever and ever, I give Thanks for a Spirit we called Johnny Cunningham.
Charlie Mickey McCormick

I want to believe that Heaven exists because I am listening to how the angels are enjoying with your music.

Francisco M. López
La Otra Orilla (Ràdio Despí)
Barcelona - SPAIN

My deepest condolences to Trish, Phil and Family. It's hard to believe you're gone, but I think you'll always be with us. You have touched many lives and I'm very glad we became friends over the years.
I will really miss you.
Slán abhaile,
John Walsh

Susan & Johnny's show at The Night Eagle Cafe sunday was canceled due to weather-Ken (the owner) said he'd try and rescheudle Johnny at another time. It was with much shock & sorrow I discovered this will never happen. He was a great man, a great performer and he will be very much missed. Good Journey, Johnny

Cindy McKown
Oxford, NY

We attended Johnny's concert in New Bedford on December 12. We were great fans of his. He played the fiddle so well and he told the best stories. We felt so fortunate to has such a treasure in our area of Massachusetts. We are saddened and will miss him very much.
Richard and Helen Koehler

I had the pleasure of meeting & spending some time w/ him when he was touring w/ Bill Morrissey in the early '90s, came to St. Louis, MO... I was with the folks who'd booked the show so we also 'entertained' the artists to whatever extent they wanted to be... a couple of my friends took Johnny to McGurk's, the most well-known Irish pub in town, where the evening became legend, he joined musicians on-stage for a jam. Folks still talk about that night. RIP, Johnny. Heaven's band needed a kick-ass fiddler & just got one.

Clint Harding, Host/Producer
"Blue Highways" -KDHX St. Louis Community Radio

I was so saddened to hear of Johnny's death. I always expected that we'd run into each other again. We performed on many stages and and had countless undeniably excellent times when we played together in the Raindogs. I look at the photos on this website and find it very easy to get welled up. He was such a luminous man with a life force and spirit that were beyond compare. Thank you John for letting me into your life. Too bad it had to be so brief.
To Life, Love and Lust....
Mark Cutler

I am completely shattered to hear of Johnny's passing,surely one of the great living fiddlers and a fantastic musician and comic to boot!I used to hear Johnny in Silly Wizard in Edinburgh in the 1970's and then I was delighted to find out that he had somehow made his way to these shores, as had I, in the 80's and it was as if a small piece of my Edinburgh roots(transported from England but real nonetheless after 11 years there)had joined me here and his music eased the transition.I used to go and hear him in Arligton at the Regent theatre whenever I could.My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends,Love,James Bennett.

Trish, Phil, and family.
Johnny's passing has truly broken our hearts. We will miss his wit, and music and all the fun.
Love to you all.
Lori and Charles

Terribly sorry and sad to hear of Johnny's untimely death. Knew him from Wizard days and with friend Gerald Trimble - visited once in States years ago early 89s. Such a lovely man, such a great musician. Hearts go out to Trisha...may all your memories of him be happy ones, my dear.... and to Phil and all the family.
A great loss to the world.
My love to you all at this time.
Susie Stockton
Powys, Wales

I learned of Johnny's untimely passing yesterday from Green Linnet's email to me. I wept. My thoughts went to his performance with the Celtic Fiddle Festival that I attended a couple of years ago in Madison, Wisconsin, which brought a smile to me. Johnny Cunningham is an inspiration to me, both as a player and as a fellow human being. I wish there were many more Johnny Cunninghams in the world, but there aren't- what a merry place it would be! He has left the world a rich legacy as a man and a musician, and I'm glad to have crossed his path...I will miss him.
Harry Jackson

like a rocket ...
I only got to see Johnny perform just last spring.......so glad I did. I met his brother, Phil in Cape Breton the year before and caught the very special 'Cunningham' spirit that I know Johnny had also....so kind and unassuming. I primarily play Celtic music, but like Johnny, delve into hard rock with my fiddle. One of my favorite Oregon bands, Floater, had a line from a song that I felt described Johnny's trip through our galaxy.....
From the writing of Robert Wynia in the song 'Endless' it goes: What will they say when you're gone... that you conquered...that you burned like a rocket from the womb to the world. You ran with your colors and your flags unfurled and you ignited everything like a gasoline rain...."
Goodbye Johnny and my heart goes out to the sweet spirited Phil. I'll always remember you at the Red Shoe.
Sharon in Oregon

My wife and I were so fortunate to have seen Johnny twice with Susan and Aidan at the Prism in Charlottesville, VA. When we saw him the first time last year, he was still rehabiltating his wrist and we did not get to hear him play. Well, we were still smitten by him and his poetry and singing, all the same. We had a great long talk with him after the show and we were spellbound by his words, even in casual conversation. Needless to say, we were even more taken by him this past December 6th when he came to the Prism again on the Winter Talisman tour and we heard the wonderful sound of his fiddle. The audience singalong at the end of the show clearly touched everyone, both onstage and off. Our last visual memory of him was his reluctant exit from the back door of the Prism office as Susan and Aidan were already in the car patiently waiting on him. He just seemed to want to remain just a little longer....but he had places to go and people to play for. I am certain that the orchestra of heaven sounds sweeter now that he is among the members. I guess God wanted to hear him play every day, and now he can...........Goodbye Johnny.

Brad and Jennifer Manning

Dear Trisha,

Please accept our deepest sympathies on the death of your loved one Johnny Cunningham. We were very sad to hear the news of his untimely and tragic death.

Renée and Henry Lerner

Are you Going My Way?
Johnny is now a part of my daily life. He is a photo on my desktop. Are we going your way, Johnny? Not for a bit, but be sure to save us all a seat at the mighty sessiun where you now play. Thank goodness for the LP's, CD's, tapes and videos we have in our possession so you may "live on" forever on our earthly plain, to hear your great voice whenever there is a need. In the mind's eye we can see your red snake boots, red Celtic tattoo (I remember you showing it to us all at the Briar sessiun when it was new) and forever playing your red fiddle. 'Til we go your way....KAJ

Ripples in the pond...
My name is Finn, and I was very saddened to hear of the loss of Johnny Cunningham, and I offer my condolences to all his family and friends.

I first heard Johnny Cunningham play at a folk festival something like 20 years ago. I remember that I knew I must play the fiddle after hearing what he could bring out of an instrument. It was simply exhilerating.

Shortly thereafter, I met Johnny at a small performance space in Hopewell Junction, NY which no longer exists. He was playing solo that evening, and we all enjoyed his music and tales of adventure and mayhem. It was a pleasure and a privilege to hang out a bit, and get a look at his fiddle. I will always cherish that first meeting.

I bumped into him numerous times over the following years, and did my best to keep track of him and his music. Every now and then I'd hear some new fiddle music on the radio or the stereo and recognize his distinctive manner of playing. Always a joy.

I guess all I'm saying is that I am probably no different that many hundreds of other lovers of music, and Johnny's in particular, and that if not for the ripples he stirred in life's pond touching me, I would possibly never have touched a fiddle, nor pipes, nor sung a song to share it with others.

I am grateful to have made his acquaintance, and it has been all too brief.

there cracked a noble heart
Pardon for borrowing from an Englishman for the subject line...

I fell in love with Silly Wizard in the early eighties. A college classmate introduced me to their music, along with that of Martin Carthy, Frankie Armstrong, and the Boston Camerata. I owe her a lot for that. I found myself thinking absurdly that I'd finally found what I'd always wanted Jethro Tull to sound like...! And when I saw Silly Wizard (and later, Relativity) in concert, I saw and heard the joy in the music that they lived, and their joy in performing it, and their joy in each other. Love intermingled with the joy, and, lest it get *too* sentimental, a sweet boisterous silliness leavened all. I'll never forget watching the gleam in Phil's eye when he and Johnny were playing a set of tunes, and he reached over and carefully turned one of Johnny's fiddle pegs...

The very best of music has something of the soul's joy in it, even if the music be sad. The very best of people have that quality of joy within them and can glow with it and transform it into something almost tangible. Johnny striding out onto the stage always had that, quite apart from his outlandishly wonderful music. He was glad to be where he was, and altho' he might not know you, he could be equally delighted that you were there too. The world, frightened and angry and confused as its people are, needs people like Johnny, who can remind others not to take themselves so very seriously, even while he took his music enormously seriously himself.

I am so sorry he has been taken from his family, friends, and loved ones. Me, I'm just another audience member, sorry that I'll not see and hear him on stage again. But o, what a dreadful loss for those who shared their lives with him. May you all be comforted among the mourners of this world, and may your memories of him bring you to peace.


New Work With Johnny ....
Dear Friends of Johnny,

What follows is Johnny's artistic statement about a new piece we were beginning together for which Johnny was going to write the music. He wrote this to be part of a grant application to fund the composer's fee, but I think you can still see the heart shinning through. I know he always hoped he'd be asked to make music for work that wasn't based on celtic tradition. I'm happy I was the one who asked him. I'm so sad he won't be making the music for "Song for New York".

-Ruth Maleczech
Co-Artistic Director
Mabou Mines

"My collaboration with Mabou Mines Artistic Director Ruth Maleczech on the new piece "Song for New York" will entail a detailed study of the ethnic musical roots of all five boroughs of New York City. The musical score will reflect the individual history of each borough and the rich heritage of their diverse original immigrant and subsequent populations up to the present day. The lyrical content for this piece will be supplied by five poets, one from each borough, writing of their respective spiritual birthplaces. A ten piece male chorus and selected soloists will provide the musical narrative accompanied by a partially accoustic/partially electrified live band that will bring together the historic and contemporary elements that make "New York" a true meeting place of world cultures and singularly proud neighborhood traditions."

-Johnny Cunningham, November 14,2003

Pied Piper and plaintive sound
Although I never met the man other than a nod and a smile hello I feel as if I lost a good natured uncle. I was aware through others of the Silly Wizard days but did not first hear Johnny until becoming a fan of Bill Morrissey. I connected with the plaintive as well as fast fiddle sound he added to Bill's cd's. I finally saw him live for the first time at the New Bedford Folk Festival these last three years leading the "Celtic Extravaganza". He added so much to that festival with his devilish whit and elegant accompaniment of other musicians. He always seemed to add just the right touch to other's music remaining very unselfish. I always left wishing I could hear more of just him.

I was lucky to catch the Winter Talisman tour this past Friday December 12 at the Whaling Museum in New Bedford with Susan McKeown and Aidan Brennan. I purchased the cd during the break and have been listening to it ever since. Thanks Johnny for teaching me and many others I suspect how to navigate lifes many travails...Thanks for being so much fun!

My regards to your family and many friends.

Bill McCaskie
Cape Cod, MA

Johnny, Bob and Gordon were playing at the Triangle Club in Edinburgh when I met them. I had a fifteenth hand Fender Musicmaster bass and a small amp they bought me in Woolworths for 12 pounds, which was a hell of a lot when you think a good gig only paid us 25 pounds. Johnny was I think 15 and still vaguely meant to be going to school, but we used to pick him up in the Bedford van and head off for gigs all over the place. Something like 200 gigs in the year Andy joined, if my memory serves me well. I remember recording the first album and Johnny recording The Fairy Dance, 6 fiddle and viola parts on top of each other all out of his head, done one after the other and finished in about an hour. Dashed off by a 15 year old to the highest standard with no more fuss than if he'd been doing the washing up. Much water under the bridge since then, my friends, and much great playing. Johnny, you're one of the great players of our genre and our age. Rest easy. I'm just sorry we never! got the chance to meet up again as men and not kids.

Neil Adam Melbourne, Australia

Tapadh leibh
Johnny, a charaid choir, this really is a fine predicament you left us all in. You've left us all agley by being called away at far too young an age - this ball of liquid and glaur is left a far poorer place by your premature departure.

I will mind on your wondrous music, keen sense of humour, and kindly spirit for the rest of my days, and thank the good Lord that he blessed my life by linking it to the time that you were passing through.

Blessings on your brother Phil and with all of your family and friends.

Caidil gu math, gus am bris an latha.
Beannachd Dhé leibh.

You will truly be missed by friends, family, and lovers of music. So glad I had the opportunity to know you.
Arlene Pinchuck


Va por ti Johnny.


Our thoughts are with Johnny's family at this time, particularly his brother, Phil.

Safe journey, Johnny...

Brian & Aine

All those years at Edgerton Road and Bartlett Ave. we laughed and laughed and now you've broken my heart. But somehow I'm STILL smiling.

You were magic, Mr. C


It is with great regret I learnt of Johnny's passing tonight. As I present a Folk/Trad programme on Local Radio in Tipperary, Ireland, I have had much pleasure in featuring Johnny's music over the pat Ten years. We lament his passing but his music will always live on. Go raibh Deis De ar a anam!

Our sincere sympathies to his family and friends.

Noel Fahy

New Bedford mourns
Our city embraced Johnny, and we're proud he called New Bedford home. We will miss the music, wit, humor and goodwill to all that he brought to us ...

God Bless you Johnny and all his family, we have lost a great talent, I have a hole in my heart that cannot be filled. His music has been such a part of my life for so long and I cannot describe the impact it has had on me.

Grace adn Peace,

John Collins

Johnny, we miss you already...
Gosh, where to start....
Irascible, incorrigable, brilliant musician,hysterically funny,wonderous mind. So deeply missed already..
My deepest sympathy to the Cunningham family and Trisha,
Cindy R.

Johnny's wisecracks
Last summer in New Bedfore, Johnny introduced the next performer to the stage as "the famous Icelandic fiddler, Kevin Björk".

He will be missed. My condolences to his family & friends.

J.M. -The Milesians

Our fondest memories of Johnny was the incredible evening spent at the Arizona Folk Alliance. The impromptu musical session with Johnny & John Whelan on accordion..Then we had the great pleasure of spending some time with Johnny at the bar having a few drinks.. Our hearts go out to the entire Cunningham family..and brother Phil..
Roz & Howard Larman - FolkScene Radio

A great guy and a fabulous musician, he will be sadly miss.
Margaret MacLachlan
(founder of Celtic Dawn, WMFO)

One night, many years ago after Milwaukee's Irish Fest, it was my immense pleasure to share a table, food and drinks at a local Serbian restaurant with Johhny. I will never forget this wonderful evening which, of course finished with all of us playing together. Johnny is a brilliant light among us - this Scottish flame will never extinguish! To know him was to be deeply affected by his amazing talent, humor, charm and good will. God Bless you, Johnny. You leave us with love.

This is sent, in particular, to Phil. I cannot possibly imagine what a trmendous loss this must be for you. I played fiddle, at a very early age, with a beloved sister. I treasure her and the gift and blessings we share(d). It is from this place of love and precious memory that I send you my most fervent condolensces. May you be wrapped in the "eclat" your brother possessed and in the love that binds us all and eventually provides us all with peace. God Bless YOU Phil, and thanks to both you and Johnny for all the beyond-generous giving! janna, the Ghillies

Words are not enough
I'm so sorry that Johnny is no longer with us...it just doesn't seem right or fair that someone so full of live and love and music has been snatched away. Well, I suppose heaven needed a good fiddler...but I'm sure disappointed that I never got to see him perform in person. I guess we'll all just have to hope that when we pass into the next world, Johnny will be there playing some of his fine music to help us along.
Cheryl Zetta McNairn Grice
Muncie IN

The loss is to our community. Johnny played for all of us We shall continue.
Vincent Corrigan, Ph.D.
The Institute for Cultural Ecology

I feel proud and privelaged to have seen Johnny with the Celtic Fiddle Festival at Accrington Town Hall (UK).

A Great Loss I'm sure felt by everyone who has seen him.


Deepest sympathy to all of the Cunningham family, farewell to a talented, gifted and passionate musician, who (as an Australian student midwife) I met in Edinburgh in the 70's in the early days of Silly wizard,(ah the festival Hall concert and others) and have listened to his music from afar since then. He will live on in our hearts and minds and touch our souls through his beautiful fiddle playing......
Thankyou Johnny Cunningham

Alison Kincaid

Very sad news for celtic music lovers all around the world. Rest in peace Johnny, thank you very much for all your music. To his family: Phil, Trisha... all my condolences from Spain

to the family and friends: era un gran musico, uno de los mas grandes, del que aprendimos y aprenderemos mucho porque aunque duerma aqui ha dejado mucho.gracias johnny.

During our musical lives, we all have those 'magical musical moments' when time stands still, and our lives are changed forever.
Mine were seeing Eric Clapton playing with the Yardbirds and later John Mayall back in 1965/66, and then Johnny Cunningham playing with Silly Wizard in the early 70s. That moment altered the course of my life. During the band's heyday in the UK, we saw a lot of each other, and became the greatest of friends. They all stayed at my house on a number of occasions, and I still see all of them from time to time. But since Johnny moved to the States, that has been all too infrequent with him. But, whenever he came back to the UK, I always tried to meet up. I remember the last time, some years back. We had a great time (we always did, that was the nature of the man), and when the time came to say goodbye, we hugged and cried, and promised to meet up again, sometime, somewhere…
My partner at the time thought it was weird! I now see how he touched so many other people in similar ways. People LOVED Johnny Cunningham.
Musically, he was the best. Music is never just about technique (although he had that in abundance), but more about feeling, fire and passion. During my long musical career, I have had the privilege to know, and work with, some of the best fiddle players in the World. Johnny Cunningham stands head and shoulders above all of them. Gordon (Jones) phoned to tell me the news on Wednesday, and I've been in shock ever since. My thoughts are of course with his family and the rest of the Wizards.
See you sometime, somewhere, in the Land O'the Leal.
Graham B

In the early eighties, I was introduced by a friend to the music of Silly Wizard and became totally transfixed by this fiddle player, Johnny Cunningham. To that point I had absolutely zero appreciation for the fiddle and Johnny to this day defines the art for me. I feel so privileged to have been able to see him perform in New Bedford on the Winter Talisman tour the Friday before he died. The concert was a Christmas gift for my mother and a dear friend and I have been bombarded by vivid flashes of that evening in my mind all week. Johnny was such a wonderful musician and humorist/story teller. It is hard to believe that so much life is gone. It feels like the day the music died.

My condolences to all who loved him.

Jane Titus
Fitchburg, MA

I remember the first time I saw Johnny - he was suspended upside down from the roof of the stage at the Everyman Theatre,Liverpool in the mid 70s, where Silly Wizard were performing in "Hooley's Hope St. Wake"!!We met afterwards in the theatre's bistro bar & that was the begining of a long lasting friendship.I have happy memories of Johnny & Gerry Trimble staying at my house in Kelsall Cheshire in 1979 & my then 16months old son gleefully dancing round the room in the early hours of the morning as they played tune after magic tune much to the annoyance of my next door neighbours who weren't quite so appreciative of the music!! During the intervening years our paths crossed on many occassions & I have many treasured memories & photos. I have lived in Edinburgh for many years now & whenever Johnny was in town we would always manage to get together for a good blether & reminisce,& a wee drink or two.The golden bow may no longer dance & the silver strings may now be silent,but Johnny will live on in the hearts & memories of people all over the world because of the special joy he brought by just being him.I never met Trisha but my thoughts are with her, & with Phil,Mary,Laura & his lovely granny, & all the his family & friends everywhere. Carole xxx

I did not know Johnny personnaly, but I had the honour to watch his great art at work.

"An artist who lives for his art as Johnny did for others, is truely a great soul and most giving person."

The world of music will miss you!

Tom MacLear

¡sursum corda! thank you very much for all life you gave me. I'll drink a parting glass for Johnny's life.
Deep peace to the ones that are left behind.

the tears are still there
i thought a few days would lessen the sadness, but as johnny continues to play, both physically & spiritually, thoughout my days, one thought keeps ringing in my head. the angels must be reeling from the strings johnny's fiddle.
we love you and miss you, johnny.
john ryan

My condolences to Trisha, Phil, and all of Johnny's family and friends.

I met Johnny several times in the Silly Wizard/ Relativity era, he was not only a shining talent, but a wit and a gentleman and a truly kind and decent person.

Dorie Jennings
Rochester NY

Such a huge universal blow. How enriched my life has been with the introduction to such a masterful mind and an outstanding human being!

My condolences from Lugo, Galicia, Spain, from a fiddle apprentice who learn many things about how to play a violin, listening his music from a CD and enjoying in his shows in a scenary or in a pub, playing in jam sessions. I never will can play with him in a pub, but i will play with him in my mind and in my heart.
Jose Varela, Lugo, Galicia, Spain.
(My apologizes for my poor english)

peace my friend
You will always live on in your music and in our hearts.



I was on my way to the Irish Immigrant this past Wednesday night (12/17) when I was told that Johnny had passed away. I was so upset words could not calm me down. Yet memories of Johnny will always live on.

I first met him at the Last Laugh bar in New Bedford, Massachusetts & was so struck by his humor, kindness & humbleness. I could not believe how talented people told me he was. Then hearing him perform, which I did perhaps six or seven times, was so incredibly special. All artists & human being I believe strive for uniqueness; Johnny was uniquely awesome as a fiddle player, also a great harmonica & flute player & his great sick sense of humor made me & everyone who knew him right at home.

I believe that the whole wide world made Johnny feel right at home because his caring for others was really his greatest talent.

Whoaa, this world is surely gonna miss ya Johnny. I can't believe you are not on earth. Thank you god for bringing Johnny in the world. The world is so much better for those who knew him. One thing that struck me immediately after I heard he had left earth, was after the first time meeting him, I felt I knew him well because of how special he was.

Sam Barrows
New Bedford,

P.S. Johnny, say hi to my relatives & friends where you are now, they are lucky to have you there. :)

As an Irishman and lover of all Celtic music, it is with great sorrow that I and my wife learned of Johnny's passing and your loss. Truly it is a loss for us all. Johnny was the best traditional fiddler alive, not just my thoughts, but those of fiddlers with whom he shared the stage.

My father, in true Irish fashion, always told me "those that die young get off cheap" and that death was merely a door to new life. While I don't necessarily agree with the former, I have always known in my heart the latter to be true, as have Gaels, both Scots and Irish, from the dawning of our race. Death's sorrow is only for we the living to bear.

Johnny, I wish you a swift journey and a front row seat in the Creator's band, you have justly earned it. Your music is now for the delight of Heaven's host. Those of us you have left behind will take comfort in the tunes you have already played and can only imagine the grand Ceilidh of which you are now a part.

William Madden

Angels all around you
Johnny made us feel that we were all friends...we sigh and tears fall and cry out in disbelief...and gratitude...how cherished he is still ...how lucky we were, to have laughed and sung together...blissful...may we carry it on! angels all around you!

As grieved as I am at his passing, it's only as an admirer of his music and enormous talent. I How much harder it must be for those of you who knew and loved him. Please accept my sincere sympathy. No need to reply.
Margery Jennings
Amesbury, MA

the song goes on forever
I'm sitting here on saturday morning with the radio on.....this is the first time i've heard of johnny cunninham or his music. I consider this a gift to have tuned in and will find and enjoy this man's tunes now......my condolences to all who knew and loved him. Bruce Carusi

i would just like to say how sorry i was to hear of johnny's death. I haven't seen him in concert for a number of years, but one concert he did with his brother at the phoenix arts centre Leicester England will always stick in my memory as being one of the most enjoyable folk concerts i have seen in the last thirty five years, the music was excellent and i never stopped laughing all night he will really missed by all his fans in the U.K. and the U.S.A.

I am sorry for your loss. I didn't know him, but as a music lover, his presence will be missed. Sara


My old friend, you made me laugh when I was sad and you made me laugh when I was happy. Your music made me smile, cry, applaud and most of all, feel. So many years ago, you and Phil were the "bubblegum heroes" to my daughter and her friends, and you basked in their admiration. We had some great times in Sumneytown.

I hope my copy of "Against the Storm" never wears out.

We have lost a treasure.

Hamish's Mom

i´m very sorry for the news. I want to send my condolences and love to johnny´s wife and to all his close friends and family. I love trad music and I know we´ve missed a brilliant player and a fantastic person. Carmen Rivero. Spain.

The man that introduced me to the lunatic fringe of Scottish fiddling is dead, but still playing on my stereo as I write. Not a bad epitaph.

Go with God.

Johnny was the only fiddle player who makes me cry.

Descansa en paz amigo.

Teodoro Alonso

concierto de Málaga
No olvidaré nunca el concierto de Nightnoise en Málga aquel 17 de octubre de 1995,fue único, inmejorable. Y sobre todo me acuerdo perfectamente de la figura de Johnny, tuve la ocasión de saludarle personalmente mientras se tomaba un tío pepe en el bar de la esquina del teatro, me firmó en un papel donde ponía su nombre al lado de una palabra que aún no sé que significado tiene; SLANTIE.Todos los mejores deseos para Johnny en su nueva andadura en el paraíso.

Javier Ruiz

The Soul Of Christmas
We loved this performance so much, that it has become a tradition for my family to begin the holiday season by watching on a video recording we made of it. It is so precious to us, that we also have a tradition of playing for our extended families on Christmas eve. What a talent! What a joy! What a magnificent person, and therefore, what a loss!

Dennise and David Geer Cheney, Washington

cést pas d´jeu!
Mon Johnny,
Je suis heureux de t'avoir serré fort, il n'y a pas si longtemps de ça
Quand même !
C'est pas d'jeu !
Règlement de comptes au paradis, bientôt !
Je t'embrasse encore plus fort
[I guess everybody speaks French in paradise!]
My love to Trish and all who mourn for the fiddle man
I'm crying myself

I just heard of Johnny's passing while driving home from a family gathering and couldn't believe it....

I had the opportunity to hear him in concert a few times, and will treasure the memories. He was a funny, talented man.

God bless.

E. Ryan

Thanks Johnny. If I began, many and many years ago, to listen and love this music, it was also thanks to the music of Silly Wizard. Your music will make you live forever.

Alfredo De Pietra - Italia

I had never heard such beautiful fiddle music. New Bedford's Summerfest will never be the same. Thank you for the gift of your life and talent. Our condolences to the family and friends you left behind.
joe and jeannine

Hey Johnny, Never knew you that well though we were aquainted back in the old days. Had a wonderful week with you back in 1986 in San Fran wih Iain MacLeod and Nancy Iverson staying at her place and spending your money! Too young to go and you'll be sorely missed. Best wishes to your family and hope they've got the Scottish pies out for you wherever you've gone! Rest well,pal.
Jimmy Young
New Zealand

Johnny attend me over long years. I´m sad that he is gone now...

I express my condolence to his family

Guido Plueschke

I'm speechless.
These are really sad news. I offer the family my condolences!
Matthias (Germany)

y deepest condolences to all Johnny Cunningham's family members. It's a sad loss of a bright spark of music and creativity. Stephen Harvey; Canada

To Rovers everywhere,

It may take a lifetime and more to accept that JohnnyWorld is in a slightly different place. His heart, too big for this narrowing world, has simply relocated. I think he misses the Rovers—all Rovers, on list and off—almost as much as we miss him. He was that generous.

A couple of days before the news, I had introduced myself and my friend to The Soul of Christmas video. At one point when Thomas Moore is talking to Johnny, I said, "I'll bet he had a hard time behaving himself!" And then comes the quip about "live things." I also said he looked good. And he did. Fit as a fiddle, indeed.

There's so much to miss—the indescribable music, the impish intelligence, the cutting wit, the charm, and the genuine warmth. How fortunate each of us is to have had Johnny for 46 short years.

This New Year's, perhaps my best resolution would be to be more like Johnny—to turn adversity on its head with humour and to share the joy.

Thank you for allowing us to live in JohnnyWorld, if only for a brief moment. Peace to those who loved you and to those you loved.

Diane L. Schirf

Many more messages to come

Send a Message

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Selected Obituaries

Boston Globe
New York Times
Dirty Linen (1.8MB)
The Herald
The Daily Telegraph
Philadelphia Inquirer
The Scotsman
Celtic Cafe
Pittsburgh City Paper
The Herald of Randolf VT
Irish Massachussets
South Coast Today
South Coast Today #2