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Artist Ken Hiratsuka Carves Commemorative Stone for Johnny

At the 11th Street Bar (Johnny's favorite watering hole) sculptor Ken Hiratsuka carved a beautiful commemorative stone. Where Johnny's feet would always rest while smoking a cigarette and telling stories, Ken Rock has made sure that all who sit on 11th Street's bench will not forget Johnny C.

You can view more of Ken's work online at


New Bedford Whaling Museum

Helene and Alan Korolenko of Barrel-of-Music Productions, welcomed back the April Verch Band for the New Bedford Whaling Museum's music series on March 4, 2005.

April had performed with Johnny during the New Bedford Summerfest Celtic Extravaganza. Johnny would always say, "There's too much talent in that girl." This past Friday evening April put on a delightful show: dancing, singing, and fiddling. Bringing the night to a warm conclusion, her second to last song was dedicated to Johnny. She is online at:

Being back here, performing in New Bedford, I couldn't forget the presence of the great fiddler Johnny Cunningham. I dedicate this song 'Where the Angels Sing' to him. ~ April Verch


NPR's Thistle & Shamrock, Remembering Johnny Cunningham

Tune in on February 7, 2005, for Fiona Ritchie's Thistle & Shamrock program dedicated to Johnny.

Show #1127, Remembering Johnny

A brilliant fiddler and a lovely, funny man, the late Johnny Cunningham was very dear to many of us. We remember Johnny in his music -- Silly Wizard, Relativity, Nightnoise, Celtic Fiddle Festival -- and by sharing just a few of the countless anecdotes that provide glimpses of this sparkling character and greatly talented musician. ~ NPR

Visit the website at


Irish Echo

Earle Hitchner, journalist for The Wall Street Journal and the Irish Echo, has captured yet again the spark of Johnny Cunningham in his recent article "Tribute Tour for Johnny Cunningham", published on February 2, 2005 in the Irish Echo. Read the entire article at:

Earle calls Johnny's famous stories "Cunninghamisms", and details one of his favorites from September 29, 2003:

I went out today and got from my local farmer's market some stuff for a huge shepherd's pie. They also make their own rice pudding. So I got rice pudding and a big jug of strawberry milk. You see, that is my treat. That is what you get for playing traditional music. Shepherd's pie, strawberry milk, and rice pudding: you cannot set your sights any higher than that as a traditional musician. ~ Johnny C.


WORLD MUSIC INSTITUTE: Tribute to Johnny Cunningham

Town Hall, 123 W. 43rd St., NYC
8:00pm, Saturday, February 5th, 2005

An all-star ensemble of Celtic musicians pays tribute to Johnny Cunningham, the inimitable Scottish fiddler and raconteur who died in December 2003. The program features music written by Johnny, including selections from the score to Peter and Wendy, as well as a variety of tunes he liked to play. The ensemble includes fiddler Kevin Burke, multi-instrumentalist Seamus Egan of Solas, and guitarist Aidan Brennan, among others.

$35/$30 // WMI friends: $30/$26
For tickets and information call: 212-545-7536

Johnny was very special to us at World Music Institute. We presented him on countless occasions and every concert was a memorable experience. When Johnny asked us to present the reunion concert with his brother Phil in October 2003 on just two weeks notice, we knew we couldn’t say no to him. And we were fortunate to do it – it turned out to be his last performance in New York City, and such an incredible one for those of us who were fortunate to be there.When we present Johnny’s tribute concert on February 5th at Town Hall, we hope that Johnny will be watching as his close friends and fans come together for a night of great music and memories. We miss you, Johnny. ~ Helene Browning, of the World Music Institute


Scottish Life

A recent note reminded us of the lovely article written by Ed Pearlman in 2004, Scottish Life magazine. We missed it on the memorial webpage, but would like to post the link here:





NPR's Thistle & Shamrock, Remembering Johnny Cunningham

Tune in on December 30th, 2004, for Fiona Ritchie's Thistle & Shamrock program dedicated to Johnny.

Week 53, Show #1126, Remembering Johnny

A brilliant fiddler and a lovely, funny man, the late Johnny Cunningham was very dear to many of us. We remember Johnny in his music -- Silly Wizard, Relativity, Nightnoise, Celtic Fiddle Festival -- and by sharing just a few of the countless anecdotes that provide glimpses of this sparkling character and greatly talented musician. ~ NPR

Visit the website at


New Bedford Summerfest Celtic Extravaganza

The Standard-Times, New Bedford, MA, July 2, 2004

In 1996, the Scottish fiddler Johnny Cunningham first led the Celtic Extravaganza at the New Bedford Summerfest. Festival officials had given him the challenge of taking a diverse group of Celtic musicians, putting them all on one stage at the same time and creating a cohesive show exciting enough to act as a finale for the festival. As he did with everything he worked on, Cunningham made the show work and grow beyond anyone's expectations. Only 150 or so people turned out for the show that first year, but he gave them a show they did not forget, and the Extravaganza became a highlight of each Summerfest in the years to follow.

Last year, more than 2,000 people gave the show a rousing standing ovation. It was Johnny's last; he died in December. Johnny Cunningham chose to make New Bedford his home and he never hid his love for his adopted city. That love was always apparent in his Summerfest performances and in his desire to make the Celtic Extravaganza a special and memorable event for city residents and visitors. This year the Celtic Extravaganza will again conclude the festival weekend.

Congratulations to John Whelan, a dear loving friend of Johnny's, who was honored to accept Helene Korolenko's invitation to lead the Summerfest Celtic Extravaganza.


The Celtic Fiddle Festival: In Memory of Johnny Cunningham

On February 21, 2004, the Somerville Theatre and World Music presented the Celtic Fiddle Festival in memory of Johnny. The Festival was founded by Johnny in 1992 with Kevin Burke and Christian LeMaitre. On this year's tour, Kevin and Christian were joined by fiddler Andre Brunet, and accompanied on guitar by Ged Foley. In the Somerville Theatre tribute, Kevin, Christian, Ged, and Andre all wore a tie of Johnny's given to them moments before going on stage. Kevin dedicated the tune of the evening to Johnny, which was "Leaving Brittinay".

Burke attributes Cunningham's gift for finding Celtic music's common chords to his superb ear, love of people, and a Celtic-based spiritual belief in the connectedness of all things. It made him a natural to redraw the boundaries of Celtic music. "Johnny played lots of different kinds of music and made friends very quickly, but he was a very sensitive guy," Burke says. "That's something a lot of people missed."


The 'Events for Tom' Concert Series hosts "Celebration of the Life, Times and Music of Johnny Cunningham" at FlynnSpace

Mark Sustic coordinated this memorial concert for Johnny and fundraiser for the Tom Sustic Fund on January 25, 2004 at FlynnSpace in Burlington, Vermont. Some musicians included: Jerry Holland, Tony Demarco, Beth Telford, Gypsy Reel, Matt Buckley, Coco Kallis, Sarah Blair, and Laura Risk.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the "Celebration of the Life, Times and Music of Johnny Cunningham" concert on January 25th at FlynnSpace, the 19th concert in the 'Events for Tom' series since starting in December 2002 (with Jerry Holland!). It was a great night, in many ways the best one yet. ~ Mark Sustic


Johnny Cunningham Tribute Concert: New Bedford Whaling Museum

On January 17th, 2004, Helene & Alan Korolenko of Barrel-of-Music Productions ( hosted a tribute concert to Johnny at the New Bedford Whaling Museum in Massachusetts.

The talented musicians included: Skip Healy, Bill Morrissey, Pendragon, Brooks Williams, Robbie O'Connell, John Whelan Band, Cormac McCarthy, Dana Lyn, Tina Lech, Junji Shirota, Rothfield & Carr, Jeff Baker, The Remnants, Joan Aiken & Mary Beth Soares, Elly Abelson, and Gabrielle Riley.


Tribute to Johnny Cunningham on Dana Lyn's New Album "looking for the early opener"

Musician Dana Lyn wrote a tune called Waltz for Johnny, on her new album "looking for the early opener". For more information on how to order the CD, visit


June 20, 2004: "Live on 11th Street"

In October 2003, the Casey Neill Band with Johnny had a standing gig at The Living Room, one of New York City's long-standing venues for acoustic music. Fortunately, Casey recorded what was to be their last performance there and has now released this material on CD. He describes the result as follows:

"Live on 11th Street" wasn't recorded on 11th Street. 11th Street is a state of mind. A bar on Manhattan's Lower Eastside where the drinks are strong and the company superb.

"Live on 11th Street" by the Casey Neill Band was recorded at The Living Room, another downtown spot in New York City, in October 2003. This album is the last gig the band played with Johnny Cunningham - fiddler, raconteur, producer, extraordinaire, and dear friend.

I met Johnny Cunningham at the East Avenue Tavern in Portland, Oregon, one night in the early 90's when he was working on a Nightnoise album. It was there that Johnny and I first became friends, and he later produced my records "Skree" (1998). I soon left Portland for Brooklyn, NY, where Johnny rearranged my folk material into rock songs and we later formed a band. The outcome is Johnny's last produced record: "Brooklyn Bridge" (to be released later this year).

"Live on 11th Street" features two songs from previous recordings, a pile of new ones, a flaying of the old time standard "Raleigh and Spencer", and a Springsteen cover. The album's mood travels from drunk & tough to sweet & sentimental, and includes much quipping and a broken string. Jon Spurney on guitar and piano, Nancy Hess on bass and vocals, Chris Benelli on drums, Johnny on fiddle and vocals, and myself on guitar and vocals.

"Live on 11th Street" is a piece of our lives, rock and/or roll music with a good rootsy-thing happening. Johnny held court at the 11th Street Bar, and we'd often find ourselves singing around on an out-of-tune piano and stumbling home with "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" in our heads. Pull up a stool. ~ Casey Neill

The album is available online at . Visit for updates on Casey's new release, Brooklyn Bridge, and Tour Schedules.


California Hotel Creates Cunningham Drink In Johnny's Honor

A First Taste ...

It was mid-April when the May issue of Playboy hit the newsstands with its profile of "The Cunningham" drink. I'm not someone who reads this magazine (I'm a "Jugs" man myself), but fortunately someone alerted me to the article. My band was in San Francisco, on a tour up the West Coast that Johnny had planned on joining with his fiddle. Off we went to Sir Francis Drake Hotel's Starlight Room to try the drink.

Fellow musicians Jon Spurney, Jason Montgomery, and myself ordered three, toasted to Johnny and shared memories of him. I went back alone two nights later to meet the bartender who invented the beverage, Marco Dionysos. I somehow made it past the bouncers and velvet rope despite a healthy dose of tour grime. Marco was there and poured me a more accurate version of the Cunningham, complete with brandied cherries and a flamed orange peel. He told me that he was a fiddler and he had met Johnny in Portland's East Avenue Tavern (the same place I met Johnny in the early 90's). Marco based the drink on Johnny's last one at the 11th Street Bar, so I put him on the phone with Kenny O'Connor - the man who poured it. They spoke in the secret language of bartenders and I have no idea what was said, except that Marco was smiling ear to ear.

The drink is delicious. Essentially a whiskey sour, "The Cunningham" is made with Scotch and Johnny's favorite B& B (Benedictine and Brandy). The cherry brandy cuts the bite of the Scotch a bit; making it fruitier, less sugary, and more cutting than a sour. They go down easy and pack a serious punch! Knowing Johnny's taste in booze, I know he'd like this drink.

To the places he frequented: Portland's Moon & Sixpence, New Bedford's Candleworks, New York's Mona's, Paddy Riley's, Musical Box, 11th Street, and many others -- start serving the drink! Make it the new "Tom Collins" (who was that guy?). Of course, the patrons have to order it firstůso viewers, listeners, and fans please do so, and toast to Johnny and share memories. If you met him or heard him play even once, there's a story to tell. Cheers. ~ Casey Neill