What is a musician? A musician can be a boy or girl from very young, very old or points in between. Generaly musicians are very easy going by nature, giving, compassionate, helpful, faithful, truthful, and honest. The first to respond when called on to help a fellow human in need, never asking or expecting any form of thanks, or reward of any kind. Musicians will tell you there is no greater feeling than that experienced during, and after a crowd pleasing performance either as an individual member of a band, or orchestra. If an appointment for a performance or recording session is made many months in the future, you can count on musicians showing up on time and ready, willing and able to give you the best they have to give. They are widely known to have a tremendous sence of humor, even if they are the victom of the joke. I have heard it said that once you meet a musician you have made a friend for life.
My lifelong friend and fellow musician was all of the above and a great deal more.
B.B. Cunningham we will always love you and miss you. Reast in peace my dear friend untill we meet again in the eternal hereafter.
(Roland Janes, 16th October 2012)
Gosh, where to begin??
When I think of B. B., it is like a movie, being shown, only to me. In a flurry of memories, that pour into my brain, I see him at age 37,50,43,60,48,33, yes, even 74.
Being married to B.B. was the best. I was in love with a gentle, giving, thoughtful, caring, sharing, funny, intense, passionate, talented, good man. But most people knew that, because they knew B.B.
I was pleased & proud, that B.B. was in a position, to meet people, that would turn out to become his good friends. He valued & loved, his friends. He always had the hope that his fans would one day also be his friends. It was always difficult to see him leave for a tour. But We always had our best interest in mind. I would stay home, take care of all the pets, try to keep the burglers away, worked, (Armed Security Officer) also. & count down the days or weeks, until he would be home.
B.B. had a good life.
He was blessed with God-Given talent, that no one could could buy.
He was blessed with, children, grandchildren, and 1 great-grand.
He was blessed with a teaching, giving, wonderlust, sweet spirit
He was blessed with tolerance, character, mercy & grace.
He was blessed with people, that loved him, & that he loved.
Best of all,
He knew & proclaimed, that he was blessed, by His Lord.
We had a good life.
We just celebrated our 29th wedding anniversary, on the 10.29.
I found the hidden card he had bought me.
Now for the tuff stuff.
I am devastated, crushed, heartbroken, overwhelmed, in shock, and angry. This didn´t happen to ´MY B.B.´, NOT B.B. Never in 10 million years could, this senseless, tragic, intential, horrible murder, that obliterated B.B. from this Planet, happen. NOT B.B. I am sure most of you feel the same way I do, maybe not. I keep telling myself, it´s OK to be angry, we deserve it.
But I know, at the end of the day, I will have to forgive, so I can go on with my life. At the end of the day, maybe a long, long time. But B.B. taught me in order to move ahead, I must stop looking back, & forgivness is the only way. I´m just not ready yet.
I MISS U MY LUV
Thank you for caring for us.
We are heartbroken. We just saw BB a couple of weeks ago. Eddie was so happy to see him. They were in school together and had known each other for about 55 years.. We were at Jerry´s Ranch filming for PBS. BB was so talented and a really sweet man. I have so many wonderful memories from the Jerry Lee Lewis tours. I know my brother, Kenny, Robert and Buck are so very sad. We will remember the family in our prayers.
Memories of BB Cunningham:
I first met BB in Blackpool England not to speak to but as part of the Jerry Lee Lewis band. It was February 28th 2004 I had finished work for the day and I was heading to the Winter Gardens to see Jerry Lee Lewis perform I met up with Graham Knight, Kay Martin and a lot of other Jerry Lee Lewis fan’s in a Pizza restaurant next door to the Venue. I was in
stantly taken back by how warm , friendly and welcoming all the fans were towards me I was 18 years old and being welcomed to “join the club” by life long Jerry Lee Lewis fans , by people who had known him for 40 & 50 years this was an amazing experience for me.
The day after the concert he was due to perform in Manchester at Apollo
Graham Knight invited me to the Manchester show and without to much hesitation I went along. we arrived in Manchester and went straight to the hotel where Jerry Lee Lewis was staying I sat in the reception trying to take this all in here I was sat in the hotel where a few floors above my head Jerry Lee Lewis was staying after having a few beers in the bar with fans and friends I went to the toilet without going into to much detail stood next to me was BB Cunningham, I didn’t want to make eye contact with him while we were both using the urinals. After this I went back upstairs to the reception area and BB just wondered in looking like a lost sheep, I went up to him and introduced myself he was a very polite southern gentleman took his time to speak to me and the other fans who were now turning up at the hotel he was in no rush to leave us and we all had a great time speaking to him and listening to his no end of stories about his life and working with Jerry Lee Lewis.
The time was fast approaching for the band to get ready for the concert that evening and BB and the band invited me and Graham Knight to the Sound Check, I had never been to a sound check before and I sat there amazed at the band rehearsing if my memory serves me right BB performed ´Sick & Tired´ effortlessly as only BB could do.
After the show we all went back to the hotel for an after party where all the fans, friends, family and band members joined in there was only Jerry Lee who did not attend.
After this I got the travelling bug and where ever Jerry Lee & the band where in Europe I would try my best to turn up I have been to Sweden, Finland , France, Germany, London, Wolverhampton, Liverpool, Manchester, Blackpool etc the band and BB were always welcoming to me, they let me travel on their tour bus from location to location we talked for hours and drank beers into the early hours of the morning. BB invited me to play the piano with him in Gothenburg Sweden we both played whole lotta shakin goin.
I have some fantastic memories of BB Cunningham , he really was a true gentleman and I for one will really miss him it will not be the same at future Jerry Lee concert´s without BB there to lighten up the room Gone but never ever forgotten.
I am absolutely shocked at the murder of BB Cunningham. He was a good and gentle man who had real friends all over the World.
I first met BB back in the sixties when BB, Sam the Sham, Alex Chilton and other Memphis musicians would turn up backstage at Jerry´s shows. Sometimes after Jerry´s official show he would go on to play for hours, unannounced, at a nearby club and often many Memphis musicians like these would join the sessions. Sometimes these parties would move on to Jerry´s house at East Shore Drive where it didn´t matter whether it was day or night. Everyone just rocked on and on – sometimes till it was time to go to the next show.
Years later I would meet BB again when he officially joined the Jerry Lee band. BB could always be relied upon to lay down some solid bass lines for Jerry. Like all Jerry´s great musicians he knew to expect the unexpected – BB watched Jerry like a hawk and never missed those abrupt stops, change of tempo or even changing the number itself. BB was perfect for Jerry because BB himself was perfect.
Others will detail BB´s many achievements, his Hollywood years, his million seller etc but for me BB was just a friend who was always trying to help young musicians and someone who was very kind and patient with all the fans.
I remember when he encouraged a very young Kyle Esplin to ´Keep the thunder going with your left hand. You are the best there is next to Jerry´ – great praise to a 20 year old starting out on his career from someone who backed Jerry Lee every night.
I remember being in Frankfurt a few years ago, I was in the Hilton and the band were in another hotel. Soon BB was on the phone asking whether the hotel had a piano and a few minutes later the whole band arrived by taxi at my hotel and in next to no time BB was encouraging Scott Doran and Niek Van de Klundert to play boogie woogie.
Of course I will remember BB on stage with Jerry but I will also remember the man who could be so funny all the time. Breakfast with BB was always entertaining and I will never forget other great times when Rolf and I would sometimes take everyone out to dinner on one of their rare days off.
Quite a number of Jerry´s people are no longer with us and this must affect Jerry badly. I really miss the good times I had with Hawk, Jud, Joel, Tom, Dick and others but they all died natural deaths. It is especially cruel that BB was murdered while going to help someone.
BB leaves us with a great legacy of music and his influence on young musicians will go on an on.
My thoughts are with his wife Barbara, son Gary and all of BB´s family.
(Graham Knight, 17th October 2012)
The owners of Twisted South Magazine and Radio, Zeke Loftin and his wife Phoebe Lewis-Loftin ( Jerry Lee Lewis´s daughter) wanted to make an announcement concerning the very sad and untimely passing of Jerry Lee Lewis´s bass player, B.B. Cunningham. Our hearts go out to BB´s family and friends.
Both Phoebe and Zeke loved BB immensely and considered him to be one of the kindest men to ever have graced the planet and are very saddened by this injustice and his passing. BB was a staple musician here in Memphis and was loved by many. BB has been a friend and considered family to them and Twisted South for many decades now.
Tonight we mourn the loss of our friend and family member.
.I am also shocked I still can not realize it !!…BB was in the shadow of Jerry Lee lewis but shinny as a person but very discret and humble… I dont want to make a long speech about him he would not like it but he was simply a great person…I know he appreciated my friendship and it was very mutual…We have worked together on many shows and he was a real pleasure to work with and appreciated everything, so talented and easy to please him..i am sure he will be missed by his family and friends but many other people that he has met on his life..He wont be forgotten…!!
Is everyone all cozy now and asleep? Well I hope not because none of us are safe anymore!! Does everyone have your doors and windows locked? Your alarm systems on and your guns loaded?? Well I hope so because the beautiful city that we all grew up in and walked to school in, no longer exist!! If our precious BB CUNNINGHAM can be taken from us in such violence than none of us our safe anymore perio
d!! While we were all sleeping the night away, this gentle soul was out there protecting others and paying for it with his life! I hope this city wakes up soon!! There is just no way I can comprehend this anymore. Love you BB!! I pray this city will somehow someway go out of their way to HONOR such a wonderful gentle soul!! You are a JEWEL that will forever shine bright!!
I thought it was a joke, a bad joke.
People like that never dies……
Friends like that never get shot…..and dies.
I remember well the first meeting. Kenny introduced me. He had just joined the band.
He was fun and easy to be with. Smoking and always that grin…..and the lovely smiling eyes. We got to be friends real fast!
He understood that I knew the music….Instinctivt.
We had hours where I could ask him about his past. Never tecnical…he understood I wouldn´t have understood anything.
In Memphis he brought me to SAM so I could buy a new suitcase, we went to his studio…we even recorded there with the rest of The Memphis Beats. In Europe we lunched, had long walkes…sneak out for a sigerett even though Gary try to provent It.
He was my friend …my buddy!!!
My thoughts goes to all his family members…they are the one that suffers most. But a little good In this horrible tragedy Is that I´m absolutley sure that he was the best guide for that poor 16 year old boy that got killed with him.
I can see them holding hands and he´s trying to calm him down…guiding him to Gods pearly gate.
Until I see you again ole´pal; R.I.P
I did a few European tours with Jerry and the Memphis Beats , B B even though he always seemed quiet would always come down to the back of the tour bus to sit with us and tell jokes he was a really funny man . I remember the last ever gig we did together in Denmark , after the gig we went back to the hotel and we had to be up early for our lift to the airport but we decided to have a last beer in Andys room . After a while there was a knock on the door and there was B B with a couple of bottles of wine , he said ´sorry guys I didn´t really get a chance to say goodbye so lets have a drink´ we sat for hours listening to his stories about things he´d done over his career . That´s how I will remember him sitting on the couch wine glass in hand making us laugh at the funny things he´s seen and done .
RIP my friend
What a terrible and sad news to hear BB is not here anymore. Thanks for all the great music and being such a wonderful and friendly person. Having so many great memories of the fun we all had together, squeezing tomatoes we stolen from the hotel kitchen into our beers at a London hotel lobby in the middle of the night, making music on Beale Street and so many other occasions, having you at our car during that UK tour because you didn´t like the relaxing music they had put on in the tourbus and you could smoke in our car….Just the relaxing walking around and talk about music, Memphis, our family, politics, art, the funny jokes. Getting lost in Munich after to much beers at the Biergarten. All wonderful memories that from now on will be overshadowed by the tracig ending of your life. You are already missed BB and we wanted to have you here for so much longer! Condoleances to Gary, Barabara and his other family and friends.
B.B knew more jokes than anyone I ever met. A lovely man and wonderful tour companion. I’m completely stunned that he is gone and we won’t see him again. Terribly sad. I am totally proud to have known him and to call him my friend. B.B will always live on in our hearts.
One thing that stood out for me was his openness towards everyone he met.
An openness that definied both his personality and his music. And I will always remember his broad smile on stage when he felt that Jerry Lee was doing well.
In that and through his music he was one of us.
Just got in and heard the news that Memphis music legend B.B. Cunningham was shot to death. Our hearts go out to our friend, B.B.´s brother Bill who played with the Jinx and the Box Tops. B.B. cut the great Trip To Bandstand and also Let It All hang Out with the Hombres and most recently was a member of jerry Lee Lewis´ band.
Man, this sucks! BB Cunningham was a cool dude. I hung out with him at Vegas 2011 when he was there playing with Jerry Lee.
If you need a point of reference on BB´s early greatness, that´s BB playing guitar on Marlon Grisham´s *Ain´t That A Dilly* in the 1950´s, and the Hombres *Take My Everlasting Love And Cram It Up Your Heart* in the 1960´s….
I am still ´saddend´ …It feels like, one of your own, when a ´musician´ passes on. ´The Gift of Music´ doesn´t come from our own body capabilities but, from somewhere within us that ´connects to the DIVINE´ we simply ´channel it´ outward to be a ´Healing Force´ for others as well as ourselves. My Thoughts and PRAYERS for his remaining Family members…to ´Hold Strong and Carry On´
I had the pleasure of touring with BB and the Memphis Beats in europe on 4 separate occasions, on the Jerry Lee shows.. I played with Linda Gail , the guys from the memphis beats were all super guys. I had no idea that the last time i said godbye to BB would be the last time we would see him….He will never leave our thoughts
I saw BB a few times but met him only once in Bocholt (Germany) and have to say that beside Kenny I never met such a friendly, open and funny human being with star status - it’s terrible that such a man had to be taken away in such a cruel way. Rest in peace, Mr Cunningham!
Sanne Falk Kragh
I talked with B.B in Denmark in November 2010 before the show. I told him that I would marry JLL.
He told me that JLL had said to him: If I ever fall in love again, throw me in jail and throw the key away.
I said : B.B. throw me in the same cell before you throw the key away, you have to throw it somewhere where it NEVER gets found again. We laughing A LOT .
When B.B stood on stage with JLL , B.B winked and he laughed to me … I have never met so friendly, kind, warm and funny man before.
I´ve only met BB on few occasions, but he was always nice and affordable to me. A great person, a great and sad loss…
I was glad and honored to have had the opportunity to perform with BB and original Sun recording artist Sonny Burgess about 2002 in Jonesboro, Arkansas! He was an excellent musician and seemed like a really nice guy. My fiance Lacy and I talked with him after Jerry Lee Lewis´ performance at Spin Street Music in 2006 and I asked BB if he remembered playing that night in Jonesboro with Sonny and myself and he said that he did remember! We also ran into him in Robinsonville, Mississippi where he was playing that night and during the break we talked with him for what seemed like a long time… It was so sad and tragic to hear about his untimely passing. RIP BB…
I met B.B. on the bus with Jason D. Williams one night in Memphis and he had such a sweet, kind, laid back spirit.
I will remember him always this way. He will be missed.
Dear BB, Thank you for the wonderful moments that I have experienced with you. Too many to list them all, but I will keep the experiences for forever in my memory. You were a true friend to me and I’ll miss you.
B.B: i will miss you.
It was Monday night, November 11, 1997 at the Indiana Roof Ballroom, Indianapolis, Indiana. James Burton, Kenneth Lovelace, Robert Hall, Jerry Lee Lewis and this new man I had never seen before on bass. That evening before Jerry came out I was sitting in the audience and he sang,´Kansas City,´ and ´Bye, Bye, Johnny B. Goode´. He was dressed in black and the tempo of the band was building at a fever pitch. James Burton and Kenneth smoking hot on guitar while this bearded man dressed in all black had me mesmerized. As Kenny introduced the band members, I heard a name I had never heard before ´On bass we have from Memphis, Tennessee, B.B. Cunningham.´
Jerry came on and did a scorching show. After the show I was so hell-bent on figuring out who this bass player was? To make a long story, after Jerry had left the stage, I, and a couple of my friends moved forward to introduce ourselves. That was the beginning of a 15 year relationship with a man that I came to know, love and respect and ultimately one of the greatest inspirations as far as ´teacher as well as ultimately one of my´best´ friends. With me at that show was my mother, Christine Prater, Ben Clevin, Blake Clevin who were die hard acid rockers. They didn´t think that the Indianapolis show was going to be that great because they had never heard Jerry Lee Lewis and his ´All Star Band´. When Kenny opened up with Slippin´and a Slidin´ and the band kicking in Ben and Blake were in awe. Then when B.B. did his rendition of Kansas City and Bye Bye Johnny B. Goode – Ben and Blake were the first in the crowd to get up and start dancing. As years went by, B.B. Cunningham always made sure to greet me – we exchanged phone numbers – in latter 1997 at the Starlight Amphitheatre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He took an interest in my life, wanted to know about me, what instrument I was into – the piano obviously – following the Killer since I was a little boy at 3.
Our friendship blossomed and grew throughout the years. Day by day phone calls when he was not on the road, as well as my trips to Memphis visit with B.B. and his wife, Barbara. One particular occasion was in 2001. On that night B.B. Cunningham was my tour guide. We walked down Beale Street in Memphis. During that time I noticed B.B. was getting a large fan following – following us in and out of the shops, people asking for autographs and he so humbly and kindly autographed everyone of them. We heard this tremendous blues singer playing behind one of the bars on Beale Street which was actually in an alley. B.B. with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth said ´Let´s check this cat out.´ We went through the alley and again supporters of Jerry Lee Lewis and B.B.´s fans were following him. We sat there in amazement at this blues man on keyboards, and he looked up and smiled – people yelling ´Jerry Lee Lewis´ bass player is here.´ I was speechless. The blues player asked B.B. to sit in on one of his numbers playing bass guitar. I had my camera on me. I shot the photo – the photo has never been released until this day.
We went to the Hard Rock Café in Memphis to eat dinner. While he was there he was besieged with autograph seekers. B.B. turned no one down. Little did we know that at that time my car was being robbed on Front Street. When we got to the car, my window had been bashed out. B.B. called the police. They eventually came. B.B. being the man he was, because my car was vandalized and many items stolen, felt bad for me. We proceeded to a Pilot gas station in West Memphis. B.B. went into the restroom while I remained by my car, removing the fragments of glass. I noticed when B.B. came out he was laughing. I said what is so funny? B.B. looked me directly in the eyes and said, ´I just saw Jesus of Nazareth´.´I told him he was joking.´ Soon the bathroom door opened up and a man dressed in a long robe with sandals and long hair walked by me and B.B. I looked at him and B.B. started laughing. He said,´I just told you I saw Jesus in the bathroom. You didn´t believe me did you? That´s payback for not believing me.´ We laughed.
When I spoke to Barbara Cunningham this week we laughed, how I had taken so many of B.B.´s hours. I was so curious to learn. He never tired. What would start out as a fifteen minute phone call would end up with B.B. on his piano and me on mine – the teacher teaching the student into a five hour marathon. He shared so many things with me and was selfless in his love of sharing music, his love for Jerry, for Jerry´s fans.
This happened throughout all of the years. B.B. had done so much for me in teaching. I was trying to get down Fleetwood Mac’s´You Make Loving Fun´. I was having a problem with the bridge. B.B. said ´The bridge is not that complicated. I know exactly where you’re having problems with the bridge. He said when they go into the bridge what most musicians were doing was after B flat, they were leaving out A flat, and then going to G minor. I had the rest but not A flat. He said – go to your piano and put the song on. I did – you know what? B.B. was dead on. He heard something that I didn´t hear. A flat was the missing part and I finally figured it out thanks to B.B.
In 2006 at the Belterra Casino in Southern Indiana – I was there with one of my best friends Jim Dickerson. What B.B. didn´t know was that I had a gift for him. It was a framed 78rpm Memphis Pressing of High School Confidential framed in the Sun Records yellow – matted – and most of all – a picture of Jerry Lee Lewis signing it. When he saw it he was literally ´breathless´. I gave this to my friend and he proudly hung it and it still hangs in his studio today. To my knowledge according to B.B. that was the only ´official´ autograph he had of his employer Jerry Lee Lewis. It was in Mint condition. Jerry loved it. It was a beautiful piece. He even at one time had loaned it to Sun Records to put on display. He eventually put it back in his studio. Our friendship continued to blossom. In 2009, Kenneth Lovelace, B.B. Cunningham, Brian Pigott of Lebanon, TN and Loretta Walker and my friend Judith were with me at dinner at TGI Friday´s. We always wanted to take Kenneth and B.B. out for dinner. We did that night. Before we ate B.B. introduced me to the drink of the ´Lava Flow´. I have a very low tolerance for alcohol. I was buzzing as B.B. was. The year prior 2008, B.B. had voted for the Republican candidate not President Barack Obama. However, at TGI Friday´s in Franklin, TN he had an Obama T-shirt on. I told him, why you wearing an Obama T-shirt? Thought you didn´t like him. ´Well man, it was a free T-shirt.´ I got my camera out and under threat of being assaulted by B.B. I shot the photo anyway. We were both laughing. Kenneth was laughing. Let me take you back for a little bit to 2001 when he had just finished his C.D. which was labeled later as ´Hangin’ In´. The original title to the Master C.D. was called ´Through the Years.´ B.B. Cunningham signed it ´Love you Jeff, B.B. Cunningham.´ I cried. A gift from my friend and someone I looked up to. I didn´t want to take his Master C.D. but he insisted. B.B. and I had talked on October 13th, 2012 from 1:00 a.m. until approximately 3:15 a.m. That discussion was about ¾ meter versus 4/4 meter. I asked Barbara how she wanted to preserve this Master C.D. She replied, ´He gave that to you´. The Master C.D. will be put on display for Jerry Lee´s fans and for B.B. Cunningham´s fans at Rolf Bresser´s Kinodrom. B.B. loved Rolf. Thank you B.B. for loving me unconditionally, and also teaching me so many things. I will miss you forever my friend. One last comment - B.B. said – ´Probably a good thing that show in Phoenix was cancelled because if Steve Montgomery had yelled out ´Milkshake Mademoiselle´– I was going to hand Steve the bass.´ My thoughts and prayers are with Jerry Lee and his family, his co-workers – Kenneth, Buck and Robert. Please remember Barbara and supporting her after the funeral.
(Jeffrey Prater, Fort Wayne, Indiana)