"Music Is a Life Sport" - D. Cunningham

Like most male kids in the sixties, DC grew up idolizing the Bealtes and the British Invasion bands.  While recuperating from an eye injury (damn BB guns) which required total bedrest and bandaged eyes, he enjoyed the first US release from the Beatles (a gift from his classmates).   Peeking from behind the bandages he noticed that Lennon & McCartney wrote a lot of their own songs.   Hmmm....what a great idea!!  His grandmother provided him with the prerequisite Stella guitar and away he went.  Since the only chord book he had at his disposal was a ukelele book, he improvised and took off the upper 2 strings, becoming Boise, Idaho's only four-string guitarist.    He and his best pal Bryan Moore decided to become songwriters and pumped out volumes of really predictable lyrics and melodies.   But what a great time it was......DC's father spirited an old mono tape recorder away from work and thus began a lifelong relationship with the recording medium.                                                                                                                                                                  

CUNNINGHAM & MOORE      From about 1966-70 DC and Bryan obsessed over writing and recording hundreds of original songs on varioius recorders and instruments (guitars harmonicas, chord organs, pianos, drums, whatever made noise).  This archive still exists, featuring such gems as "Brown Gravy, Don't Hold Your Breath Till the Coming of the Lord (very topical) and an early song called 'Bluebird'.    When they moved on to college it provided a huge step in their developement: a real rock band.

  

JACK       Remarkably, being involved in the Student Work Program, particularly in the janitorial department,  proved very valuable in meeting other aspiring rockers.  In 1971 DC & Bryan started jamming with other musician/janitors for the first time and this produced the band Jack.  Pictured left to right: Jim Ward - Ld gtr, DC - gtr/vocals/songwriter, Bryan - drums and Phil Welker - bass  (Danny Lloyd, in the doorway was Jim's roomate and a great friend).   Enduring constant visits from the police dept. over noise levels, the band practiced in a tiny rental house on their all original songlist and eventually played out a little, most notably at the Old Boise Saloon.  Like most rock bands, JACK kind of fizzled out after a while.  Here's an example of why they didn't quite cut it as a dance band: Lady's Gone  After JACK, DC and Phil put decided to put together another kind of group, more acoustic (thus avoiding more police visits). 

   JUDAS   Joined by Mike Lyons on congas and percussion, they formed a trio called JUDAS.  Not being particularly religious, DC just thought the name was cool with special significance.  In hindsight, a more neutral name might have been in order.  Once again DC wrote most of the music and two milestones came about during this time:  a public television special ( this picture is of the set for the TV show), and DC's first experience in a real recording studio, Custom Recording of Boise, ID.  'No One's Soldier' is one of the songs recorded in 1973.   For the next few years DC played in this band or duos with either Mike or Phil.

1979 DC relocated to Portland with his buddy Dave Humphreys where he got a quick education in big city life. Lots of fodder for songs but alas, no gigging. Street Walking Angel demo. He did, however, get to see a level of musicianship that he had never experienced before, bands and songwriters that were as good if not better than anyone on the charts. It was both encouraging and discouraging at the same time. I years to come, DC would return to Portland for occasional shows.

In 1980 DC returned to Boise and was fortunate enough to join up with some pretty talented and adventurous musicians to form CAMERA. CAMERA   Pictured left to right: DC, Charley Mixon: vocals / harmonica (he started out as soundman but wormed his way up to the front of the stage); Richard Irwin: lead gtr, vocals, songwriter; Homer Wise: bass, vocals, keys, songwriter; and Steve Darrough: drums.   CAMERA wasn't shy about attempting any style of music. DC got the opportunity to play acoustic & electric gtrs (5 strings by this point), electric violin, keys and bass. With 3 songwriters, there was no shortage of original material. Besides being one of Boise's best known and highly regarded bass players, Homer also had multitrack recording equipment. DC learned a great deal about recording while working with Homer and for a while they even opened a small recording studio, Waveform Studio. Here's an edited version of one of CAMERA's more anthemic songs: Oustide the Law. CAMERA also performed quite a diverse list of cover tunes. It was the first time DC played just for 'fun' and not just for 'art', a concept that allowed him to stay in the music field longer than most pop musicians. 

A California transplant, Greg Martinez, had caught a few CAMERA shows and eventually approached DC about playing music together, a relationship that spawned 3 groups. In 1983 they formed CUANDO CUANDO, an acoustic duo that performed both original and cover tunes. CUANDO CUANDO The name CUANDO CUANDO was derived from a latin music hit (Cuando, Cuando, Cuando) by Xavier Cugat with no particular significance other than it sounded more interesting than Cunningham & Martinez. Once again, the music was pretty diverse and atypical for the Boise area which was more folk and country oriented. Still, they mangaged to make an OK living for around 3 years and released two albums.

In the late 80's, local pop star Curtis Stigers was making plans to move to NYC and needed some dinero

Curtis joined DC, Martinez and drummer Bob Clifford (who had replaced Bryan Moore in DC's first rock band JACK) to form THE SCOOTERS. For one hot summer, they tore up Boise with some of the most high energy shows that had been presented for a long while. Of course, Curtis did alright after moving to NYC, becoming a short-lived pop star and then a long-lived jazz singer. He still visits DC's studio from time to time for small projects. After he left town,   The Scooters continued as a 3 piece combo for a while

After the Scooters, DC joined forces with local bass player Robb Campbell, late of the local hard-core new wave band The Detours. FRANKS & AUTREY          They were both out of work and formed a new acoustic duo called FRANKS & AUTREY, another peculiar name (when DC was a kid he mistook the name 'Frank Sinatra' for two guys). The songlist was designed to be more mainstream and they used....gulp!.....a drum machine. Just a sign of the times, the Alesis SR-!6 was sometimes described as 'short, dark, and handsome' when the band was introduced. FRANKS & AUTREY had a run of 3 years or so and released an album featuring DC's songs. Here's one: Throw the Line . 

Once in a while they had the opportunity to play as an electric trio and when they did they added drummer Brian Patterson and called themselves THE TUMBLERS.

Around 1990 DC was approached by three of the most successful and talented local  rockers; Bill Liles - bass, Lawson Hill - drums and Sandon Mayhew - sax & keys.  They were under the mistaken impression that DC was a hot lead guitarist (as well as a competant singer) and, thus, would be a good addition to the new cover band they had in mind.  DC was no fool and jumped aboard!! The result was:  

THECORVAIRS!!     With their powder blue jackets the boys were quite striking and partied hard for several years.  Since they were a cover band, no record of their sound survives (except for a highly coveted video of a New Year's performance late in the band's career which may, someday, appear on youtube].

Also in 1993 DC, along with Larry Crookham established a small recording studio called CUNNINGHAM - CROOKHAM AUDIO PRODUCTION  which hoped to specialize in original compositions for any project; film, video, jingles, etc.  They did get a few jobs but all in all it was not a very practical way to generate income.  Larry soon left for a successful career at Boise State University in the (then) new field of Internet technology.  DC will eternally be in debt to Larry for having the patience to quide him into the world of computing, first sequencing MIDI songs on Atari computers and then learning the ins and outs of the then new PC.  Without Larry's guidance, it would have been impossible for DC to conquer the learning curve without throwing a brick through the computer screen...... DC continues to operate the studio and in 2013 it will celebrate 20 years in business!  Here's one of the instrumentals that DC composed for a televised realty program (Lake Jazz).

DC had felt unbearable pressure (lol) as lead guitarist for The Corvairs so he was open to new opportunites,  Somehow, in 1993 he worked his way (on bass) into an embryonic band effort with former bandmate Bob Clifford who was jamming with keyboardist Phil Carroll and legendary Northwest guitarist Tom McMeekan.  Much beer was consumed!   What resulted was a band specializing in vintage R&B and Soul music of a Stax/Volt and Motown nature as well as a lot of original tunes.  Voila!: SOULDIER!  Here's one of DC's contributions: I Won't Let You Fall.

 Left to right: Bob Clfford, Tom McMeekan, Phil Carroll, Don Cunningham.

Since their songlist was full of very danceable, familiar tunes (that hadn't been played to death by every band in town), this band was very successful as well as marketable  Eventually, old friend Jim Fisher took over for Bob on drums and Boise new-comer Robert Sutherland replaced Phil on keys.  

At one particularly historic corporate gig, a couple of amatuer Blues Brothers impersonators were foisted upon the band for a rousing rendition of 'Sweet Home Chicago'.  It wasn't the first time DC had run into these guys.  At a previous show in Sun Valley (with The Corvairs) the same scenario had taken place.  Being a zen type of guy, DC reasoned that it was fate (as well as a great marketing opportunity) to be in a group with these two and it would be foolish to resist.   Thus, it was around 1995 that THE BLUES BROTHER ROCK 'N SOUL REVUE (a tribute) was  formed with Bob Kohnke as Jake and Ron Minegar as Elwood.

Left to right: Jim Fisher, Ron (Elwood) Minegar, Robert Sutherland, Bob (Jake) Kohnke, DC & Tom McMeekan                                                                                                                                                          In 1996 the band released a self-titled CD of all original tunes with songs written by various members of the band.  .Here's a song DC wrote for the album: Cherry Pie. The band is still going strong today!

After having a couple of tunes selected for inclusion on a 1995  Boise Blues Society compilation CD, Tom & DC had to come up with a name for their acoustic blues duo.  DC was still a red head and Tom was a Silver Fox so they used RED & GRAY as their band name.   With Tom doing the main songwriting, R&G started recording tunes and doing a few live performance here & there.  DC had heard a gal named LeAnne Town singing for a local band and fell in love with her voice.  He invited her to sing on a Red & Gray tune or two and eventually she joined the band.  Even though there was now a third color of hair in the band, they couldn't find a better name for the group........Red & Gray went on to record three CDs (with Lawson Hill on drums) of mostly original blues-tingedmusic.  Here's a song they recorded in 2009:                                        She Moved Out (When's She Gonna Leave).

Yet to come:  THE MYSTICS, THE NEIL NELSON BAND, THE LOW COUNTRY BOIL                  & THE HIGHBEAMS!!