John Cunninghame and Stream of Consciousness....and a little Bushmills 1608

My lineage on my mother's side being from Wales and having come to the USA through life on the London stage at the turn of the century...about the time Little Bill was just being able to tune his banjo and wipe himself by himself both..... I've always been sort of an Anglophile ("genetic memory"?).

Growing up torn between the interests of aviation and the banjo, I've been fascinated later in life by the various connections between the two down through history, especially with the RFC/RAF and Joe Morley, John Cunninghame, and Tom Harribal.....not to mention Charlie Rogers, who though not in the RFC, certainly was exposed to it.

I just found this, and maybe they are still willing to talk more about John/Jack with someone on this forum closer physically to them than I:

Were I in the UK, I would rush to the nursing home to interview her/them.

John seems to be somewhat elusive (to me)....maybe Pat Doyle and/or Chris Ware could help me on my quest?

I would be very interested to learn more about John, but this article I thought was fascinating....and some here may really be interested as well.

Model airplanes have been an interest of mine since childhood, as they were to many of the RFC/RAF personnel that I've read about.   I've experienced one thing that has impacted model flying since I grew up.....urban development and lack of wide open spaces to fly in.

When I was on some model airplane forums a few years ago, one very active fellow was from East Anglia.

A record dealer I have dealt with in the UK told me once that the best finds, especially banjo records AND banjos, came from East Anglia in the 70's and to an extent into the 80's.

He told me East Anglia was the rural farming area of England in the the Appalachian region or the Dust Bowl in the depression era of the USA....where all the "hillbillies" lived.

The model airplane thing was about East Anglia being one of the last "wide open spaces" to fly models in....but maybe not now as the USA and likely abroad as well.....seems to have led to "paving the Earth".

Anyway, my thoughts had these things rolling through them as I read the link above.

Guess I need to get out my map and figure where Bath, "The Bath Chair" in East Anglia?

It's been said on this forum somewhere that most "newbies" wouldn't like the old records of classic banjo with the "poor" recording quality and surface noise......

I can't see any other way of so directly accessing the music and the people that made it without a time machine....which to me, the records mystically serve the same purpose as. (If you were really serious, you would realize in your journey after much expenditure and trial and error that the playback equipment available since the 50's could suck much more music and less noise out of those discs and cylinders than most realize since recording equipment of any given time has always been better than the playback equipment of the same time...and that digitizing the old recordings frequently compromises the "presence" that the originals have to offer).

These were all thoughts going through my head as I read Chris Sand's Tarrant Bailey book and look at the picture of John Cunninghame and read how he played with Joe Morley regularly at a time that was very influential to Tarrant Jr.

Where are the remnants of John Cunninghame's existance and music and legacy apart from the others' output that was influenced by him?



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Bath=Cotswalds not E. Anglia?

Bath is in Somerset. I think the bath chair is in the tub.  I've met a few banjo players from East Anglia, all bluegrass players. Do we know that John P Cuninghame, pal of Tarrant Bailey and Joe Morley, is the same John (Jack) Cuninghame who is alleged to be the real composer of the kit bag song?  There are recordings of John P on the CD "The Tarrant Bailey Collection V.1".  And…. (final item)…. yes! an old recording is an excellent time machine.

A bath chair—or Bath chair—was a rolling chaise or light carriage for one person with a folding hood, which could be open or closed.

Used especially by disabled persons, it was mounted on three or four wheels and drawn or pushed by hand. It is so named from its origin in Bath, England. It was invented by James Heath, of Bath in the mid 18C.

Here is some information on the composers:

I wonder if Rosie has her facts straight or just likes to tell a good tail?

Hi Jody-I don't have any of the Neovox or Neophone cassettes, nor the Bollington/Tenerife tapes.

I would love to get copies of them as well as the 30 or so home recordings made on cylinder by Tarrant Sr. of Joe Morley....possibly some Cunninghame performances in there?

Where can I get a copy of the CD you mention?????

Hi Ian-interesting on the song, however, if her story is correct, John's composition story still works with this report if he wrote/co-wrote it before the story in the article you posted actually happened.

On "The Bath Chair".....

I was referring to Tarrant Sr.'s long running BMG column in the 50's and 60's that he authored regularly that was titled:

"From A Bath Chair"....

...which I take to mean he wrote the column from his home in Bath....and I'm ASSUMING his chair was at his desk, not in his tub.....but of course, I'm sure folks in Bath....bathe.

Was Tarrant Sr. unable to walk well on his own later in life and used the wheeled Bath Chair?  Was that what the title of his column referred to?  

Confusing since his home was in Bath (city).

It wasn't until this week that I realized that this was Tarrant Sr. authoring that column and not Tarrant, Jr, though Jr. wrote some articles for BMG in the 40's.

Tarrant Sr. writes one interesting column in the 60's bemoaning the aging/loss over the years of the extant 78 records that were made of classic banjo over the years that had even then apparently become antique store fodder and almost forgotten by most banjo players....but apparently were still forgotten about and in Gramophone compartments all over East Anglia....waiting to be discovered by collector's whose stories I've heard about finding records like this a few years later.

My interest in East Anglia is still there....apparently, when the records were new, and the banjos, there were a lot of players and listeners there judging from the stories I've heard.....and of course, I wondered how John's daughter in law ended up out East when John was from out West just south of the Bailey's (Salisbury Chris Sands says).  Maybe her husband was from the East or ....folks just move around over time.

I'll have to look in the BMG club listings that are in the end of each issues and see what clubs were in the East Anglia area....there are teacher listings, too.

I found a couple of listings for J. Cunninghame in RFC files, but no other information as of yet.  If he was shot down as Rosie's article says, he was air crew of some sort at some point.

So, no, Jody, I don't know which Cunninghame is the proposed author, or if both in the RFC records in the next sentence are actually the same or 2 different men....but Rosie mentions John playing banjo "in the trenches"....but several RFC airmen started in the trenches and transferred to the air service...this was not high scoring RFC ace started in the trenches as a foot soldier before his transfer.

There are 2 Cunninghame's listed in the RFC records for WW1, both with different first and second initials, both have a "J" in them, and both records have no other information attached to the name title of the file.

I suppose some of the late teens or 1920's BMG's might have some references to him, but I don't have but a few of those issues from those dates.


Hi Chris, Jody and Shawn,

Maybe Shawn is setting you up with this, Chris, but if not, here's my favorite of the lot, J. P. Cuninghame and R. Tarrant Bailey playing "Palladium Rag" in 1913, from one of Steven Walker's great Neovox releases.

It's weird you'd bring this up, since just the other night I was reading R. Tarrant Bailey (senior's) 1950s BMG columns in which he recalled both recording and then later listening to many of these cylinders of him, Cuninghame and Morley (which, I realize, sounds almost post-modern for all its layers of "framing") and I came across William Brewer's entry on Cuninghame in his "Banjo in Britain" series and realized I'd never seen a photo of the fellow before, so here that is, too.

Very best, as always,


Here's a link to the recording (which you're welcome to add to the "jukebox," Ian, if you think Steven Walker will be okay with it; I hope Mr. Walker will be okay with my posting this one, actually; if you're reading this, Steven, we all miss your record company!)

Palladium Rag — Cuninghame and R Tarrant Bailey are too kind, thank you!

I need to get back in direct contact with you, have obviously been productively busy with this stuff since we last interacted at which point I disappeared back into the darkside for a few years (bluegrass banjo....I know, don't tell Ian, he'll say that phrase is an oxymoron....and no moron jokes at least for now, ok?)........

Thank you again, Chris

So Jody....THAT  is the actual "Bath Chair" that supported Tarrant Sr's bum whilst he typed up his columns?

Would you take $10k USD for it?

That would be the ultimate classic banjo collectible....if genuine, that is......


Ok, so that is the JP in the RFC records, and it IS the same guy.

Just as I thought.  the full RFC records from the website I tried to download the detailed files from keeps downloading with an error, so I can't get into it yet.

I got chills reading that.

WW1 was the end of the innocence for humanity as it relates to technology....and for us the end of a couple of great players' music.

I just read about Tarrant Jr. being featured at his folks Bath club meetings and one of the meeting reports from 1926 said the 18 yr old Bill played "Duckbuy March"....

This is serendipitous as I was just going to ask here if anyone else had heard/heard about that tune......

Man, things just get deeper in here......


That Palladium Rag is great.....

I had just been researching that tune, and from the pre WW2 era, the only "original" recording of it I could find was GR Spindler's Mamelok banjo band on Decca, with arranging credits to Joe's not a straight finger's a banjo band, but the arrangement is great and the melody and parts well done.

This is great to find a more....aprorpriate....recording, let alone with JP......


SW is alive and well, and wishing to be to himself lately and is not "taking calls" as I understand it from a "friend of a friend of....."

I don't think this is priveleged info as I was re-invited to call on him, but also being told to not expect a reply.

He had been very nice to me about 17 years ago, forwarding me an early, rare BMG article.

Just a discreetly submitted update since several have mentioned it with interest and concern......

I don't know much about JPC, other than what has been written about him in the B.M.G. over the years. He was supposed to be the equal of Joe Morley as regards technique, (he is said to have co-authored the Morley banjo tutor) and he did write quite a few tunes, but I've only seen the 'Keynotes Club March' - a joint effort with JM and a piece published in the Banjo Broadsheet, entitled 'Minuet', and of course the famous 'Somerset March which I will try to copy here. There were one or two different pictures of him in the B.M.G,. I will try and find any articles about him from the 1914 -18 era, but cannot remember anything off hand.

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