Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Jerry Lee Lewis musician shot dead

Credits: Leon Bennett/Wenn/Leon Bennett/WENN

The Memphis music community is in shock today after learning that Jerry Lee Lewis' keyboardist/bassist, B. B. Cunningham, was shot dead on Sunday. Cunningham, age 70, was working as a security guard at a Memphis apartment complex. He came to the aid of a fellow guard when he heard shots fired. Cunningham chased two culprits into another building where he was later found shot to death, along with a 16-year-old suspect. Police later arrested a second suspect, a 22-year old man, and charged him with first-degree murder.

Cunningham, was a former military police officer. His son, Joseph, told the press that his father, "loved protecting people and standing up for people's rights and watching their back."

Joseph Cunningham said of his father, "Music was his life. He was given a God-given talent."

Many Memphis musicians looked up to Cunningham who joined Lewis' touring band in 1997. At the time of his death, he was working on a album with his son. Joseph told reporters, "He not only played, but he helped young musicians. He was loved and respected."

The musician was born Blake Baker Cunningham, Jr. and became friends with musicians Steve Cropper and Donald "Duck" Dunn in high school. Cropper and Dunn became founding members of Booker T. and the MG's and were authors of the Memphis Sound. Dunn passed away earlier this year.

As a teenager, Cunningham helped run the family's record label. Sam Phillips asked him to come into his Sun Studio and add some percussion to a session by the young Elvis Presley. He was on his way. He became the youngest musician ever allowed to join the Memphis Musician's Union.

B. B. led a band called the Six O'Clock Boys and became a member of Ronnie and the Daytonas touring group in 1965. The band had had a big hit with the song, "Little G. T. O." The touring group changed their name to The Hombres and in 1967, Cunningham co-wrote and recorded the hit, "Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out)," with them. This has become a cult classic and was used in the 2005 film, "Elizabethtown" and then covered by John Mellencamp.

B. B. then became an audio engineer at the Sounds Of Memphis Studio. He moved to Los Angeles in 1971 and became chief engineer at Independent Recorders and worked with top talent such asBilly Joel, Elton John and Lou Rawls.

A few years later, he returned to Memphis and started his own recording studio. He released a solo album in 2003 called, "Hangin' In."

A musician who works at Sun Studio, Eldorado Del Rey, said that Cunningham would visit the studio often to say hello and have a cup of coffee. Del Rey said, "He was awesome. I loved him."

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