B.B. Cunningham on bass during Jerry Lee Lewis’ 2010 performance at the Grammy Museum.
The Associate Press is reporting that bass player B.B. Cunningham Jr. was killed in a shootout in Memphis this week. Cunningham was working as a security guard at a Memphis apartment complex. The press is reporting that Cunningham rushed to the aid of another security guard after hearing shots fired. The musician was gunned down while pursuing a 16 year old teen and a 22 year old man across a courtyard. The 16 year old teen was also killed during the shootout.
B.B. Cunningham had been the touring bassist for Jerry Lee Lewis’ band. He recorded with Elvis, Billy Joel, Elton John, and can be heard on several of Jerry Lee Lewis’ albums, including the 2006 studio recording: ’Last Man Standing.’
Jerry Lee Lewis’ Last Man Standing (2006) CD fully autographed by his touring band.
B.B. Cunningham’s Authentic Autograph
I’ve got a great story to tell you about the late B.B. Cunningham. In 2010, I met B.B. Cunningham Jr. outside of the Grammy Museum here in Los Angeles. Jerry Lee Lewis was being interviewed at the museum and was scheduled to perform a short set.
The late B.B. Cunningham with a fan
As I stood outside the theater I spotted B.B. Cunningham and we struck up a conversation. Later that evening, I entered the theater and Cunningham noticed me in the audience. I was stuck with a pretty crappy seat near the back of the theater. Cunningham pointed to me and motioned for me to come down to the front of the stage. “I’ve got a seat here for you – I have a feeling you’ll like this one better.” It was the front row center seat!! The best seat in the house. Jerry Lee Lewis ended up seated at the piano only a few feet from me. What an incredible night. I don’t think I’ll ever get a better seat to watch ‘The Killer’ than I did that evening. I always thought that was really cool of B.B. Cunningham. I didn’t know the man – but I can tell you he was always very gracious to fans and autograph collectors every time I ran across him. I was very saddened to hear of his death this week.
Solomon Burke at the Grammy Museum, September 2010
On a sidenote, another rather interesting thing happened that night: I was standing in line waiting to go inside the theater when a car rolled up. I noticed a rather huge man seated inside. It was rhythm and blues legend, Solomon Burke.
I turned to the others standing in line, “Hey – isn’t that Solomon Burke?” Not a single person knew who I was talking about.
Anyway, I noticed Burke was having some difficulty getting out of the car. I’m a rather large person myself, so I offered to help Burke get out of the car and into his wheelchair. He posed for a photograph with me. I told him how much I loved his music and shook his hand. I never did get a chance to ask him for an autograph. I was planning on getting something signed by the singer after the show but became distracted with chasing Jerry Lee Lewis.
Solomon Burke died about three weeks later.
Jerry Lee Lewis had recorded a duet with Burke on the album, ‘Last Man Standing.’ The two performed the tune together at the museum. I’m not entirely certain, but that may have been Solomon Burke’s last public performance.
Jerry Lee Lewis authentic signed vinyl LP
Here’s a funny thing about this autographed Jerry Lee Lewis recording. This was the first album I ever had Lewis autograph. I’d snucked into an event here in town and asked Jerry Lee to autograph his book for me. Instead of picking up the sharpie though, Lewis turned and SCREAMED at me: “I AIN’T SIGNING NO GODDAMNED BOOK!!”
Let me tell you folks, that old man can scream. He’s scary nasty.
Apparently, he doesn’t like the way his ‘autobiography’ turned out. Lee may be in his 80s – but that old coot scared the shit out of me. EVERYONE in the theater turned. It was extremely embarrassing. The hairs on the back on my neck stood on end.
Lewis’ daughter and bandmates were standing nearby and they just shrugged, as if to say: “Oh well… that’s just Jerry for ya.”
I didn’t know what to do. I shoved the book back into my napsack and quietly slipped back into the crowd. Jerry left and went down to his dressing room, he was bitching the entire way: “I ain’t signing no damn book! Who the hell was that punk?!! Asked me for a goddamn autograph in that goddamn book.”
This was very unsettling to say the least. I was shakened but not so much that I wasn’t still determined to get a signature. I asked one of my buddies, “Do you have an extra record?” The guy responded, “Are you crazy? Jerry just yelled at you. That old man is going to kill you if you ask for another signature.” I said, “Listen, this guy is in his eighties! I may never see him again. I have to at least try one more time.”
So, I took the record and went downstairs to Lewis’ dressing room and knocked on the door. The door swung open and Jerry Lee was sitting there. He looked at me with his mean squinted eyes. I quickly held up the record and smiled, “Hey, you said you wouldn’t sign the BOOK… but what about a record?” I grinned at him kind of silly.
Lewis glared at me.
Suddenly, the rocker started laughing. I think he appreciated my aggressiveness. We started talking about Rock N Roll, he shook my hand, and signed the record pictured above. It was really cool.
Jerry Lee Lewis and his touring band at the Grammy Museum
I walked out of that dressing room with a grin on my face that stretched ear to ear. I watched the performance (which was amazing) was still thinking about the meeting hours later. I was so frigging excited and distracted that when I left the theater, I placed the record on the top of my car and accidentally drove away — with the record still on the roof of the car!
Yes, folks – it’s true: I stupidly left the record on TOP OF MY CAR!! (AHHH!!!)
I didn’t noticed the horrible mistake until I got back to my apartment (a few miles away.) I quickly rushed back to the theater, running numerous red-lights along the way. I was crying, praying, screaming at myself for being so stupid. Thankfully, I was able to locate the record: The record sitting in the middle of the highway!! Cars were zooming past it on boths sides. I quickly dodged the traffic and snatched the LP off the road. Surprisingly, the record was undamaged — WHEW!!
So, anyway, I walked away with a few autographs and a couple of stories. I worked hard for this damn signed record. Hopefully, I’ll live to someday tell my grandchildren about the time I was once screamed at by Jerry Lee ‘The Killer’ Lewis.