Tom Cunningham

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Tom Cunningham

Tom Cunningham at Songwriter-Festival Palais, Berlin
Background information
Born June 25, 1951
Bronxville, New York, U.S.A
Genres Americana, Rock
Occupations Singer
Session man
Author of books
Labels Intercord
Deutsche Grammophon
Galaxy City
EAMS Lesser KG
Deutsche Austrophon
Constant HMV

The American-born singer-songwriter, Tom Cunningham, has made a name for himself over the years in London, New York, and Nashville. But his main activity centers in Berlin, as a performer, a producer, a host, a session man, and a writer of both books and songs.

Starting in 1978, he has been signed to Intercord, Deutsche Grammophon, TGR, Powerplay, Navigator/Edel, Galaxy City, and Monopol. He has produced the group City, Romy Haag, Rik de Lisle, Robert Bauer, Karat, Keimzeit, Queen Yahna, Princess, Hagelberger Street Artists, Shannon, and Werner Lämmerhirt[1], among many others. He has played and sung on more famous (or sometimes quite obscure) artist’s records than it is possible to keep track of.

And, although he has never met such top stars as Paul McCartney or Mick Jagger, in the bounty of the rock 'n roll life he has talked with America's Gerry Beckley about a deal with Warner Brother’s, got complemented (at age 17) for slide guitar playing by Van Morrison, and had a box of cookies stolen (at age 13) at Camp Moosehead (Maine, U.S.A.) by Billy Squire (age 14).

Early life

Born in Bronxville, New York, he moved from Yonkers and Scarsdale, New York, to Wellesley Hills, Massachusetts, in 1959. His first electric band, The Uncalled Four, was started at the age of 13. In 1966 he spent a year and a half with the family in Greece, and played with more junior and high school bands before coming back to Massachusetts at the age of 17. He played in Charisma, an early alternative rock band, in Boston and the surrounding areas.

First gigs

Cunningham attended Antioch College at 18, where he played with the acoustic group Nick, Bob, and Tom. He set sail once more for Greece, intending to write a dissertation on ancient Greek mythology as it is found in modern-day beliefs and customs. He found a cheap place to stay in the Plaka, the old section of Athens, where a local British-run folk café entertained the passing young tourists. He got a cheap folk guitar at a Plaka shop, and soon had a steady booking every week. Meeting up with a Californian, James Ballard[2], in the summer months they toured the islands and works on their two-part voices and harmonies. Tom wrote a song during that time, Kalimera My Friend, which he still could play played 50 years later.

The boys decided to use James’ VW bus to tour the world from West to East, ultimately to enter the States via Tokyo and Hawaii. But Cunningham had an epiphany in Berlin; he decided to make music his profession. Not in Berlin, Germany (too backward), but in London, England. In March 1972 they set sail for London, and soon got the interest of fans and managers. In a hippie restaurant they met the band America; the singer Gerry Becker wanted to sign them up to Warner's, but the lead singer Dewey Bunnell (he wrote and sang their million-seller A Horse With No Name) nixed the idea. Some financial difficulties soon after caused Tom and James to break up the group. Cunningham went back to Berlin.

Early days in Berlin

In the meantime, Tom’s girlfriend Françoise’s flat Hagelberger Strasse 14 in Berlin had become a sort of American expatriate haven. Tom teamed up with the exceptional singer and writer Wayne Grajeda, and soon they too set sail for England, in 1973. This time they actually did get signed to Warner Brothers in California through the agency of Robert Wace, London manager of The Kinks, Gerry Rafferty, and other top names. But they made the mistake of trying to turn their top-two men acoustic duo into a typically ordinary rock band. The album they recorded was not up to par. Once again Cunningham returned to Berlin.

Tom made the acquaintance of Georgio Moroder, where he and Wayne recorded some demos in the Arabella Studios in Munich. One of Tom’s songs, The Game, was of interest to Moroder, and soon a transatlantic phone call was set up with platinum boss Neil Bogart of Buddha/Kama Sutra Records. But Tom thought he could do better than the miserly license they offered, and decided to go to New York in 1975, where he stayed in his older brother William’s flat. He talked to Sire Records and played the local folk scene, before teaming up with Steve Miller (bass) and Henry Hirsch (piano) before returning, once more, to Berlin in 1977. The local Folk Pub offered him an every Thursday-night show spot, so, in addition to Stephen and Henry, he added drums and a female singer, and once again the conversion from the folk scene to the rock-style Tom Cunningham Band was complete.[3]

Günter Henne caught one of Tom's many rock gigs in the thriving Berliner scene, and soon offered him a deal with Toledo Records, published through the German label Intercord. The decision was made to use crack German session players, and once again Hansa II studio by the wall (later used by David Bowie and U2) was used for his first real album, Have a Little Faith in the Kid[4], in 1979. It included Baby Don't You Cry, Midnight Samba, and Thank You Man, for Playing that Song Tonight.

Produced by Ralf Novy, Tom was soon singing in the group headed by Ralph's wife Claudia in the heady Berlin recording scene of the late 70s and early 80s. They had two or three recording sessions per week, with all of the famous German stars: Peter Maffay, Udo Juergens, Veronika Fischer, David Hasselhoff (from the USA), etc.

Günter Henne put out another of Tom Cunningham’s albums, Comin' Back for More[5] in 1979, again on Toledo/ Intercord). Gunter liked the country-flavored songs; he flipped out over Tom’s original Somewhere Down the Road. But Tom favored rock opuses like Television Western and Andrea. Everything found their way onto the LP.

And this time he teamed up with a Scottish band for the full rock experience. Intercord Records in Stuttgart paired him up with an all-Scottish band; they had previously played in the hinterlands of Stuttgart with the hits of the day. The excellent Helen Cowan, vocals, and James Angus Barr, keyboards, were among the five who joined up as the new Tom Cunningham Band. They went on tour in Germany and did some photos with Jim Rakete (known in the States as Jimmy Rockett), who also provided the LP with its cover.: With a tour of Germany behind him, he had a couple of memorable nights in Berlin at the Kant Kino, and a one-week gig at the Quasimodo. With this record and band, Coming Back for More, Tom Cunningham became established as a rock singer in Berlin.

Session man, songwriter, and producer

Additionally, Tom Cunningham helped out on the acoustic and electric guitar in many studio sessions. His first gig was for the notable German folksinger Hannes Wader[6], Heute Hier, Morgen Dort, in 1972, where he played acoustic lead guitar (this led to some notoriety in the German folk scene, where Cunningham was on tour with Mohammed Tahmasebi, the excellent Iraqi Dombac [handdrum] player. A young guitarist's attempted to play Tom’s own passages, from the Hannes Wader hit record).[7]

Another musical activity he was known for was his songwriting. The band Joey Albrecht and Karthago journeyed from Berlin to Chipping Norton Studio in Oxfordshire, England to lay down the tracks for their album Rock 'N' Roll Testament[8] in 1974. All lyrics were written by Cunningham, (most notable including Now The Irony Keeps Me Company, Hard Loving’ Woman, and For Kathy), mixed by Geoff Emerick.

Norman Ascot, was trying to become known as a producer. He had discovered a young pre-pubescent five-man group known as The Teens. The first song that Norman wrote for them, 1978’s Gimme Gimme Your Love [9], went to number two in Germany. He asks his good friend Tom for help, and soon he was busy on the next five The Teens albums, writing the songs, and playing on the recordings both as guitarist and as background singer. Soon a bunch of co-writes featuring Tom's electric guitar were at the top of the German charts. (Here I Stand, It’s Good To Have A Friend, and Rock'n'Roll Is Just A State Of Mind, among many others). In 1979 Cunningham kept very busy, getting the newly formed Tom Cunningham Band ready for a Germany-wide tour, as well as spending most days in the Berliner music studios singing, in a five person choral group, the hits of the day.

From writing songs to producing an LP was an easy jump. Cunningham had always maintained his home studio for various projects, and his success as an artist and a session man enabled him to pick up some professional equipment. His old friend, Rik DeLisle, [10]well known as the DJ on the Armed Forces network AFN with his unique baritone voice, had the idea for an American version of the sound that was sweeping Germany, Neue Deutsche Welle. They collaborated on the historic single, Rik’s Rapp (Metronome).[11]

Rik’s wife, Jo Eager, also worked with the AFN, and Erik Engbretson and Cunningham produced an LP comedy- version of a program designed to help GIs and their families to adapt to German ways, The Adventures of Betty Fishwich (and the Librarian)[12] (Fishface Records). By 1982 the Teens had broken up. The lead singer, Robert Bauer, appealed to Tom to produce him in a new direction. Their LP, Teenage Diplomat[13], came out in 1983 (Teldec). (All the songs on it were written by Tom. They included Much Too Close, Teenage Diplomat, and Only Friend). His talent as a producer became well known, and Tom was soon contracted to write and produce the beautiful transvestite Romy Haag. City in the Night[14], released in 1985 also carried Cunningham's original compositions (City In the Night, Looking For A Man, and Victim Of Love, among others).

Perhaps the most notable production that he was involved in was his chart topping work for the East German rock band City[15][16]. In 1987 Germany was still divided into the East and West sectors, and it was highly unusual for an American producer to be involved in the East German Berliner rock scene. But he got the bureaucratic permission from the government, and made the daily trip through the notorious border checkpoint Checkpoint Charlie. The band turned out to be like a band everywhere - dedicated to rock 'n roll, the universal language. This cross-border pollination resulted in Casablanca (oder Guten Gründe)[17] (Amiga/Teldec), which made it to the top of the East German (DDR) rock charts. He thus became quite well known in East Germany, and produced several records (Karat [BMG] and Keimzeit [BMG][18]) for the East German production companies. Cunningham decided to get the original American Berliners from the 70s together again, and produce the Hagelberger Street CD [5a] (Power Play Records) in 1996, including the Cunningham songs Hagelberger Street, Kalimera My Friend, and Ain’t No Hustler. Further productions included 2002’s Gunter Gabriel ‘s Goldstück (Gunterwegs),(Bear Family Records) and 2006’s Werner Lämmerhirt ‘s Heimspiel, (5b) (Toca Records/NiWo Music).

Road to Nashville

But about this time Cunningham decided to curtail his production duties in order to put more effort into recording and releasing his own LPs. After recording 1980’s musical projects Blitz, The Game, [19]with Udo Arndt and Manfred Hubler (Intercord), and Tom Cunningham & the Broadcasters, Germany, in 1983, (Deutsche Grammophon), (including drummer Bruce Hammond, of the German hit song Geil, and ex-Teens guitarist Billy Taylor on bass),he extended his solo career with the celebrated Lost in Thailand,[20] produced in 1991 on TGR Records. It included such preeminent songs such as Dinner With My Ex, Another Shore, and Lost In Thailand. (Dinner With My Ex was offered to Frank Sinatra by his early band crew Morris I. Diamond. Sinatra loved the song, but decided not to do it in order to keep the peace with his wife, Barbara Sinatra.).

Navigator/Edel Records signed Cunningham to produce What If,[21] the 1996 LP that introduced his first recording sessions in the "music capital" of the world, Nashville Tennessee (he was so taken with this magical town that he moved his entire family there the very next year). Gambled on Your Love, Didn't Know Her Name, and Below the Surface all benefited from the expert Nashville crack musicians who played on it[22].

In March 1997 Tom moved his wife Elke and his not yet one-year-old daughter Lynn for two years to Nashville, where he stayed active on the local scene, playing in the innumerable clubs and writing both solo and as a cowriter (Chuck Jones, Michael Garvin, Dan Tyler, Larry Wayne Clark, Debi Champion, Scott Carter, Barbara Cloyd, David Llewellan, and Kim Parent were among the many other writers he worked with. A song co-written with Kim Parent, Learn to Love, won the British Unisong contest in the pop category in February 2002).

During this time he produced … a little time in 1999 (Galaxy City Music) [23], the Live in Nashville LP with Kimberley Dahme in 2000, and Denn Du bist da, (Monopol) [5d] in 2000, a German-language entry recorded in Nashville for his fans back home in Germany. This also included the song Happy Birthday[24] (new text written by Cunningham), a German television primetime-drama “Happy Birthday” on the ARD network; the title song from the ARD-TV series starring Witta Pohl.

Back to Berlin

In 2000 family matters brought him back to Berlin. He soon founded the live-series Songwriter in the Round [25][26][27], a monthly collection of Nashville-inspired local songwriting. This brought the "moribund" Berliner acoustic rock scene a new life, and soon the show with Tom hosting branched out to Munich, Hamburg, Nurnburg, Mecklenburg, Joachimsthal, etc.

2005 also saw the release of A Beautiful Lie on Dunefish/Edel Contraire Records[28], a work that some Cunningham friends considered to be his best to date. Rough Mix, Not Giving Up, and Travel Light (offered by manager Phil Bailey to Cliff Richard) were among the many tunes offered to the public.


Then came the fateful day of July 15, 2005 [29][30]. Cunningham woke up to a massive stroke: his right leg gone, his right arm gone, and unable to speak. The ambulance arrived, to take him for the next 5 1/2 months to the hospital and rehab. He returned home at home on December 1, 2005. He stood up from the wheelchair and got around on the cane, and continued going to rehab for about five hours each weekday.

Unfortunately his (quite excellent) German suffered. Apparently only the first language (English) was available. And he found that his singing voice was very weak. But with his old friend Ron Randolph he diligently studied singing, and could soon add a certain richness and depth to his voice. He went back to Nashville to record Me Again (Galaxy City Music)[31], with his old friends and crack musicians Bobby King and the gang. A lot of his unfinished compositions were still available on tape, so that's what he devoted his time to, redoing and remixing the songs in his studio for the LPs My Berlin Years Volume 1[32], My Berlin Years Volume 2[33], and Expatriate Blues[34](all Galaxy City Music).

A few special concerts were held in the Tempodrom to introduce the fans back into his extraordinary voice. And Tom made a memorable trip to Nashville to meet with bassist Bobby King for a couple of new songs for the LP, Me Again (Galaxy City).

In 2020 Expatriate Blues (Galaxy City), was a look into the acoustic world of Tom, including the legendary The Present. In the meantime The Present was offered by Ellie Weintraub to Kenny Rogers and by David Stark to Ronan Keating.


Cunningham has always been interested in writing. His first real effort was Zanis, a short story about the Eurovision Song Contest and the improbable odds of an entry from Latvia that took the prize. Then came the novel The Rock Star's Song[35]; the tale of Teddy McGillicuddy, who changed his nasme to Tobias Stern in search of a record deal in LA the early 90s. It was published by Amazon as a paperback and as a Kindle entry. The first chapter of his autobiography is also listed here. Camp Moosehead tells the true story of a nine-year-old boy up at camp in the wilds of Maine.[36]

Personal life

Tom stayed in the particular city of Berlin since his arrival in 1971. He also lived in England twice, 1972 and ’73, in New York City in 1976, and in Nashville 1997 to 1999. He married Françoise Desbordes in 1977 and got divorced in 1985. He married his second wife Elke Doepkens in 1990, and had his daughter Lynn in 1996.


As artist

  • Tom Cunningham, Expatriate Blues, 2020, LP, Galaxy City
  • Tom Cunningham, My Berlin Years Vol. II, 2018, LP, Galaxy City
  • Tom Cunningham, My Berlin Years, 2015, LP, Galaxy City
  • Tom Cunningham, Me Again, 2012, LP, Galaxy City
  • Tom Cunningham, A Beautiful Lie, 2005, LP, Dunefish/Edel Contraire
  • Tom Cunningham, Denn Du bist da, LP, Monopol, 2000
  • Tom & Kimberley, Live In Nashville, 2000, LP, Galaxy City
  • Tom Cunningham, ...a little time, 1999, LP, Galaxy City
  • Various, Hagelberger Street -Americans in Berlin, 1996, Power Play Records
  • Tom Cunningham, What If, 1996, LP, Navigator/Edel
  • Tom Cunningham/Joey Albrecht, Southwest Highways LP, Powerplay
  • Tom Cunningham, Lost in Thailand, 1991, LP, TGR
  • Tom Cunningham & the Broadcasters, Germany, 1983, LP, Deutsche Grammophon
  • Blitz, The Game, 1980, LP, Intercord
  • Tom Cunningham, Comin' Back for More, 1979, LP, Intercord
  • Tom Cunningham, Have a Little Faith in the Kid, 1978, LP, Intercord

As Producer

  • Rik De Lisle, Rik's Rap, 1982 S, Metronome
  • 2-Lips, Black And White, 1982, LP, Toledo, TomManDo
  • Robert Bauer, Teenage Diplomat, 1983 LP, Teldec
  • Rik De Lisle, Radio Waves, 1984 MS, EAMS Lesser KG
  • Princess, Another World, 1984 MS, Deutsche Austrophon
  • Romy Haag, City In the Night, 1985 LP, Constant HMV
  • Joe Eager and Eric Engbretson, The Adventures of Betty Fishwich (And the Librarian), 1986, *Fishface Records
  • Queen Yahna, Hot Summer Nights/Doesn't Anybody, 1986, Another Record Company, MS. EFA
  • City, Casablanca...oder gute Gründe, 1987 LP, Teldec TELDEC Schallplatten GmbH
  • Keimzeit, Nachtvorstellung Live, 1996, LP, K&P/BMG Ariola
  • Keimzeit,.naeher mein Herz S, K&P/BMG Ariola
  • Karat, die geschenkte Stunde (mix only), 1995, LP, K&P/BMG Ariola
  • Hagelberger Street Artists, Hagelberger Street, 1996 LP, Power Play
  • Gunter Gabriel, Goldstück (Gunterwegs), 2002, LP, Bear Family
  • Werner Lämmerhirt, Heimspiel, 2006 LP, Toca Records/NiWo Music


  • Southwest Highways
  • Berlin, Berlin
  • Ride Hard Live Free
  • Happy End
  • Traumspueren


  • AMK Gruene Woche Berlin
  • Blub
  • Stattliche Lotterie Rubellos
  • Moebel Tegeler
  • Kaiser™s Supermarket
  • Musiczirkus
  • Ich Mache mich selbstaendig
  • Gaudimax
  • BfA

Jingle packages:

  • RIAS 2
  • Radio 100,6
  • SFB 1
  • RIAS 1
  • SFB 2
  • Berlin 88.8[37]


  1. "„...Romy Haag, Queen Yahna, Gunter Gabriel, Werner Lämmerhirt“ „Kunst & Kampf“ Melodie & Rhythmus". April 2008. 
  2. "„...den Musiker James Ballard...“ - „Kunst & Kampf“ Melodie & Rhythmus". April 2008. 
  3. "Tom Cunningham -Have A Little Faith In The Kid". 
  4. "Tom Cunningham – Have A Little Faith In The Kid". 
  5. "…Comin' Back for More". 
  6. "...Hannes Wader, Peter Maffay, Udo Juegens, ...Heinz Rudolf Kunze...". 
  7. "Tom Cunningham -Comin 'Back For More". 
  8. "..Rock 'N' Roll Testament". 
  9. "…Gimme Gimme Your Love". 
  10. "…Rik DeLisle". 
  11. "Tom Cunningham / Me Again". 
  12. "...The Adventures of Betty Fishwich (and the Librarian)". 
  13. [...Teenage Diplomat ""]. ...Teenage Diplomat. 
  14. "…City in the Night". 
  15. "“...das hochgelobte Album von City.“ - „Kunst & Kampf“ Melodie & Rhythmus,". 
  16. "". 8 January 2003. 
  17. "...Casablanca (oder Guten Gründe)".ünde/master/122009. 
  18. "..Productionen von Karat und Keimzeit...". 
  19. "...Blitz, The Game". 
  20. "..Heimspiel".ämmerhirt-Heimspiel/release/3157903. 
  21. "...Goldstück". 
  22. "…What If ii". 2 March 1996. 
  23. "...Lost in Thailand". 
  24. "...der Titelsong von die ARD-series „Happy Birthday...". 
  25. "..die Praxis um: „Songwiters in the Round.". 
  26. "...die „Songwriters in the Round“ ins leben rief...". 
  27. "...der nannte es: „Songwriters in the Round.". 
  28. "..a beautful lie". 
  29. "..schwarze Julitag im Jahre 2005.". April 2008. 
  30. "Ein Schlagunfall riss Tom Cunningham fast aus den Leben.". 16 February 2008. 
  31. "...Me Again". 
  32. "… My Berlin Years Volume 1". 
  33. "…My Berlin Years Volume 2". 
  34. "…Expatriate Blues". 
  35. "…Love, Death, and the Rock Star's Song". 
  36. "Love, Death, and the Rock Star's Song". 
  37. "Tom Cunningham".