Cunningham Corner is a condo complex on the corner of Horsetooth and Shields in Fort Collins. It’s also the name on the barn that sat at that corner before the condos (the barn has since been declared a historic landmark and moved elsewhere).
And in the early 1970s, it was the name of one of the hottest bands in Fort Collins.
Kevin Donnelly, founding member of Cunningham Corner, the band, sent the Lost Fort Collins blog the story. With pictures:
I was the only band member who lived on the [Cunningham Corner] farm, but the band rehearsed there all the time and it became a haven for the local artistic community which at the time consisted of painters, [such as the legendary “Gorpf”], musicians, sculptures, poets and writers.
I don’t know if “hippies” would be the right word to describe the group of people who lived there. We were just young kids, mostly from the city, who discovered a new way of life in Colorado.
At night, at that time, the area was very quiet and peaceful and all our musician friends would sit around the campfire in the garden and play music into the night. The area is not quite so isolated nowadays, is it?
In later years, the band all moved into the same house together along with various other artists and musicians. We built a recording studio there …
There was a “Der Weinerschnitzl” across the alley and we lived off of those dogs! There wasn’t a lot of money, but all we really needed was to make sure that our guitars had new strings on them by opening night!
Early band days at CSU
Scott Galbraith and I started playing our acoustic guitars in the common area at the Student Center. That was the beginning of Cunningham Corner. There used to be this area where students could stretch out on couches and tables. It became an area where musicians could just bring in their instruments and play for everyone.
The sound, the scene, and the Jade Urn
It was the time the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Poco, Randy Meisner, Pure Prairie League, John Denver, Michael Nesmith and Michael Martin Murphy. Cunningham Corner had 4 part harmonies but the band was more than that. It was more like an experimental orchestra. We played many instruments and all original music that crossed over from jazz to rock to country rock and rhythm and blues and to funk and to even classical and show tunes.
A good friend of the Cunningham Corner band at the time was the poet and musician Charles John Quarto who was a mainstay in Fort Collins and who wrote the lyrics for “Geronimo’s Cadillac” for Michael Murphy. Charles was kind of a spiritual advisor of the band and even used to read poetry before our sets at the old Jade Urn coffeehouse.
…I have great memories of playing all night at the Northern Hotel in Fort Collins and then walking home in the cool evening to 1625 Remington Street. Fort Collins was at the time, and I understand still remains, one of the best places to live in the country.
Cunningham Corner [toured throughout the southwest and] was the only non-recording act to headline multiple times at the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas, which was one of the best music venues at the time. [The home of Willie Nelson]. We also played various fund raising and charity events in Fort Collins.
There were other popular hometown bands as well, and twice a year we would all rent out a couple of ballrooms at the student center and hold a big concert where all the bands would play on stage together. It was a very tightly knit community of musicians.
After the Spring Jam, we all gathered at “The Town Pump” which was then owned by our good friend Ron Heard, and played music all night. Ron also had an ownership interest in the Rams Inn. Back then, if you wanted a really good hearty breakfast the Rams Inn was the place to go. I don’t imagine it is still in business.
Where are they now?
The members of Cunningham Corner eventually landed in Los Angeles and pursued musical careers. There were many successes and countless stories.
As for myself, I developed an interest in the law. I have been practicing law for the last twenty-five years in Los Angeles. In 2000, I married the love of my life and we now reside in Redondo Beach CA.
We lost some friends along the way. Our original drummer, Gary Brittingham, who is seated next to me in the Cunningham Corner barn photo, was accidently electrocuted while working at the old pickle factory in Fort Collins about 1972.
Our piano player, Rod Seeley, who I understand remained a musical staple in the La Porte and Fort Collins areas until
recently, passed away a few years ago.
Another great singer and songwriter who lived in Fort Collins at the time and a good friend of the band, Scott Bruning, passed away some twenty years ago.