Memphis musician killed while helping co-worker
MEMPHIS, TENN. (AP) - Memphis musician B.B. Cunningham scored with a classic garage rock song and toured with Jerry Lee Lewis, but he also enjoyed his side job as a security guard because he liked standing up for other people. On Sunday, he died doing just that.
Cunningham co-wrote the 1967 hit “Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out)” for his band the Hombres and toured more recently with Lewis. The 70-year-old keyboardist, bassist and singer’s other job as a uniformed security guard provided a steady paycheck, his son said.
He was shot and killed over the weekend after he came to the aid of another security guard during a shootout at the Memphis apartment complex where they worked, police said Monday.
The gunfire began when a 16-year-old boy and a 22-year-old man fired shots at the other guard, police said. After hearing the shots, Cunningham began chasing the teen and the man into another apartment complex nearby, police said.
After another round of gunfire, Cunningham’s co-worker found the musician and the teen lying in a courtyard with gunshot wounds.
Cunningham and the teen, identified Monday as Henry White, were pronounced dead on the scene.
Police identified the 22-year-old gunman as Dock Britt. He fled the scene but was later was arrested and charged with first-degree murder in Cunningham’s death. Investigators are still trying to determine who shot White.
The shooting shook Memphis musicians, many of whom looked up to the keyboardist who joined Jerry Lee Lewis’ band in 1997. He had had also been working on an album with his son.
Joseph Cunningham, the musician’s son, acknowledges that a regular paycheck was one reason why his father worked as a security guard.
“Most of Jerry Lee’s band, as a matter of fact, have jobs on the side because Jerry doesn’t tour consistently enough for them to make a living at it,” Joseph Cunningham said.
The former Air Force military police officer also had an interest in helping others, doing charity work and looking after those who lived in the apartment complex.
“He loved protecting people and standing up for people’s rights and watching their back,” Joseph Cunningham said.
Other prominent Memphis musicians who died this year include Memphis Horns tenor saxophonist Andrew Love and Booker T. and the MGs bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn.
“Music was his life. He was given a God-given talent,” Joseph Cunningham told in a phone interview from Olive Branch, Miss. “He not only played, but he helped young musicians … He was loved and well-respected.”
Born Blake Baker Cunningham Jr., B.B. Cunningham became friends in high school with Steve Cropper and Dunn, both founding members of Booker T. and the MGs.