Phil Cunningham (folk musician)

Philip Martin Cunningham, MBE (born 27 January 1960 in Edinburgh, Scotland)[1] is a Scottish folk musician and composer. He is best known for playing the accordion with Silly Wizard, as well as in other bands and in duets with his brother, Johnny. When they played together, they would egg each other on to play faster and faster, and try, light-heartedly, to trip each other up.[2]

Phil Cunningham
Cunningham in Campbeltown, Scotland, 2005
Cunningham in Campbeltown, Scotland, 2005
Background information
Born (1960-01-27) 27 January 1960 (age 62)
OriginEdinburgh, Scotland
GenresFolk, Traditional Scottish, Celtic
OccupationsMusician, Composer, Producer, Presenter
InstrumentsAccordion, Violin, Piano, Guitar, Tin whistle, Harmonium, Synthesizer, Mandolin, Irish Bouzouki, Bass guitar
Years active1976–present

Phil has also collaborated with numerous other great Celtic musicians; one prominent example of this is his partnership with Aly Bain. The duo have (as of 2020) released nine albums, and between 1989 and 2019 they had a yearly spot at the New Year's Hogmanay Live broadcast on BBC Scotland.[3]


Cunningham played accordion and violin from a young age. He attended school in Portobello, and was raised Mormon, attending church regularly and playing organ.[4] However, by age fifteen due to issues with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints he left, and now describes himself as a spiritualist.[4]

At the age of 16, he left school and joined his older brother Johnny in the group Silly Wizard,[5] where he sang and played accordion, tin whistle, harmonium, guitar, and synthesizer. He also wrote many of the group's songs. After the breakup of Silly Wizard, Phil and Johnny recorded two albums and toured with Irish siblings Mícheál Ó Domhnaill and Triona Ni Domhnaill as the quartet Relativity. Phil has since had a successful solo career, releasing the solo albums Airs & Graces and The Palomino Waltz and producing albums with Aly Bain, Mark Knopfler, Dolores Keane, Altan, Connie Dover and Kris Drever.[6]

In more recent years, Phil has also composed classical music and music for theatre and television,[5] with 1997 seeing the premiere of his Highlands and Islands Suite at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

In 2002, Phil was appointed MBE for services to Scottish music. He was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters, at Glasgow Caledonian University's graduation ceremony on 27 November 2007.[7]


Solo albumsEdit

  • Airs & Graces (1983)
  • Palomino Waltz (1989)

Silly WizardEdit

  • Caledonia's Hardy Sons (1978)
  • So Many Partings (1980)
  • Wild and Beautiful (1981)
  • Kiss the Tears Away (1983)
  • A Glint of Silver (1986)
  • Live Wizardry (1988)


  • Relativity (1986)
  • Gathering Pace (1987)

With Johnny CunninghamEdit

  • Against the Storm (1980)

With Aly BainEdit

  • The Pearl (1995)
  • The Ruby (1997)
  • Another Gem (2000)
  • Spring The Summer Long (2003)
  • Best of Aly and Phil (2004)
  • Roads Not Travelled (2006)
  • Portrait (2010)
  • Five and Twenty (2012)
  • No Rush (2020)

With Connie DoverEdit

  • Somebody (1991)
  • The Wishing Well (1994)
  • If Ever I Return (1997)
  • The Border of Heaven (2000)

With Kris DreverEdit

  • Mark the Hard Earth (2010)

With Mark KnopflerEdit


  1. ^ Cunningham, Phil. "Phil Cunningham: 10 Things That Changed My Life". The National. Herald and Times Group. Newsquest Media Group. Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  2. ^ "Phil and Johnny Cunningham". YouTube. Archived from the original on 14 December 2021. Retrieved 6 January 2012. Johnny and Phil in concert with Silly Wizard, Oct. 1986.
  3. ^ Scougall, Murray. "Should auld acquaintance be forgot? Musician Phil Cunningham on no longer being a part of BBC Scotland's Hogmanay". The Sunday Post. Retrieved 5 August 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Lifestyle | The Scotsman". Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  5. ^ a b "Phil Cunningham – Scottish Traditional Music Hall of Fame". Retrieved 2 April 2021.
  6. ^ "Phil Cunningham (2)". Retrieved 28 July 2022.
  7. ^ "Graduation Honorary Awards : News Headlines : Glasgow Caledonian University". Retrieved 29 July 2020.
  8. ^ "IndieLondon: Mark Knopfler – Privateering (Review) - Your London Reviews". Retrieved 29 July 2020.

External linksEdit