Agnes "Sis" Cunningham, a key figure in the American folk music movement as a performer, documentarian and magazine publisher, died Sunday (June 27) in New Paltz, N.Y. She was 95.

Agnes "Sis" Cunningham, a key figure in the American folk music movement as a performer, documentarian and magazine publisher, died Sunday (June 27) in New Paltz, N.Y. She was 95.

Born in Watonga, Okla., Cunningham moved to New York in 1941 with her husband, Gordon Friesen. With Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie, she played and recorded in the Almanac Singers, one of the first groups of the day to adapt traditional folk material. She later performed with bluesmen Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and, as the Almanacs, with Guthrie and Cisco Houston.

In 1962, with Friesen, Gil Turner, Seeger and his wife Toshi, Cunningham founded Broadside, a magazine devoted to the burgeoning contemporary folk scene. Socially conscious, topical and left-leaning, Broadside was the first to publish songs by Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Tom Paxton, Malvina Reynolds and Peter LaFarge, among many other folk notables. The magazine published 187 issues before it folded in 1988.

Cunningham and Friesen recorded folk singers in their New York apartment; Moses Asch released those sides and professionally cut folk sessions for Folkways Records during the '60s under the "Broadside Ballads" banner.

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings in 2000 released a five-CD boxed set, "The Best of Broadside 1962-1988," which received two Grammy nominations. At that time, Tom Paxton told Billboard, "[Broadside] gave us a forum that was unique in its time and is no longer there for other young writers who want to write topically. It was so amazing to have that outlet ... The songs could find an audience, and that was phenomenal.

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboardbiz

Print