This is a coming of age memoir about a black kid growing up in the shadow of the Royal American Shows, the world’s largest carnival midway during the 1940s, his last journey with them during the summer of 1958 and the secrets he’s had to live with until now. 

This project began in response to a question asked by one of his Grandchildren. Where are you from, they asked. In trying to answer the question he realized there was more to its answer than he was ready to reveal. 

Ballyhoo or Bally for short is defined by Merriam-Webster as a noisy attention-getting demonstration or talk designed to get people excited or interested in something. On the Bally front stages of carnival and circus midways, you could hear the Barkers and Talkers shouting at the top of their voices, "Hurry. hurry, hurry, come on down, we're gonna give you a free show. Move-in a little closer folks, you don't want to miss this." For Harlem in Havana, the band would begin to play and some of the dancers, dressed in their sexiest outfits, covered with capes, would tease the crowds by flashing their bodies and dance to the music. 

Hurry, hurry, hurry step right in folks, its showtime at Harlem in Havana. Step right in and take this journey with him, back to a time and place most will never know.     

About John Cunningham  - John Cunningham is a freelance musician and wannabe memoir writer.  Born into the carnival/entertainment world of the Royal American Shows, the world’s largest carnival midway.  Nearly all of his family were showmen and entertainers. John picked up the musical mantle and began playing drums at an early age.   After serving in the Air Force, John started a family and signed on with United Airlines from which he retired after a 30-year career. He currently is enjoying his first loves, drumming and traveling along with writing his memoir.  John is active on the San Diego Jazz music scene and is currently working on his memoir project, “Harlem in Havana”, Sex, Sin and Sawdust. A short chapter from his book was one of the winning entries featured in the 2017 Memoir Showcase. It is also featured along with another short piece from the book in the  2018 and 2019 editions of the San Diego Memoir Writers Associations Anthology, Shaking The Tree, Volumes I & II.   John hopes to have his project ready for publishing by the fall of 2020 or early 2021. Visit