Downchild Blues Band at Key City Oct. 26
Downchild Blues Band is celebrating 50 years of the blues – and taking the party across North America – with a stop at the Key City Theatre in Cranbrook on October 26.
It’s hard to believe it’s been half a century since, bandleader, songwriter, guitarist and harmonica player Donnie “Mr. Downchild” Walsh and his brother, the late Richard “Hock” Walsh, formed The Legendary Downchild Blues Band in Toronto in June 1969.
From humble beginnings, Downchild performed their first gig at Grossman’s Tavern in Toronto. Fittingly, the band will return to the infamous juke joint for a rare, intimate club performance, to kick off their year-long 50th Anniversary Tour, with a SOLD-OUT show on June 19, that will no doubt go down in history.
Named after a Sonny Boy Williamson II song, Downchild’s story begins when Donnie “Mr. Downchild” Walsh was a mere teenager and got his first taste of Blues at a sweet 16 birthday party for his girlfriend. “I was absolutely amazed by the music and, like most people who heard blues, started looking for more,” says Donnie, who soon discovered artists like Muddy Waters, Jimmy Read, John Lee Hooker and B.B. King.
Inspired by those classic sounds, Downchild launched an unstoppable career that has included 18 albums, countless awards and sold-out shows around the globe. The band’s 1971 debut Bootleg, one of the first independent albums in Canada, was recorded in a makeshift studio in parking garage at Rochdale College. Soon after, they scored their first smash hit with a jumping version of Big Joe Turner’s classic Flip Flop & Fly.
“I was pretty lucky to get a hit record just a few years after starting the band. As I like to say, if you have a hit record, the rest is geography. You just get in the van and go, and that’s what we did. For the longest time, we played 250 to 300 dates a year,” said Donnie.
Downchild came to international prominence as the inspiration for Hollywood stars Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi’s hit film The Blues Brothers. In fact, two Downchild songs, Shotgun Blues and (I Got Everything I Need) Almost were even covered on The Blues Brothers’ 1978 multi-platinum album Briefcase Full of Blues.
The current lineup of Downchild features some of the most well-respected musicians in the country, who have performed together for over 25 years: Lead singer and harmonica player Chuck Jackson, Pat Carey on tenor sax, Mike Fitzpatrick on drums, Gary Kendall on bass, and former American super-group rocker Michael Fonfara (of Rhinoceros/Lou Reed fame) on keyboards.
Tickets are available at Key City Theatre.