Founder Donnie Walsh (centre) and the Downchild Blues Band celebrate 50 years of making great music with an Oct. 18 concert at the McPherson Playhouse. Photo courtesy Diesel Entertainment

Let Downchild chase those blues away

Donnie Walsh and company celebrate the band’s 50th year with an Oct. 18 concert in Victoria

By Joseph Blake

Monday Magazine contributor

Downchild is Canada’s premier blues band, and they are celebrating their 50th year with a tour of Canada and the U.S. that comes to Victoria’s McPherson Playhouse on Oct. 18.

Donnie Walsh founded the band in Toronto in 1969, and he has been leading Downchild onstage and in the studio for five decades.

Walsh, who has been called the Father of Canadian Blues, estimates that more than 120 musicians have been associated with Downchild over the years. The current lineup has been playing as a unit for decades.

“I joined the band in 1990,” lead singer Chuck Jackson says. “I joined shortly after Donnie’s brother, Hock, left the band for the last time. He died of a heart attack in 1995.”

The 50th anniversary tour includes songs from almost every Downchild album, right up to their 2014 Juno Award-winning Can You Hear The Music and their 18th studio album, Something I’ve Done.

“Donnie Walsh and I have written a lot of Downchild’s songs over the last 30 years, but on Something I’ve Done, almost everyone in the band contributes songs. We also included David Vest’s “Worried About the World” on the album.”

The Victoria-based Vest and Nanaimo’s David Gogo will join Downchild onstage at the McPherson.

“We’re doing 25 shows in 35 days,” Jackson says, listing a stretch of concerts that includes Courtenay’s Sid Williams Theatre Oct. 19, Nanaimo’s Port Theatre Oct. 20 and Campbell River’s Tidemark Theatre Oct. 22.”

“We started our 50th anniversary at the Downtown Jazz Festival in Toronto with Paul Schaefer and Dan Aykroyd joining us onstage.”

Aykroyd’s 1978 multi-million selling Blues Brothers album, Briefcase Full of Blues, included three songs from Downchild’s 1973 recording Straight Up including Walsh’s most famous tune, “I’ve Got Everything I Need (Almost).” Aykroyd also performed on Downchild’s 2009 album I Need a Hat with fellow guest musicians Colin James and Colin Linden, and Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns. But as great as Downchild sounds on record, it only hints at the band’s blues power live onstage.

Multi-Maple Leaf Award winner Gary Kendall and Mike Fitzpatrick lay down a powerful rhythmic bass and drum groove for veteran keyboardist Michael Fonfara (Electric Flag, Rhinoceros, Lou Reed Band) and saxophonist Pat Carey’s Chicago blues and jump blues accents. Walsh’s guitar and blues harmonica (The band’s name comes from seminal blues harmonica star Sonny Boy Williams, Mr. Downchild) sails above the band’s rhythmic churn, expertly framing Jackson’s soulful vocals.

As Walsh has explained, “You show up with the blues. I play, you lighten up. That’s what it’s all about. It’s like medicine.”

Downchild’s 50th anniversary show will be good medicine. They are the real deal. Highest recommendation. For tickets and more information visit rmts.bc.ca or call 250-386-6121.



editor@mondaymag.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

Patrick Boyle and UVic jazz group gear up for final Blues for Eric fundraiser

UVic Jazz and Creative Music Ensemble to be featured in show at The Oaks on Nov. 2

Comic Jim Jeffries keeps it real with The Night Talker tour

Comedy Central star brings insightful – at times controversial – material to Victoria on Nov. 16

Season opener: Blue Bridge launches with a spoof of Hitchcock classic

Broadway’s longest-running comedy, The 39 Steps runs Oct. 22 to Nov. 3 at the Roxy Theatre

Musical pipeline to Victoria continues for Bruce Cockburn

Iconic Canadian singer-songwriter brings considerable catalogue, new material to Royal on Nov. 8

Advice for first-time Rocky Horror Picture Show attendees

Get ready to dance, sing and throw toast

Fashion Fridays: How to pose in photos

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Astrocolor making special debut at Hermann’s Upstairs on Thursday

Victoria band performing showcase for jazzfest execs, public invited along for the ride

VIDEO: Final trailer for ‘Rise of Skywalker’ debuts

Last instalment in Skywalker saga to hit theatres Dec. 20

Classic rock twin bill features the music of Fleetwood Mac and Rod Stewart

Dreams joins Rod & the Mods for Oct. 28 tribute show at the McPherson Playhouse in Victoria

Five Halloween activities for adults to celebrate the spooky season

Halloween isn’t just for little ghouls in Greater Victoria

City of Victoria seeks next Youth Poet Laureate

Nominations for the 2020 position close on Oct. 29

Sooke Philharmonic Orchestra launches new season

First up: Celebrating the Concerto on Oct. 27

Most Read