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

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.

READ ALSO: Howard the Gnome ushers in Pumpkin Fest from his new home in Saanich

“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

Live music

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Court strikes down Sidney’s denial of proposed cannabis store

Justice Jennifer Power orders municipality to reconsider application and pay court costs

VicPD seeking witnesses for fatal crash on Hillside Avenue

A pedestrian was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries, where she later died

VicPD searching for three men in connection to random assault that put two in hospital

If you see these men you’re asked to call VicPD’s non-emergency line

Public welcomed back to Sidney Spit ferry and camping ground

Service opens July 20 with new ferry contractor and other pandemic-related changes

B.C. ends short experiment with growler fills at restaurants

Province extends take-out sales of six-packs, wine

21 new COVID-19 cases confirmed in B.C. as virus ‘silently circulates’ in broader community

Health officials urge British Columbians to enjoy summer safely as surge continues

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of July 13

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Tough time for tree fruits as some B.C. farm products soar

Province reports record 2019 sales, largely due to cannabis

‘Let’s all do a self-check’: Okanagan mayor reacts to racist vandalism targeting local family

Home of Indo-Canadian family in Summerland was targeted on evening of July 13

Province agrees to multimillion-dollar payout for alleged victims of Kelowna social worker

Robert Riley Saunders is accused of misappropriating funds of children — often Indigenous — in his care

Feds fund safe drug supply pilot program for Cowichan

The opioid overdose crisis continues to be one of the most serious public health crises

B.C. businessman David Sidoo gets 3 months behind bars for college admissions scam

Sidoo was sentenced for hiring someone take the SATs in place of his two sons

PHOTOS: Inside a newly-listed $22M mega-mansion on ALR land in B.C.

The large home, located on ALR land, is one of the last new mansions to legally be built on ALR land

Most Read