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“Legendary” and “iconic” are terms that may be over-used, but in the case of the Downchild Blues Band, they are the only terms that will suffice.

There are many fine blues artists in this country but none have been able to step up and share the special pedestal Canadians have reserved for the band that has been at the top of its game for more than 40 years.

Brothers Donnie and Richard “Hock” Walsh created the band in 1967 and they have become an inspiration to blues artists here and abroad. They were the motivation for the Blues Brothers created by fellow Canadian Dan Akroyd and the late John Belushi. And it was Donnie’s continuing relationship with Akroyd that lead to a 2010 documentary on the band entitled Flip, Flop, and Fly, 40 Years of the Downchild Blues Band.

While Hock passed away in 1999, Donnie continues to lead the band and has been hailed as a trailblazer for every Canadian blues artist who has followed. The band continues to record and perform. They have now released 23 albums. Their awards are far too numerous to mention and their legions of followers have never waned.


A synopsis on the documentary declares, “Through their musical legacy, Downchild has had a huge impact on Canadian and American Culture. 40 years, 19 albums, countless live performances and awards later, Downchild remains the top live blues band in Canada selling out concerts throughout the country. And they influenced a whole new generation of young musicians including Jeff Healey, Colin James, and more who continue the blues tradition in Canada.”

Donnie Walsh told CentreStage he was pleased with the documentary and it was an accurate account of their history.

The current lineup has been together for 20 years. In addition to writer, singer, harmonica player and lead guitarist Walsh, the band includes singer and harmonica player Chuck Jackson, bassist Gary Kendall, keyboardist Michael Fonfara, sax player Pat Carey and drummer Mike Fitzpatrick. All are talented, widely respected musicians with enough individual awards to rival the band.

But Walsh maintains it was simply hard work that forged the place in Canadian blues reserved for

Downchild. “I just kept going at it for so many years,” he said modestly.

“We had a hit record right away” he recounted, “and so we were pretty much touring Canada right away.”

Their breakthrough record was a cover of the Big Joe Turner song “Flip, Flop and Fly.”

Walsh recalled how the early days saw 80 different members rotate through the lineup.

“Most of those changes happened early on because we needed to make things bigger and better,” he said, adding “the changes were necessary because it was tougher in the ‘60s. There were a few blues artists to draw from and virtually no blues bands in Canada back then.”

If further proof of the band’s and Donnie Walsh’s stature is needed, he can proudly point to two successive Niagara Falls Blues Festivals where Walsh was asked to perform with surviving members of the most famous blues band in history – The Muddy Waters Band.

“It was very cool playing with those guys. We have a long history there.

# niagara

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