For just about every waking moment since he formed the Downchild Blues Band – Canada’s best known and best loved blues outfit – Donnie Walsh has been living the dream that changed his life back in the mid-1960s when someone dropped a Jimmy Reed album onto the turntable at his girlfriend’s 16th birthday party in suburban North Toronto.
It’s a moment Walsh – he also answers to his “given” name, Mr. Downchild, taken from a song by Sonny Boy Williamson II – says he will never forget.
“That was it. I was hooked. I never wanted to play anything else.”
He drove his girlfriend crazy learning Reed’s lip-splitting harmonica technique, then James Cotton’s. He locked himself away from the world while he picked apart Muddy Water’s and Albert King’s guitar licks, reconstructing them in his own distinctive style on a beat-up electric guitar. And when he did venture out, it was to one of Toronto’s legendary blues dives to catch his heroes Luther Allison, B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, all of them regular visitors in those days to Walsh’s hometown of Toronto, Canada’s blues capital.
Walsh was a good student. He is recognized around the world as both a blues harp virtuoso with few equals, and an unusually expressive guitarist.
Walsh and his band mates have won countless music industry awards, including a Juno (Canada’s Grammy) for “Best Roots and Traditional Album” in 1991.
They were the inspiration for Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi’s fabulous creation, The Blues Brothers – they recorded Downchild’s “Shotgun Blues” and Walsh’s “(I Got Everything I Need) Almost.” – Downchild is an institution in their homeland, and revered by blues fans around the world.
Apart from its earliest incarnations, with Donnie’s brother, the late “Hock” Walsh as singer, Downchild was always more than a bar band. A party band, sure – good times guaranteed.
Sponsored by the Campbell River Mirror, 2Day FM and Coast Discovery Inn, the Tidemark Theatre and Gee Dan Productions proudly present, Downchild Blues Child with special guest Steve Hill at the Tidemark Theatre on June 24, 2016. Tickets are $ 45.25 (plus applicable taxes & fees) and can be purchased at the Box Office. Tickets are also available at tidemarktheatre.com.