Juno Award winning, Canadian Blues pioneers, the legendary Downchild Blues Band now celebrating 50 years of performing stepped onto the Olde Walkerville Theatre stage on Friday night (Dec. 7) for a very special concert. The band along with opening local acts A.J. Vanden Berghe with Sean Shepard, and local guitar legend Dusty D’Annunzio played in support of saxophonist, musician, and event promoter Kim “The Commander” Kelly (paralyzed from a fall in 2015) and Sparky’s Toy Drive.
The Downchild Blues Band was formed by brothers Donnie “Downchild” and Richard “Hock” Walsh in the late 1960’s. The band and Donnie’s “Downchild” name were borrowed from a song by successful American 1950s and 1960s Bluesman, influential harmonica stylist, Sonny Boy Williamson II. Since then the band has seen tremendous success and are considered iconic Blues pioneers of Canada. Donnie is still going strong with the current band member lineup. Unfortunately, his brother Hock passed away back in 1999. The current band lineup of multi-award winning performers has been together since 1990. In addition to Walsh they include lead vocalist/harmonica player Chuck Jackson, tenor sax player Pat Carey, drummer Mike Fitzpatrick, bassist Gary Kendall, and pianist/organist Michael Fonfara.
Other than a small selection of Blues albums in major city centre record stores (mainly Toronto and Montreal) and a handful of venues booking acts, Blues in Canada was almost invisible. That all changed in the 1970’s with the efforts of the band and an encounter with Canadian comedians/actors Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi. The pair created the “Blues Brothers” characters, partly based on the Downchild founders. The one time Blues Brothers skit on Saturday Night Live was wildly popular as was their cult classic 1980 film or the same name.
Prior to the film The Blues Brothers released their debut album “Briefcase Full of Blues” which hit number one on the Billboard 200 and went double platinum. Downchild tracks “I Got Everything I Need (Almost)” and “Shotgun Blues” were featured on the album helping to solidify Downchild’s place in Canadian Blues history.
Downchild thrilled the crowd at the Olde Walkerville theatre when they performed those tracks and several others during the show. Perhaps the most thrilling moments of the show were Downchild and Jackson’s intensely wicked Harpin (Harmonica playing). The pair are masters of the harmonica and perhaps among the best in the world!
For more information about the band visit https://www.downchild.com
Opening the show were the talented A. J. Vanden Berghe (The Dirty River Band and The AVB Podcast) and Sean Shepherd (The Brandy Alexanders). The duo warmed up the crowd with an incredible set. Then Dusty D’Annunzio put on an outstanding acoustic performance bringing more good vibes to the theatre. D’Annunzio’s cover of “The Weight”, peppered with his signature style, had the crowd singing, “take a load off Fanny, and you put the load right on me,” along with him.
The crowd inside the historic Olde Walkerville Theatre was groovin’ to rockin’ Blues the whole night long.
For upcoming shows and events at the Olde Walkerville Theatre visit https://www.oldewalkervilletheatre.com