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When one thinks of Blues music in Canada, the first band that springs to mind is Downchild. It’s been nearly 40 years since Donnie “Mr. Downchild” Walsh and his since passed brother, Hock Walsh formed the group that would be the inspiration behind the world famous Blues Brothers. Still on top of their game today, Downchild was nominated for “Blues Album of The Year” at the 2005 Juno Awards (Canadian equivalent of a Grammy Award) and lauded as “Entertainers of the Year” in 2007 at the Maple Blues Awards (Canadian equivalent of a W.C. Handy Award).

A constant throughout, Donnie Walsh has kept the music alive and Downchild embodies some of the most well respected musicians in the country, who have performed together for over 15 years. This includes silky smooth singer and harmonica player Chuck Jackson, tenor sax player Pat Carey, beat man Mike Fitzpatrick on drums, rhythm captain Gary Kendall on bass, and former American supergroup rocker Michael Fonfara (of Rhinoceros fame) on keyboards.

Named after a Sonny Boy Williamson II song, the history of Downchild can be traced back to a time when Donnie “Mr. Downchild” Walsh was a mere teenager and got his first taste of Blues at a sweet 16 birthday party for his girlfriend:

“I was absolutely amazed by the music and, like most people who heard blues, started looking for more.” - Donnie Walsh

It was then, that the young Donnie discovered artists like Muddy Waters, BB King and Jimmy Reed. The legends who laid the ground work of inspiration behind his playing and songwriting. At that time, a vibrant blues scene in Toronto started to develop and renowned blues artists from Chicago venture north to perform. This scenario proved to be opportune for a fledgling blues connoisseur like Donnie Walsh, whose love of the music was amplified by catching live performances from artists like Muddy Waters, James Cotton, Albert King, Luther Allison, Buddy Guy and Junior Wells. Little did he know that eventually he would form his very own blues band (Downchild) but they would go on to share the stage with some of the greats, including Bo Bo Jenkins, John Lee Hooker and B.B. King to name a few.

By the early ‘70’s, Downchild was gigging constantly when comic/actor and fellow Torontonian Dan Ackroyd caught a show at one of their local haunts. He, along with his cast mates from the legendary Second City, soon became regular staples at Downchild shows to party after their own performances. Ackroyd in particular became a huge fan who cherished his copy of Downchild’s second album Straight Up ,on which he together with John Belushi based the first ever and multi-million selling Blues Brothers album Suitcase Full of Blues.

Since then, Donnie and Co. have won 26 Awards from media and blues authorities including Q107 FM, the Toronto Blues Society, Jazz Report, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) who gave them the Great Canadian Blues Award in 1992 and the Canadian Association of Recording Arts and Sciences who bestowed on them a Juno for Best Roots and Traditional album in 1991. In addition to touring and performing constantly, Downchild has released 14 albums to date and most recently 'Live at the Palais Royale' through their new home, Linus Entertainment. Having performed around 7,500 gigs internationally since their inception, Downchild’s live sound has developed to a level not experienced until now. The release has been met with critical praise from some of the most prestigious publications in North America, including the Montreal Gazette, Globe & Mail, Edmonton Sun and Toronto Star who summed up Live at the Palais Royale as follows:

“They have made this collection of trademark Walsh compositions a bigger, better and more electrifying experience than anything their well-served admirers could have imagined.” Gregg Quill, Toronto Star, March 2007.

Blues fans are in for a treat as 'Live at the Palais Royale' showcases 11 classic Downchild tunes, including those featured on the triple platinum Blues Brothers album; 'I Got Every Thing I Need (Almost)' and 'Shotgun Blues'. 'Live at the Palais Royale' was recorded at a packed house in Toronto on November 11, 2006 at the historic and newly renovated dance hall that was home to greats like, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller – the last of its’ kind. Performing in one of Canada’s oldest remaining wooden dance hall could not have been more perfect for Donnie, who called it the “ideal gig.”

“It is an excellent venue. This 'Live' album sounds exactly like this band 'Live'. So basically, if you’re at home listening to the album you can close your eyes and pretend you’re at the gig.” - Donnie Walsh

The Downchild attitude and sound that have won them fans from coast to coast is all over this live album and shine through on audience favorites like 'It’s Been So Long', 'Wednesday Night Blues' and the toe tapping standard 'When I Say Jump'…to name a few. What can be said of each track apart from the fact that the entire album is an embodiment of the music, sound and energy that have lifted this formidable group of music makers and shakers to where they are today The infectious energy of Downchild and their latest release is making it's way across the pond as well and described by Blues in Britain Magazine as follows:

“I’ve only ever given one album 10/10 before, and really I wanted to give it a 9.5, whereas yours was a definite 10! Most of the albums I get sent to review get played…and then sit in the cupboard using up space, but I’m in danger of wearing yours out!”
- Gordon Baxter, Blues in Britain Magazine, April 2007

'Live at the Palais Royale' was recorded without overdubs or pitch correction and is a testament to the skillful execution of music that these seasoned and legendary artists have grown to deliver through their vast experience and unbridled love of everything Blues.

Donnie Walsh named his band from a song by blues singer, songwriter and harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson; his other early heroes included Elmore James and Muddy Waters. More than 30 years later, Walsh remains one of the most enthusiastic musicians to be found anywhere - on the rare occasions when he’s not fronting a Downchild gig or fishing up north, he can be found sitting in with friends - and he has ’em in dozens of towns and cities throughout Canada and the United States.

Known as “Mr. Downchild” since he started the band, Walsh’s fans still argue as to whether he’s a better guitarist than he is a harp player - most figure it’s a tie - but musicians everywhere give him an A+ mark on both instruments, with special praise for his slide guitar work. Younger players in the tradition cite him as one of their strongest influences. He is also the band’s main songwriter; unlike most bands in the idiom, almost all the material in Downchild’s shows is written by Walsh or singer Chuck Jackson. Off-stage in the summertime - between jazz, blues, and folk festival gigs in Canada and the U.S. - Walsh avoids the crowds by relaxing on his fishing boat.

Chuck Jackson is Downchild’s singer; the sort of openhearted, friendly guy who builds an instant rapport with audiences. He came to Downchild thirteen years ago after a long career with a number of Canadian bands. A first-rate singer, who rates Big Joe Turner and B.B. King as major influences, Jackson’s also turned into an excellent songwriter, and there are plenty of his songs on the group’s most recent albums. He’s also a fine harmonica player, and a special highlight of the band’s performances is a harp duet with Mr. Downchild. Chuck is also the organizer of the annual Southside Shuffle - Port Credit Blues Festival which has become an important event on the southern Ontario festival circuit. Chuck was named the Maple Blues Award winner for 1999 Male Vocalist of the Year. He was also honored this year with the Toronto Blues Society’s prestigious Blues With a Feeling Award for his achievements during a distinguished career.

Long known as one of the busiest, most versatile, keyboard players in North America, Michael Fonfara has added immeasurably to hundreds of recording sessions in a career that began in the early days of the rock revolution, when he was a member of the '60s super group, Rhinoceros. Since then, he has played with artists as varied as Lou Reed and Solomon Burke, and is building a new career as a record producer for a number of up and coming bands and singers. His vital, powerful keyboard work accents Downchild's unique sound. Michael was named Piano/Keyboard Player of the Year for 2000 by the Maple Blues Awards.

From northern Manitoba - just a few hundred miles south of the Arctic Circle - sax player Pat Carey is the most schooled of Downchild’s players, with a degree in music from the University of Manitoba. He played with The Winnipeg Symphony, Jimmy King & the Golden Boy Brass, Rocki Rolletti, and his own Jazz groups before moving to Toronto in 1984, where he played with such artists as the late Richard "Hock" Walsh and the late Tony Flaim and the Dukes before joining Downchild in 1985. His horn arrangements are an integral part of many Canadian recordings by such artists as Jack DeKeyzer, Chuck Jackson and the All-Stars, Big Daddy G and Sunny Fournier. As well as his many recordings with Downchild, Pat has also recorded with Rita Chiarelli, Fathead, Danny Brooks, Curley Bridges, Kenny Blues Boss Wayne, & Sam Myers. Pat has been recognized as Horn Player of the Year at the Maple Blues Awards in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 & 2004. In 2002, Pat recorded the CD Starlight with his own band Pat Carey's Jazz Navigators. In this same year Pat became the President of The Iridescent Music Company Inc., a company comprised of a diverse group of Canadian musicians and Business people.

Gary Kendall is one of the best known bassists on Canada`s blues scene adding a rock solid bottom end to the band`s distinctive sound. In his first period with the band (1979-83) he worked on four albums, We Deliver, Road Fever, Blood Run Hot and the live But, I`m On The Guest List. Since returning in 1995 he`s played on Lucky Thirteen and Come On In. Gary Kendall has also toured and recorded with blues greats Morgan Davis, Snooky Pryor, Chris Murphy, Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson, Big Jay McNeely, to name only a few and he`s the Musical Director of the Maple Blues Awards. He was honoured with the "Blues With A Feeling" Award in 1993 and has won the Maple Blues Award as Bassist of TheYear in 1997, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2005. Originally from Thunder Bay, Ontario, Gary has also been honoured by his hometown, receiving the Thunder Blues Award from the City Of Thunder Bay and the Keeping The Blues Alive Award from The Thunder Bay Blues Society in 2002. When not touring and recording with Downchild he performs with The Gary Kendall Band and released his first solo recording "Dusty & Pearl" on his own 47 Records label in late 2004.


The newest member of Downchild is drummer Mike Fitzpatrick, but he’s certainly no newcomer to the blues scene. And while he’s been influenced by big band drummers like Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, he’s found his niche with a flock of bluesmen - he’s played with Big Joe Turner, Sonny Rhodes, Hubert Sumlin and Bob Margolin, but he’s just as proud of the contributions he’s made with Canadian artists like the late Richard “Hock” Walsh, Jack DeKeyzer, and Morgan Davis. He’s recorded with Snooky Pryor, B.B. Odom and the Gold Tops, the Livin' Blues Band and Ray Materick, among many others. His role with Downchild is special - in his own words: “One of the first blues bands I ever heard was Downchild, and they were an influence on my style as well. I’m still a fan today, so for me this is a great gig.” Michael won the Maple Blues Award as Drummer of The Year in 2005.