The Legendary Downchild Blues Band has a Chicago sound
Canadian blues group founded by two brothers
(Aug. 12, 2016) – The Legendary Downchild Blues Band is made up of multi talented musicians from Toronto, Canada, who love to play the blues. Around since 1969, this band will be making a rare U.S. performance at the Madison Ribberfest Blues Bash this year.
Co-founded by two brothers, Donnie “Mr. Downchild” Walsh and Richard Walsh, the band’s international fame is due to three of its songs. Two originals, “I’ve Got Everything I Need (Almost)” and “Shot Gun Blues,” and their adaptation of “Flip, Flop and Fly” can all be found on the band’s 1973 album, “Straight Up.”
Phil Berkowitz and Cathy Lemons will heat up the Blues Bash stage Aug. 20 when they bring The Lucky Losers to Madison.
The band’s musical style has been described as “a spirited, if fundamental, brand of jump-band and Chicago-style blues.” The band derived its name from blues singer, songwriter and harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson II’s song, “Mr. Downchild.”
Donnie Walsh’s initial blues musical influence was Jimmy Reed, followed by James Cotton. After more than four decades, he remains the sole constant member of the band he started with his brother, Dave Woodward, Cash Wall, John Tanti and Jim Milne. They were the house band at the fabled Grossman’s Tavern from 1968 to 1970. Classically trained pianist Jane Vasey joined the band in 1973.
The Legendary Downchild Band’s first album, “Bootleg,” is seen as one of the first independent albums ever produced in Canada. Recorded over two nights in 1971 in a makeshift studio at Toronto’s Rochdale College, it was distributed by hand. In time, RCA Records Canada acquired the record for a more general distribution.
Throughout the years the band has been together, more than 120 musicians have been associated with Downchild, according to Walsh. Many left to pursue what they thought were more lucrative rock music careers. Most of the current lineup has been together since 1990.
Walsh commented on his perspective: “Just around when I started, here were all these guys in blues bands and, of course, they were impatient, and they wanted to make some more money, so they became rock bands. I played the blues then, and I play the blues now. That’s what I love. It’s a living thing, it’s living music.”
The Beat Daddys will perform before them. The band formed in Evansville, Ind.
The Legendary Downchild Band will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, at Ribberfest. “They’ve been around a long time,” said Dave Butler, one of the Madison Ribberfest Blues Bash committee members. “We tried to get them in the past, but it didn’t work out.”
Stating that her roots have always been firmly planted in gospel music, Gaines continues to sing for the Tabernacle Choir of St. Stephen Baptist Church in Louisville. Her backup band, The Accused, includes bassist William Simmons, drummer Jerry Hawshaw and guitarists Kevin Reese and Kevin Keller.
Butler said that Donnie Walsh is “the father of Canadian blues. The band has been stimulators for the Blues Brothers.”
The band’s connection to The Blues Brothers has continued over the years. In 2005, when Dan Aykroyd and James Belushi toured as The Blues Brothers, Walsh joined them onstage at Ontario’s Casino Rama.
Taking the stage at 5:30 p.m. Saturday will be the Sonny Moorman Band. Moorman, 61, is an American power blues guitarist from Cincinnati. Many have compared his style to Duane Allman, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Lonnie Mack and Gov’t Mule.
“He’s an amazingly great guitar player,” said Butler. Most of the bands playing at Ribberfest have been headliners, he said.
In the ’60s, Moorman’s parents owned a nightclub called the “Half-Way Inn” located half way between Hamilton and Middletown in Ohio on State Route 4. From an early age, he was able to watch talented musicians play and soak up their influence.
“I was raised in the bars my folks owned in and around Hamilton and got to hear world class artists Lonnie Mack, Cal Collins, Dumpy Rice, Troy Seals, Wayne Perry, and a score of others up close and personal and learned one thing – all the hype in the world doesn’t mean a thing unless you can back it up!” he said.
Moorman has been a member of Warren Zevon’s touring band and the Tomcats with members of Sly and the Family Stone. He even opened several shows for Lonnie Mack in the ’90s at local venues like Annie’s and the Blue Note. Moorman is best known for his cover of Lonnie Mack’s “Cincinnati Jail.”
He described his sound as “my music is a continuation of the Blues Revival as done by the American and British artists of the late 1960s – blues emotion with rock energy.”
Brian D. Holland, in Blues Revue Magazine wrote of Moorman, “Although listeners can hear the likes of Stevie Ray Vaughan, Rory Gallagher, Lonnie Mack and Peter Green in his music, any comparison does him no justice. Basically, Sonny sounds like Sonny, with a fat, creamy, and wonderful power blues resonance.”
The Lucky Losers, featuring Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz, will perform at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. They are hailed as San Francisco’s premiere male-female fronted five-piece band.
Their first album, “A Winning Hand,” was a huge critical success when released in 2015. In the fall of that year, The Lucky Losers embarked on a 16-date national tour, performing for full houses in Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Texas, Alabama and Florida. A second album was just released in July 2016, “In Any Town.”
This album went to No. 2 on “Top 50 California Albums” and No. 3 on “Top 50 Blues Rock Albums.”
Lemons brings a fiery, southern sound to her vocal arrangements, while Berkowitz “sings in a clear, declarative tenor and is a commanding harmonica player whose approach owes more to Big Walter than Little Walter,” wrote Lee Hildebrand in “Living Blues.”
Accompanied by a dynamic six-piece ensemble, Lemons and Berkowitz produce a truly signature sound possessing elements of Stax-Volt, electric Americana and psychedelic rock atop a Chicago and Texas blues foundation.
The Beat Daddys will bring their “southern rockin’ blues with a soulful attitude” sound to the stage at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Touring and recording since 1986, they have traveled to Japan, Europe, the Pacific Islands, Greeneland, Iceland and all over North America.
This band formed in Evansville, Ind., in 1986 with core members Larry Grisham and Tommy Stillwell. Over the years members have included Lewis Ross (drums), Brill Morris (bass and vocals), Larry Grisham (guitar, harp and vocals), and Britt Meacham (guitar and vocals), and Tommy Stillwell (lead guitar, backing vocals).
All members have had extensive experience in their genre of blues and old school R&B. The band has shared the stage with Mighty Sam McClain, Johnny Winter, BB King, Koko Taylor, Tony Joe White, Elvin Bishop Jr. Wells, James Cotton, .38 Special and many more. They have had nine international CD releases and recorded for film and TV commercials.
Saturday’s lineup will be kicked off by Tanita Gaines at 11:30 a.m. A native of Louisville, Ky., Gaines will get the crowd moving with her distinctive range of vocal styles.
Gaines began her music career like many others as a young child, singing gospel music in a children’s choir. She performed her first professional gig at the age of 16. Her voice is often compared to the legendary Aretha Franklin. During her career, Gaines has opened for such well-known acts as James Brown and Koko Taylor.
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