Downchild performs an outdoor concert March 4 at the Dimmitt Community Center in Belleair.
BELLEAIR – Straight out of Toronto, Canada, Downchild – aka the Downchild Blues Band – is set to bring Chicago style, jump-band blues to Belleair this weekend.
As part of its Sundays in Belleair outdoor concert series, the Belleair Recreation Department will present Downchild Sunday, March 4, 5:30 p.m., at the Dimmitt Community Center, 918 Osceola Road, Belleair.
General admission tickets are $5 in advance or $10 the day of the show. Call 518-3728 or visit sundaysinbelleair.com.
Downchild formed in 1969 as The Downchild Blues Band. Co-founded by brothers Donnie and Richard Walsh. Recorded in 1971 in a makeshift studio, the band's debut album, “Bootleg,” is considered one of the first independent albums produced in Canada. Legend has it Donnie and others circulated the album by hand before RCA Records Canada acquired distribution rights.
That was the beginning.
Now, 40 years later, Downchild is a virtual institution in Canada. With more than a dozen albums and a string of prestigious awards to testify to their blues virtuosity, 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 for “Gone Fishing,” the 1992 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Great Canadian Blues Award in 1992, and three Maple Blues Awards in 2005 for “Come On In.” The band also earned the 2006 Maple Blues Award for Entertainers of the Year in 2006.
Downchild also served as inspiration for Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi. Aykroyd and Belushi’s The Blues Brothers recorded Downchild’s “Shotgun Blues” and Walsh’s “(I Got Everything I Need) Almost” and adapted Downchild’s hit single “Flip, Flop and Fly” for “Briefcase Full of Blues,” which in turn helped Downchild on its climb to international fame.
Following the release of “Bootleg,” Downchild hardly let a year go by without recording and releasing new material. The band’s early discography includes “Straight Up” (1973), “Dancin’” (1974); “Ready to Go” (1975); “So Far” (1977); “We Deliver” (1979); “Road Fever” (1980); and “Blood Run Hot” (1981).
Long thought of as a robust road band, Downchild has delivered thousands of performances at concert halls, fairgrounds, saloons and roadhouses in every corner of North America. The band made its first concert appearance in Europe in 2008 at the Lille Blues Festival in France and returned in 2009 for the Tobakken Blues Festival in Esjberg, Denmark.
Over those 40 years, Downchild has seen more than 80 great musicians on the payroll, including Donnie’s brother, the late “Hock” Walsh.
These days, Downchild members include Donnie as well as Chuck Jackson, vocalist; Michael Fonfara, keyboards; Pat Carey, saxophone; Gary Kendall, bass; and Mike Fitzpatrick, drums.
Donnie is still a driving force behind Downchild four decades later.
In 2009, the band released its 16th album, “I Need a Hat,” on the Canadian independent label Linus Entertainment. With the release, Donnie and his band mates celebrated their collective longevity. “I Need A Hat” features a new batch of Walsh originals. The tracks are more gritty, more dark and decidedly more acerbically humorous than previous offerings.
“I Need a Hat” also boasts a number of iconic guest appearances, including Dan Aykroyd on harmonica, second-generation Canadian blues-rocker Colin James and Nashville-based
Canadian roots music veteran Colin Linden on guitars, and Stax Records legend Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns on trumpet.
“We’ve been together long enough to know just how everything fits, every groove, every note, every
piece of punctuation,” Walsh said in the liner notes for “I Need a Hat.” “It’s not as if we have to go looking for hooks – they just happen. That’s one of the great things about a band that’s been together for as long as we have. It just gets better and better.”
Attendees of the Sundays in Belleair concert may bring blankets and lawn chairs for an evening of music with family, friends and neighbors. Food and beverages will be available for purchase.
Outside food or beverage, including alcohol, will not be permitted. Other items which will not be permitted include coolers, weapons of any kind, fireworks or explosives of any kind, large backpacks, glass containers or aerosol cans, skateboards, bicycles (bike racks are located outside of venue entrance), scooters or any motorized vehicle and professional recording equipment.
Gates will open at 4:30 p.m.
Roy Powers and The Last Exit Blues Band will open the show followed by a performance by Peter McGraw.
Sponsors include Blues Destiny Records, Dimmitt Land Rover, MaintenX, Behar and Peteranecz Architects, Tampa Bay Newspapers, Bright House Network and Great Bay Distributors.