Downchild Blues Band returns to Madison to finish its act
The band was rained out last year
(August) 2017) – 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.
The band was on the schedule to play last year and was into its third song when a thunderstorm forced the cancellation of the rest of their act and the Los Lobos performance that was set to follow.
The Claudettes perform at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19.
Fortunately for blues fans, both bands were able to reschedule and return to Madison this year. The Downchild Blues Band is again set to precede Los Lobos on the Blues Bash stage at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19.
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.”
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.
Dwayne Dopsie brings his Zydeco Hell Raisers to Madison to perform at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 19.
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.
“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.”
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.
Other Saturday bands
• Taking the stage at 5:30 p.m. will be Dwayne Dopsie & The Zydeco Hell Raisers. Dopsie is called “America’s Hottest Accordion” winner and plays a unique, high energy style of zydeco.
Dopsie hails from one of the most influential Zydeco families in the world. Although inspired by tradition, he has developed his own high energy style that defies existing stereotypes and blazes a refreshingly distinct path for 21st century Zydeco music. This singer-songwriter and accordionist has performed all over the world since debuting his band, Dwayne Dopsie and the Zydeco Hellraisers, at age 19.
Born March 3, 1979, in Lafayette, La., Dopsie was the last of eight children. He attributes his musical abilities to his father, Rockin’ Dopsie Sr., a pioneer of Zydeco music.
• The Claudettes will perform at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The Claudettes fuse Windy City piano blues with the full-throttle energy of rockabilly and punk, jazz-age echoes of burlesque and vaudeville and the sultriness of ’60s pop-soul to write a thrilling new chapter in American roots music.
Group founder Johnny Iguana mashes the piano alongside singer Berit Ulseth, bassist-singer Zach Ver-doorn and drummer Matt Torre. Iguana, who toured for years with his cult-favorite rock band oh my god, is also a member of two Grammy-nominated groups: Chicago Blues – A Living History and the Muddy Waters 100 Band. He has toured or recorded with Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, James Cotton and more.
• Toad Strangler will perform at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Toad Strangler comes from the country hills of south central Kentucky with the inspiration of all kinds of music. They are self-described as a blues rock band that writes, records and produces its own music. First CD, “Live in The Rain,” received great reviews, not to mention Blues Album of the year in 2014.
The band Toad Strangler features Andrea Tanaro, lead vocals, harmonica, keyboard, organ and piano; Fenner Castner on drums, percussion, lead and backing vocals; Tony Tanaro, lead and backing vocals, slide and guitar; and Randy Thomas on bass guitar.
• Kicking off Saturday’s lineup will be the Bob Lafary Trio at 11:30 a.m. Bob Lafary of the Bob Lafary Trio died April 29 at his Versailles, Ind., home at age 65. Despite the loss, the other two band members, Sonny Hill (keyboard, bass, vocals) and Jim Sanders (guitar), plan to find a third musician to join them on stage to open the festival on Friday.
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