Donnie Walsh, Canada’s ‘Father of the Blues,’ who founded Downchild Blues Band in 1969, and who is leading still on a tour to Cranbrook.

Donnie Walsh, Canada’s ‘Father of the Blues,’ who founded Downchild Blues Band in 1969, and who is leading still on a tour to Cranbrook.

Downchild will make KCT Cranbrook’s House of Blues, Oct. 25

Legendary Blues band founder Donnie Walsh, on a half century of Blues in Canada and the world

Canada’s legendary Blues testifiers, and one of the world’s foremost and longest running proponents of the Blues, is back in Cranbrook to testify, Oct. 25.

Downchild is hitting the road to British Columbia, to change autumn’s colours from orange and red to blue.

Downchild Blues Band was formed by Donnie Walsh et al, in Toronto in 1969. Walsh — known as Canada’s “Father of the Blues “ — remains the original member from that storied era, though the current line-up has been with the band for decades.

Downchild has been at the forefront of Blues music since the Blues renaissance of the 1960s, years which saw an upsurge in the popularity of the genre. The Blues was a great influence on the burgeoning rock scene and saw the advent of a host of great new players, many who are now legends. And in those years, Walsh was right in the thick of that scene.

“During the early sixties, before I started my band, I was spending a lot of my spare nights and Saturday afternoons at a club called the Colonial Tavern,” Walsh told the Townsman in an email interview.“It was here that all the blues greats would play in Toronto.

“In those days, they played six nights a week and a Saturday matinee — very different to the one-nighters we’re used to now. So there was plenty of opportunity to listen and learn — a very exciting time for me. I guess I wanted to be like them..up on a stage, making my music, entertaining an audience and pleasing myself and that audience. At that time the only way to do that was to start my own band.”

Walsh, along with his brother Richard Hock, went looking for and found the musicians who would be with him for many years. And so Downchild Blues Band was born.

“We found our first home at Grossman’s Tavern in Toronto on Spadina Avenue,” Walsh said. “It was there that some of the greats such as Buddy Guy would drop in a play a few tunes with us.

It was and still is exciting for me to be on that stage and see people tapping their feet and singing along.”

Downchild went on to put out a plethora of hits like “Flip, Flop and Fly,” “Almost,” and “Shotgun Blues” — these songs were all covered by the famous Blues Brothers, who were heavily influenced by Downchild Blues Band, and helped bring them to new fame at the beginning of a global Blues renaissance in the late ‘70s and ‘80s.

But make no mistake — Downchild is not a legacy act. The band has never gone away, never needed a comeback, and neither has the music they extoll — the Blues. Blues is vital, relevant, and reaching a bigger audience than ever. And like an organic art form, it is changing and evolving.

“Blues music has most definitely changed and evolved over the years I have been playing, as it had changed from Delta Blues to Electric Blues and will continue to change as the audiences change,” Walsh said. “The subject matter changes as the world does and the people in that world have different thoughts on everything and that is what they will talk, write and sing about.

“As for the young players getting involved in Blues music, every month when I open my Toronto Blues Society newsletter, I see new faces, bands, and they are playing venues and having their albums reviewed. It’s exciting to see and to know that this music will be carried on.”

And so, 53 years after its formation, the band is hitting the road again. Downchild has played the world, but this tour is a quick blaze through B.C. that includes a stop in Cranbrook, Oct. 25 at the Key City Theatre.

They’ve always been renowned for the electricity of their lives shows, and creating a synergy with the audience. Walsh says they still get the same buzz from performing, the same kind of charge they’ve got since those days at Grossman’s Tavern.

“It’s still wonderful for me and the rest of my band when we play for a great audience. Amazing how audience reaction will totally fire up the band and a fabulous night is had by all. Everyone is happy and looking forward to the next event.”

There’s something timeless about a band hitting the road to work. It’s a familiar place for the band, all right. A tour must be tiring, but is it still worth it? Is the road like an old friend?

“’It’s a Long Road, It’s a Hard Road,”’ Walsh quotes. “That’s a hard question with no simple answer. It’s still great to hit that road and interact with our fans (many of whom have become friends). Faces are familiar as are many landmarks. But the mode of travel is different as are the accommodations (thank God).

“We have all been at this for a half century and even as some things get easier, some get harder. But, in the long run, this is what we do and still love doing it.”

Downchild’s discography is as long and storied as their career. Their last release was 2017’s “Something I’ve Done.”

“Well, we are not working on anything in particular right now,” Walsh said, when asked if there’s anything new in the works. “But there are always the scraps of paper or nowadays — the ‘saves’ on the computer with thoughts, feelings and ideas. That is usually how a project gets started … with everyone contributing these ‘scraps,’ and one day we hit the studio.”

Downchild hits the stage at Cranbrook’s Key City Theatre on Tuesday, Oct. 25.