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A Conversation With Gary Kendall


Gary Kendall is the veteran Canadian bassist, vocalist, songwriter, band leader and member of the Downchild Blues Band.


Ken Wallis had a chat with Gary about Downchild's 50th anniversary CD




Ken Wallis

It's the 50th anniversary CD by the Downchild Blues Band, we have the bass player, Gary Kendall, with us. Gary, thanks for chatting.


Gary Kendall

You're very welcome.


Ken Wallis

So tell us a little bit about this tour. It must have been quite something.


Gary Kendall

Yeah, it worked out pretty good. I mean it started off slow and then it picked up momentum. We kicked it off in June 2019. We did a night at Grossman's where everybody knows, the band got it started back in 1969, 50 plus years ago and it was a limited seating event. I think they sold 100 tickets. It was the kickoff. So we did that on a Wednesday, then we went to Rochester, New York. And then we did the Toronto show, downtown Toronto Jazz Festival, where they closed down Bloor Street. That was something to behold. And then on through the summer we did sporadic dates, mostly in Ontario, we did go down into Indiana for a festival down there. And in the fall, September and October, November is when we really did the full tour where we left home, I didn't come back for a while, and went across the most of Western Canada.


We were supposed to finish the country. Do some Ontario dates early this year, and then go on to the Maritimes to sort of finish off the 50th anniversary in Canada. But of course, we all know what happened with COVID-19 and that shut it down.


Most of those days were rescheduled to the fall but I'm hearing rumblings that they all might go into 2021 now, but it was a really good tour. We took a lot of people with us. We had guests on numerous shows. Vancouver where we started the western swing, we had Tom Levin from Powder Blues and David Gogo and Jim Burns. And we did take along Jenny Thai with us as a solo opening act, and then she would come back out and do Jane Vasey. In Victoria we added David Vest and Gogo again. When Jenny had to leave the tour to do some of her own stuff Suzie Vinnick came in as a Solo opening act and she would duet with Chuck, come back out and do it with Chuck on Mississippi woman Mississauga Man much the same arrangement that Erja Lyytinen did on the live CD in the Toronto version.



Ken Wallis

You had a lot of guests on the Toronto stage.

Gary Kendall

Yeah, the stage was a little crowded that night. was a lot of fun, that's for sure. Yeah, man. Dan Ackroyd had joined us the night before again. And Kenny Neal. I mean, everybody knows that Dan has been a huge supporter and benefactor and cheerleader for Downchild for years. That's a known fact. He's a great guy. And he met us in Rochester. Kenny Neal was with us in Rochester and then they were both back in Toronto along with Paul Schaeffer joined us and Gene Taylor, David Wilcox and of course from Finland. Erjay Lyytinen, So there are a lot of Fender amps on stage. Marshall for David Wilcox you never see a Marshall amp on the soundstage unless David Wilcox is there.

Ken Wallis

50 years 18 albums, a lot of music. How did you guys ever figure out what songs to play?


Gary Kendall

Yeah, that was, well, I guess it all comes down to it starts with management pulling together that idea. What are we going to do now?


Well, we got a 50th anniversary coming up. Okay, let's do that 50 years, we had to try to do a retrospective of songs that covered 50 years. We just basically took all the records the band has ever made. we realized we wouldn't be able to do a song from every one. We didn't do anything from Bootleg but we started with Straight Up of course we've always been doing Straight Up. It was easy because Flip Flop N Fly and Shot Gun Blues are on that. And those are songs that we can never get away with not playing.. So then we went through everything on every record and we made a huge list. And then we had to pare that down to fit into 75 or a 90 minute show, depending on the requirements. And we had to pick ones that worked together in the show. So eventually, we came up I think with a pretty good cross section of the 50 years.



Ken Wallis

It's been reported that over 100 different musicians have played in Downchild Who's currently in the band.

Gary Kendall

The number of members of Downchild has been inflated numerous times. The accurate number is 86. I said to a publicist, Richard Flowhil, hey, Richard, there's 86 members in the band, not 150. He said, 150 sounds better than the press release. So that's how that got out there.


Right now it's of course, Donnie Walsh, Mr. Downchild the founder of the band and chief songwriter. Donnie plays guitar and harmonica, and pretty much calls the shots. Chuck Jackson of course is lead vocalist. He’s probably been in the band at least 30 years by now. When you consider most bands break up after three or four years. that’s pretty good. Chuck sings and plays harmonica. He's also one of the songwriters and Pat Carey on tenor sax. Pat is the longest guy in the band, current band he’s probably pushing 35 to 36 years maybe more. Michael Fonfara on organ and piano. Michael has been in the band. I would say if he's not 30 years, he's coming up on it. Myself. on bass, I've been in the band twice. So if I total all of that together my first time around and my current time, I think I'm coming in at about 23 or 24 years all together. I played on more records than any bass player. And my rhythm section partner of many years, Mike Fitzpatrick is the newest member of the band. I think Mike's term is around 18 years at this point. When Mike came in the band, that was a big deal for me. Everybody knows that a bass player and drummer have to have a thing, you have to be one, you know, you have to be a team. Mike and I met in I think, 84 or 85, and we've been playing together ever since. That fit that I'm talking about with Mike and I was something that never had to be discussed. We just started playing together and it worked so well when he became a member of Downchild, my life got easy.


Ken Wallis

It just doesn’t seem possible that 50 years have gone by


Gary Kendall

If you listen closely at the end of the album, you hear Chuck say as he’s walking off the stage, "we’ll see you in 25 years.", Yeah, they may have to wheel us out, but we’ll be back for our 75th.



Website: downchild.com/



 

 

 

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