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A Conversation With Gary Kendall




Gary Kendall is an award-winning bass player, vocalist, song writer and band leader. He’s in constant demand and is a member of multiple bands. He received The Toronto Blues Society's 'Blues With A Feeling Award' in 1993 and has been selected as The Maple Blues Award's 'Bassist Of​ The Year’ 8 times, and received over 22 nominations.


Ken Wallis interviewed Gary Kendall for the radio show Blues Source Canada. The following are excerpts from that interview.




Ken Wallis

There is a whole whack of new releases that have come out lately and all paths seem to lead back to Gary Kendall so we thought we'd chat to Gary to find out more. Welcome Gary.


Gary Kendall

I'm glad to be here Ken thank you very much for having me.


Ken Wallis

The new Maple Blues Band one has really got me interested. Tell us all about that.


Gary Kendall

Well, I released two E.P.s and it started with those recordings by The Maple Blues Band…I think it was back in 2017, I started remixing those instrumentals from two different recordings and that kind of led me into the whole remixing project that I got into.


Ken Wallis

So tell us a little bit about who's playing on these cuts


Gary Kendall

Both those cuts are from what was the original lineup of The Maple Blues Band…other than myself, Pat Carey tenor sax, Michael Fonfara keyboard, Teddy Leonard guitar, Tom Bona on drums and harmonica, Chris Murphy baritone sax, Chris Whitely trumpet…it’s a large band. I hope I didn't forget anybody but that was the lineup. They were done in two different recordings. One, “Thanks A Lot” was on my Dusty And Pearl the first version of that in 2004 but I never credited it as The Maple Blues Band and “Open Up” comes from the non-existent Live At Twisted Pines that was on the Preservation label which closed down a couple of years ago so that song essentially disappeared from everywhere.


Ken Wallis

And Gary you have another E.P. out…Dusty And Pearl Revisited. Tell us all about that one.


Gary Kendall

Well, those four tracks came from my original Dusty And Pearl recording that I released in 2004 and I was never happy with the way I mixed it and I always made note that I would want to go back and do it again. So when I was in the studio working on the instrumental tracks from The Maple Blues Band I started remixing just a couple of the songs… I think “We'll Be All Right”, the duet with myself and Susie Vinnick was probably first and I was astounded by the improvement in quality and how better I'd gotten at mixing recordings. That led me to start mixing the entire recording somewhere along the way and I thought maybe nobody wants to hear this, and I blew a deadline. My first plan was to release it in 2019 at the 15th anniversary recording. I blew that because Downchild was very busy in 2019 and other things I was on and I just never got around to it. So last year in 2020 I decided if nobody really wants to hear this what's the point of putting out a full record so I just concentrated on four songs with really good singers either singing with me or singing on their own and then on one of them, the song “Don't Be Sad” I took my vocal off and added Jay Douglas because I'd always wanted Jay to sing that song anyway. I pitched it to him for a record of his own a number of years ago and when we did that of course the results were fantastic. He suggested adding Carl Harvey on a guitar track and he sang me a guitar part that he thought should be added. So, we got Carl and instead of putting one part on Carl put two parts on and that just finished the song off. I decided I would put out four tracks and if it garnered any interest then maybe somewhere down the road I might do a volume two and remix the rest


Ken Wallis

And Gary you’re involved with another group, The Swingin’ Blackjacks. Tell us all about that and who's in that band.


Gary Kendall

The Swingin’ Blackjacks is a band led by guitarist songwriter Matt Allen along with his longtime drummer Adam David and Matt had a previous band called The Kingpins and I was the sub bass player for the Kingpins. They always wanted an upright bass player and when they couldn't get the regular guy, I guess they thought that my playing on electric bass was close enough so they would hire me as a sub in the Kingpins and then when they started The Swingin’ Blackjacks, I inherited the sub position and then, after I don't know how many years, I was the guy. The other bass player left, and I became the bass player in the The Swingin’ Blackjacks, and I’ve probably been working with Matt Allen off and on between the Kingpins and then onto The Swingin’ Blackjacks, I would imagine for well over 20 years. It's a hot little trio that mixes rockabilly blues and old-time country music…great couple of guys…I really like those guys and I really enjoyed playing with them and they had the recording that has become Four Hot Tracks as a demo for years and I kept saying to Matt that they should master it and put it out. It's good music. So, he finally got around to it in 2020 it seems like we all got around to doing stuff like that in 2020 when we weren't busy playing live gigs.


Ken Wallis

Gary you were involved in the 50th anniversary special of Downchild and when and where was that recorded?


Gary Kendall

That was recorded on Bloor and Avenue Road in Toronto during the Toronto Jazz Festival the summer of 2019. it was the third gig of Downchild’s 50th Anniversary Tour and it was done on the street. They closed down that street and I think there were ten thousand people there and Paul Shaffer. Dan Aykroyd, Erja Lyytinen, David Wilcox, Gene Taylor, Kenny Neal were our special guests in that show. It was a pretty big deal. Interesting fact on that one, we didn't know that it was going to be record that night. We did a little sort of a media launch….a kickoff at Grossman’s Tavern where the band started in 1969. Our longtime engineer Stu Young was in the audience and Stu doesn't come to very many shows but important ones. He showed up and I was talking to him at the end of the night and I said well it's really nice that you dropped by this special event. Stu did all the remixes on my Instrumentalz recording and Dusty And Pearl and he's worked with all of us for a long time. He's like another member of every band that I'm in and Stu says I'll see you Saturday night and I said oh you're coming to the Saturday night show too? Because seeing him at two live shows that close together is very rare and he goes I'm recording and I said what do you mean you're recording? He said yeah, we're recording that show didn't you know? It was like no we didn't know, so I guess what the plan was Downchild’s manager was going to record and videotape that show and sell it to a TV network and that didn't happen, so now he had this footage and he had all of this recording, so he turned around and he released a live CD. He released a vinyl version of the live show and he's releasing a DVD, but none of us knew that we were recording, we just thought it was a big show with special guests.


Ken Wallis

Well it sure was a big show. Gary every Saturday we know where to find you when things are normal, down in St. Catharines with The Mighty Duck Blues Band.


Gary Kendall

The Mighty Duck Blues Band is another band that I'm very fortunate to be in with Jim Casson, Dave Curry and Canada Dave Torosion. And of course, we can never forget Dave Curry's wife, Denise Curry who Is our guiding light manager and our full-time sound guy Francis Oliver. That pretty much constitutes The Mighty Duck Blues Band and you know, we've been playing in this wonderful place called Jo Blos Rock And Wok. I think we moved in there and was it January '18…wonderful people…wonderful family and of course now we're shut down because of covid. We had a brief reprise in 2020 where we were able to do some limited capacity shows there from September to December 2020, and we've been off again and we're chomping at the bit trying to get back in there. But you know the new regulations keep coming up and we’re postponed again, and we've had to cancel them all because we can't get back inside to play. So, we're shooting for a restart on August the 21st… if we can, we might do an outdoor patio show at Jo Blos Rock And Wok on July 1st, but we don't know whether that's going to be possible either. It’s a great gig where it's the band and special guests every week…we get the best blues musicians from across Canada and some from the U.S. who come in and play with us and just have a lot of fun. You've been there…you're a big supporter of that show…you've been with us since we used to be at the Golden Pheasant, aka The Duck.


Ken Wallis

It's great because you get to see the band and you get to see all these guest performers, and you guys get the best to come in and play with you. I hope everything starts to open up again soon because musicians really need to get out there and perform.


Gary Kendall

Boy do we ever. I've been very fortunate. I've had a lot of musical projects to work on from home, you know I was lucky enough to be working on the Downchild recording…that was the first thing I worked on…proofing the mixes for that from home…that was great…that gave me a lot to do. I worked on the virtual version of the Maple Blues Awards…part of the planning committee for that with the Toronto Blues Society. I'm now working with a grant writer to try to get funding to do a full-length recording of the The Maple Blues Band. Over the years that we've been at The Maple Blues Awards, we've composed a number of instrumentals I'd like to get a recording done with them this year. Touring with Downchild…hopefully we can start up touring in the fall. We have dates starting in September and a little spin-off band that we have called the Hogtown All-Stars with some of the guys from Downchild are planning to do a recording this summer, once we can get back into rehearsal and into the recording studios. So, I’ve been very fortunate through the pandemic…I’ve had things to do to kind of keep me in the mindset of I'm still a musician…I can't go out and play live but I got lots of stuff to work on, so thank you for helping me stay alive by putting me on your radio show.


Ken Wallis

Well, it's been great and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Southside Shuffle will happen this year, and if that's the case, we know who always wraps it up… Downchild.


Gary Kendall

They have a really good plan and hopefully they can pull it off. It's going to be one main stage in Memorial Park and they're going to sell circles, like social distance circles, so a group of people that are in a bubble or a household or whatever…I’m not sure whether it's four or six to a circle…you buy your area on the field …maybe by then everybody will be vaccinated, and they won't need to do that, and we'll all be able to crowd together in the park. They're following all the rules and that should be happening the weekend after Labor Day in Port Credit, Ontario…fingers crossed we're hoping it all comes off.


Ken Wallis

Let's hope it for the best because it would be great!