Richard "Hock" Walsh
Richard "Hock" Walsh
|Birth name||Richard Walsh|
|Born||December 19, 1948|
|Died||December 31, 1999(aged 51)|
|Associated acts||Downchild Blues Band|
Cameo Blues Band
Big Daddy G Revue
Richard "Hock" Walsh (December 19, 1948 – December 31, 1999) was one of the first professional blues singers in Canada. He is particularly notable as the co-founder of the Downchild Blues Band and was the original singer of that band's best-known songs.
With his older brother Donnie ("Mr. Downchild") Walsh, Richard "Hock" Walsh co-founded the Downchild Blues Band in 1969, in Toronto. At the time, Downchild, as it later came to be known, was one of very few Canadian bands devoted to playing and developing blues music in Canada.
Both Donnie and Hock Walsh were greatly popularized by comedian Dan Aykroyd, who developed the Blues Brothers based on what he had seen in the Walsh brothers. Aykroyd modeled Elwood Blues on Donnie Walsh, while John Belushi's Jake Blues character was modeled on Hock Walsh. In their first album as the Blues Brothers, Briefcase Full of Blues (1978), Aykroyd and Belushi featured three well-known Downchild songs closely associated with Hock Walsh's vocal style: "I've Got Everything I Need (Almost)", written by Donnie Walsh, "Shotgun Blues", co-written by Donnie and Hock Walsh, and "Flip, Flop and Fly", co-written and originally popularized by Big Joe Turner. All three songs were contained in Downchild's second album, Straight Up (1973). "Flip, Flop and Fly" was Downchild's only hit single, and became the signature song of Hock Walsh.
Despite being a co-founder of Downchild and closely identified with the band's sound, Hock Walsh would leave, rejoin and be replaced as lead singer in the band on several occasions. He was first fired from the band in 1974, shortly before work began on the band's third album, Dancin'. Hock rejoined the band in 1977 and 1985. He was fired by his brother Donnie for a final time in 1990.
During his periods away from Downchild, Hock Walsh continued to play regularly. In 1978, he was a founding member of what would become the Cameo Blues Band, a legendary Toronto house band playing blues and rhythm and blues music at the Hotel Isabella. He was succeeded in the Cameo Blues Band by Tony Flaim and, later, Chuck Jackson, both of whom would also succeed him in Downchild.
The last time the Donnie and Hock Walsh saw each other was eighteen months before the death of Hock Walsh, when Hock jammed with Downchild at an Etobicoke club. When asked whether this involved a reconciliation between the brothers, letting bygones be bygones, Donnie Walsh replied, "There are no bygones. We just don't have anything in common, really." Hock Walsh died on December 31, 1999, at the age of 51, of an apparent heart attack. He had been scheduled to perform a New Year's Eve concert with blues singer Rita Chiarelli. His last recordings were three tracks on 4 Blues, the 1998 debut album of Toronto's Dave Glover, aka Big Daddy G. He was survived by his wife and two daughters.
On February 6, 2000, a benefit concert in tribute to Hock Walsh was held in Toronto, with proceeds to provide educational support for Hock's son. Among those appearing at the benefit were Big Daddy G, Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar, the Downchild Blues Band and former Downchild vocalist Tony Flaim. The evening ended with a group rendition of Hock's signature song, "Flip, Flop and Fly".
- Some people have had so much character when they were alive that they linger on in memories and, sometimes if we're lucky, in song by imitation. No one who ever met singer Hock Walsh would have accused him of not being interesting or, for that matter, (being) unoriginal.
- Alec Fraser, bass player and contemporary of Hock Walsh, "Hock Walsh lives on". Commentary, September 23, 2006; www.brokenjoe.ca.
- ...it was Hock’s unique vocal style that brought (Downchild) their first success. Somehow conjuring the memory of great blues shouters of a bygone age (Joe Turner, Jimmy Rushing), he never stooped to mere imitation. He applied his individual stamp to every tune; when Hock sang a song, he owned it!
- John Taylor, Tribute to Richard "Hock" Walsh, 1948-1999; www.canadianblues.ca
- He was a fabulous singer; he could sing the blues better than anybody I've ever heard. He had the timing, the phrasing, a fabulous voice… he was just great.
- Donnie Walsh, brother of Hock Walsh, 2003.
Downchild Blues Band
- 1973, reissued 1974 "Flip, Flop And Fly" (Special)
- 1974 "I've Got Everything I Need (Almost)" (Special)
Big Daddy G Revue
- 1998 4 Blues (Reggies/Independent)
- Richard Flohill, Profile of Hock Walsh. Toronto Blues Society, 2000, as originally published in The Globe and Mail, www.torontobluessociety.com.
- Craig Harris, Biography of The Downchild Blues Band; www.allmusic.com.
- Richard Walsh had been known as "Hock" since childhood, being a short form for "hamhock", as referenced to Walsh's girth and the size of his arms. See Richard Flohill, Profile of Hock Walsh. Toronto Blues Society, 2000; www.torontobluessociety.com.
- Another Canadian band with a similar degree of devotion to blues music was Whiskey Howl, also formed in Toronto in 1969.
- Jim Slotek, Bye to blues brother: Downchild's Donnie Walsh talks about late sibling Archived 2012-07-17 at Archive.today, Jam! Music, February 4, 2000; www.jam.canoe.ca.
- John Dickie, Profile of the Cameo Blues Band Archived 2009-06-17 at the Wayback Machine, based on conversation with Ray Harrison; www.makeitreal records.com.
- John Taylor, Tribute to Richard "Hock" Walsh, 1948-1999. "We Remember"; www.canadianblues.ca. See Big Daddy G (Dave Glover) MySpace Page. Not to be confused with music producer Gary H. Mason, also known as "Big Daddy G". It was Glover who is considered to have been instrumental in bringing Hock Walsh out of semi-retirement in 1998. Eliciting the help of drummer Bruce Brooker, who was able to track Richard down while he was recovering from a car accident, Glover was able to schedule Hock into the studio for his contribution to 4-Blues.: see Wayne Deadder, Tribute to Big Daddy G; Toronto Blues Society, "Loose Blues News", March, 2009; www.torontobluessociety.com. Glover was killed in a car accident, February 20, 2009; see www.bigdaddyg.ca.
- Bobby Dean Blackburn, Remembering Hock; www.torontobluessociety.com.
- Johnson's first professional engagement had been as a member of Hock Walsh's band: see Bobby Dean Blackburn, Remembering Hock; www.torontobluessociety.com.
- Tony Flaim, the initial replacement for Hock Walsh in Downchild and featured on six of the band's albums, also died of a heart attack, on March 10, 2000, at the age of 52, less than three months after Hock Walsh and barely a month after appearing at the Hock Walsh tribute concert. In addition, Flaim's last recordings, as was the case with Hock Walsh, were for releases by Dave "Big Daddy G" Glover. In addition, the benefits held for both men were to raise funds for the future education of their respective sons. See Jim Slotek, Now, those are the blues. CANOE - JAM! Music, March 24, 2000; www.jam.canoe.ca.
- John Taylor, Profile of The Downchild Blues Band. www.canadianblues.ca, 2003; interview conducted by Baron Bedesky.