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Gary Kendall "It's A Blues Life"


It started at the northern end of Highway 61, in Westfort, a working class neighborhood in Fort William, Ontario, Canada, now part of Thunder Bay.      Elvis Presley on The Ed Sullivan show in 1956 and Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Sunnyland Slim on the CBC documentary “The Blues” ten years later.  Music icons on a black and white television screen combined with a favorite pastime of scanning the dial of an old radio, late at night in a basement bedroom, searching for exotic music from the Deep South.  This is how Gary Kendall's journey into the world of the Blues began.  When other teenage boys went to weekend dances to meet girls, he stood off to the side watching the musicians on the bandstand.  At age sixteen, six months after acquiring his first pawn shop electric guitar; he jumped at the chance to join a band called The Countdowns as the bassist.  None of the other young musicians wanted the bass players job, Gary just wanted to be in a band and after making $20 at a Saturday night dance playing instrumental rock n roll the road map for his future occupation fell into place.. 

When the mid-sixties brought the British Invasion, it was The Rolling Stones that caught his ear and their music encouraged him to dig a little deeper and buy records by artists who were considered to be the first generation of the Blues.  He joined a band called The Shameful Minority with long time friend, guitarist David Smyth. The record collection now included Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Elmore James, Willie Dixon, B.B. King, Little Walter, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band and many more.

In 1968, Gary Kendall moved to Toronto, the city he now calls home.  By 1971, with The James Hartley Band, he was playing the legendary Grossman's Tavern and other blues bars in the Spadina & College neighborhood where he lived.  The Downchild Blues Band was at the top of the local scene and he quickly became friends with all the band members, brought together by a mutual respect for the blues. 

In 1974, playing in a basement bar, The Meet Market, beneath the legendary Colonial Tavern with his own band, Dollars, a friendship was struck with Muddy Waters guitarist, Bob Margolin.  A musical connection that continues to this day. Bob arranged for him to sit in with Muddy and the band.  The privilege to play with one of his heroes is a strong and important memory that has stayed with him throughout his entire career. .  A few months later the basement bar brought in Sunnyland Slim, an artist first seen on television with Muddy Waters back in 1966.  He was thrilled when his band was asked to back up Sunnyland and Bonnie Bombshell for a week.

In late 1979 the opportunity to join The Downchild Blues Band became a reality.  The chance to play with old friends in one of his favorite bands seemed like a dream come true.  He stayed until 1983, recording four albums, ‘We Deliver’, ‘Road Fever’, ‘Blood Run Hot’ and ‘But, I’m On The Guest List’

From the mid-80`s to the early 90`s, Gary stayed off the road, holding down a house gig at Toronto’s, Black Swan Tavern with The Kendall Wall Band.  A group he formed with ex-Downchild drummer Cash Wall and harmonica ace Jeff Baker.  The revolving KWB guitar chair was held by Richard Smyth, Teddy Leonard, Kevin Higgins and Chris Burgess.  Their Saturday Afternoon Blues Matinee’s at the Swan became legendary. (More information on The Kendall Wall Band, their recording and documentary can be found at  
In those days touring acts came to Toronto for a week to play at Albert’s Hall and most of those artists came over to the Swan to do a guest spot on Saturday afternoon.  That gave KWB the opportunity to play with A. C. Reed, Pinetop Perkins, Eddy Clearwater, Tinsley Ellis, Little Willie Littlefield, Chubby Carrier, Bernard Allison, Eddie C. Campbell, Lefty Dizz, Eddie ‘Clean Head’ Vinson, Eddie Shaw, Carey Bell, Fenton Robinson and many more.  This also led to KWB being used by venues like Albert’s Hall, Pop The Gator, Blues & Cues and The Bermuda Onion as a back up band for Luther ‘Guitar Junior’ Johnson, Snooky Pryor, Big Jay McNealey, Honkin' Joe Houston, Eddie Kirkland, Phil Guy and Cash McCall.

In 1995, Gary Kendall returned to his position as bassist with the Canadian music institution, Downchild.  Since then, they've released ‘Lucky 13’, ‘Come On In’, ‘Live at The Palais Royale’, ‘I Need A Hat’, the Juno Award winning ‘Can You Hear The Music’,  ‘Something I've Done’ and the ‘50th Anniversary, Live At The Toronto Jazz Festival’.

When not on the road with Downchild, he  can be found playing the blues and working under his own name with The Gary Kendall Band. GKB has released two recordings, Dusty & Pearl and Feels Real Strong on his 47 Records label. In 2021 47Records will release two EP`s, the remixed/remastered Dusty & Pearl Revisited Volume One and the compilation, Instramentalz.

Gary Kendall received The Toronto Blues Society's ‘Blues With A Feeling Award’ in 1993 and has twenty-two nominations as The Maple Blues Award's ‘Bassist Of The Year’.  He has been presented with the  ‘Bassist Of The Year’ award in 1997, 1999, 2000. 2002 ,2005, 2007, 2012 and 2013.  In 2002 his hometown of Thunder Bay honored him with the ‘Thunder Blues Award’ and The Thunder Bay Blues Society's ‘Keeping The Blues Alive Award’.

Gary Kendall has worked on recordings as a bassist and on occasion as producer* on recordings  by Chris Murphy (Blowin' The Horn* and I’m A Happy Guy), Little Bobby & The Jumpstarts (Tickets In The Glove Box), Maria Aurigema (Take Me & Long Way Home), Peter Schmidt & Shane Scott (Blues Approved), Brian Blain (Overqualified For The Blues & I’m Not Fifty Anymore) Ray Edge (Soul Connection*) The Maple Blues Revue (Live At Twisted Pines*), Son Roberts (Tell That Story), David Vest (East Meets Vest & Roadhouse Revelation & Devestatin` Rhythm*), Tobin Spring (Collective Blues Agreement)  Braithwaite & Whiteley (Blues Country), David Owen`s (Livin` Life*), Rootbone (The Long Road Home) The Mighty Duck Blues Band (Duck Soup) and Judy Brown (Say It*).  * indicates a producers credit

In 2012, Gary Kendall dug back into  the old and almost lost recordings of The Kendall Wall Band and released The Way We Was.  A documentary on the recording process and the history of the band accompanied that recording.
Since 1999 he has held down the prestigious position as Musical Director/Band Leader at the annual Maple Blues Awards ceremony in Toronto.  In  2021 the Covid-19 pandemic cancelled the live version of The Maple Blues Awards.  The Toronto Blues Society rose to the occasion by organizing a virtual edition.  Gary Kendall continued to work with the MBA planning committee as musical supervisor to produce the four nights/four city’s version of the popular and important awards event.

The Hornby Island Blues Society has welcomed  Gary Kendall to their annual Blues Workshop/Blues Week  as the bass instructor four times.  This event has become a very inspiring and important part of his career. 
A popular sideman, he continues to work with The Swingin Blackjacks, The Mighty Duck Blues Band, The Hogtown Allstars and Big Groove as well as never turning down numerous freelance opportunities that continue to be offered.

‘Whenever and wherever you find him, G.K. will be “layin’ down a solid groove and playin’ the blues’. 

Listen to Gary's interview on Talkin' Blues - Part One / Part Two

Click For Printable Dusty & Pearl Revisited Volume 1 One Sheet


Press Photos and Posters

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Various Artists - Instramentalz, 47 Records 2021
Gary Kendall - Dusty & Pearl Revisited Volume One, 47 Records 2021
The Downchild Blues Band - 50th Anniversary, Live At The Toronto Jazz Festival, Diesel Entertainment 2020
Brian Blain - I`m Not Fifty AnymoreIndependant 2020
Son Roberts - Three's A Charm, Gate Productions 2019
Judy Brown - Say It, Judy Brown Music 2018
The Downchild Blues Band - Something I've Done - Linus 2017
The Mighty Duck Blues Band - Duck Soup Independent 2017
Braithwaite & Whiteley - Blues Country Big City Blues Records 2016
Rootbone - The Long Road Home Street Tone Records 2016
David Vest & The Willing Victims - Devestatin' RhythmArk-O-Matic 2016
Braithwaite & Whiteley - Our Sunday Best Big City Blues Records 2016
Maria Aurigema - Long Way Home Independent 2014
David Vest - Roadhouse Revelation Cordova Bay Records 2014
Tobin Spring -
Collective Blues Agreement Independent, 2014
The Downchild Blues Band- Can You Hear The Music Linus 2013
The Kendall Wall Band -The Way We Was 47 Records 2013
David Vest - East Meets Vest Ark-O-Matic 2012
Son Roberts - Tell That Story Gate Productions 2011
The Downchild Blues Band - I Need A Hat Linus/True North 2009
The Gary Kendall Band - Feels Real Strong 47 Records 2008
The Maple Blues Revue - Live at Twisted Pines Preservation Records 2008
The Downchild Blues Band - Live at the Palais Royale
  Linus 2007
Gary Kendall - Dusty & Pearl 47 Records 2005
Ray Edge - Soul Connection Solar Records 2005
Brian Blain - Overqualified For The Blues Northern Blues 2005 
The Toronto Blues Society - 20 Years 2005 
The Downchild Blues Band - Come On In  Downchild Music/Blue Wave  2004
Maria Aurigema - Take Me 2004
Chris Murphy - I'm A Happy Guy Speakeasy Records  2003
The Downchild Blues Band - Body Of Work - compilation Blue Wave 2003
Pete Schmidt & Shane Scott - Blues Approved 2003
Live At Healey's 2002
Little Bobby & The Jumpstarts - Tickets In The Glove Box Green Bullet  2001
The Downchild Blues Band - A Matter Of Time compilation Blue Wave 2000
Chris Murphy - Blowin' The Horn Speakeasy Records 1999 
The Downchild Blues Band - A Case Of The Blues compilation Attic Records 1998
The Downchild Blues Band - Lucky Thirteen  Downchild Music/Blue Wave 1997
The Downchild Blues Band - But, I'm On The Guest List Attic Records 1982 (reissued 2003)
The Downchild Blues Band - Blood Run Hot Attic Records 1981 (reissued 2003)
The Downchild Blues Band - Road Fever Attic Records 1980 (reissued 2003)
The Downchild Blues Band - We Deliver Attic Records 1980 (reissued 2003)
“Collectible & Hard To Find” - (Vinyl & Cassette)

Grossman's Live 1987 LP 
Ray Edge - Don't Worry About Tomorrow / Point It Out 1983 45rpm
Morgan Davis & The Catfish - Satisfaction Guaranteed / Bar-B-Que Bullhead Records  1979 45rpm
Dollars - Look Into Your Own Eyes /Sudbury Shinerama 1975 45rpm
Matt Lucas - I've Paid My Dues Kanata 1971 LP
Producer Credits
Various Artists - Instramentalz (compilation) 47 Records 2021
Gary Kendall - Dusty & Pearl Revisited Volume One 47 Records 2021
Judy Brown - Say It Judy Brown Music 2018
David Vest & The Willing Victims - Devestatin' Rhythm Ark-O-Matic 2016
David Owen - Livin` Life Owen Sound Recordings 2015
David Vest - Roadhouse Revelation Cordova Bay Records, 2014
The Kendall Wall Band -The Way We Was 47 Records, 2013
David Vest - East Meets Vest Ark-O-Matic 2012
The Gary Kendall Band - Feels Real Strong 47 Records 2008
Ray Edge - Soul Connection
Solar Records 2005
Gary Kendall - Dusty & Pearl 47 Records 2005
David Owen - Four On The Floor
Chris Murphy - Blowin The Horn
Speakeasy Records 1999