5 Drummerszone artists - Brian Downey

Brian Downey
* January 27, 1951
Brian Downey was born in Dublin on January 27, 1951. He grew up in Crumlin, a section of the city that had been home to the family of the famed playwright Brendan Behan. Crumlin was also home to the family of Philip Lynott, who Brian was to meet at the Christian Brothers School they both attended in 1965, and with whom he was to form a close friendship and professional association that would lead to the formation of Thin Lizzy.

Brians interest in drumming came early in his life, partly because of his father, who played in a Dublin pipe band and enjoyed different types of music. Brian was exposed to those influences as a child.

In the early 60s, Brian also began to listen to the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles. Those bands, as well as others, who incorporated American blues and R&B into their sound, were important influences on his musical taste. At the same time, a club scene was growing in Dublin, partly inspired by the music scene in London. With the influence of such a creative environment combined with his own musical talents, Brian decided to start playing in a band.

Brians first band was the Liffey Beats, which he formed with some friends from Crumlin. They combined the name of the river that runs through Dublin and the English band, The Mersey Beats, to form the bands name.

After the Liffey Beats broke up, Brians next band was the Mod Con Cave Dwellers, who played a gig as support band to The Black Eagles. The lead singer of The Black Eagles was Philip Lynott. Phil asked Brian to drum for the Black Eagles, because their drummer was leaving for the Army. After a successful audition, Brian joined the band.

The Black Eagles got a residency at a club that allowed them to play four nights a week in Dublin, and bookings flooded in for them. They opened for the big bands of the time, the showbands, in ballrooms up and down Ireland.

The Black Eagles broke up for good when their manager basically lost interest in the group after both of his sons left the band. Brian was left without a musical outlet, but he was enrolled in Clogher Road Technical College and expected to learn a trade there. Phil Lynott was also enrolled at the school, but left at the age of 18. He was training to be a fitter and turner, but Phil wanted to seriously pursue a career in music.

Phils decision to leave his apprentice job and join a band called Kama Sutra brought him to the attention of an up and comer on the Dublin beat club scene, named Brendan Brush Shiels. When Brush decided to form a new band, he not only wanted Phil as his lead singer; he also wanted Brian to be the bands drummer.

Because Brian was more interested in American blues than the American West Coast sound Shiels was aiming for with his band, he turned the gig down. Shiels then formed a group called Skid Row with Phil as his singer and in 1968, their lead guitar player was Gary Moore.

Skid Row was downsized to a three piece in 1969 when Shiels let Phil go from the band. He had been singing off-key due to tonsillitis and while he was in England having his tonsils removed, the band was sounding fine. When Phil returned to Ireland, Brush reluctantly let him go. Phil may not have been in Skid Row anymore, but he was on his way to crossing paths once more with his friend, Brian Downey.

After The Black Eagles had permanently folded, Brian left the music scene all together, but when it became a financial necessity for him to get back into it, he joined The Burma Boys Showband for a brief stint.

At this point, Brian was offered a gig with a group called Sugar Shack. Not only did he enjoy the type of music the band was playing, but also they had been offered the opportunity to record a single. That single was a version of Tim Roses Morning Dew, and it managed to reach No. 16 on the Irish music charts. The band was offered gigs all over the country, but conflicts over musical styles eventually pulled them apart.

Some members of Sugar Shack, Brian included, did continue to play together. They played blues in the John Mayall and Peter Green tradition, and managed to get residencies at two Dublin clubs, which went well for the band. They even got some gigs in Belfast with Aynsley Dunbars Retaliation, but their bookings slowly began to disappear, and when guitarist Brian Toomey got married and left, that was the end of the band.

Brian bumped into Phil after the breakup of Sugar Shack and they decided to form a band together.

The band the two friends started in 1969 with Pat Quigley on bass and Joe Staunton on guitar was called Orphanage. The original idea of the group was to have a loose collection of people playing together, not necessarily the same people all the time. Orphanage also gave Brian and Phil the chance to begin performing original material that Phil had written.

By February of 1970, the first Thin Lizzy was born. Brian Downey would be Thin Lizzy's drummer for many years to come.

In the fall of 1978 Thin Lizzy took off for the States again for the "Live and Dangerous" tour, but without Brian Downey:
"I was totally exhausted. I just couldn't take any more. I didn't want to see another stage again, and I certainly didn't want to go on to Australia, as had been proposed."
The band auditioned drummers in LA, and as Moore told it:
"One of the guys we tried was Terry Bozzio, but he just didn't fit in with us - he didn't do drugs and he didn't say "fuck" enough times in a sentence! Plus, he wanted to bring his wife on the road. We were like,"Oh, yeah, sure! So we ditched him and got in Mark Nauseef, who'd been playing with the Ian Gillan Band."
Nauseef flew back to LA when the tour was over, and the remaining members of the band returned to London to begin work on the next album. They were soon joined by a rejuvenated Brian Downey, and Thin Lizzy released their studio album "Black Rose" in April of 1979.

Brian Downeys drumming and percussion work appeared on the 1973 tribute to Deep Purple, along with Phil, Eric Bell, Benny White and Dave Lennox and the band called themselves Funky Junction.

Brian drummed on Gary Moores 1978 solo album, Back on the Street, and he was part of the band, The Greedies, which included Phil, Scott, Steve Jones, the guitarist for the Sex Pistols and Paul Cook, the drummer for the Pistols. The song recorded for the 1979 single, A Merry Jingle, was performed by Brian and Phil on Razzmatazz, a show hosted by DJ David Kid Jensen, in December 1979.

Brian can be heard on both of Phils solo albums. The first is Solo in Soho, which was released in April of 1980 and the second is, The Philip Lynott Album, which was released in October of 1982 and features the biographical song, Old Town.

Brian next appeared on the John Sykes solo single, Please Dont Leave Me, along with Phil and Darren Wharton. The single was released in 1982.

After the break-up of Thin Lizzy in 1983, Lynott put together a band called Grand Slam, with Robbie Brennan on drums. The band debuted in London in May of 1984.

Brian made a guest appearance on the Gary Moore CD single, After the War, released in 1988, playing drums on Emerald. That same year, Brian played drums on Baby Snakes album, Sweet Hunger.

In 1990, Brian appeared on Gary Moores album, Still Got the Blues.

Brian has played with blues band, Blues Up Front, since 1998 and they had a weekly residency at Slatterys, the famed Dublin music club, where their live album, All The Way From Dublin, was recorded. Blues Up Fronts members are veterans of other well-known Irish bands, such as Naked Lunch and The Urge. Blues Up Front will soon be recording a studio album.

(Sources include briandowneyondrums.com)