As the house band of Grossman’s Tavern in Toronto in 1969, the Downchild Blues Band played audacious, innovative blues, rarely heard live in northern climes. Downchild quickly became Canada’s top blues band, audiences embracing the act fronted by blues shouter Rick “The Hock” Walsh.
Downchild first released I’ve Got Everything I Need (Almost), penned by Rick’s brother and guitarist Don Walsh (“Mr. Downchild”), on their “Straight Up” album in 1973. Their label, GRT, later remixed the cut in 1974 as a 45-rpm single titled Almost, as a follow-up to their first single, the infectious Top 40 hit Flip, Flop and Fly. Almost (GRT Special 1230-67) featured Don Walsh’s “York County” on the B side.
With its winning combination of “jump” and Chicago blues, Almost quickly became a favourite of radio stations in March 1974.
With Don Walsh on blues harmonica and guitar, brother Rick’s no-holds-barred vocals, and a tight horn section, Almost combined an easy relaxed flow with a gritty sound befitting the singer’s desperation: “But I don’t got you, and you’re the one I need the most…. If I don’t get you, I believe I’ll die.” He’s got fame, but it means nothing if he doesn’t have his woman.
Almost led Downchild to tour clubs and colleges extensively in Canada. Further success came when Walsh’s pal Dan Aykroyd covered the hit song with his new act The Blues Brothers on their 1978 album “Briefcase Full of Blues.” The late John Belushi took the vocals, with Aykroyd on harmonica and the expertise of Thunder Bay-born Paul Shaffer (of TV’s David Letterman show) on keyboards. The Blues Brothers’ appearance on TV’s “Saturday Night Live” helped the album skyrocket to Billboard’s No. 1 album position in February 1979. From there it went two times platinum, bringing Walsh’s Almost to millions of listeners.
Aykroyd remains an admirer of Don Walsh’s contribution to the blues: "You've got one of the best electric harmonica players in the world, you've got one of the best guitar players in the world, and he's also a very good vocalist."
Almost has been a staple of Downchild’s albums, including “Double Header” (1988), “A Case of the Blues” (1998), “Downchild Live at the Palais Royale” (2007), and others. Almost was also featured on later Blues Brothers albums, including “The Essential Blues Brothers,” “The Definitive Collection,” and “An Introduction to the Blues Brothers” (Billboard’s No. 5 Blues album of 2017).
The song has also been recorded by Jim Belushi and the Sacred Hearts, and by the late Marcia Rutledge.
The international success of I’ve Got Everything I Need (Almost), combined with Downchild’s earlier hit Flip, Flop and Fly, opened the way for artists such as Jeff Healey and Colin James to forge their own blues identities at home in Canada. Dan Aykroyd said about Downchild that “This is one of the greatest urban blues outfits in North America, with a full mastery and command of guitar, harmonica and vocals. … The blues belongs to everyone. It’s a universal art expression.”
Don Walsh, “The Father of Canadian Blues” and a member of the Canadian Blues Hall of Fame, was born in Toronto in 1947. His family moved to North Bay, Ontario, where his parents ran a hotel; there Walsh heard the rock and roll of Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry on the jukebox every weekend. He began playing with a band in high school, and was later introduced to the Mississippi and Chicago blues of Jimmy Reed, James Cotton, and B.B. King. As a member of Downchild, he has won a Juno award and multiple Maple Blues awards.