John’s Blues Picks March 2016 – The Story of the Kendall Wall Blues Band


Christopher Darton The Way We Was – The Story of the Kendall Wall Blues Band | View Film


Christopher Darton is the filmmaker but the prime mover behind this project is Gary Kendall. Cash Wall was a fellow Downchild alumnus and the matinee they began at the Black Swan every Saturday afternoon on the Danforth became a Toronto blues institution. The documentary tells that story and it is now available for all to see on YouTube. As the documentary shows, the special guest concept proved to be the biggest piece of the puzzle. Darton found an amazing amount of footage of the band performing at the Swan and footage of a remarkable number of the guests.

The recently done interviews are very informative, they are primarily with Gary but also with harmonica player Jeff Baker & guitarists Richard Smyth, Teddy Leonard, Kevin Higgins and Tyler Burgess. Martin Alex Aucoin became the piano player, as he amusingly tells it.  Other interviews are interspersed throughout with visuals that bring back a flood of memories. That so much video was made, and found, was a constant surprise. It becomes very clear that the major reason for the success of the matinee was simple: it was the rhythm section, Gary & Cash, that made it all happen. From that foundation, an identifiable band sound emerged, with Baker, (and later Aucoin) and the carefully chosen guitarists. Their guests would often ask the band to back them up at other venues. After eleven years, Jeff Baker and Cash Wall both decided to call it quits and the band broke up, soon taking the matinee with it. The second half of the documentary is the story of how the one recording attempted by the band has finally become available. Making full use of the modern recording studio, Gary and his engineers salvaged enough material to come up with a full CD to celebrate the band’s legacy. And in particular Cash Wall’s memory, Cash returned to the United States and succumbed to cancer in 2008. The CD shows emphatically what a natural blues drummer & vocalist he was. The video certainly makes the point that those Saturday afternoons were a major part of Toronto’s blues history. When I co-hosted my show on CJRT-FM on Saturday afternoons, we broadcast live from the Swan on three separate occasions – fond memories indeed. Darton has done a masterful job of putting it all together into a coherent, emminently watchable whole. He held the premiere in his hometown of Port Colborne on December 3rd. The picture is of the CD and it’s available at Gary’s web site, www.garykendall.com or www.47records.com. The direct link to the video is www.youtube.com/watch?v=LMYAcDuuWgs. Do check it out and re-live those wonderful afternoons. Gary Kendall continues to be a major force in our community, with projects that look backwards to our history, like this one, and forward with the Maple Blues Band, his role in Downchild, his own band and especially the Saturday Matinees at The Duck in St. Catharines, which take the Black Swan Matinee as its model.