The Filters (1984) L - R: Finny McConnell, Kelly Campbell (R.I.P.), Rob Baker, Gord Downie & Mauro Sepe. Photo Credit - Phyllis Malbut

Early Life

Gordon Edgar Downie 
was born February 6, 1964 in Amherstview, Ontario, and raised in Kingston, Ontario, along with his brothers Mike and Patrick, and sisters Charlyn and Paula. He was the son of Lorna (Neal) and Edgar Charles Downie, a traveling salesman, later a real estate broker and developer. As a child he enjoyed playing hockey being a defenceman wearing Bobby Orr's Number 4, before quickly moving to goalie. Gord played goalie for Amherstview’s hockey team, which won a provincial B-level championship. Gord Downie loved everything about the game.

Towards the end of high school, his family moved downtown to King Street, across from what is now known as Breakwater Park. With the move, Downie transferred to Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute from Ernestown Secondary School. There he became involved in extracurricular activities included dance club and student council. He wrote that he was involved in a part-time band as a vocalist and worked at Mother’s Pizza Parlour and Spaghetti House as a pizza-maker and at a Mac’s Milk convenience store as a cashier.

The Slinks, KCVI gymnasium, from the 82-83 Yearbook (L-R Steve Holy, Gord Downie, Grant Ethier, Joe Pater). Photo by Lisa Samuda, thanks to Peter Hendra for the scan.

The Slinks

In Fall of 1980, Downie joined a punk band called the Slinks with his friend Grant Ethier and fellow school mates Andrew Frontini, and Steve Holy. That same year, his to be band mates and friendly competitors at the school were a Grade 13 group called the Rodents, featuring bassist Gord Sinclair and guitarist Robbie Baker who were childhood friends. Although they didn’t really know Gord Downie at that time, they liked what they saw in him as a front man. Over the next two years The Slinks managed a handful of gigs and talent show appearances playing cover songs like “Midnight Rambler” by the Stones, “Roadhouse Blues” by the Doors, “London Calling” and “Brand New Cadillac” by the Clash. In the Spring of 1982 Joe Pater (guitar, keyboards, harp) joins the Slinks.  And in the Summer of 1982 Gord Downie hitchikes through Nova Scotia with his friend Paul Langlois. The Slinks played their last show on February 11, 1983, after a gig at a Polish hall went bad and Downie claims he was kicked out of the band prior to the event.

Photo of The Filters: Rob Baker, Kelly Campbell, Gord Downie, Mauro Sepe and Finny McConnell onstage at The Lakeview Manor in Kingston, Ontario back in the 80's. Photo Credit : Finny McConnell

The Filters

Shortly after high school another musician named Finny McConnell was also coming to the end of his association with yet another high school band called Pressure Drop. McConnell, whose father owned a bar, suggested to Downie that they form a new band, The Filters, with Gord Downie fronting, Mauro Sepe on drums and Andrew Frontini on bass. They played together a short while in 1983 until McConnell left on an enlightning trip to Europe with his old classmate Hugh Dillon.
When McConnell returned in the spring of 1983, he wanted to restart the Filters. Gord agreed, on one condition, he wanted Robbie Baker in the band. Kelly Campbell would also join on Bass.  The Filters played classic rock covers around eastern Ontario – Cornwall, Brockville, Belleville and upstate New York – three or four nights a week in 1984. After a few bad gigs at mostly dive bars and crashing in crappy rooms the guys finally had enough. Life on the road for The Filters was becoming more of a growing concern that they weren’t prepared for and they just decided they wanted to scale it back.

The Tragically Hip

Gord Downie 
formed The Tragically Hip with Rob Baker, Johnny Fay, Davis Manning, and Gord Sinclair in 1984. After Downie left The Filters and enrolled at Queen's University he joined Baker and Sinclair from the Rodents. They formed their own band, and brought in Johnny Fay to play drums, and Davis Manning, a saxophone player from B.C. In 1984 they began playing gigs around Kingston with some memorable stints at Clark Hall Pub and Alfie's which were student bars on Queen's University campus. The quintet plucked the name "The Tragically Hip" from a video "Elephant Parts" by ex-Monkee Michael Nesmith.

The Hip was making a pretty decent living just playing Kingston shows but as their Kingston market began to get over saturated they decided to venture to new venues across Ontario. In the winter of 1985 the band recorded a live show in a Kingston, ON restaurant for a radio contest. Here are 14 songs from that evening.

 Davis Manning left the band in the summer of 1986. Shortly after, guitarist Paul Langois became a member… and the Tragically Hip went on to become the band it is today.

After a year on the road touring Ontario’s bar scene the hip thought it was time to sit down and make a real recording. The band agreed and were exited to work with Ken Greer (guitarist of Tom Cochrane and Red Rider) and that recording can be heard here.

Gord Downie’s most memorable quotes

At 53 years old a true Canadian Icon, passed away on October 17, 2017.  Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip was inspiration to Canadian artists of all genres.  In typical Canadian fashion his music also had a massive impact on the hockey community. Gord  had a way with words. Here are some quotes to remember from the late Tragically Hip frontman.