Brian Downey (also known as Brian Michael Downey) is an Irish drummer, born in Dublin and raised in Crumlin, Ireland. His birthday is January 27th, 1951.
Downey is best known for his work in Thin Lizzy, a British hard rock band he has performed with on and off since the late 1960s. He has been cited as one of rock music’s most underrated drummers.
Brian Downey played in a number of local bands while in high school, including The Liffey Beats and Sugar Shack. He would meet Phil Lynott in one of these bands, called The Black Eagles.
Downey and Lynott would later team up with a guitarist named Eric Bell to form the hard rock band Thin Lizzy in 1969. The band’s lineup notably changed several times over the years; Lynott and Downey were the only founding members consistently involved in Thin Lizzy until its first breakup in 1983. Downey also contributed backup vocals and some songwriting to the original Thin Lizzy.
Following the band’s breakup, Brian Downey continued to work with Phil Lynott until Lynott’s 1986 death. The pair toured briefly under the name The Three Musketeers with fellow former Thin Lizzy member, guitarist John Sykes. Downey also played drums on both of Lynott’s solo albums.
Thin Lizzy reunited for a Phil Lynott tribute song in 1990, and began performing together again in 1991. Brian Downey left the reunion lineup in 1997, but signed back on in 2010. He and the reunited Thin Lizzy are expected to tour throughout 2011.
Brian Downey’s earliest musical influence was his father, who played in a local pipe band while Brian was a child. Growing up in the early 1960s, he also cites British Invasion bands as his biggest influences, including The Beatles’ Ringo Starr, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones. Downey has also cited swing and jazz music among his musical influences.
Downey’s first drum set was made by vintage cult brand Olympic. Downey had the Red Sparkle model, with 18, 12, and 16 inch drums, a wood snare, and Zyn crash and ride cymbals. Downey is also noted as being one of the first rock drummers to use Rogers drums, another cult drum brand.
Throughout his career, he has also played Premier, Gretsch and Tama drums, and once turned down an endorsement for Paiste cymbals because he preferred the Zildjian cymbals he was using on his kit at the time.