Along with bassist/vocalist Phil Lynott, drummer Brian Downey was the only other member of Irish rockers Thin Lizzy to remain with the band from the beginning until the end. Born in Dublin, Ireland on January 27, 1951, Downey grew up in the nearby town of Crumlin, where he inherited a love of music from his father (who played in a local pipe band). By the early '60s, Downey was playing the drums, and took notice of up-and-coming British Invasion bands, such as the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, and the Beatles. Soon after, Downey began supplying the backbeat for several regional bands, such as the Liffey Beats and the Mod Con Cave Dwellers. It was while a member of the latter band that Downey met another local musician, Phil Lynott, who was the frontman for a group called the Black Eagles. It wasn't long before Lynott invited Downey to join his group, which led to a long and fruitful musical relationship. The duo would eventually go on to form Thin Lizzy in 1970 (with guitarist Eric Bell). The trio would go on to issue such albums as 1971's Thin Lizzy, 1972's Shades of a Blue Orphanage, and 1973's Vagabonds of the Western World (plus scoring a sizeable European hit with a cover of "Whiskey in the Jar"), before Bell split.
But it would be Lizzy's next incarnation that would be their most successful, with a pair of guitarists replacing Bell in 1974 (Brian Robertson and Scott Gorham). Lizzy found themselves slowly but surely becoming one of the world's top hard rock acts, on the strength of such releases as 1974's Night Life, 1975's Fighting, 1976's Jailbreak and Johnny the Fox, 1977's Bad Reputation, and 1978's Live and Dangerous (the latter of which included a tour de force Downey drum solo in the song "Sha La La" ). But with big time success came hard living, which effected Downey's mental and physical state so badly that he had to take a brief break from the band on the eve of an Australian tour in late 1978 (with session drummer Mark Nauseef filling in). But Downey was able to straighten out his life during the brief break, and returned to the group for good, playing on such further albums as 1979's Black Rose, 1980's Chinatown, 1981's Renegade, plus 1983's Thunder and Lightning and Life Live. Lizzy split up soon after, and tragically, in 1986, Lynott died from years of substance abuse.
During his tenure with Lynott and co., Downey also played on countless Lizzy-related recordings -- a tribute to Deep Purple called Funk Junction (along with Lynott and Bell), Gary Moore's Back on the Streets, the Lynott solo releases Solo in Soho and The Philip Lynott Album, John Sykes' Please Don't Leave Me, plus a single by the Greedy Bastards, "A Merry Jingle." In the wake of Lizzy's split, it appeared as though Downey had fallen off the face of the earth, but by the late '80s, the drummer returned via an obscure band called the Baby Snakes who released their sole album, Sweet Hunger, in 1988. Downey also played on a pair of additional Gary Moore solo albums, including 1988's After the War (which included an epic tribute to Lynott, "Blood of Emeralds") and 1990's Still Got the Blues. Downey again disappeared for several years, before reappearing as part of a new Dublin outfit, Blues Up Front, in 1998. The group plays regularly in Dublin, and issued a live recording in 1999, All the Way from Dublin. In addition to his Blues Up Front duties, Downey also runs his own website, www.briandowneyondrums.com, and was featured on an archival release issued in 2002, Phil Lynott's Live in Sweden 1983.