You know, you and I are amongst the happiest people in the world. We are poor, not Favella poor, but we want for very little.”

This was one of Donnie ‘Blind Dog’ Burke’s sayings and it showed why he made West End his physical and spiritual home. Donnie was addicted to life’s colour and the creativity he found on ‘the strip’ and the nooks and crannies of the peninsula that harboured rebellion, and the stark struggle for survival. It’s stories fed his creativity and fulfilled the destiny of his secret life as Agent MX – bringer of truth and joy.

Donnie came to Australia from New Zealand and in the early 1980’s and lived in Darlinghurst. He was so talented commercial eyes saw profit so they incorporated him into a band called ‘The Eyes’ who supported KISS in 1980. Maybe not his proudest moment – but certainly interesting! At the same time he was in the underground band MX Warheads, and he carried many of the tragically early deceased Vicki St Marie’s songs in his heart to the very end.

Donnie broke his contract with ‘The Eyes‘ and moved to Brisbane where he quickly established a presence. Whilst booking The Orient Hotel he made Powderfinger write at least a couple of originals before he would let them play. Donnie gave sage advice. He always recognised spark and talent, and offered guidance that was gentler than the drumstick thrown at his head when he was a learner in NZ.

Some will react with incredulity when they are told that Doggie brought Live Music to West End. Leo’s diner was still open and Cafe Tempo but a gleam in an entrepreneur’s eye when The Don started sniffing around West End. He had had to sell his house in New Farm because Musicians wages weren’t enough in a 17 per cent interest credit squeeze.

After the break up of the Delta Rhythm Kings, who ran for nearly ten years (but expelled Donnie – please do not ask why, and please do not blame anyone), Blind Dog and The Reverend (Coojee Timms – ordained) played gigs at the ‘Murderers Bar’ at the Old Melbourne Hotel. These gigs, like every venue Blind Dog ever played, anywhere, were real, raw, and everyone danced. The Doggie’s superpower was to make people dance. And when they danced they became one. And that was Agent MX’s aim – to share joy together.

After a few Band incarnations, Donnie approached ‘Ma Pitt’, the stony owner of the Boundary Hotel where she was born in 1916. At that time the chairs were parked on the benches over the tiled floor of the Public Bar by 8.30 most nights, and 10.00 pm on Fridays and Saturdays, if there was enough custom. After a hesitant start, where a few barflies wanted to argue about whether the Band was ‘doin it right’, ‘Blind Dog’ played a jam-packed front bar of the Boundary every Friday night for over a decade.

The West End Shuffle is exactly what it used to be like for Donnie to leave his door at the very centre of West End to work, or do any errand.

He was like some kinda millionaire. He had millions in charisma, millions in talent, millions in giving. And a million returns of love from his fans and the community. One of the last songs Doggie recorded was ‘Don’t Sweep Me Out“. It’s about how hard it can be to live in this place. In West End we don’t want to sweep out the creatives and the people of the street. Everyone has a place. If it’s a beautiful night in Blues Town…. it’s because Doggie made it so.

Farewell, Tribute and Jam

Blind Dog Donnie’s farewell and tribute jam tour is scheduled for Thursday 9 February between 11am – 11pm to celebrate the insurmountable impact Blind Dog Donnie made on the arts community and beyond.
A whole day of activities have been planned including a memorial service, procession, BBQ, gigs and jams spanning from the West End Uniting Church to Bunyapa Park, West End, and finishing at the The Boundary Hotel.
West End Community Association is raising $5,000 (they’d love $10,000) to cover funeral costs, program and a commemorative mural.
If you can support WECA to help make Donnie’s send off one as memorable as he is, please donate at the GoFundMe link below. All funds are being collected by WECA.