Alex Radeff is a Toronto based singer/songwriter/guitarist and Donkey is the rock/pop group that is a vehicle for his musical and lyrical talents.  The music that Alex & Donkey produce ranges from melodic hard rock to pop ballads to ambient textures as well as humorous comedy spoofs. “What can be categorized under rock/pop is pretty limitless and I believe in the concept of rock as an art form.” says Alex.  The name Donkey was inspired by British band Badfinger that released an album called “Ass” on Apple Records.  Born of mixed European parentage, Radeff has been involved in writing and music from an early age.  “My influences were people like Harry Nilsson, Ian Hunter,  Roy Harper and I was very influenced by Toronto  songwriter Johnny Macleod and his band Johnny & The G-Rays.

Donkey first surfaced in 1993 when their independent debut “Legwork” was released. “Legwork” displayed the group’s originality and musical versatility. The imaginative songwriting received strong critical acclaim from the College Music Journal to Q107 FM and one song even gathered praise from media mogul, Moses Znaimer. Two songs were picked up by Polygram Records and released on two separate compilation albums of original Canadian talent. As a live unit the band honed it’s musical skills over a steady stream of showcase concerts in and around Toronto and southern Ontario, developing a loyal following. Donkey and associates also self produced with modest means, four videos which were aired on MuchMusic and Rogers cable. The first video was “Falling Into You”, which was to bring a lot of attention to the Donkey camp four years later. For a totally self-funded, self contained, self managed artistic entity, it was definitely a good start.Radeff and the band, short on money but not on musical ideas set up an 8 track tape machine in their rehearsal space and set about recording the follow up album to their well received debut. The resulting album was titled “Heavy Light Ears”, it was released in 1995. It was met with a rave review in the College Music Journal which hailed Radeff as a “guitar genius” and Donkey as a band that “is all about music and not about attitude”. Long time Toronto original music impresario Gary Topp reviewed it as “having a twist, a little twisted maybe but original and provoking.” “Heavy Light Ears” also managed to get significant airplay in eastern Europe, in Bulgaria and in Romania where Radio Prahova DJ Chris Hirdau called it “absolutely brilliant”. No videos were made for the songs but that was only because money would not allow. Yet Donkey had definitely made their mark.

Alex wasted little time in moving forward and pairing down the musical unit to its essential members. The line up consisted of classically trained keyboardist Craig Belanger and Jim Clark, on drums and vocals. The somewhat unusual approach of guitar, keyboards and drums fueled their creative juices and a busy period of songwriting ensued. Throughout mid 1995 to 1996 Donkey hit the live scene playing original music venues such as the Horseshoe tavern, the El Mocambo and the now defunct Gasworks to name a few. In August of 1996 Donkey was asked to play at the prestigious Canadian National Exhibition. “It is sometimes hard for people understand how difficult it is to keep an independent project alive. The negativity can become overwhelming, but playing the CNE made it all worth it.” says Alex. The CNE concert was filmed.

In 1997 Radeff acquired a larger studio space and took time off to broaden his artistic, musical and personal horizons. He started doing solo performances at nursing and retirement homes and set up what is now Donkey Studio. “It is hardly a state of the art facility on the surface. I would say that 70% of the equipment and instruments have been lent or donated, without my asking from friends and acquaintances that believe and support what I do. Even people I have never met have helped out. I stand by the fidelity of the recordings and the used equipment has karma. You can call it a state of the heart facility.” In Donkey Studio, Alex put together the CD “Kickback”. “I’m happy with the way it turned out, it still sounds good and it’s still getting out to the public at large. That CD is what opened up the live scene for us as a live band.”

“Kickback” was released independently in early 1999. In the summer “Wartime”, the single reached the Top 20 in Romania and stayed there for 14 weeks while the war in Kosovo raged on Donkey resumed live appearances in Toronto with original drummer Jim Clark and veteran bassist Peter Skelton, playing in original venues such as the Horseshoe, Rivoli and the El Mocambo. By the year 2001 Aubrey Agard stepped in on bass and keyboards and the band plowed through a busy year of club gigs throughout Toronto. 2002 saw the recordings for the “Nodding at the Universe” CD released in early 2003. At that point Alex returned to the live scene performing at the then infamous Gladstone Hotel with Paul Fitterer on drums and Joe Spina on bass. With rotating bass/drums including Bruce Coxon, Terry Kavanagh, Cleave Anderson, Al Kavanagh and Scott Milligen, Donkey performed 90 one night stands till mid 2009. “Nodding At The Universe” kept the band gigging for 6 years through a netherworld of Toronto bars and nightclubs mostly under the radar of the mainstream. “There is an underground, it may be music at night in hard bars with misfits and drinkers but at least it isn’t plastic and you learn how to reach people with what you have inside. It’s a legacy back to the old jazz days when you play to anyone who’ll listen and it balances nicely with writing and recording. I am content with that because I know greater talents who have no gigs at all”.

A new Donkey CD “The Calling Of The Streets” was released in 2009, definitely the project’s best recorded work at that point. By 2010 Joe Spina left the live unit and was replaced by Anton Parfenyuk on bass and the trio continued a consistent live schedule performing close to a hundred club dates until 2015. Recordings over the past couple of years were being finalized for a fall release by Radeff at the time of writing.

Live Schedule:

Sat, Aug 12, 2023 (10:00 PM)
Jethro's Bar + Stage - Donkey
137 Hunter St. W, Peterborough, ON

Sat, Aug 19, 2023 (7:00 PM)
Tap and Tonic Pub - Donkey
16 Forsyth Street, Marmora, ON

Sat, Sep 2, 2023 (evening)
Private Event - Donkey
Campbellford, ON

Sat, Sep 9, 2023
Cabbagetown Festival 2023 - Donkey
Parliament & Wellesley, Toronto, ON

Sat, Oct 7, 2023 (8:00 PM)
Frisaca - Donkey
592 Queen St. West, Toronto, ON

Wed, Nov 1, 2023 (6:30 PM)
Toronto Public Library - Donkey
Don Mills Branch
888 Lawrence Ave. E., Toronto, ON

for full live schedule click here

Donkey – Cry, Cry Baby

Donkey – Gimme Shelter Cover

Donkey – Bittersweet Symphony Cover

Donkey – Ma Chere Dame

Donkey – Tent City Improv


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