was a rhythm and blues/blues band fronted by comedians Dan
Aykroyd and John Belushi in character. Belushi (as lead
Jake Blues) and Aykroyd (as harpist/vocalist Elwood Blues)
were both members of the original cast of NBC's Saturday
Night Live. The Blues Brothers' television debut was as
the musical guest in the April 22, 1978 episode of
Saturday Night Live, often cited as one of the best-ever
The Band's Formation
genesis of the Blues Brothers was a January 1976 SNL
skit. In it, "Howard Shore and his All-Bee Band" play the
Slim Harpo song "I'm a King Bee", with Belushi singing and
Aykroyd playing harmonica, dressed in the bee costumes they
wore for the "Killer Bees" sketch.
January 4, 1979 edition of the Eugene Register-Guard,
an article provides key details about the real origins of
Belushi's serious interest in blues music. Belushi was in
filming National Lampoon's Animal House. In October
1977, he went to a local hotel to hear 25-year-old blues
singer/harmonica player Curtis Salgado. After the show,
Belushi and Salgado talked about the blues for hours.
Belushi, interviewed for the article, found Salgado's
enthusiasm infectious, saying:
I was growing sick of rock and roll, it was starting to
bore me...and I hated disco, so I needed some place to go. I
hadn't heard much blues before. It felt good.
lent him some albums by Floyd Dixon, Charles Brown,
Johnny "Guitar" Watson, and others. Belushi was
began to appear with Salgado on stage, singing the Floyd
Dixon song "Hey, Bartender" on a few occasions. He used
Salgado's humorous alternate lyrics to "I Don't Know" that
Salgado used in his act. Salgado gave the innuendo-laden
lyrics to him:
I said Woman, you going to walk a mile for a Camel
Or are you going to make like Mr. Chesterfield and satisfy?
She said that all depends on what you're packing
Regular or king-size
Then she pulled out my Jim Beam, and to her surprise
It was every bit as hard as my Canadian Club.
Blues Brothers debut SNL performance, he used the
lyrics, and also borrowed John Lee Hooker's trademark
sunglasses and soul patch for his Jake Blues character. The
suits were inspired by beatnik fashion.
Blues Brothers recorded their first album, Briefcase Full
of Blues, in 1978 while opening for comedian Steve
Martin at Los Angeles' Universal
Amphitheater. The album went double platinum, and
featured Top 40 hit covers of
Sam and Dave's
"Soul Man" and The Chips' "Rubber Biscuit". Despite the name
of the act, most of the songs performed by The Blues
Brothers throughout their existence were soul music or R&B
classics rather than actual blues music.
Blues Brothers, along with the New Riders of the Purple
Sage, opened for the Grateful Dead for the final show at
Winterland, New Year's Eve 1978.
The Blues Brothers Band
"brothers" assembled what could have possibly been the
greatest concentration of studio talent in the history of
music: The Blues Brothers Band. These men having played with
Booker T. &
the M.G.'s, Paul McCartney & Wings, Miles Davis,
and everybody in between.
style was fresh and in many ways, different from prevailing
musical trends: a very raw and "live" sound compared to the
increasing use of sound synthesis and vocal-dominated music
of the late 1970s and 80s.
the music of the Blues Brothers is always said to be based
on rhythm, blues, and soul, it also drew heavily on rock and
jazz elements, usually taking a blues standard and bringing
a rock sound and style to it. The band could be drawn into
three sections: the four man horn section, the traditional
rock instruments of the five-man rhythm section, and the two
singing brothers. The sound of the band was an odd (but
successful) synthesis of two different traditions: the horn
players all came from the clean, precise, jazz-influenced
sound of New York City; while the rhythm section came from
the grittier soul and blues sound of Chicago and Memphis.
The success of this meld was due both to Paul Shaffer's
arrangements and to the musicians' talents.
documentary included on some DVD editions of the first
Blues Brothers film, guitarist Steve Cropper reports
that some of his peers thought that he and the other
musicians backing the Blues Brothers were selling out to
Hollywood or using a gimmick to make some quick money.
Cropper responded by stating that he thought Belushi was as
good as (or even better than) many of the singers Cropper
had backed; he also noted that Belushi had, early in his
career, briefly been a professional drummer, and had an
especially keen sense of rhythm.
full band (not all appeared in the movie) was:
Jake E. Blues - vocals
Elwood J. Blues - harmonica, vocals
Steve "the Colonel" Cropper - lead/rhythm guitar
& the MG's
"Duck" Dunn - bass guitar former
& the MGs
Steve "Getdwa" Jordan - drums (first recording)
SNL band member
- drums, former Bar-Kays drummer
Tom "Bones" Malone - trombone, trumpet,
saxophone SNL band member
"Blue" Lou Marini - saxophone SNL band member,
Sweat & Tears
Alan "Mr. Fabulous" Rubin - trumpet SNL band
Matt "Guitar" Murphy - lead/rhythm guitar blues
and rock 'n' roll session player
Paul "the Shiv" Shaffer - keyboards,
- piano, as an actor in the movie after Paul Shaffer
Tom "Triple Scale" Scott - saxophone (though he
doesn't appaer in the movie)
band later included:
Zee Blues (James Belushi) - vocals
"Mighty Mack" McTeer (John Goodman) - vocals
Buster Blues (J. Evan
Bonifant) - harmonica, vocals (actual harmonica
recorded by John Popper)
Cab Chamberlain (Joe Morton)- vocals
The Blues Brothers movies
1980, The Blues Brothers film, directed by
John Landis, was released, featuring cameo appearances by
Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Cab Calloway,
John Lee Hooker, Carrie Fisher, Frank Oz, Steven Spielberg,
Twiggy, Joe Walsh, John Candy, Steve Lawrence, and Paul Reubens playing a waiter in the
Chez Paul restaurant. The motion picture is set in
Chicago, Illinois and the surrounding area. Chaka Khan is
credited as the lead soloist at the Triple Rock Church where
Jake and Elwood have their revelation to re-form the band,
and Twiggy also cameos as a driver of a Jaguar E-type, whom
Elwood hits on at a gas station. Charles Napier, well known
from various Russ Meyer films, appears as the leader of "The
Good ol' boys".
Blues Brothers 2000
picks up 18 years after The Blues Brothers, with
Elwood being released from prison, this time a rather
high-tech private prison rather than the old Illinois state
prison depicted in the first film. He learns that Jake has
died, along with their surrogate father figure Curtis (Cab
Calloway), and the orphanage the two had saved in the first
film is no more. He takes a job as an announcer in a
nightclub, where he discovers that the bartender (played by
John Goodman) has singing talent, while getting on the bad
side of the Russian mafia who have been demanding payoffs
from the nightclub. After the Russian mafia burn down the
club, Elwood resolves to put the band back together once
again with John Goodman's character as his new partner and a
10-year old orphan named Buster also tagging along. The band
travels to several locations shown in the first film with a
depiction of how they have changed in the intervening years
(Bob's Country Bunker for example is now Bob's Country
Kitchen, a family restaurant). Finally they head south to
Louisiana with the intention of entering a battle of the
bands held at the home of a voodoo practitioner named Queen
Moussette, played by Erykah Badu. At the battle of the bands
they compete against B. B. King's band, which by ironic or
writer plot only started the band after Elwood bought a
police car from him in the beginning of the film.
time of the movie's release, Belushi's wife, Judith Jacklin,
and his friend, Tino Insana, wrote a book, Blues Brothers:
Private, fleshing out the Blues Brothers universe and giving
backstory for the first movie. The book is now somewhat
difficult to find.
1981, The Best of the Blues Brothers was released;
this album would be the first of several compilations and
hits collections issued over the years.
March 5, 1982, Belushi died in
Hollywood of an accidental overdose of heroin and cocaine.
animated sitcom with Jake and Elwood was planned, but
scrapped after only a couple of episodes were produced.
promote Blues Brothers 2000, Dan Aykroyd and John Goodman
performed at the halftime of Super Bowl XXXI, along with ZZ
Top and James Brown. The performance was preceded with a
faux news report stating the Blues Brothers had escaped
custody and were on their way to the Louisiana Superdome.
(The raucous innuendo-laden performance was considered
somewhat scandalous at the time, although it was eclipsed by
the Super Bowl XXXVIII show which culminated in Janet
Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction".)
Belushi's death, updated versions of the Blues Brothers have
performed on SNL and for charitable and political
causes. Aykroyd has been accompanied by Jim Belushi and John
Goodman in character as "Zee" Blues and "Mighty Mack" Blues.
The copyright owners have also authorized some copycat acts
to perform under the Blues Brothers name; one such act
performs regularly at the Universal Studios Florida theme
park in Orlando, Florida and Universal Studios Hollywood.
Cropper, Dunn, Murphy, and others re-formed The Blues
Brothers Band for a world tour. They released an album of
new material in 1992 entitled Red White and Blues,
which included a guest appearance from Elwood Blues.
Blues Brothers video games have been made, including two
Amiga/PC platform games by Titus. In 1991, the same company
produced a Blues Brothers video game for the NES and Super
NES. A Nintendo 64 Game titled Blues Brothers 2000
was also released.
has continued to be an active proponent of blues music and
parlayed this avocation into foundation and partial
ownership of the House of Blues franchise, an international
chain of nightclubs. In character as Elwood, he also hosts
the syndicated House of Blues Radio Hour.
movie also became a staple of late night cinema, even slowly
morphing into an audience participation show in its regular
screenings at the Valhalla Cinema, in Melbourne, Australia.
John Landis acknowledged the support of the cinema and the
fans by a phone call he made to the cinema at the tenth
anniversary screening, and later invited regular attendees
to make cameo appearances in the sequel (they are members of
the crowd during the performance of "Ghost Riders in the
Belushi's brother Jim Belushi toured with the band for a
short time, and even recorded the album "Blues
Brothers & Friends: LIVE! From
with Dan Aykroyd but unfortunately, he didn't appear in
"Blues Brothers 2000"(1998). It's rumoured he was approached
to play not the role of Mighty Mack
(played by John Goodman) but the role of the local Sheriff
Chamberlain (which later went to Joe Morton). Jim would
later reunite with Aykroyd to record yet another album, not
as the Blues Brothers but as themselves: 'BELUSHI/AYKROYD
- "Have Love Will Travel(Big Men-Big Music)."
2004, the musical "The Blues
Brothers Revival'" premiered in Chicago. The story
centered around the character of Elwood Blues trying to
rescue his brother Jake from an eternity in limbo/purgatory.
The musical was written and composed with the approval and
permission from both the John
Belushi-estate (including his widow
Jackie Belushi Pisano) and
August 2005, there was a 25th anniversary celebration for
the Blues Brothers movie at Grauman's Chinese Theatre in LA.
Attendees included director John Landis, former Universal
Studios executive Thom Mount, movie editor
George Folsey Jr., and cast
members James Brown, Henry Gibson, Charles Napier, Steve
Cropper, and Stephen Bishop.
It featured a press conference, a panel discussion where Dan
Aykroyd joined via satellite, and a screening of the
original theatrical version of the film. The panel
discussion was broadcast directly to many other cinemas
around the country. In August 2006, a streaming video of
this event was made available for online viewing by the
Blues Brothers featuring Elwood and Zee regularly perform at
House of Blues venues and various casinos across North
America. They are usually backed by Jim Belushi's Sacred
Blues Brothers Band tours the world regularly. The only
original members still in the band are Steve Cropper, Lou
Marini, and Alan Rubin. The lead singer is Rob 'The
Honeydripper' Paparozzi, and they are frequently joined by
The Blues Brothers Bar
Blues Brothers Bar
was an illegal basement tavern operated on
Wells Street In Chicago's
Old Town in the 1970s and 1980s which was started by John
Belushi and Dan Aykroyd. The Bar was down the street from
The Second City theater. In the DVD commentary of the film
Thief (a film staring James Belushi shot in Chicago in
1981), James Caan mentions the bar. The bar was run by a
college friend whom Belushi met at College of DuPage, the
friend often operated as a bouncer. As the bar was un-licenced,
alcohol was bought by the purchase of 'tickets' which were
then traded to the bartender for the drinks.
have been various takeoffs and parodies of The Blues
Brothers, most notably in the Chicago area.
During their drive to the Super Bowl in 1985,
the Chicago Bears, members of the "Black and Blue
Division" of the NFL, issued a poster of nine of their
offensive linemen wearing sunglasses and black hats. The
poster was titled, "The Black and Blues Brothers". The
poster was an incredible success, and led to a series of
similarly-themed television commercials which parodied
scenes from the movie. The catch phrase of the commercials
was, "We're on a mission", eliminating the "from God"
portion of the original phrase.
The Chicago Cubs produced a TV ad similar to the
movie scene in which the brothers arrive at a brownstone
apartment seeking some former band members. When the
landlady asks, "Are you the police?" they answer, "No,
ma'am, we're Cubs fans". Then they launch into a parody of
"Soul Man": "Comin' to ya... In the summertime... Cubs
baseball... Here on Channel 9... I'm a Cubs fan... I'm a
A similar idea was used in a Budweiser ad
campaign featuring Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray in the
Blues Brothers costume, also known as the "Cubs Fan Bud
During the Oakland Athletics' run of success
from 1988 to 1992, sluggers Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire
were tagged "the Bash Brothers" and appeared in Blues
Brothers costumes for a promotional poster.
While the NBA's Chicago Bulls were making their
championship runs in the 1990s, an act called "the Bulls
Brothers" often performed at halftime, with the performers
bearing striking resemblances to Belushi and the younger,
In the Nickelodeon show,
Drake & Josh,
there is one episode entitled "Blues
Brothers", in which both Drake Parker and Josh
Nichols sing their song in their talent show, Soul Man.
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