The Blues Brothers are what can only be described as a musical, comedic, and cinematic legend. They have become part of our culture, and have spawned countless tribute acts all across the world.
In the 1970's, John Belushi, working with National Lampoon, met with Dan Aykroyd, then a host of a children's tv program, and owner of a speakeasy called the '505 Club'. Dan, from Toronto, put on a record called 'Straight Up', by the Downchild Blues Band. John was into rock music and heavy metal, and in spite of being from Chicago, wasn't familiar with blues music. After listening to 'Everything I need Almost', and 'Shotgun Blues', John began to think about putting a blues band together. Howard Shore (Saturday Night Live's musical director), who was also there, suggested the name 'The Blues Brothers'.
When Dan came to audition for Saturday Night Live, he regularly met with John and listened to blues records. One time, Dan showed John the cover of an album by John Lee Hooker, which showed him wearing the hat and shades that would later become the Blues Brothers trademark look. John said 'If we ever put this together, this will be the look!'. The suits and the ties that they wore came from the Beatnik Era in the 50's and the 60's, where musicians would wear straight apparel, so that they could go out into straight society and not be hassled. Also, this was a reference to the 'Men in Black', the guys in black suits that always turn up when there are UFO sightings, and tell you to be quiet about it.
Before being hired for Saturday Night Live, the Blues Brothers went to the Lone Star Cafe and performed for the first time in their full outfits. They jammed with Room Full of Blues and Willie Nelson's band. Unfortunately, they didn't have a serious place to play, so Dan and John started talking with the Saturday Night Live band. Howard Shore suggested they do a blues number on the show. Dan and John were reluctant to do that, because they weren't ready to give away the look of the Blues Brothers. So instead, they performed their first song, 'King Bee' wearing bee costumes.
After the 'King Bee' number, Dan and John re-assessed things and realised that they had the look, the music and the act for the Blues Brothers. All that was missing was a band. So they decided to put one together and go on Saturday Night Live as a regular band, just like all the other guest bands that performed each week. Tom 'Bones' Malone, the trombone player in the Saturday Night Live band, suggested that they get Steve Cropper and Donald 'Duck' Dunn, both well known and legendary blues and soul musicians from the Stax Records era. Both agreed to join the band. The Blues Brothers became a merger of the electric Chicago Blues sound, and the Memphis Stax Records R&B sound, inspired by such musicians as Otis Redding, David Porter and Isaac Hayes. When asked what songs they would like to perform, Dunn and Cropper suggested they recut 'Soul Man'. The song went on to be a number 1 single. Matt 'Guitar' Murphy was also recruited as the lead guitar player for the band.
So, the Blues Brothers Band was complete, featuring some of the best musicians around at the time. The Blues Brothers decided to release a full album, so in 1978 they recorded a live concert at the Universal Amphitheatre. The album, called 'Briefcase Full of Blues', went on to sell 3.5 million copies.
After the album went double platinum, John Belushi invited Dan Aykroyd to join him in Hollywood, where they had been asked to do a Blues Brothers movie. Dan started to write a script for the movie, and spent all of his free time doing it. In the end it was so big, that when it came time to deliver it, he wrapped it in the cover of a phone book (because it was as thick as one) The script was over 300 pages long. Dan had not only written the Blues Brothers movie, but he had also written the sequel, called 'Return of the Blues Brothers'. The script contained every bit of information there was about the Blues Brothers, including the history of the band members, and detailed biographies of Jake and Elwood Blues.
When John Landis read the script, he said straight out that it was too long. Standard movies are 120 pages long, and this was well over 300. So Dan and John Landis sat down and rewrote the script, condensing it into something they could actually film. The soundtrack for the film was recorded professionally, and featured some of the best music from the Blues Brothers movie. In spite of this, it only sold a million copies.
In 1980, the Blues Brothers recorded another live concert, and released it as the album 'Made in America'. This album only sold 300,000 copies, and it was then that Dan and John decided that the act was over. They made the movie 'Neighbours' together, then went their separate ways, both going on to make movies in Hollywood.
In March, 1982, John Belushi took an overdose of heroin and cocaine. He died shortly afterwards of a complete respiratory failure. He was buried on March 9, 1982 in Abel's Hill Cemetery. It was believed that this meant the Blues Brothers was over for good, but nothing could have been further from the truth.
The Blues Brothers Band continues to perform all around the world, and has released many new albums over the past few decades. In 1989 they released 'Live in Montreux', then in 1992, they released 'Red, White & Blues'. Dan Aykroyd joined the band occasionally, but the band usually featured guest vocalists, such as Larry 'T' Thursten and Eddie Floyd. It was also around this time that Dan Aykroyd launched 'House of Blues', a chain of blues clubs across America. Traditionally, they are opened with a performance by The Blues Brothers Band.
In 1997, Jim Belushi joined the band as the blood brother of Jake Blues, 'Zee' Blues. A performance at Chicago's House of Blues was recorded and released as 'Blues Brothers and Friends'. It was at this time, when the band was starting to become popular again, that Dan Aykroyd and John Landis started to plan a sequel to The Blues Brothers movie. Jim Belushi declined to be involved, but in his place was John Goodman as 'Mighty Mack' Blues. The movie also featured Joe Morton as 'Cab' Blues, and J. Evan Bonifant as 'Buster' Blues.
The movie, 'Blues Brothers 2000', was released in 1998, and although it featured a legendary cast of blues musicians, such as Eric Clapton and BB King, it was not a box office success. The soundtrack is a must have item, though, and features music by a large variety of blues musicians, not just the Blues Brothers.
The Blues Brothers also performed at the 31st Superbowl, along with James Brown and ZZ Top. The band continues to perform around the world, featuring Rob 'The Honeydripper' Paparozzi on vocals and harmonica, and special guest Eddie Floyd. Dan Aykroyd's House of Blues chain also has it's own radio program, The House of Blues Radio Hour, and Dan presents the show as his alter-ego 'Elwood Blues'.
The Blues Brothers continue to be a legend in the history of blues music, as well as the history of Hollywood. There are countless Blues Brothers fans around the world, and also a large number of Blues Brothers tribute shows are appearing all over the globe. It is a musical phenomenon that will never die