The Blues Brothers is the name of a rhythm-and-blues band fronted, incognito, by comedians Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi.
Belushi (as vocalist Jake Blues) and Aykroyd (as harpist Elwood Blues), both members of the original cast of NBC’s Saturday Night Live television program, created The Blues Brothers and their alternate identities in early 1976 to warm up SNL audiences.
The Blues Brothers made their first appearance on air at SNL, with Belushi and Aykroyd dressed in the bee costumes they normally wore for the ‘Killer Bees’ sketch, performing Slim Harpo’s ‘I’m a King Bee.’ In the weeks following that performance, The Blues Brothers became a popular addition to the show and began to appear on a semi-regular basis. Part of the humour is the image of two men who are dressed in black suits looking like mob hitmen suddenly exploding into energetic song and dance.
Backing Jake and Elwood were top session men like guitarist Steve Cropper, bassist Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, and Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy.
The Blues Brothers recorded their first album, Briefcase Full of Blues, in 1978 while opening for comedian Steve Martin in Los Angeles. The album went platinum, and featured Top 40 hit covers of ‘Soul Man’ and ‘Rubber Biscuit.’
The Blues Brothers movie
In 1980, The Blues Brothers motion picture, directed by†John Landis, was released, featuring cameos by Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, John Lee Hooker, Carrie Fisher, Frank Oz, Steven Spielberg, Joe Walsh, John Candy, and Paul Reubens. The motion picture is set in Chicago, Illinois.
The Blues Brothers also toured that year to promote the movie. Jake and Elwood released their second LP, Made in America, which included the Top 40 hits ‘Gimme Some Lovin”†and ‘Who’s Making Love’.
The movie revolves around the title characters, who are reunited at the beginning of the film as ‘Joliet’ Jake is released from Joliet Prison into his brother’s custody (he was imprisoned for armed robbery). The two almost immediately attract the attention of the police with their reckless driving habits (in an old Dodge Monaco police car, affectionately known as the Bluesmobile). Early in the film, they learn that the orphanage they were raised in is to be torn down unless the back property taxes on the building can be paid within a short time.
Spoiler warning: Plot or ending details follow.
The Blues Brothers spend the rest of the film tracking down members of the Band and convincing them to rejoin, as well†as playing venues to raise the requisite $5,000. Staged and spontaneous musical numbers commence during their journey. The duo also make numerous enemies along the way, notably a neo-Nazi group, the Chicago Police, Illinois state troopers, a Country and Western band, and Jake’s former fiance who continually tries (and fails) to kill them with various methods at certain parts of the film, most involving a bazooka. Several car chases with an extremely large number of crashes result (as a parody of the car chase in the movie The French Connection).
The Blues Brothers is often regarded as the best of many films adapted from Saturday Night Live sketches.In 1981, The Best of the Blues Brothers was released.On March 5, 1982, Belushi died in Hollywood of an accidental drug overdose.
In 1988 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. A ykroyd started his House of Blues franchise, an international chain of blues clubs. As Elwood, he hosts the syndicated ‘House of Blues Radio Hour.’In 1998, Blues Brothers 2000 was released to theaters but had none of the spirit and charm of the first film and failed miserably. It featured John Goodman singing with Aykroyd and cameos by Blues Traveler, B.B. King, Erykah Badu, Junior Wells, Taj Mahal, Lonnie Brooks, James Brown, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Paul Shaffer, Koko Taylor, Bo Diddley, Isaac Hayes, Dr. John, Lou Rawls,Travis Tritt, Jimmie Vaughan, Wilson Pickett and many others, many of whom featured as members of the fictional band The Louisiana Gator Boys.
▪ 1978 Briefcase Full of Blues (Atlantic)
▪ 1980 The Blues Brothers: Music from the Soundtrack (Atlantic)
▪ 1980 Made in America (Atlantic)
▪ 1981 Best of the Blues Brothers (Atlantic)
▪ 1983 Dancin’ Wid Da Blues Brothers (Atlantic)
▪ 1988 Everybody Needs the Blues Brothers
▪ 1990 The Blues Brothers Band Live in Montreux (recorded on July 12, 1989 at the Montreux Casino with Eddie Floyd and Larry “T” Thurston, vocals)
▪ 1992 Red, White & Blues (Turnstyle)
▪ 1992 The Definitive Collection (Atlantic/WEA)
▪ 1995 The Very Best of The Blues Brothers (Atlantic)
▪ 1997 Blues Brothers & Friends: Live from House of Blues (A&M)
▪ 1998 Blues Brothers 2000: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
▪ 1998 The Blues Brothers Complete (Atlantic)
▪ 2003 The Essentials (Warner Strategic)