The showbiz nickname of comedians John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd who appeared on NBC’s SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE as two blues musicians named Jake and Elwood Blues.
Wearing black suits, black hats, and dark tinted sunglasses (Ray Bans model 5022-G15) the Blues Brothers belted out energetic blues numbers backed by members of the SNL orchestra.
Dan Aykroyd as Elwood played a special (20 Harp) harmonica that he kept locked in a brief case that was handcuffed to his wrist prior to performing.
The concept of the Blues Brothers originated in a “Bee Skit” where Danny wore sunglasses and a fedora with antennae while John dressed in his bee costume and wired-rimmed glasses. Danny accompanied John as he sang “I’m a King Bee” on the January 17, 1976 program.
On April 22, 1978, near the end of the third season “The Blues Brothers” made their official debut on a parody of “Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert.” With Paul Shaffer posing as rock promoter Don Kirshner the skit began:
“In 1969, Marshall Checker, of the legendary Checker’s Records called me on a new blues act that had been playing in small, funky clubs on Chicago’s South Side…So now let’s join Joliet Jake and his silent brother Elwood.”
Under bright studio lights John and Dan (who for a year had warmed up the SNL audience as the Blues Brothers before doing it on the air) belted out “Hey, Bartender” and “I Don’t Know.”
In December 1978, they signed a $125,000 record contract with Atlantic Records who soon released “Briefcase Full of Blues,” a collection of ten songs recorded live at the Universal Amphitheater on September 9, 1978 where they opened for comedian Steve “Exc-u-u-u-se Me” Martin. The album sold 50,000 copies within five days and soon went platinum with sales in excess of one million.
In the fall of 1980, a spin-off movie The Blues Brothers starred the energetic Blues Brothers in a story about Jake (John) and Elwood (Dan) who rounded up their old band in Chicago to do a benefit to save the Catholic orphanage where they grew up. As the movie related: “We’re on a mission from God…It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.”
Note: The Blues Brothers as a theatrical phenomenon met their demise when comedian John Belushi died of a drug overdose in Los Angeles on March 5, 1982. According to the coroner “John Belushi, a 33 year-old white male died of acute toxicity from cocaine and heroine.” He now rests at Abel’s Hill Cemetery on Martha’s Vineyard.
Dan Aykroyd went on to become a successful film star in such feature films as Ghostbusters (1984), Driving Miss Daisy (1989), and Sneakers (1992).
In the 1998 sequel, Blues Brothers 2000, Aykroyd reprised his role as Elwood Blues along with John Goodman, Joe Morton, and 10-year-old J. Evan Bonifant as the new Blues Brothers.
From time to time, Dan Aykroyd dons a black coat and sunglasses and resurrects The Blues Brothers act with John Belushi’s brother, Jim Belushi (who starred on the sitcom ACCORDING TO JIM/ABC/2001-2009).
Dan Aykroyd also hosts “The House of Blues Radio Hour,” America’s longest-running syndicated blues radio series. The House of Blues radio programs was launched in 1993. It broadcasts on nearly 200 stations coast-to-coast.