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Singin' the Blues

Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi carry a musical torch across America as the Blues Brothers.
Gordon Mott
From the Print Edition:
The Blues Brothers, Jan/Feb 2008

(continued from page 9)

—G.M.

 

Jammin' with the Sacred Hearts

When the Sacred Hearts band isn't backing up the Blues Brothers Classic Revue, its members often play with other top acts in the business.

"We all play with acts that are maybe a little more polished," drummer Tony Braunagel, an avid cigar smoker, says in a phone interview. "But these guys [Jim Belushi and Dan Aykroyd] bring everything to the stage. I've had a lot of musicians attend our performances, and maybe they were a little skeptical of the act, but afterwards they all say, 'Wow, you guys really leave it all out there.'"

That's apparently the highest compliment working musicians can give one another.

Braunagel, who has been a musician for 45 years, plays with Taj Mahal on a regular basis and has played on two of Bonnie Raitt's biggest selling albums, Luck of the Draw and Nick of Time.

Julie Delgado, a backup singer who has toured with Al Jarreau, Natalie Cole and Tom Jones, says that performing with the Sacred Hearts is a treat compared with some of the big-name musicians with whom she sings. "Some of them are regimented down to the second…at any point in the show, you know exactly what's coming next. But there's a lot of improvisation with the Sacred Hearts. There's a freedom there, and it shows in that we are always having a good time up there."

Jesse Donnelly, who has been Jim Belushi's assistant for years and manages logistics for gigs of the Sacred Hearts band, says, "There is a chemistry with this group. They seem to love it and each other. Sometimes we have subs for certain musicians, but when the originals come back, everybody is happy to get back together."

Like Braunagel and Delgado, the rest of the Sacred Hearts band members boast extensive résumés. The bassist is Larry Lee Lerma, a veteran of Sam Moore's backup band. Johnny Lee "Shotgun" Schell plays guitar, and has appeared with Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal and Etta James. Glen Clark, the pianist, has performed with Raitt and Rita Coolidge. Joe "Lester" Sublett, the saxophonist, has been on stage with B. B. King and Bruce Springsteen and has earned a Grammy for his work with Taj Mahal. Johnny "The Beast" Rubano says he's an actor who can sing, and, like Braunagel, frequently guest-stars in Belushi's sitcom, "According to Jim." Guitarist J. J. "Taboo" Holiday has appeared with Carole King and Bob Dylan. Jimmie "The Dynamic" Wood has played his harmonica with Springsteen and Gladys Knight. Darrell "The Good Shepherd" Leonard is a trumpet player with credits that include Wilson Pickett and Stevie Ray Vaughn and a Grammy with Taj Mahal.


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