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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 6)

Exceeding the Speed Limit

The Blues Brothers and the "House of Blues Radio Hour" keep Dan Aykroyd busy a lot of the time, but after a hugely successful career in TV and the movies, those aren't the only things that keep him going today. This past year, he turned 55, and as he says, he finally reached the legal speed limit. Now he's looking for new challenges.

That's a little hard to fathom since his movie credits read like some of the greatest hits of the 1980s. First, there was The Blues Brothers, a $27 million film that has generated nearly a combined $200 million in gross sales from theaters and rentals. The movie was the peak of the Blues Brothers phenomenon, but it also fostered the cult following of the group over the years.

The 1980 film, in which Aykroyd played Elwood Blues, was followed several years later by Ghostbusters, with Bill Murray, who was one of his comedy partners on "Saturday Night Live." That film has grossed nearly $1 billion, including rentals, since its theatrical release. Of course, Ghostbusters II followed, and it was one of the more successful sequels in history, with a total gross since release that is approaching $500 million.

Aykroyd also had some other great roles. He was in Trading Places with Eddie Murphy and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom with Harrison Ford. And who can forget his turn in Driving Miss Daisy? Just last year, he appeared in the film I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, with Adam Sandler and Kevin James.

"I've turned down six movies this year," Aykroyd said in October, adding that he was really trying to focus on other things in life. He said he had some screenplays he'd like to get produced, but "you know, it's a new generation now."

"It's tough for the older guys to get in the door and pitch a concept. It really is," Aykroyd says, puffing on his vintage Cuban cigar. "So I kind of had to let go of the film business a few years ago. It's like a hockey player, or a football player. I wouldn't go ask Gordie Howe [to go] back on the rink now. My choice is to find other things to occupy myself. I'm not going to sit there and wait for the phone to ring. I'm not going to beg some agent for jobs. I'm not going to walk in with hat in hand."

One thing that does remain near the top of his to-do list is the House of Blues, the chain of music venues and restaurants he co-founded with entrepreneur Isaac Tigrett in 1992. Now that the company is owned by Live Nation, the world's largest concert promoter, Aykroyd remains involved as a "founding consultant" and helps with the opening of new facilities. "We've got nightclubs around the world. I help them get clubs open by doing the Charity Harley ride, radio, TV, print and then doing a show with the Blues Brothers. I don't know where they are going to find anyone else to do that."

A few years back, Aykroyd shared drinks one night at the House of Blues with Jean Paul Dejoria, who originated Paul Mitchell hair care products and helped bring Patrón Tequila to America. After trying the Mexican-produced spirit, Aykroyd discovered that Patrón was having problems getting distribution in Canada. So two years ago, Aykroyd found a distributor there and "we have Patron selling across Canada now." He also says the distribution company owned some wineries, and he ended up buying a piece of the distributor. He is now developing some wines the company suggested he put his name on.

Somewhere in the midst of all the activity, Akyroyd finds time for his family, his wife of 25 years, Donna Dixon, and his three girls, Danielle, 17, Belle, 14, and Stella, 9. "When I travel and they are off school, I bring them to the Blues Brothers' gigs," he says. "And, they all work. I mean, you're going to come to a gig, stay in this five-star hotel, fly first-class…you know what, you're working."

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