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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 5)

Robert Norman, an agent at Creative Artists Agency in Los Angeles, who handles all the concert bookings for the Blues Brothers, says there's a good reason why no one walks out. "The tremendous popularity they have enjoyed, even to this day, is a testament to the high energy and quality show that they put on every time," Norman says. "The band is one of the most requested out there for private event dates." He said that past clients have included American Express, AT&T, Microsoft, Comcast, Cadillac and Honda.

At any of those events, it's clear that the audience walking out is never a problem. If the concerts are anything like the Houston show, the problem is finding a spot on the dance floor. Even when the show neared its end, well after 11 o'clock, the dance floor was still rocking.

With good reason. Belushi and Aykroyd put on a display of showmanship and dancing that keeps everybody moving. But for all their energy and enthusiasm, the driving force behind them is the band, the Sacred Hearts (see sidebar, page 105).

Aykroyd's passion for the blues goes beyond the stage. He has worked with foundations through the House of Blues to support the blues, providing assistance for education of school kids about the blues, and he is passionate about keeping the flame of the blues alive. Over lunch one day in October, Akroyd recalls the words of John Lee Hooker, a friend of his: "He once said to me, 'Danny, you've done soooo much for the blues.'" Apart from the Blues Brothers, Aykroyd was an original investor in the House of Blues, which he started with entrepreneur Issac Tigrett, who also founded the Hard Rock chain, in 1992. They had become friends in the wake of John Belushi's death, at which time Aykroyd said Tigrett took him under his wing and "helped me get over my grief. It's almost, in a way, that John left my life, and then another big male figure came in to take over the love." It's through the House of Blues connection that Aykroyd also began, and continues to host today, the "House of Blues Radio Hour," which is heard weekly on several hundred stations around the country. While Aykroyd plays the classics on the show, he says he is always looking for new blues acts to keep the tradition alive.

It's late. You could call it the wee hours in Houston, and by one watch still set on East Coast time, it's 3:30 in the morning. The pizza box is empty. The wine bottles are nearly drained. Dan Aykroyd is talking softly with his wife, Donna Dixon, and Jim Belushi is cheering on a title fight on the Ultimate Fighting Championship on TV. Jesse Donnelly, Belushi's long-time assistant, is holding forth about the goings-on in Hollywood, and there's a lot of reminiscing among the four old friends about movies, about the competition their movies have had from other movie premieres and about the future of the Blues Brothers.

The conversation suddenly turns to business matters between them, about the performance dates of the Blues Brothers, and a visitor, opting for the better part of discretion, and the desire to put his head down on a pillow, stands up to leave. Aykroyd says, "No, no, there's still one thing that I want you to know about the Blues Brothers. Write this down. Write this down, just like this."

He stands up to his full 6 foot 1 inch height, faces the hotel room suite and says, "We, the Blues Brothers, did open for the Rolling Stones, only once and never again. It reminds me of my friend Kim Campbell, who was the only female prime minister of Canada, and only for six months, but she can always say, 'I was prime minister of Canada.' We can always say, 'We opened for the Rolling Stones.'" He sits down to laughter in the room.

No one should be laughing. That's right where the Blues Brothers belong. Among the greatest bands ever to play a blues song. After all, they are on a "mission from God."

 

DAN AYKROYD


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