Keeping the Blues Brothers alive
As Jake and Elwood Blues, John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd created a duo that was beloved by millions, first on Saturday Night Live and then with the smash movie, The Blues Brothers.
The iconic duo, donned in dark sunglasses, skinny ties, and black felt fedoras, is known for its catalogue of songs that include “Soul Man,” “Rubber Biscuit” and “Sweet Home Chicago,” but also for their infectious humor, unbridled spirit and, of course, their “Soul Man” dance.
Tragically, Belushi died in 1982, just two years after the movie became a phenomenon. But that didn’t mean the end to the Blues Brothers.
Judith Belushi Pisano, the wife of Belushi when he passed away, shared in Aykroyd’s desire to keep the legacy of the band alive, and has collaborated with Wayne Catania and Kieron Lafferty to write and direct the Official Blues Brothers Review, which will play the Ridgefield Playhouse on Nov. 3. Keith Loria spoke with her about the show.
Keith Loria: Why was it important to you to continue the legacy of the Blues Brothers?
Judith Belushi Pisano: It’s about the music. It’s part of our American heritage and though the blues have never been mainstream, although R&B has come from it, this particular style that my husband and his partner shared a passion for is infectious. And the Blues Brothers are all about fun, which is a big part of the genre. It’s not all heavy.
KL: You helped to hand pick Kieron Lafferty and Wayne Catania for these roles. What does it take for performers to don the official hat and sunglasses and walk in the legendary footsteps of Jake and Elwood Blues?
JBP: We decided to continue with the Jake and Elwood show somewhere in the early 2000s and we wanted to put together a solid band and find the best people we could and have an official review. These guys do John and Dan proud.
KL: What does the Blues Brothers mean to you?
JBP: I’m proud to be part of this brand. It’s dear to my heart and has led me to so many interesting places and people.
KL: What can those coming out to the Official Blues Brothers Review expect to see and hear on the night?
JBP: It’s much more along the lines of the concerts that John and Dan did as Jake and Elwood. They are even using some of the same dialogue, and then doing some of their own banter. We have a fine band of some young guys and some veteran musicians. I haven’t been to a show where the audience didn’t leave with their spirits up. It’s a fun time and the music moves you. It can never be what it was that first time it was new on Saturday Night Live but this show is very reminiscent of that.
KL: You’ve witnessed the rise of the Blues Brothers from the very beginning. When it first hit, what made the act so special?
JBP: You can’t deny the power of television. John and Dan were on a show that was very much in the public eye and they got a lot of attention. But the band they pulled together was really special and even though the names may not have been household names, the songs they played were. There was such a wonderful energy in the way it unfolded and a lot of that had to do with the love and respect that John and Dan put into it what they were doing.
KL: You also appeared in the movie. What’s your favorite memory from the movie shoot?
JBP: It was New Year’s Eve, and we were taking a break from shooting in Chicago, and we were in L.A., and John and I rented a house in Laurel Canyon and had a New Year’s Eve party and we got instruments and set them up in the garage and everyone played. There were a lot of famous people there. It was just so much fun and probably my favorite moment.
KL: In addition to the show, it seems the Blues Brothers pop up in different avenues, and there’s even been talk of an animated series. Where does that stand?
JBP: We still want to do the animation and I believe it will happen, but it’s gone a couple of different routes so far. We are likewise in negotiations for a Broadway show and I believe that’s going to work out. There’s interest in doing a documentary and I would like to do that someday, but right now there’s one being done on John and I don’t want to do too much at once. My son is also helping me now, and he wants to do a video game, and we’re launching a coffee. So, the future looks bright.