The beginning of the ’80s kicked off with SNL characters from the small screen making their big screen debut: The Blues Brothers.
Created in 1978 for NBC’s Saturday Night Live by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, The Blues Brothers were Jake (Joliet) and Elwood, two brothers who sang lead in the band, backed by a roster of well-known skilled musicians.
The band came to being during the cast’s after work time, who hung out at a blues bar owned by Akyroyd. Belushi’s fascination with the sounds of the 1950s and 1960s led to the creation of the band for SNL with the help of musician Paul Shaffer.
The Blues Brothers became so popular on SNL that the band released an album in 1978, Briefcase Full of Blues. And with the popularity, it went to the big screen.
The premise was this: Jake Blues is released from jail and with his brother Elwood, go to the Catholic orphanage where they were raised, finding out from Sister Mary that the orphanage owes taxes and will be closed if they can’t pay.
Jake has an epiphany to re-form the Blues Brothers Band, and first have to track down the former members and promote the show via a speaker on their infamous Bluesmobile.
But the show causes chaos, and soon there’s a car chase, white supremacists, police, an angry ex-fiancee and recording executives, all trying to get their hands on the Blues Brothers.
The popularity of the comedy/musical performance led to the collaboration with director John Landis, after a bidding war that landed Universal Pictures with the rights to bring the idea to the movie screen.
Akyroyd took six months to write the script and because of Belushi’s partying the film took much longer to film than anticipated, and became one of the most expensive comedies made at the time with a budget of US$30 million.
The film featured a wide range of actors from Carrie Fisher, John Candy, Steve Lawrence and Twiggy to a long list of musicians including Cab Calloway, John Lee Hooker, James Brown, Ray Charles, Chaka Khan and Aretha Franklin, as well as band musicians Alan Rubin, Lou Marini, Matt Murphy and Tom Malone.
Released on June 20, 1980, the film got mainly positive reviews, and had a big opening weekend making US $5 million at the box office. The film went on to become a summer blockbuster, making over US $115 million at the box office.
And The Blues Brothers continued on, even after the death of John Belushi in 1982 with guest singers. But fans know the real Blues Brothers will always be the originals, John Belushi and Dan Akyroyd.