Monday, April 20, 2015
This Week in Television History: April 2015 PART III
Listen to me on TV CONFIDENTIAL:
As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.
April 22, 1978
The Blues Brothers make their world premiere on Saturday Night Live.
The characters and the band that Belushi and Aykroyd unveiled that night took more than two years to evolve. The first incarnation came during SNL's first season, in a January 17, 1976, appearance singing "I'm a King Bee" as "Howard Shore and his All-Bee Band." There were no dark suits, skinny ties or Ray-Bans at that point, but the appearance did feature Aykroyd on the harmonica and Belushi on vocals belting out a blues classic very much in the style of the future Elwood and "Joliet" Jake Blues, albeit while wearing bee costumes.
The Blues Brothers' look—and much of their repertoire—would come together after Belushi's trip to Eugene, Oregon, during the hiatus between SNL seasons two and three to film Animal House. It was there that Belushi, a committed rock-and-roll fan, met a 25-year-old bluesman named Curtis Salgado, future harmonica player for Robert Cray, frontman for Roomful of Blues and a major figure on the burgeoning Pacific Northwest blues scene of the 1970s. Belushi became a regular visitor to the Eugene Hotel to catch Salgado's act during the filming of Animal House, and it was from that act and from Salgado himself that he picked up a passion for the blues as well as the inspiration for the Blues Brothers' sound and look .
Back in New York for the third season of SNL, Belushi and Aykroyd honed their concept for the Blues Brothers Band and recruited an incredible roster of backing instrumentalists drawn from among the finest blues and R&B session musicians in the country. Even if their debut performance on this night in 1978 hadn't been a huge hit, the band was far too good to break up after a single gig. Indeed, the closing portion of Paul Shaffer's introduction that night—"Today they are no longer an authentic blues act, but have managed to become a viable commercial product"—ended up being borne out in real life, with the Blues Brothers earning three top-40 hits ("Soul Man," "Rubber Biscuit" and "Gimme Some Lovin'"), a #1 pop album (Briefcase Full of Blues) and a piece of screen immortality via their 1980 film, The Blues Brothers.