Jim Belushi Interview from Noise11.com Archives - Noise11.com
Jim Belushi and Dan Ackroyd

Jim Belushi Interview from Noise11.com Archives

by Edina Patsy on May 5, 2016

in News

The Blues Brothers started as a couple of characters of Saturday Night Live. But the persona of Elwood Blues (Dan Ackroyd) and Jake Blues (John Belushi) became not only real life, but larger than life.

In the 80’s the Blues Brothers Movie bought names like Aretha Franklin, John Lee Hooker and Ray Charles back into the public eye, but it also made their names became familiar to an audience who had grown up on Led Zeppelin and AC/DC.

It wasn’t to last. In 1982, John Belushi was found dead in a Hollywood Motel, the victim of a self inflicted drug overdose.

Many saw the end of the Blues Brothers, but the public had other ideas. The movie became a cult sensation and by 1988, The Blues Brothers Band were playing to packed houses around the world. In the early 90’s, a stage show featuring the characters became a Broadway hit.

Dan Ackroyd decided to keep the blues alive and in 1995 opened the first “House Of Blues”, which soon became a restaurant chain devoted to great food and great music.

Dan’s partner in the restaurant chain was John’s younger brother Jim Belushi. Jim saw the partnership as “good fun” but also used his name associated with Ackroyd’s name to develop a charity organization called the John Belushi Fellowship. To launch the charity, Ackroyd suggested to Jim that he learns to sing ….. fast and the Blues Brothers were back. Ackroyd and Belushi were side by side performing and raising money for charity in the name of their friend and brother, John.

The restaurant chain became a huge success and a spin–off record label was formed. The House Of Blues label was open for business and who better to release the first few albums than the founders, Dan Ackroyd and Jim Belushi.

The performance of Dan and Jim’s charity event at The House of Blues Chicago was one of the labels first releases, but so too is the debut album of Jim Belushi with the HOB house band, The Sacred Hearts.

Jim Belushi caught up with Paul Cashmere to talk about this latest stage of his career.

Paul Cashmere: So how did it all start?

Jim Belushi: Danny wanted me to learn to sing because he wanted to do this Blues Brothers concert with him to raise some money for his college and we also wanted to do the Blues Brothers concert to open up these clubs, and for the John Belushi scholarship fundraiser. And I said “Danny, I really don’t sing the blues” and he said “Hey, you better learn”. So I started with the house band at the House Of Blues here in Los Angeles, The Sacred Hearts Band, and I learned a song, then two songs, then three songs, and I sang with Danny and before you know it, we were starting to get booked. We’ve been playing Vegas, we’ve been playing venues all over the country, and the House Of Blues label said “Do you guys wanna do a CD” and I thought that would be a great idea to put down our show on a CD. So hence we have 32-26-36.

PC: So are you a songwriter too?

JB: “Well I wrote one song on there called “Smokin’ Blues” which is about smoking cigars. There’s a couple of originals on there “You Can’t Use My Car” is by the guitar and the horn player and drummer. There’s another song called “Leap Of Faith” which is by Glen Clark who is the leader of our band. Delbert McClinton has that song on his new album also. But the rest of them are like Buddy Guy, we got Paul Butterfield Blues Band, we got Joe Tex, we got Big Joe Turner. We got a Delbert McClinton song. We got Huey Lewis playing harmonica on “The House Is Rocking”. We got McCoy Tyner, he’s one of the world’s great Jazz Pianists. He plays on “Hot Weather Blues”. Charlie Musselwhite, a great blues player is on “Smokin’ Blues” and Delbert McClinton plays on a song we cover from one of his old albums called “If You Don’t Leave Me Alone, I’ll Find Someone Else Who Will”. The album is very heavy with harmonica and horns, so it’s got a little swing in it. It’s kind of reminiscent of The Blues Brothers album but not as good. But very, very fun.

PC: What do these old blues guys think of this Hollywood actor making a blues album?

JB: They like it ’cause it means we’re spending money. It’s fun. You know, being an actor you do it all anyway. You act, you sing, you dance, you play different characters. I look at my job as like a plumber. The plumber can do an industrial park or he can fix your toilet at home. He can just look at the piping and figure out how to do it. As a performer, you look at what this performance is all about and you take your skills and you develop yourself with it.

PC: I thought you were meant to be depressed to sing the blues. How does a millionaire Hollywood actor ever get depressed?

JB: Well let’s just say my life wasn’t easy the first thirty years. I got plenty of places to go to pull up some blues, brother! Well, then again, a lot of the songs on this CD are real swing, they are real fun songs. I don’t sing that real Mississippi Blues. Ours is more, um, we got a little Texas sound in it. It’s a real swing thing. The one song we do by Paul Butterfield Blues Band “Born In Chicago” is about him losing all his friends. I was born in Chicago and I’ve lost a lot of friends from my brother, to John Candy, to my father. I think about those people. Tupak Shakur I did a movie with, I lost him. So when I sing that song, I think about them and that takes me to an emotional place to sing that song.

PC: Did you feel strange taking the place of your brother in The Blues Brothers?

JB: I don’t think of it as taking his place. I think of it as continuing his legacy and his spirit. That Blues Brothers album that you are talking about is a live recording of The House Of Blues opening in Chicago. That particular night we raised quite a bit of money for the John Belushi scholarship fund. A piece of the album also goes to that. So I look at it as a community service and a service to the family and a service to the public. There’s a lot of positive stuff that goes on in it.

PC: So when did you discover the blues?

JB: I didn’t really get turned onto the blues until John did. He kind of bought the spirit of the blues into the house and actually into America. He made a lot of those guys famous by making that album, The Blues Brothers album, popular. Man, I was talking to someone the other day, Big Joe Turner, which is a song I do on the album “Chicken And The Hawk”. The Blues Brothers did a Big Joe Turner song called “Flip Flop and Fly”. It really bought Big Joe Turner from being flat broke back to being able to live again. The mechanical rights and the publishing rights, the money that flew back to him from The Blues Brothers made a lot of these blues musicians that John honored, put a lot of money back in their pockets. It did a great service to them. And whenever he sang the song, he always mentioned their names. So it was great to put money back in their pocket and bring their work back to a massive audience.

PC: So who comes to the shows?

JB: Because I’m an actor, we put on a show. It’s just not entertaining, there’s a lot of stuff that goes on on stage. We have younger people in their 20’s in the audience to people in their 50’s dancing out there on the dance floor and because of that, we’ve been getting great word of mouth in the community. We are getting booked in more and more venues and we are getting more and more money.

PC: Have you and Dan Ackroyd ever been in a movie together?

JB: I had a small part in Trading Places that he was in. Other than that no, we never have. We were talking about doing this movie “Cops” a long time ago. That kind of fell apart due to scheduling. Scheduling is a big thing here. Being an actor, everything is about scheduling and there’s a lot of jobs you can’t do because there’s so much scheduling. There’s only so much time in the day.

PC: So how busy are you every week?

JB: Well last week was a perfect example. I worked five days on a movie. We started shooting at 5 in the afternoon and finished at 6 in the morning. On Saturday morning I finished about 5 in the morning. Then at 10 o’clock we played the Coliseum here in Los Angeles for 50,000 people. Then in the afternoon, I performed in a play at my son’s school. We did two shows and you just burn out. It was a long week. But you can fit in things if you just schedule it right. The school thing was a variety show, where the parents, the students and the faculty did songs and sketches to raise money for the scholarship fund at the school. It’s a community service thing that you do. Dustin Hoffman’s kid was there, John Ritter’s kid goes there, so does Jane Seymour’s. There’s a lot of actors and directors and writers and producers whose sons go to the school. The scenes that were done for me were done by real pro’s. Norman Lear was in a sketch and Ted Danson was in a sketch. It’s quite a show.

PC: What’s with you and cigars? You are always seen smoking a cigar.

JB: Chuck Norris and I have a cigar company called Lone Wolf and we are producing cigars out of the Dominican Republic. Actually if you are familiar with the Cigar Aficionado we just achieved a 90 rating on our Lone Wolf Bellacosa, the red label. You just follow your passion and you get involved in that. I loved the blues so I kind of got involved with the band. I love restaurants and concerts so I got involved with The House Of Blues. I love acting so I do that. You just follow your passion and things come up.

PC: On your CD cover there’s a picture of The President and The Vice President dressed as Blues Brothers. Is that really them?

JB: Yeah at the House of Blues in Los Angeles, they had a fund raiser for President Clinton for his second term. He asked for my band, so my band was part of the fund-raiser. He was on stage and we sang for him. He was gracious enough to take a photo and that photo went all over the world actually. It was quite an experience singing for the President. I had known him before he ran for office, so he knew about the band. So it was funny he requested us.

PC: So who have you met that you were in awe of?

JB: James Brown, definitely. I sang with James Brown at the superbowl two years ago. But I’ve met Tom Jones there, and I’ve met Eric Clapton there, Stephen Stills, Etta James I met. John Lee Hooker I have met. I have a really exciting life right now. I’m enjoying myself.

Noise11.com

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