Getting to Yes, And

The Blues Brothers


Daniel de Vise

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Kelly goes deep with Pulitzer Prize winning author Daniel de Vise about his new book, “The Blues Brothers: An Epic Friendship, the Rise of Improv, and the Making of an American Film Classic.”

It’s hard for people today to understand just how big of stars John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd were at the time that The Blues Brothers became a thing.

“John Belushi, in particular, was - at the at the close of the 1970’s - on top of every medium. He had the number one comedy movie, Animal House, which Dan Aykroyd was almost in by the way. He was the star of the biggest late-night television show, which was Saturday Night Live and Aykroyd wasn't far behind him. Dan was actually the more versatile performer on that show, but Belushi was the bigger star. They had the number one record on the Billboard charts. It was the first Blues Brothers record which which came out shortly before Blues Brothers film. It had no right to sell that many copies, but it did, because they were so huge.”

The book is about this great friendship, but these two were also kind of unlikely friends.

"I should hasten to add that there's wonderful parallels between Belushi and Aykroyd. They aren't alike exactly. They're not very similar. I mean, look at them: they're different. But they both apparently had this tendency to improvise. They weren't so much interested in memorizing the lines as in kind of building on them, and creating this little force of nature around themselves. On stage, Aykroyd's friends described the same thing when he was in University Theatre in Canada, and in Belushi's case I interviewed, I think, just about all of his castmates from Second City in Chicago.”

The filming of The Blues Brothers movies is at the heart of the book and the backdrop for all of that is Chicago.

“First of all, let me just say that Chicago has this wonderful small town aspect to it. The city has this way that it can focus in on itself in a way that I don't think Los Angeles or New York could. And so the the film really did take over the city. I mean, they commanded the roadways at certain times, and everyone in town knew it was happening. The Tribune's writing columns about it, and people are like, ‘Oh, look! It's the Blues Brothers,’ you know. And it opened up this film industry that had been moribund for two decades, because Mayor Daley had taken offense when they shot some kind of a corrupt cop show there, and he just shut it all down. So Mayor Jane Byrne revives it with The Blues Brothers.”

Photo Credit: Glen Craig

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