By the way, how did you assemble the original band?"
"It was agony, agony," says Jake, burying his fat face in his hands. "Elwood and I were a duo and when word got out we were forming a group, I got phone calls immediately, calls from heavy stars, saying, 'I wanna be in your band!' And it was a question of whether to assemble one or just get a band that was already established – some guys together for ten years so we could put 'em up there and let 'em just groove. I was thinking about getting Delbert McClinton's band, and Roomful of Blues, too. When we first resurfaced, Elwood and I did a gig at the Lone Star Cafe in New York in June [of 1978] with Roomful of Blues.
"But finally we just decided, 'Fuck the cost and the damage it will do to the feelings of people who aren't asked, and let's go for the best band we can get, piece by piece.' We got Bones Malone first and he recommended Cropper and Dunn. We really didn't know who they were," Jake snorts. "Then when he [Malone] said, 'You know, from "Knock on Wood" and "Soul Man," ' we said, 'Would they do it?!'
"I called them up, acting real arrogant," Jake recounts, "saying, 'Welllll, all right Cropper, you're in the group but you're a rhythm guitar player – ya got that?' and he went [meekly], 'I like playing rhythm guitar; I don't like all that lead stuff.' So I said [sarcastically], 'Oh, you're hard to work with, aren't ya?'
"Then I called Dunn up and said, 'I never met you but I'd like you to be in a group – but I understand you don't get along with Cropper.' He said, 'Aw no, we get along all right!' I was just giving them all kinda shit, bustin' their balls," Jake guffaws, slapping Elwood on the back.
"But they both said yes, and, uh, incidentally . . . they didn't know who we were either."
"Wasn't your first public reappearance on a 1975 segment of Saturday Night Live in which you dressed in bee costumes and played 'King Bee'?"
Their heads bob . . . warily.
"At that time, I'd do anything to sing," counsels Jake contritely. "So they got us into these stupid bee costumes. Boy, that was a dog performance."
"I'm intrigued by this longstanding affiliation with Saturday Night Live," I press them. "How close are your ties to the show? You know, the more I look at Elwood, the more he reminds me of Dan Aykr—"
"Well, gotta split now," they yelp in unison. "Er, hope you like the show tonight!"
I do, and I'm not alone. A shoulder-to-shoulder army of Deadheads rushes the stage when Jake and Elwood scramble on to a tumultuous fanfare of "I Can't Turn You Loose," Jake turning cartwheels as they erupt next with "Hey Bartender." The program is identical to the album, but it takes on a uniquely exultant tone as the group becomes aware that the audience knows every number.
Indeed, halfway through the set, Jake looks up to spy several willowy longhairs decked out in basic black getups identical to his own. A deafening salvo greets the familiar twanging lead-guitar intro to "Soul Man" and the victory is complete by the time the Brothers close with " 'B' Movie Box Car Blues."
The group overruns the stage when they do their encore, and Jake's cartwheel choreography is out of hand when "Flip, Flop & Fly" segues into the unhinged "Jailhouse Rock."
Backstage afterward, the dressing room floods with well-wishers, and even a cantankerous old grizzly like Jake is so moved by the adulation that he removes his Foster Grants and presents them to a deeply touched young fan – although Joliet quickly replaces them with a spare pair he had stashed in his breast pocket.
The Jefferson Starship turns over its Airplane-era Victorian house on Fulton Street for a post-concert Blues Brothers party, but as the evening wears on, there are rumors among the 300-odd guests that Jake and Elwood won't show. Spirits are momentarily lifted when Saturday Night Live stalwarts Laraine Newman and Bill Murray stroll and stumble, respectively, in . . . followed shortly afterward by John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, but disappointment blankets the crowd as it becomes apparent that 1979's conquering heroes will be a no-show.
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