CHICAGO — Days away from the inaugural Blues Brothers Con, one starts to wonder: Do I have my suit pressed, and are my hat and shades at the ready to “shake a tail feather"?
In a world where film franchises and TV series have their own conventions, the iconic 1980 Chicago film “The Blues Brothers” finally gets its own, Friday and Saturday at Old Joliet Prison. Fans and aficionados of the brothers will be treated to sights and sounds from the movie, according to Greg Peerbolte, CEO of the nonprofit Joliet Area Historical Museum which is hosting the festival.
Those sounds Friday come from the likes of Toronzo Cannon and Curtis Salgado, for whom the film’s character ‘Curtis’ is named. On Saturday, fans will get the gospel side of things when a gospel music service will be followed by music from Mondo Cortez & The Chicago Blues Angels and Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials. Local gospel groups Will Terry & Sounds of Joy, Chrysann Moore and the Lewis University Gospel Choir will perform after an ecumenical church service. A free open-to-the-public screening of “Blues Brothers” will conclude the festivities Saturday night.
Other convention attractions: A vintage car show featuring the Chicago Bluesmobile, Mount Prospect’s Pre-Bluesmobile, vintage Chicago police cars and Illinois State Police vehicles from the film era, Blues Brothers merchandise, live country and Western music at Bob’s Country Bunker Beer Garden, and food at the Maxwell Street Market pop-up. Art demonstrations and a letter writing station in cooperation with the Last Prisoner Project and repurposed artwork from the damaged areas of the Joliet prison will also be on hand.
“This movie brought great joy. It’s great music. It’s mischievous and fun. And it’s a mission from God to deliver the spiritual awakening, bringing everyone to the light with the joy of this music that was born and bred in gospel,” Jim Belushi said.
The entire convention headlines Friday night with Dan Aykroyd reprising his role of Elwood Blues and Jim Belushi channeling his late brother John as “Joliet” Jake.
“We’re gonna do a full 90-minute Blues Brothers show — me and Danny kicking it with a 10-piece band, three horns, two guitars, B-3 organ, three backup singers, harmonica players. Danny plays harmonica. I play harmonica, we’ll be doing harmonica playoffs. And the great news is Curtis Salgado is playing before us.”
We talked with Belushi about the event. He said he’s been stretching and doing his dance moves all week getting ready to be in peak condition Friday. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Q: Why haven’t we had a “Blues Brothers” con before?
A: I have no idea why we haven’t. It was a nice surprise. This gentleman Greg (Peerbolte) is quite a visionary and a doer. He has managed to pull this beautiful “Blues Brothers” museum at the Joliet Prison together. I mean, he’s got Bob’s Country Bunker there, he’s got the church there. He’s got food trucks and bands. You got Thomas “Bones” Malone coming, Steve Cropper coming, even Judy my sister-in-law is coming.