STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
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Wrap your brain around this — a tribute band to a tribute band.
Blues Brotherhood, a salute to the John Belushi/Dan Akroyd-fronted Blues Brothers, covers the music from the 1980 film “The Blues Brothers,” as well as other classic blues, funk and soul tunes, in the style of the original Blues Brothers band. Show time is 8 p.m. Jan. 28 at The ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks.
Tom “Bones” Malone, a member of The Blues Brothers’ horn section, will be playing trombone with Blues Brotherhood. Malone, whose resume links him with oodles of hits and music legends well beyond the retro novelty of The Blues Brothers, offered to answer some questions by email.
So who are these cats performing as the Jake and Elwood Blues characters?
Paul (Miller) & Aaron (Hetrick) are better than Belushi & Aykroyd, with all due respect (Miller is Jake and Hetrick is Elwood).
Can Blues Brotherhood, as that one line from “The Blues Brothers” movie goes, “turn goat (urine) into gasoline?”
Yes, gallon after gallon.
Have you always been involved with Blues Brotherhood, or was it something you stumbled on to?
Stumbled into Paul Miller a few years ago and we have done a lot of gigs together. All nice guys and good musicians.
For the uninitiated, what’s the show like?
Just like a real Blues Brothers concert.
I understand the band is from Pennsylvania?
From your point of view, what is the legacy of The Blues Brothers? Going way beyond a 1970s “SNL” skit, there were albums, films and a sincere curation of blues and R&B.
We brought R&B back to the mainstream audience. It was long since off the radio when we brought back “Soul Man” (The Blues Brothers’ live cover of the Sam & Dave hit landed in the Top 20 in 1979). Same thing happened with “The Commitments.”
Describe your role in taking The Blues Brothers from a one-off skit to an all-star band. Were you the band’s musical arranger?
The Blues Brothers almost never happened.
I was called into the first meeting with John and Danny when they came up with the concept of two sleazy Chicago musicians who wore sunglasses around the clock. I did an arrangement of “Rocket 88” by James Cotton. We did it for the producer, Lorne Michaels. We did not make the show. John says: ‘Lorne, can we warm up the studio audience before the show?’ So we did. They loved us.
Next week I did an arrangement of “Hey, Bartender” (The Floyd Dixon-penned song that wound up on the album“Briefcase Full of Blues”). We did it for Lorne. He said: ‘Frankly I don’t see anything funny about the Blues Brothers.’ Once again we warmed up the in-studio audience.
The third week we figured it was a dead issue. After read through, Lorne comes out biting his fingernails: ‘The show is three minutes short.’
John and Danny jump on him and say: ‘Lorne — The Blues Brothers.’
As if to say ‘we have nothing worthwhile for these three minutes, you guys might as well make fools of yourself,’ Lorne put us in the show. The following week we got letters and phone calls from the TV audience raving about the act.
Next thing you know, we had a record deal with Atlantic (Records) (and) sold 3 million albums. Aykroyd wrote a movie script after interviewing all the guys in the band for stories. The rest is history.
“The Last Waltz” now has a 40th anniversary edition. What are your reflections on that concert all these years later?
I met The Band at “SNL” in the spring of 1976. I did some horn charts for them that they loved. I went on the road with The Band in the summer of 1976. We did “The Last Waltz” on Thanksgiving 1976.
So far I have done three “Last Waltz” 40th Anniversary concerts, and more to come. It was quite an event. Van Morrison was the best thing at the actual live concert. There was a lot of post production on that movie. Some scenes were totally created in Hollywood after the concert. You can tell if you watch carefully.
Beatles tribute band The Fab Faux comes to our area regularly. What’s the latest on them (Malone is a member of their auxiliary group The Hogshead Horns)?
They are still doing dates all over the U.S.
The CBS Orchestra sounds like a sweet gig. What does being a part of that entail?
That was a sweet gig for 22 years. I did 4,200+ shows and 2,200+ arrangements for the show (“Late Show with David Letterman”).
We did 195 shows a year. It was a great group of people to work with. Not just the band. Stage hands, cameramen, audio, costumes, hair, makeup, office staff, writers. One big happy family. I miss seeing everyone every day.
We have a new album coming out in March — Paul Shaffer and the World’s Most Dangerous Band. We will be touring in March and June, so far.
There’s a very long list of star talent that you’ve worked with over the years. What recordings stand out as the ones you’re most proud of?
Gil Evans (10 albums); Spyro Gyra (first three albums); The Village People: “Macho Man,” “In the Navy,” “YMCA;” James Brown “Funky President;” David Sanborn (first three albums); Vicki Sue Robinson “Turn the Beat Around;” Frank Zappa: “Zappa in New York,” “Wazoo;” Tony Bennett “Tony Bennett Celebrates 90;” Buddy Rich “Speak No Evil;” Miles Davis & Quincy Jones “Live at Montreux;” Blood, Sweat & Tears “No Sweat;” Blues Brothers: “Briefcase Full of Blues,” “The Blues Brothers Soundtrack,” “Made in America,” “Blues Brothers 2000;” George Benson “In Your Eyes;” Bonnie Tyler “Holding Out For a Hero;” Lou Reed “High in the City;” Meat Loaf “Dead Ringer;” Hanson “I’ve Got Soul;” Diane Birch “Bible Belt;” Baja Men “Best Years of Our Lives;” Saturday Night Live Band “Gotta Keep My Eye on You;” Joss Stone “Mind, Body & Soul;” Pat Metheny “Secret Story;” Steve Winwood “Back in the High Life;” The Spinners “Working My Way Back to You;” Barry Manilow “I Write the Songs;” Average White Band “A Star in the Ghetto;” Luther Vandross “Forever, for Always, for Love;” Diana Ross “Mirror, Mirror;” Pink Floyd “The Wall Soundtrack;” Herbie Mann “Astral Island;” The J. Geils Band “Freeze Frame;” Paul Simon “Late in the Evening;” Jennifer Holliday: “And I Am Telling You,” “One Night Only;” Andy Grammer “The Pocket.”
Sadly, Donald “Duck” Dunn and Alan “Mr. Fabulous” Rubin are no longer with us. What are the other members of the Blues Brothers band up to these days?
Alan Rubin was playing with Blues Brotherhood up until his untimely death. Lou Marini and Steve Cropper are occasionally touring as “The Original Blues Brothers Band.” Matt “Guitar” Murphy suffered a stroke a few years ago.