Jim Belushi has been a Blues Brother a long time.
“Danny (Aykroyd) and I have been doing this 17 18 years now,” said the 59-year-old movie, television and music star. “I have a ball with Danny. He’s a legend — ‘Ghostbusters,’ ‘Saturday Night Live,’ ‘Blues Brothers’ and sometimes I forget, he’s such a good friend, but the audience goes crazy for him.”
Queue the craziness when the Blues Brothers perform Saturday at the Taste of Pinellas. In their classic black suits and ties, matching black fedoras and Ray-Ban Wayfarers, Aykroyd and Belushi bring to stage nine musicians, that include horns, back-up singers and, of course, the “brothers” making their harmonicas sing.
“If people have seen the movie, then they know we step out into the audience, too, and they love that,” Belushi says. “It’s a party up there.”
Despite playing with the Blues Brothers for nearly two decades, Belushi says it took some convincing to get him to take over for his late brother John, who made the role “Joliet” Jake Blues famous on “SNL” and in the 1980 film. Belushi died of a drug overdose in 1982.
“I never thought I’d be doing the Blues Brothers,” he says. “But Danny fought me over it. He said, ‘Jimmy, Blues Brothers is a law firm. When one partner goes down, another steps in for him.’ And he said, ‘It’s your job to take over for John. It was in his will.’ And he gave me the glasses.”
Belushi portrays “Brother” Zee Blues.
“I always told Danny that if it was weird for him and that he knew I didn’t really sing the blues with my band (The Sacred Hearts), but we did the first song together and it was just so … joyful.
“I thought to myself, ‘I get it, John. I see why now.’ I’m so grateful to John for creating this, and now we do shows all over country.”
Belushi and Aykroyd have done many corporate gigs, including some for the Outback Corporation in Tampa.
“We get a lot of coupons for free steak out of that one,” Belushi joked.
Since the end of his TV show, “According to Jim” in 2009, Belushi has appeared in numerous movies and had another short-lived show (“The Defenders”) on CBS.
He also a blues bar and grill in Fort Myers, where he was working on the movie “A Change of Heart” with Aimee Teegarden, Virginia Madsen and Gloria Estefan. He ’s also working on a movie with St. Petersburg native Patrick Wilson.
But Belushi’s heart is in the music, which is why he knows he’ll always be a Blues Brother.
“Danny has really lined up some great American music because he’s always about having a revue,” Belushi says. “From what I’ve heard, this event didn’t play last year, so I know I’m glad to help bring it back. ... But I’m always glad to be playing with Danny. It’s always a blast.”