In keeping with its name, the Blues Brothers’ 1978 smash Briefcase Full of Blues started out as a rootsy affair. Then, Steve Cropper made an historic suggestion.
“In the rehearsals in New York,” the guitarist tells Michael Berry, “I came in late. (Bassist Donald) Duck (Dunn) grabbed me and he said: ‘We’re cutting a lot of good stuff here, rehearsing a lot of good stuff, but it’s all kind of blues stuff — nothing commercial.’ He said: ‘You need to go in there and talk to these guys.’ I said: ‘OK, give me a chance to see what’s going on.’”
The band, co-led by blues enthusiast John Belushi and his fellow SNL alum Dan Aykroyd, had indeed worked up a set of gritty songs associated with Junior Wells, Big Joe Turner and the Downchild Blues Band. Of course, history tells us that the Blues Brothers would make their name singing something far more rambunctious.
“I looked and John and I said: ‘Have you guys ever thought of doing something that you guys could, like, dance to?’ And he said: ‘Like what?’ And I said: ‘Like Sam and Dave. They had great records, but they were known as dancers. They could really get the house going.’”
Belushi asked for a suggestion, and Cropper — completely off the cuff — called out “Soul Man” to band. “And they started dancing and clowning around, and all that,” Cropper says. “Everybody was laughing and having a big time.” And, just like that, the Blues Brothers legend was born.