‘I said – No, you won’t!': Steve Cropper almost lost the Blues Brothers gig to Robben Ford

Steve Cropper wasn’t so sure, at first, about participating in the Blues Brothers band. To start with, he had doubts whether the person on the other end of the line, someone calling himself John Belushi, was actually the superstar comedian. And, besides, Cropper was at work on something else at the time.

“I said, man, I’d love to do this; I’d love to help you out,” Cropper tells Bobby Whitlock. “It sounds great, and I know we’d have a lot of fun. But I’m really right in the middle of mixing an album project, and I can’t walk away from it right now.”

Cropper had met Belushi at a party hosted by Paul McCartney, who hired Belushi to do his then-famous Joe Cocker imitation for guests. Otherwise, they were strangers to one another. But Belushi, in compiling the group that would become the Blues Brothers, had found many players with a relationship to Cropper — not least of which was Donald “Duck” Dunn, the guitarist’s old MGs bandmate. Belushi pressed on the issue, but Cropper says he held firm; his first commitment was to complete this new album by guitarist Robben Ford.

And that might have been that — except, all of a sudden, Ford himself became interested in touring with Belushi’s quickly forming band. “Robben Ford says, ‘Who are you talking to?,” and I said, ‘John Belushi. He’s putting a band together, and we wants me to come to New York and play,'” Cropper adds. “And he says, ‘Well, I’ll do it.’ And I said, ‘No, you won’t!’ [Laughs uproariously.]”

Cropper decided to work long-distance, shipping the final few song mixes back and forth with an engineer in order to finish The Inside Story for Ford. Featured on that 1979 album, by the way, were trumpeter Alan Rubin, trombonist Tom Malone and saxist Lou Marini — all of whom, like Cropper, eventually found a home in the Blues Brothers band.

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