Blues Brothers return to Joliet prison

Not Aykroyd’s first trip back to Joliet where he filmed ‘The Blues Brothers’

The Blues Brothers were back at the Joliet prison Friday, performing in the place that provided the opening scene for the movie that still has an impact 42 years after it was released.

It was the first time inside the prison walls of the former Joliet Correctional Center since the filming of the movie for both Dan Aykroyd and Jim Belushi, who has replaced his late brother, John Belushi, as Joliet Jake.

But it was not the first time back to the prison for Aykroyd, or Elwood Blues of the Blues Brothers.

During interviews with the media before the start of Blues Brothers Con at what is now called the Old Joliet Prison, Aykroyd said he’s been through Joliet a number of times, driving past the prison and reminiscing about what he called “my favorite movie to make.”

“I drive across the country quite a bit,” he said. “I have been by the prison both when it was still being used as a prison and since it closed just to drive by the walls.”

Aykroyd and Belushi both said they were impressed by the city’s reclamation of the prison.

Belushi, when asked about coming to Joliet, emphasized that it was his brother who was there to film the movie and that he had never been there. But he recognized the irony of performing a concert in a former prison.

“You have to understand,” Belushi said. “This is a fun celebration. We’re reenergizing these grounds that were rough on a lot of people. There’s a sadness. We’re going to shake that sadness away.”

“Joliet was a tough place,” Aykroyd said. “There’s a lot of heavy karma here.”

Aykroyd said he hoped to “lift that karma” with the performance Friday night.

“The Blues Brothers,” released in 1980, may have lifted some of that “heavy karma” back when it was filmed.

Aykroyd and John Belushi spent a week in Joliet filming the movie.

Aykroyd’s most vivid memory of the experience was “the enthusiasm of the inmates when John was walking down the gallery.”

“They were just loud and excited,” he said. “I think they were told to be quiet.”

Aykroyd said he thought about what happened to those men in the prison during his short time in Joliet. He wonders if some were able to “turn their lives around.”

He gives credit to the music and the people who wrote the music for the enduring impact of “The Blues Brothers” movie.

The movie and the music, he said, “transcends cultures and transcends borders.”

It also appeared to transcend generations, judging by some of those gathered before the start of Blues Brothers Con.

Ben Czurda came with his 7-year-old son, Myles, from Ajax, a town in Canada, in a Bluesmobile that the two of them put together.

“I showed him ‘The Blues Brothers’ movie, and he fell in love with it,” Czurda said. “He knows about every word that’s spoken in the movie.”

Czurda and his son were going to drive to Joliet in July to shoot a photo of their Bluesmobile in front of the Old Joliet Prison. Then they heard about the concert and rearranged vacation plans for August.

When news of the concert hit Middleton, Wisconsin, it was like an emergency alert, said Lex Dahl, 22, who was there with his brother, Bat Tracy, 27, and father, Brian Tracy.

“It’s my dad’s favorite movie,” Dahl said.

He and his brother grew up watching it, and they “love it,” Dahl said.

“My personal favorite is the ‘Rawhide’ scene,” Bat said.

Sandra Brown of Winfield said her parents did not let her go to movies because of a tight family budget, but they took her to see “The Blues Brothers” when it came out.

“My father loved ‘Minnie the Moocher.’ He loved ‘Cab Calloway,’ ” Brown said.

Calloway was a band leader of another era who was introduced to a new generation when he performed “Minnie the Moocher” in “The Blues Brothers.”

Brown went back to the theater three more times in 1980 to watch “The Blues Brothers.” On Friday, she was at the Old Joliet Prison to see the Blues Brothers perform live.

“We’re going to have a great night,” she said.