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Blooze Brothers keeps spirit of 'Blues Brothers' alive through music

Kevin Pollack performs as Joliet Jake Blooze with the Blooze Brothers at a Concert in the Park night Tuesday, July 31, 2018 in Huntley.
Kevin Pollack performs as Joliet Jake Blooze with the Blooze Brothers at a Concert in the Park night Tuesday, July 31, 2018 in Huntley.

“There’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark out, and we’re wearing sunglasses,” Elwood Blues said.

“Hit it!” “Joliet” Jake Blues responded.

These are the words of Elwood and Joliet Jake Blues from the 1980 film, “The Blues Brothers,” starring Dan Aykroyd and the late John Belushi. Just as famous as the iconic lines, is its soundtrack.

Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and James Brown are just a few of the major names featured. Aykroyd and Belushi also snagged their share of performance credits on the film’s soundtrack.

The classic film centers on Jake and Elwood’s mission to get the band back together to save the Catholic orphanage where the two were raised from foreclosure. Its music lives on through artists such as tribute and show band The Blooze Brothers.

The 11-piece band features Chuck Little as Elwood Blues and Kevin Pollack as “Joliet” Jake Blues, and lead vocal powerhouse Sheila Pepple.

What started as a two-man act more than 25 years ago has since become a Chicago-area favorite.

“Chuck started The Blooze Brothers, oh, so many years ago,” Pollack said. “Chuck’s in his is 60s now, but he’s in great shape. He’s held the band together for over 25 years. Band members have changed over the years, but we’re still a really tight band. We play everything from the Blues Brothers to Motown to soul and classic rock.”

Pollack is in his third year with the band as Jake Blues. The 31-year-old Glenview resident is an actor, who played sexist and egomaniacal boss Franklin Hart in the Woodstock Opera House’s 2017 rendition of “9 to 5.”

His first critically acclaimed role came in 2015 as Joe Cocker in “Men of Soul” at Black Ensemble Theater in Chicago. It was during this time that Pollack auditioned for the band.

“I had been told many times that I reminded people of John Belushi,” Pollack said. “They auditioned me at a karaoke bar in Wheeling and the next thing I knew I was running around on stage.”

Pollack said the show band’s performances range from 90 minutes to 3 hours.

Pollack admits he had not seen the original film until he became a member of the band, but said one of his favorite performances included a showing of “The Blues Brothers” on the big screen.

Little owns a 1974 Dodge Monaco police car, an exact replica of the car in the movie. Pollack said before some of their gigs, they will throw a speaker on top of the car and drive through the town and talk to people as they pass, a play straight from the original movie.

“Last year, we played the Genesee [Theatre] in Waukegan. They showed the whole movie and then we pulled Chuck’s 1974 Dodge Monaco police car up on to the stage and performed for an hour,” Pollack said. “It was awesome. The movie ended, the screen went up and the ‘Bluesmobile’ appeared.”

Off screen, Pollack does his best to bring Belushi back to life.

“I throw on the clothes and I grab a beer and I go on stage,” Pollack said. “I act like Belushi. Being an actor, I want to portray the person I’m supposed to be portraying. I don’t do the flips or the cartwheels because of back issues, but I try to act and sound like him. It’s about bringing myself into him. Through the show, I just sort of become him. I’ve gotten numerous comments over the years that I look and act just like him, so I seem to be doing my job right.”

When Crystal Lake resident Regina Belt-Daniels, who directed Pollack in “9 to 5,” heard he was in a “Blues Brothers” cover band, she didn’t exactly jump at the opportunity to see them perform. But she gave the band a shot. She was pleasantly surprised.

“They defy the definition of your standard cover band. The superbness with which they performed was incredible,” Belt-Daniels said. “The quality of their music and performance are so good. They are exciting and they really whip the crowds up. After the show, there were little kids that went up to the band members and they were shaking their hands and what not. They really take the time with their fans.”

The Blooze Brothers are slated to perform Aug. 18 during this year’s Blues, Brews & BBQ festival in McHenry. With their repertoire of hits, the band is sure to end the night on ahigh note and with high energy.

“When I was at the performance, as I watched people of all ages, shapes and sizes getting up and literally dancing in the street, the adjective that came to mind was dynamic,” Belt-Daniels said.

Blues, Brews & BBQ

The musical lineup at the McHenry Rotary Club’s Blues, Brews & BBQ festival in McHenry includes the Blooze Brothers band, which will play from 9 to 11 p.m. Aug. 18. The festival runs from Aug. 17 to 19 at Petersen Park, 4300 Peterson Park Road, McHenry. Tickets for the festival cost $10 a day at the gate or $7 online at www.mrbbb.com.

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