In what could have been a scene from a certain cult classic film: two guys –– one squat, one tall –– sporting black hats, skinny ties and sunglasses, drive up to a liquor store in a souped-up police car, with rhythm and blues blaring from the speaker attached to the vehicle’s roof.
An attention grabber, to say the least, the replica of the Bluesmobile, and the “brothers’ inside of it, accompanied by a “sheriff,” managed to attract quite the crowd last September in Kelowna.
In fact, they even gained the attention of the original Elwood Blues: Dan Aykroyd.
When Peachland’s Grant Eisworth heard that the man he has played in his tribute act, The Blues Brothers Too, was coming to Kelowna, it was an opportunity he didn’t want to miss.
The famous Canadian comedian/actor was in the Okanagan last fall to promote Crystal Head vodka, and fans had flocked to the liquor store to meet him.
So when the “Blues Brothers” pulled up in front of the liquor store with the replica of the famed car –– actually a former police vehicle from New Mexico found through eBay –– word quickly got out. However, Aykroyd was too busy inside signing autographs to come outside.
“We were a bit shy at first to do it, but we thought, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity, we have to,” said Eisworth, about showing up at the event in full Blues Brothers regalia.
“When Dan heard about the Bluesmobile, he said he wanted to see it. He eventually came out and met with us, signed the Bluesmobile, which adds a little authenticity to it now, and said it was the best one he had ever seen.”
Those who flock to next Saturday’s Winter Carnival parade will get to see the famed car, with all its bells and whistles, as well as the men behind it, when Blues Brothers Too returns to Vernon.
“We’re high energy and in your face, plus with the car with its great, big speaker, you can’t help but notice us,” laughs Eisworth who has brought his act to numerous community parades, including Winter Carnival, usually winning awards in the process.
“We get a lot of first places at events for comedy/music, but we do have an unfair advantage as the Blues Brothers are so well known. People often call out lines from the film to us. They are passionate about it.”
Back from a brief incarceration to be a part of this year’s Carnival, The Blues Brothers Too will also put on a full show band revue at the Vernon Recreation Centre, Feb. 10.
“We have a full band now,” said Eisworth, who will be joined by Kerry Martison as Jake Blues. “We are honoured to have world-class musicians with us. They even dress up, in black shirts and white ties… It’s more than just the songs, there’s dancing. You get the whole package.”
More than just a car, Eisworth’s tribute act to The Blues Brothers is an homage to the film that starred Aykroyd and the late John Belushi as brothers who try to save the orphanage where they were raised by reuniting their R&B band in concert.
“That darn movie is on every time I turn on the TV,” said Eisworth, responding to why he chose to pay tribute to The Blues Brothers.
In fact, it was Eisworth’s wife who came up with the idea.
One of the organizers of Peachland’s Valley Music Festival, which primarily features tribute artists and acts, Eisworth had never performed before, but he had a lot of friends in the business, including Marty Edwards, best known as Kinda Kenny (a Kenny Rogers tribute) and Larry Merchison (who has played Ed Sullivan from all over B.C. to Vegas.)
“I’d never sung in my life. I was the emcee of the festival,” said Eisworth. “My wife suggested that I give it a try. I thought I can’t sing, but I’m a good lip syncher, so that’s what I did.”
Wanting to stir up the crowd, Eisworth secretly changed into his black hat, tie and sunglasses, enlisting someone to play Jake, and performed one song, not telling anyone except Edwards, Merchison and his wife what he was planning.
“After I changed back into my regular duds and continued organizing the event, people kept coming up to me to ask when the Blues Brothers were coming on again,” he said.
Soon after, he was invited to perform at a Peachland chamber of commerce event, and realized he was on to something.
“I also thought if I’m going to do this, I can’t lip sync, so after three or four times of going on stage, I decided to sing the songs,” said Eisworth, who has sang as Elwood ever since, adding, there have been a few different Jakes over the years, including a woman.
Now with a seven-member band “powerful enough to turn goat’s milk into gasoline,” including a three-person horn section, as well as fellow tribute artists who play various characters from the film, including the sheriff (Chris England) who even has his own police car, The Blues Brothers Too have become a hot commodity.
Last year, they were one of the headline acts at Peachfest in Penticton, and they also wowed the crowds in Kelowna as the opening, and closing act, for Parks Alive.
“We perform all the signature songs, like Rawhide and Sweet Home Chicago, as well as classic rock ‘n’ roll numbers, Johnny B Goode, La Bamba, and even one by ZZ Top, which we changed to match with the Blues Brothers style. We have so much fun on stage,” said Eisworth.
The Blues Brothers Too Show Band Revue takes place at the Vernon Recreation Centre auditorium Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the Vernon Winter Carnival office.