Interview: Dan Aykroyd on everything from 'Blues Brothers' to seahorses

Dan Aykroyd, left, and Jim Belushi keep up the Blues Brothers act, which comes to Taste of Pinellas on Saturday. The setlist nods to songs from the 1980 movie, which starred Jim Belushi’s brother, John. 
Dan Aykroyd, left, and Jim Belushi keep up the Blues Brothers act, which comes to Taste of Pinellas on Saturday. The setlist nods to songs from the 1980 movie, which starred Jim Belushi’s brother, John. 
Published May 7, 2014

"Sean — it's Aykroyd!"

Dan Aykroyd is calling me on a Tuesday morning. He is immediately, exhaustively in trademark crazed-carny mode. His voice is both booming and 100 mph, as if he's selling the Bass-o-matic all over again.

"Let me just say I'm excited about returning to the seahorse-breeding capital of the world!"

The 61-year-old comedy stalwart — Saturday Night Live, Ghostbusters, let's even give a shoutout to Spies Like Us — is talking about Tampa Bay, or maybe Florida. Not sure. (Do we breed seahorses here? I guess we do.) You get used to his patter early, even if you never quite catch up. This is a man with myriad interests, a restless loopy brain, from the Crystal Head Vodka company he founded to an obsession with UFOlogy. The latter he expounded upon in 2005 DVD Dan Aykroyd: Unplugged on UFOs, which was decidedly not as popular as some of his other films, say, Trading Places, My Girl or Tommy Boy.

On Saturday, Aykroyd will be at the Taste of Pinellas in Albert Whitted Park with his Blues Brothers Band, the winky boogie act that he, as "Elwood Blues," started with John Belushi ("Joliet Jake") in '78 as an SNL bit. They made dark suits and dark shades supercool, still a viable Halloween getup. He carries on the Blues Brothers vibe with John's Hollywood bro, Jim Belushi ("Brother Zee"). Who's up for another helping of Rubber Biscuit?

"We actually have the blood of Jake onstage with us," says Aykroyd, who is being figurative … I think. "That Albanian blood, and the energy and the power John had. I still don't know where it all came from."

The show will "absolutely" pay homage to the late, larger-than-life John, including a don't-miss opening number. The setlist nods to songs from 1980's Blues Brothers movie, famously directed by another speed-talking restless spirit, John Landis. Aykroyd says the rumors of the movie being an out-of-control mess are overhyped, but there was madness.

"The only chaos was caused by John's use of coke when the nights were getting long," he says matter-of-factly about his best friend's ultimately fatal addictions. "It was gruesome."

The Blues Brothers has aged well, a crar-crashing, guns-blazing, Nazi-thwarting cult favorite not to mention a rich musical education, packed with such luminaries as Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway and the one and only James Brown as the Rev. Cleophus James. In a nice twist, Aykroyd has a role in a new Brown biopic, Get On Up, out this summer.

"James Brown was a consummate professional, a businessman with incredible managerial skills," he says. "He was hilarious, contradictory. I remember James on the Blues Brothers set saying: 'Sometimes I smoke, but no one can know about it because I'm a reverend!' He was a funny man."

Brown, who died in 2006, and Belushi are just two of the fallen giants, the "masters," with whom Aykroyd has worked that left us too soon. Harold Ramis died a few months ago, and Aykroyd is still wiped out by that. When I tell him that my daughters are hooked on his antibuddy-comedy The Great Outdoors, he remembers fellow Canadian John Candy, who was felled by a heart attack in 1994: "Candy was a spectacular man. When we first met, Candy was a Kleenex salesman and I was a mail driver. Candy was strong. He would pick me up and put me over one shoulder!"

Planning your weekend?

Planning your weekend?

Subscribe to our free Top 5 things to do newsletter

We’ll deliver ideas every Thursday for going out, staying home or spending time outdoors.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

A lot of what Aykroyd goes on to say about, well, everything, whizzes right by me; there's talk of "recidivists" at one point, then getting "Britney Spears up on a chair" during another. (He does not talk about the fate of Ghostbusters 3; the second one was lousy, so frankly, I really don't care.)

The only time Aykroyd slows down is when discussing Donna Dixon, his Bosom Buddies bombshell wife of 31 years, easily one of the most enduring marriages in Hollywood history.

"You gotta find the right person — look them in the eye, have them look back, and know their soul," Aykroyd says of his wife. "She's a Southern woman who is understanding and doesn't mind dealing with the boys from time to time. I call her the White Goddess." Dan Aykroyd pauses, his grin wide and audible. "And I'm the Green Demon."

Sean Daly can be reached at Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.