Northampton Press

Thursday, May 28, 2020

A Brotherhood for 10 years

Wednesday, April 9, 2014 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Focus

The Blues Brotherhood, The Blues Brothers tribute group, is beginning its 10th anniversary year with a concert, 8 p.m. April 12, Musikfest Cafe, ArtsQuest Center, SteelStacks, 101 Founders Way, Bethlehem.

"Not only to we try to stay very true to the music, but we try to stay very true to the characters," says Paul Miller, who sings as and portrays Jake, the John Belushi character in The Blues Brothers.

Elwood, the Dan Aykroyd character, is portrayed by Aaron Hetrick, who has been with the Blues Brotherhood since its founding by Miller.

The Blues Brothers first appeared in a musical sketch on "Saturday Night Live" in 1976. Belushi and Aykroyd, who only appeared as Jake and Elwood two more times on "SNL" (in 1978); released an album, "Briefcase Full of Blues," in 1978, and starred in the movie, "The Blues Brothers," in 1980. Belushi died in 1982.

Tom "Bones" Malone, baritone saxophone, a "Saturday Night Live Band" member (1975-1985) that backed up The Blues Brothers, plays with The Blues Brotherhood. Malone is in The CBS Orchestra on the "Late Show with David Letterman" band and the Fab Faux, a Beatles tribute band.

"I met him [Malone] through facebook five years ago in 2009." Miller recalls messaging Malone, "It'd really be cool if sometime you'd jam with us almost joking."

"He [Malone] said, 'Hey, I checked you guys out online. Let's do it.'"

The first gig with Malone in The Blues Brotherhood was at Molten Lounge, Sands Bethlehem Casino Resort, in 2009.

"We've become good friends," Miller says of he and Malone. "It really kind of validates us as a Blues Brothers tribute show to have an original member play with me."

Many of The Blues Brotherhood musicians have been with the group since its inception, including: Steve Bridges, saxophone; Dustin Hartman, trombone, and Bob Thomas, keyboards. Barry Schultz, trumpet, has been with the Brotherhood for eight years. Rob Bell, guitar; Willie Rose, drummer, and Ty Hooker-Haring, bass, joined last year.

"This is the first time I've ever been in a group as a singer and as a tribute group," says Miller who played saxophone while a student at Hunterdon Central High School, Flemington, N.J. He played lacrosse and football. After graduation, he attended Kean College, then joined the Army, serving for two years with the 82nd Airborne Division, Ft. Bragg, N.C.

Following his service, romance brought him to the Lehigh Valley. Miller ran a regional motor carrier business before opening Loopers Grille and Bar, 313 E. Third St., Bethlehem, noting its 10th anniversary. Miller coaches the Northampton Community College men's lacrosse team, now in its first year.

Asked why he founded The Blues Brotherhood, Miller says, "I've been a fan of the movie and the characters. I'm fond of the blues and the Chicago sound and the Memphis Stax-Volt sound. I thought it might be a fun idea."

The Blues Brotherhood plays Musikfest 2014 for the 10th consecutive year, again at Americaplatz (Levitt Pavilion), where it's closing-night spot last year drew a huge crowd despite a big downpour. "A lot of people stayed and got wet," Miller recalls.

The Blues Brotherhood plays mostly within a three- to four-hour car ride from the Lehigh Valley two to three times a month for about six months of the year. The group does travel further, playing the Thunder Bay Blues Fest, Thunder Bay, Canada, and in Mississippi

"Everybody in the band has a day gig. We're part-time with a full-time attitude," Miller says.