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17 July 2010

Ray Charles In The Blues Brothers (1980)

Ray Charles was one of the soul & blues singers starring in the music comedy The Blues Brothers, a film directed by John Landis (original story written by Dan Aykroyd), and released by Universal Pictures on 16 June 1980.

The tag line was "They'll never get caught. They're on a mission from God." Jake (Belushi) and Elwood (Aykroyd) are the former front men of a broken down blues band which disbanded after Jake was arrested several years before. Upon his release, he discovers that his boyhood orphanage home is about to be foreclosed upon for non-payment of property taxes. Beaten up by a nun, sung to by James Brown, and touched by God, Jake sees the light and seeks to put the band together for one last show - a charity benefit to save the orphanage.
Their journey takes them from James Brown to Aretha Franklin to Ray Charles to John Lee Hooker to Cab Calloway.

In Scene 20 Ray plays Ray, the owner of Ray's Music Exchange, a pawn shop in Calumet City (cf. this).
Jake, Elwood, and the Blues Brothers Band visit the shop to buy some new equipment. The characters in this scene are 'Joliet' Jake Blues, Elwood Blues, Ray, 'Duck' Dunn, Alan 'Mr Fabulous' Rubin, Lou 'Blue Lou' Marini, Matt 'Guitar' Murphy, Murphy 'Murph' Dunne, Steve 'The Colonel' Cropper, Tom 'Bones' Malone, Willie 'Too Big' Hall, and the Young Guitar Thief.
I assume the song was recorded in the sound studio (see B&W photos below), and therefore that Ray and 'the band' playbacked the song. (On Tail Feather you can also hear a bari player, while there was none on the film set).
The scene was filmed at Universal Studios Soundstages and Shelley's Loan Co (at 300 E. 47th, Chicago IL;  coordinates: 41.80929852285026, -87.61956233877473. The dancers weren't hired - they just got off the train and started to boogie. The scene cost $600,000 to produce.
Clipping from Billboard, 13 September 1980.

Ray: Pardon me, but we have a strict policy concerning the handling of the instruments. An employee of Ray's Music Exchange must be present. Now, may I help you?
Murph: Tell me a little about this electric piano, Ray.
Ray: Ah, you have a good eye, my man. That's the best in the city Chicago.
Jake: How much?
Ray: 2,000 bucks and it's yours. You can take it home with you. As a matter of fact, I'll throw in the black keys for free.
Jake: $2,000 for this chunk of shit? C'mon, Ray.
Murph: I mean really, Ray, it's used. There's no action left in this piano.
Ray: E-excuse me, uh, I don't think there's anything wrong with the action on this piano [launches into Shake A Tail Feather].

Ray's original text in the shooting sequence: Breaks my heart to see a boy that young goin' bad. Footage here.

At the closing of the film, as each character is credited, Ray has one more line of Jailhouse Rock: "Let's rock, everybody, let's rock".

See the 1980 Chronology page for more photos and stills. Read this for backgrounds.

The Blues Brothers' soundtrack album was released by Atlantic (SD 16017, June 20, 1980). A few tunes, including Tail Feather were also released as singles.

Shake A Tail Feather:

Atlantic also released the song as a single (K 11615; backed with Cab Calloway's Minnie The Moocher):

The song was originally recorded in 1963 by The Five Du-Tones:

But the arrangement in the film was based on this version by James and Bobby Purify:
For the Billboard #1 live album Briefcase Full Of Blues (Atlantic, 1978) that preceded the film see this:

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