In the rich and deep history of blues, not many would have predicted a high point would come in the late '70s with a Canadian and an Albanian-American who told jokes for a living. But hell, that's exactly what happened when Briefcase Full of Blues was released by the Blues Brothers on November 28, 1978.
Jake and Elwood Blues were the creations of John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, cast members of the still newish Saturday Night Live sketch show.
Aykroyd had been a fan and player of the blues for some time, including the occasional stint with the Downchild Blues Band from his native Canada. After joining SNL, he rented out a bar for afterparties where people could hang out and sometimes jam. It was there that he introduced Belushi to the blues and the idea for the fictional act came together.
Belushi and Aykroyd kicked things off in 1976, appearing in a sketch as "Howard Shore and his All-Bee Band" — playing harmonicas and singing the blues tune "I'm a King Bee" by Slim Harpo, all while in bee suits, of course.
As Belushi fell in love with the blues and the idea gained steam, none other than Paul Shaffer helped the fellas put together some real musicians to turn it into a legit band, even if fictional.
Following an appearance on SNL as musical guests, the Blues Brothers opened for Steve Martin in September of 1978, and the entire set was put down on record. It would quickly be released as Briefcase Full of Blues, and the album took off, peaking at no. 1 on the Billboard charts and becoming the highest-selling blues album of all time. Featuring a slew of covers, these unlikely blues fans became unlikely blues stars.
Turns out it's incredibly difficult to verify what the highest-selling blues albums are, but Briefcase definitely still stands among them with millions of records sold. And this was all before the seminal 1980 movie was ever projected on a single screen.