Curtis Salgado: "I was John Belushi's muse."

Curtis Salgado wearing dark sunglasses.
Curtis Salgado: the original blues brother.

From Eugene, Oregon, Curtis Salgado honed his craft in The Nighthawks before performing in The Robert Cray Band from 1977-82. He then led Roomful Of Blues and Curtis Salgado And The Stilettos before going solo in 1991. A friend of John Belushi, he also inspired The Blues Brothers.

You do a great cover of Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson’s Hook Me Up on your new album, The Beautiful Lowdown.

He is a huge influence on me. He was an excellent musician, could play multiple instruments, was a great songwriter and singer. He was able to mash killer blues licks over serious chord changes, and Hook Me Up is a prime example. Instead of a guitar solo, I play a harmonica solo.

This is your second album for Alligator – what makes it such a great label?

Alligator truly has a family attitude. They are music freaks and Bruce Iglauer is very hands-on about all aspects of making records and I dig that. I started buying their records when I was a kid with [1971’s] Hound Dog Taylor And The House Rockers.

How did you become friends with John Belushi?

We met in 1977. The Nighthawks and The Robert Cray Band were playing at the Eugene Hotel. I was singing when the local drug dealer came up and started yanking on my pant leg. “Belushi wants to meet you.” At the end of our set, this guy grabs my arm, turns me around and there he is. John says: “I like your harmonica playing, you remind me of a friend of mine, his name is Dan Aykroyd.” I remember thinking, who gives a shit? I didn’t own a TV, I had never seen Saturday Night Live. I had no idea who John Belushi was. He was in town making Animal House, then he starts to tell me that he’s excited because Ray Charles is going to be on Saturday Night Live, and this is when I become very interested in him: “You got to ask Ray Charles about Guitar Slim.” I give him the history, then we go upstairs to one of the hotel rooms and we burn one, and I remember being late to the closing set. He absorbed everything I threw at him.

And that led to The Blues Brothers film.

John told me that Dan Aykroyd was already a big blues fan and was trying to get John involved in a project that
was to be The Blues Brothers. There were two guys that were brothers in a band out of Toronto called The Downchild Blues Band and Dan Aykroyd was a fan of theirs. So when John saw me playing, I became his muse.

The Beautiful Lowdown is out now on Alligator.