The Duncan Banner

January 7, 2013

‘Brothers’ promise iconic soul sound

Rebeka Miller
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — J.W. Leggio had been portraying the part of John Belushi’s Joliet Jake Blues from “Blues Brothers” for a short time before his now stage partner, Lee Schwing, joined the act to form “Briefcase Blues,” but just five words brought the two together: “Jake is Looking For Elwood.”

Those words, printed in a 1983 ad in the Dallas Times Herald, were brought to Schwing’s attention and he soon answered Leggio’s request for someone who could play harmonica and had a sense of humor. The rest, as they say, is history.

“We wound up hanging out in a pub on Knox Street in Dallas and we hit it off,” said Leggio, a Dallas native. “The next time we entered that pub, it was as ‘Jake and Elwood.’”

“Briefcase Blues” will be performed in Duncan at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 12 at the Simmons Center as part of the Chisholm Trail Arts Council Concert Series.

Schwing, who grew up as an Army “brat,” had moved to Texas in 1978. He saw the ad while he was working in construction. He figured he fit the bill to play Dan Aykroyd’s sarcastic character, since he was more than 6 feet tall and had other similar physical characteristcs. He could also play harmonica, so “Something told me to go for it,” said Schwing.

Although they were paid for their first show with free pizza and beer (and they freely admit to having some bad performances in the beginning), after 30 years of being on the stage under their belt, the two men have developed a show full of fun and energy. It even features a professional seven-piece band.

“It’s not the money that keeps us going; it’s people we meet,” said Leggio.

“It’s the kinship, the brotherhood.”

Leggio and Schwing have worked to stick to the characterizations and vocal and musical stylings of the original show, while adding their own adjustments to the act. Leggio has a raw voice true to Belushi’s sound and Schwing keeps his feet moving and attitude reticent.

“It’s euphoric; it’s a rush and we’re exhausted by the end, but it’s a good tired,” said Leggio about portraying the iconic characters.

“It’s family oriented, we’ll leave out all the bad words, so all kids are welcome.”

As well as being a family fun event, “Briefcase Blues” is an interactive-audience show. At one point, Schwing gets out in the crowd to perform “Treat Her Right,” a song added to the show by the pair.

“It’s very much interactive,” Leggio said. “If we’re not focusing on the crowd and talking to an individual, we might as well not be there.”

“Briefcase Blues,” whose members are all Dallas based, has played in Oklahoma before, but this is the first time for them to play in Duncan. Tickets are available at the Simmons Center.

“We love playing in performing arts centers because there is so much diversity in the crowd and they’re all there to support the arts,” said Leggio.

“Because we’re the first concert of the year there, we feel like we’re getting to kick everything off.”

For more on Leggio, Schwing and “Briefcase Blues,” visit their website at www.briefcaseblues.com or their Facebook page.