Here’s Why the Blues Brothers Wore Bee Costumes During Their First ‘SNL’ Appearance

by Joe Rutland
(Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns/Getty Images)

Back in 1976, the Blues Brothers first appeared on SNL. But they did so in bee costumes on that episode. Why did they do this?

At that time, any skit that could be done wearing bee costumes was bound to happen. Let us get some clarification about this matter from an article by Ultimate Classic Rock.

It all started on Jan. 17, 1976, which was the 10th episode ever of SNL. It also marked the first time that the Blues Brothers would be seen on TV.

Nope, not as the suit-wearing, porkpie-hat-fitting singer and harmonica players. They were singing the blues in bee costumes.

‘SNL’ Skits Kept Featuring Killer Bees and It Would Lead To Musical Number

The Killer Bees were the SNL first recurring characters. Their first bee sketch bombed, so much so that NBC felt the need to point out the disaster to SNL creator Lorne Michaels. Woof, that would be a mistake. NBC told him to cut the bees; Michaels kept them in there for the next show.

It was a gag that Michaels used to defy the network.

“John was [in] the first scene of the first show, and I don’t think he had a good scene again for another three shows,” recalls Judith Belushi, his widow. “Something that made a break of sorts was the third or fourth bee scene, when he went off on ‘I hate being a bee’ and this whole ‘bee’ thing, and he had his antennae swinging around his head in some special way.

“It was really the first time he got to show his personality and show that there was more to him, and he got a great response,” She says. “But it took a while. It was slow to grow.”

Comedians Would Find Themselves In Midst of Enjoying Blues Music

Years before SNL, Aykroyd opened Belushi’s eyes (and ears) to the blues.

Aykroyd had a knack for the harmonica, while Belushi had always wanted to sing in a rock band. “The alpha Illinois male,” Aykroyd says in an interview with Vanity Fair. “One of those people like Teddy Roosevelt or Mick Jagger. He was just one of those great charismatics who turned heads and dominated a room.”

The duo developed performances by playing local New York club gigs in between their SNL responsibilities. They got a chance to perform prior to show tapings as a way to warm up the studio crowd. But they wanted to be on TV. Hence, the bees.

Belushi goes to the mike for his first SNL blues performance; to his left Aykroyd, harmonica in hand. The song they sing? I’m a King Bee, the classic 1957 blues made famous by Slim Harpo.