On February 11, 1975, NBC gave Lorne Michaels a call. NBC was looking for a show to fill the 11:30 to 1:00 am slot on Saturday nights. The show was to be directed to the younger audience. Michaels agreed to do it as long as he was guaranteed it would be live. Now it was up to Lorne to find a cast to make his show work. Some of the first hired were Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, and Garrett Morris. Lorne was urged to hire John but was reluctant because he thought John was too loud, too hard , and too self-centered. But, John did manage to get an audition for the show.
John had been practicing a mute Japanese samurai character. His only sounds were grunts and phony but enthusiastic sounding Japanese phrases. He would put his hair back into a pony tail, get into an old bathrobe, and use a makeshift sword to give the character a realistic look. John showed up for the audition in his old bathrobe and had that audience and Lorne rolling with laughter. He had hit a home run with his Samurai pool hustler skit and now Lorne didn't have much choice but to hire him.
On October 11, 1975 fifteen minutes before the start of the show, John finally signed his contract to NBC. From studio 8H in NBC's Rockefeller Plaza Don Pardo shouted: "Live from New York It's Saturday Night!" Comedian George Carlin hosted the show in a 3 piece suit and a T-shirt. The show was almost live as there was a 6 second delay on the monologue. The execs were paranoid the Carlin would slipup and say something he shouldn't. The show went over well and Chevy Chase got good praise for his "Weekend Update" segment.
John was finally happy now. But there was no time to rest as the next show had to be completed by the weekend. The second show was hosted by Paul Simon, who sang with his old partner Art Garfunkel. Critics accused this being a promo for their solo albums and John was angry that he hadn't been the focus of a single sketch Something good was needed for the third show.
Rob Reiner was the host of show #3. Midway through the show Rob came out and looked into the camera. "You never know he is going to show up. A guy just flew in from London. He is a super rock star. He needs no introduction. Ladies and gentlemen, here he is!"
John came out as Joe Cocker. His voice a perfect imitation, his body movements were erratic and quick. As many times as Lorne Michaels had seen this in rehearsal he was still amazed. As he sang he poured beer down his shirt and laid down and spit it up in the air. To say the least, John nailed that one! In the next scene, John comes out in the Bee costume (which he hated) . Rob Reiner is upset because he has to work with the bees, well John goes crazy and expresses his feelings to playing a bee as well. The audience roared and whether John liked it or not, the bee's were here to stay. John was great in show #3 showing everyone at NBC that he was worthy of being there.
John went on to play many interesting and hilarious characters. His Samurai skit debuted on December 13, 1975, with a little help from Richard Pryor. Ranging from Beethoven to Captain Kirk, John could do it all.
John and Dan's friendship grew and soon the were more than best buds. They still had the idea of the Blues Brothers in the back of their heads and it was time for them do some music on the show . John and Dan did their first musical skit in the Bee costumes. On January 17, 1976, John uttered those now famous words: "I'm a king bee, buzzing round your hive.."
At 11:30 p.m. on April 22, 1978 Paul Shaffer looked into the camera and announced " In 1969, Marshal Checker,of the legendary Checker's Records, called me on a new blues act that had been playing in the small, funky clubs on Chicago's South Side...Today they are no longer an authentic blues act, but have managed to become a viable commercial product, lets join Joliet Jake and his silent brother Elwood---the Blues Brothers." John and Dan performed "Hey Bartender" and from now on, would be known as Jake and Elwood, the Blues Brothers were born.
John continued to do the show until September of 1979. After four seasons and 87 shows both he and Aykroyd were tired. They decided that they were ready to move on to other things, which just happened to be the Blues Brothers movie.
The article in the Rolling Stones rating 141 SNL cast members. Feb 2015